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David Bowie: The Gig That Invented Glam

The audience at 1970’s Atomic Sunrise Festival was largely indifferent to David Bowie’s new band, Hype, with their Lurex outfits and make-up. But one man wasn’t: Marc Bolan.

We’re having a moment here. It’s March 25, 1971 and this Thursday’s episode of Top Of The Pops, the BBC’s flagship chart show, has reached its finale. So far we’ve had Andy Williams, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Fleetwood Mac, even the Plastic Ono Band. Now it’s time for this week’s No1. Mungo Jerry’s Baby Jump has been swatted from its perch by Hot Love, an insidious little boogie from T.Rex that will stay put for the next month and a half.

It’s a great song all right. And with his satin and curls, a Gibson Les Paul slung across his chest, Marc Bolan cuts a dramatic figure. The most striking thing, however, is the splash of glitter on each cheek. The work of T.Rex publicist Chelita Secunda, who’s already applied a thin caking of mascara to Bolan’s eyes, it fires the imagination of hordes of young viewers. Bolan claims he prettied himself up on the spur of the moment, just for laughs. But his next gig finds him greeted by hundreds of adoring teenage fans, all decked out in various degrees of glitteration. There was no escaping it: Bolan had introduced glam rock to the masses.

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