“All the Young Dudes,” glam rock’s rallying cry, turned 40 last year. David Bowie wrote it, but Mott the Hoople owned it: their version was, and will ever remain, glam’s anthem, a hymn of exuberant disenchantment that also happens to be one of rock’s all-time irresistible sing-alongs.
Bowie, glam, and “All the Young Dudes” are inseparable in the public mind, summoning memories of a subculture dismissed as apolitical escapism, a glitter bomb of fashion and attitude that briefly relieved the malaise of the '70s.
Now, cultural critic Mark Dery gives the movement its due in an 8,000-word exploration of glam as rebellion through style, published as a Kindle e-book (and Boing Boing's first published e-book): All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Matters. As polymorphously perverse as the subculture it explores, “All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Matters” is equal parts fan letter, visual-culture criticism, queer theory, and true confession.
In bravura style, Dery teases out lines of connection between glam, the socioeconomic backdrop of the '70s, Oscar Wilde as a late-Victorian Ziggy Stardust, the etymology and queer subtext of the slang term “dude,” the associative links between the '20s-style cover of the Mott album on which “Dudes” appeared and the coded homoeroticism of the '20s magazine illustrator J.C. Leyendecker (considered in the context of the 1970s fad for all things 1920s), and Dery’s own memories of growing up glam in '70s San Diego, where coming out as a Bowie fan -- even for straight kids -- was an invitation to bullying.
Glam emboldened kids in America and England to dream of a world beyond suburbia’s oppressive notions of normalcy, Dery argues, a world conjured up in pop songs full of Wildean irony and Aestheticism and jaw-dropping fashion statements to match. More important, glam drew inspiration from feminism and gay liberation to articulate a radical critique of mainstream manhood---a pomosexual vision of masculinity whose promise remains only partly fulfilled, even now.
Buy All the Young Dudes: Why Glam Rock Matters, by Mark Dery
Read an excerpt