Introducing Glam Rock

Essential Question

How was Glam Rock a reaction to the "seriousness" of popular music at the time?


In the wake of the somber introspection of the Singer-Songwriter movement, Glam Rock brought a sense of theater back to Rock and Roll.

With artists such as James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot becoming major figures on the international popular music scene, many considered Rock and Roll to be losing its connection to the “show.” For listeners who grew up with R&B, it was clear that things had shifted. If a James Brown live show included dance, costume, and theatrics, a James Taylor live show included none of that. Earnest, stripped down, often presented by a solo artist with a guitar or piano, the music of the Singer Songwriter movement aimed at intimacy and honesty.

Glam Rock was a kind of reaction, an unsettling opening up of the possibilities. It took different forms, from Roxy Music’s Pop Art approach to Slade’s back-to-basics Rock and Roll to David Bowie’s theater of identity. But, across the board, it brought the “show” back to popular music.

This preliminary lesson centers on an investigation of Glam as a reaction. Through a set of comparisons, students will be asked to describe what they see as Glam Rock’s fundamental characteristics.

View More


Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • The importance of David Bowie, Sweet, Slade, and Roxy Music as exemplars of the Glam Rock tradition
    • The role of theater and the theatrical in Glam Rock performance
    • ​The differences between the character of Singer-Songwriter performance style and that of Glam Rock
  2. Be able to (skills):
    • Extrapolate arguments about music by assessing sound, mood, tone, instrumentation
    • Draw connections among various print, audio and visual texts
    • Write creatively for personal and/or small group expression
    • Compare and contrast texts, arguments and ideas
    • Common Core: Students will work together to probe the meaning of theatrical and examine how it is used to describe a musical performance (CCSS Reading 5; CCSS Speaking and Listening 1; CCSS Speaking and Listening 2; CCSS Language 5)