This is better known as the "Hey" song because of the chant in the chorus... "da da da da da da da... Hey!" It's probably the greatest example of "glam rock," which was characterized by male lead singers dressed in outrageous, usually feminine clothes singing anthemic songs with massive drums. The glam popularized by David Bowie had a lot more nuance, including well-written lyrics that were foreign to Glitter, who by his own admission wasn't very good at music. He was known more for his appearance and his wild stage shows that featured motorcycles, pyro, and plenty of other distractions.
Glitter wrote this song with his producer, Mike Leander, who came up with a key element in the song: the compressed, metronomic drum sound that would later be copied by Sweet and various other glam acts. Along with the drums, Leander layered big guitar riffs, lots of handclaps, and the vocal hey's performed by Glitter and his friends.
Glitter had a role on a TV show in England called Ready, Steady, Go
, where among is duties was warming up the audience. This is where he met Mike Leander, who used some studio time when a singer named David Essex ("Rock On
") didn't show up for a session. He had Glitter and a bunch of their friends improvise different sounds over a beat he had from a song called "Shag Rag, That's My Bag." They ended up with a 15-minute dance song, which they edited some more and called "Rock And Roll Parts 1 And 2."
There is a "Rock And Roll Part 1," with lyrics that repeat "Rock And Roll" instead of "Hey." It was on the same album and released as the flip side of the single. Glitter and Leander didn't know which one to release as a single, so they released it as a double A-side and let radio stations pick. Part 2 was the winner.
Glitter's real name is Paul Gadd; he previously recorded as Paul Raven. He had been recording since 1958, had been dropped by three record labels, and still did not have a hit until he came up with this song. It was his first release as "Gary Glitter," a name he took in homage to the "glitter rock" sound he was using. Glitter, who was overweight and in his mid-30s, went over the top with his outfits to promote this song, creating maximum spectacle with makeup and accessories. For a while, it looked like this song would flop along with Glitter's career, but it slowly caught on in Europe and gradually became very well known, helped in large part by Glitter's gimmick.
This got a big boost when Glitter was asked to perform it on the British TV show Top Of The Pops. For the show, Glitter had to put together a band, but since the performances on the show were lip-synched, they didn't need anyone to actually play. Glitter and Leander found a bunch of people to hold instruments and pretended to play during the show as "The Glitter Band."
This is commonly used as a rallying cry at sporting events, including at many hockey games when it plays after the home team scores a goal.
In the '80s, Glitter went through bankruptcy and was arrested for drunk driving, but his downfall came in 1997 when he took his computer in for repair and the technician found kiddie porn on the hard drive. Glitter was arrested and sent to prison, where he served two months starting in November 1999. After his release, he lived in Cuba and Cambodia, then in Vietnam, where he was sentenced to prison in 2006 for sexually assaulting minors. When he was released in 2008, he was sent back to England, where he was placed on a sexual offender registry. In 2012, he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a number of young girls in the '70s and '80s, and in 2015 was given a 16-year sentence for these offenses
Most Americans are only vaguely aware of Glitter's misdeeds, but in the UK he is reviled. His music is rarely played there, not just because of the association, but because as the co-writer of most of his songs, he could earn royalties. "Rock And Roll Part 2" remains a stadium favorite in America, but nothing like its hey
day in the '90s, when it surged in popularity as a jock jam.
This is the only song Glitter is known for in America, but he was very popular in the UK, where he had 10 more similar-sounding Top 10 hits from 1972-1974, including "Hello Hello I'm Back Again," and "Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)." His career started to slide in 1975 when he took on a disco sound.
This has been used in a lot of movies, including The Full Monty, Bedazzled, Duets, D2: The Mighty Ducks, and Boyhood.
After Glitter's 2015 conviction, music supervisors steered clear of it until 2019, when it was used in the 2019 blockbuster film Joker, a controversial decision because it enriched Gary Glitter, who was serving time as a convicted pedophile. The song plays for about two minutes in the film during a key scene where the Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) dances down a set of steps. As both the co-writer of the song and the performer, Glitter likely earned substantial royalties; the film made $247 million worldwide its opening weekend.
This was not the only controversy surrounding the film: In 2012, a gunman shot up a theater in Aurora, Colorado showing The Dark Knight Rises, a film that takes place in the same universe, but does not feature the Joker character. Five Aurora families released an open letter to the movie studio expressing concerns that Joker glorifies violence and is insensitive to those affected by the Aurora shooting.
In 1987, Glitter released "Rock And Roll" parts 3 through 6. They were produced by Trevor Horn, who was a member of the Buggles.
In the UK, various Gary Glitter imitators cropped up, including the rather ludicrous Larry Lurex and Alvin Stardust.
In 1988, a group called The Timelords released a song called "Doctorin' The Tardis" that sampled this. The song went to #1 in England and made Glitter a lot of money, which he needed for legal bills and an extravagant lifestyle. The Timelords later became The KLF, who had a hit with "3AM Eternal."
This song's influence can be heard on many disco and glam rock tracks, but it also made an impact in the realm of metal: Iron Maiden's first single, "Running Free
," was based on this song's beat.
In The Office episode "Initiation" (2006), Michael blasts this in his office after eating his long-awaited free soft pretzel. Kevin sings along.