Pin-Ups 1972: Third Generation Rock ’n’ Roll | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

Pin-Ups 1972: Third Generation Rock ’n’ Roll

Pin-Ups 1972: Third Generation Rock ’n’ Roll
by Peter Stanfield

Reaktion Books, London, UK, 2022
344 pp., illus  26 b/w, 23 col. Trade, £15.99
ISBN: 9781789145656.

Reviewed by: 
Mike Mosher
December 2022

Pin-Ups 1972: Third Generation Rock ’n’ Roll is a crafty and restrained book.  One might expect a book on a memorable moment in pop music history five decades ago, by a scholar who was a teenager at the time, to be upswept in delighted nostalgia for these cleverly dressed and cosmeticized songwriter-performers.  Instead of that, we are given a media studies exemplar.  It’s a good one—not what Stanfield heard, experienced, thought and felt, but what specialized rock music print media of the day wrote and judged about these attentively-dressed and made-up men, more than it plumbs their songs. As Peter Stanfield explains at the beginning, pandemic restrictions kept him home with a stack of old magazines…so he made good use of it.  The book was written in solitude, using text sources that included a stack of Detroit-based CREEM magazines (from 1973 to 1977 my own lifeline to “reality” while isolated in a distant rural college).  I am surprised there is little personal recollection of concerts, but evidently his own experience of the acts investigated was—like this review’s author—largely through LP records, press and TV appearances.  And among the rock stars he highlights, things really did happen quickly in the year 1972.  The book coolly follows the magazine savants’ commentary on some of my own favorite bands in adolescence, their soundtracks to a personally exciting, convivial, carnal and creative time.

“Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive

But to be young was very heaven”

wrote some Briton, probably David Bowie.

Guy Peelaert’s paintings in Rock Dreams were witty, subjective photorealist imaginings assembled into a visual history of Rock music that includes all the press darlings of Pin-Ups 1972.  It is to Stanfield’s credit that he realizes, in talking about the glittery Glam Rock moment fifty years ago, press releases and publicity and writeups were decidedly as important as performance, songs, chord progressions or lyrics.  He quotes surprisingly few lyrics, only inserting them slyly when they make a perfect point: his own.  Photos, record covers, promotional materials, magazine photos carried the tune, so to speak.  There was music, true, but it centered itself in fashion, gender experimentation and self-defined communities of belonging.

I recall the phrase “Third Generation Rock” having currency on Detroit FM radio starting around 1970.  Stanfield quotes Alice Cooper in a Spring, 1972 London radio interview as the spark that lit the brushfire of its currency in the UK the rest of the year.  Canadian content laws meant Alice Cooper’s third album Love it to Death, produced by Toronto’s Bob Ezrin, met Canada’s requirements.  Consequently, the single “I’m Eighteen” got airplay on Canadian stations that were heard by teenagers in the populous northern US cities Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Buffalo.  Mick Farren, who organized a free Phun Festival in 1970 and whom Stanfield presents as their short-sighted aesthetic precursor, dismissed the Alice Cooper band as “poof-rock”, and not a righteous “people’ band” upholding the revolutionary standards of the Underground.

The Underground proved an historical phenomenon of a specific duration.  By 1973 three of the four publications that articulated that which was Underground—Friendz, Ink and Oz—were defunct, though International Times carried on, its freak flag flying high. Underground interior decoration was embodied in Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s movie “Performance”, its louche decor designed by Christopher Gibbs. QUEEN magazine’s report on the Underground scene featured Joy and Mick Farren on the cover, and inside, Farren characterized his band the Deviants as “an extreme underground group who specializes in revolting.”  To interviewer Sarah Malone he concluded the MC5 eventually sold out to mammon, and its poet-polemicist manager John Sinclair’s “faith in the Rock-based revolution that he launched together with the Five must be sadly diminished now that both parties have surrendered to the system or been swallowed by it.”  Detroit’s dilemma was that its hippiedom, its “freak” scene, was interrupted by the race riot (or rebellion) of 1967, scattering the MC5 and others, the band’s commune driven to relocate 45 minutes away in Ann Arbor.

Was Farren a novelist who briefly had a band called the Deviants?  Were his novels best-sellers among the people also buying the records?  Or was he a litterateur briefly climbing onstage, like the Rock Bottom Remainders, or critic Richard Meltzer’s garage band VOM, or Lester Bangs clacking a typewriter alongside the J. Geils Band in a 1974 Detroit performance?  International Times editor Barry Miles called the Deviants’ first album “a prime, over-ripe example of gratuitously obscene, rockin’, stompin’ post-psyche-delic, [sic] neo-rock n’ roll, UNDERGROUND freak record.”   Meanwhile, Richard Williams and other critics considered them among “the worst band” they’d ever seen. When I learned circa 1972 that there were interesting things to be found in the back of a store in which teenage Iggy Pop had been briefly employed, Discount Records’ “Imports” section, I pondered, the Deviants’ cover.  “Oh, they’re the English Mothers of Invention,” said an older lad, connoisseur of English second generation bands.

Marc Bolan was the UK’s Third Generation trailblazer, as Mark Feld evolved from Mod into flower child Marc Bolan into glam rocker of eclectic inspiration—he claimed to have watched Fellini’s 1969 “Satyricon” twelve times—with subsequent musical simplification.  Simon Frith’s “Letter from Britain” in the July 1972 CREEM didn’t think Bolan’s T. Rex bridged pop thrill and contemporary political significance, but had generated “a rejection of the dead end of progressivism”—that revolutionary people’s band thing expounded by CREEM’s hometown MC5—for "a refueling of fun” for a “new surge of teenage energy”.  Still, Bolan claimed to speak for “The Children of the Revolution”.  Simon Frith wrote of his surprise that Marc Bolan of T. Rex hollered “Am I sexy” to his fans, “and I thought no, and all around the yes was screamed back.”  Before the band came onstage John Lennon’s 1971 “Imagine” was played by a DJ “who stood for every progressive thing T.Rex had destroyed and the audience smashed him.”  Yet it appeared T. Rex had little impact in the US besides “Bang a Gong” airplay in 1972, and appearances on one or two on late-night Don Kirshner concert shows.  A US tour tanked with “no meaningful traction” in the US when Bolan thought North American audiences wanted long, extended boogie jams in the manner of the Grateful Dead or Allman Brothers on his songs—exactly what those of us who savored the Third Generation’s new bands turned against—rather than his pop earworm brevity.  The International Times’ disdain for Mark Bolan was like our own for one of those longwinded bands sopping up Rock radio airwaves in the US, Grand Funk Railroad.

Alice Cooper swears he never eviscerated a chicken onstage, but when handed a hen while performing, he assumed if he tossed it, it would fly off like a dove…and when it fell, the audience tore it to shreds!  With horrified delight at memories of 1950s juvenile delinquents tearing up theaters, news stories began referencing vicious “clockwork orange” behavior of rock audiences in 1972, while Stanfield astutely appreciates the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s movie “A Clockwork Orange” on the visual and fashion style of many Third Generation acts.  Even gentle Elton John sang “Saturday Night’s All Right (for Fighting)” in 1973.  Yet my own high school days circa ‘72, midwestern marijuana had mellowed out all cliques; any violence, real or symbolic aggro, was racial.  Beyond some fashion tips, the ultra-violence in “A Clockwork Orange” influenced David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, dearly beloved “so we smashed his sweet hands” (whimper).  In his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (1972), Bowie created a magic moment in London much as the Rolling Stones evoked American backwaters on Exile on Main Street that year.  And Bowie’s “Suffragette City” had the fun, sprawling drive of the Stones or Faces.

Stanfield moves to Bowie’s two 1973 albums Aladdin Sane and Pin-Ups. The airbrushed portrait of Bowie on the cover of Aladdin Sane is like that of Roxy Music cover girl Kari Ann and other pin up models in the Pirelli Calendar.  Stanfield mentions Hubert Selby Jr. as an influence on Bowie yet doesn’t acknowledge the punning similarity of a song titled “Jean Genie” to transgressive outlaw author Jean Genet.  That song’s supposed inspiration, Iggy Pop, may have introduced his friend to the MC5, for the echoing vocals and guitar-string swoop in the middle of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” on Aladdin Sane evoke the MC5’s “Starship”.  Stanfield disses Bowie’s cover versions collection Pin Ups, dismisses its “Can’t Explain” as a dead-in-the-water failure…or has it the homoerotic allure of his “Cracked Actor”, or Lou Reed’s 1975 “Baby Face” (or Marc Almond’s later cover of “Late Night”, a song by another arty-kids’ idol circa 1972, Syd Barrett)?  Bowie’s been said to croon like Johnny Ray, the 1950s singer who shouldn’t have invited that undercover cop home with him, and what one cruel critic called “Fag Rock” boasts virtues of camp’s insouciance, wave-of-the-hand dismissiveness, pomposity-puncturing sneers and eye rolls.  It’s knowing, self-referential, urban and urbane. Snap! and you’re toast, history, we’ve moved on.

My university office wall boasts the famous photo of the Third Generation triumvirate David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, whom (adding Bolan too) Barney Hoskyns called “gutter-aristocrats” and “hoodlum poets”.  Reed’s monotone pokes over rockers and melancholy ballads; his nonchalant yet often pained songwriting style in the Bowie-produced Transformer album of 1972 remains eminently listenable.  Iggy Pop, like Reed’s 1960s Velvet Underground collaborator John Cale, was aware of avant-garde music in performance by the Once Group at the University of Michigan, though any innovations absorbed by him had been refined and simplified by the 1972 London sessions that produced Iggy and the Stooges’ album Raw Power, which Bowie also produced.  Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton’s Iron Cross and other troubling Third Reich regalia (some collected in WWII by his father) is here compared to New York Doll Johnny Thunders’ Gestapo-like armband and Cat Stevens sporting a swastika; a few years later Bowie, in a 1930s Aryan haircut, created a kerfuffle by waving to fans with a Nazi-like salute.  I felt old in high school when younger girls bragged of their trysts with Iggy and members of the Stooges.  I had always assumed Iggy’s onstage pooping and peeing upon the audience was a tall tale conjured by one of those girls, Carolyn Moon (1957-95), but Stanfield lists them among Iggy’s “acts of trespass”.  Iggy’s practice of leaping from the stage and mauling audience members supposedly began at a concert at a junior college 4.5 miles from my own university.  Me mum wouldn’t let me go see the Stooges at my junior high school in 1968, not like I’m still sore or anything.

Nick Kent and other twenty-somethings geezerishly used the Who’s phrase “teenage wasteland” for Third Generation fans.  Much more appropriate might have been Roxy Music’s so sure, so chic “teenage rebel of the week”, savoring their piano-and-sax arrangements, with Eno’s spaceship sounds skittering atop them.  Roxy Music entered the picture in 1972, looking handsome or fey in cosmetics, nineteen-fifties in a couple guys’ Brylcreem’d hairstyles yet futuristic in swooping electronic sounds.  While Melody Maker called him “a mannered sexist”, Roxy voice Bryan Ferry told Ian MacDonald of the New Musical Express (NME) that study with “the father of Pop Art” Richard Hamilton, plus Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein “American dream” influences, inspired the surprising and shocking juxtapositions in their song “Virginia Plain”.  The Peel Sessions performance of “Virginia Plain” in 1972 has the same thumping simple drumbeat as the Stooges; Roxy’s Brian Eno took credit as an “incompetent musician” respectful of early rockers’ spiritual, physical and innovative qualities, “but they weren’t virtuosi”. Nevertheless, Penthouse Magazine’s critic called the band’s For Your Pleasure album “the beautiful vulgar tasteless promise of 1972.”

The last Third Generation act Stanfield discusses is the New York Dolls, whose performances, primping and touring were well-documented with a black and white Sony Portapak video recorder by photographer Bob Gruen, and are entertaining to this day.  Melody Maker’s Michael Watts’s appreciated the Dolls’ “sense of themselves” for a “small cultish audience”.  Barry Miles saw them in 1973 as a “hard rock, camp prissy 100% homosexual group in black tights posturing and imitating all of Mick’s [Jagger’s] stage gestures and leaps.”  When Bowie alluded to the death of Dolls drummer Billy Murcia, musing how time is “Demanding Billy Doll, and other friends of mine” in 1973, many figured he was just namechecking a younger boy in makeup.  The death evidently stirred London’s tabloids, who focused on the presence of British model Marilyn Woodhead at Murcia’s death.

Finally, the satellite, or sun with its own gravity, hovering over all these new boy Pin Ups of 1972 was 1950s revivalism.  This could mean the wild, untrammeled energy of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and even early Elvis.  Or it could merely mean fancy sport jackets and hair slicked into coifs.  It could mean pin-up girls, contemporary styled like those on calendars dad might have hung in the garage.  Stanfield limns the shapeshifting ghost of 1950s revivalism, an imagined 1950s, which in the US has been said to have lasted until President John F. Kennedy’s death in November 1963, or the Beatles touring the US in 1964.  As Charles Baudelaire noted “Dandyism is the last flicker of heroism in decadent ages,” Jerry Hopkins of Rolling Stone appreciated the Teddy Boys’ “fashion for effect, not function” in 1972.  “Soft as velvet, sharp as razor blades.  It’s possible to be a dandy, yet tough.”  Hopkins visited their haberdasher Malcom McLaren’s Let It Rock boutique.

In 1972 Gary Glitter grunted “Rock n’ Roll, Rock, Rock n’ Roll…” in a silly surprise throwaway hit.  In the US, the musical “Grease”, set in 1959, began a popular run in 1971 and was turned into a movie—with songs on the pop charts—in 1978.  A 1990s VHS tape sold in the US of the London Rock Festival of 1972 contained only performances by its rockers of the First Generation: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry & Bo Diddley. Until reading Pin-Ups 1972 I had no idea that the MC5 were also on the bill at the Wembley Festival.  Mick Farren wrote of them “Though MC5 are not as technically proficient as Led Zeppelin, they’re putting down a lot heavier trip” and he began a London chapter of the White Panther Party in their honor.  Members of the MC5 and Stooges (like the later Ramones) sported black leather motorcycle jackets beneath long hair.

The nostalgic motivation of the aging Teds was shared by some of the Third Generation.  The wistful 1972 Bowie-produced song (his) “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople was sung by Mick Hunter at a worldly 33.  In covering Lou Reed’s “Rock n’ Roll” in 1971 with a new band whose guitarists Reed poached for his own tours, Second Generation Detroit rocker Mitch Ryder was admitted by CREEM to the Third Generation.  CREEM’s Dave Marsh reported on going to see Michigan hitmakers Question Mark and the Mysterians in 1971, five years but seemingly (to a teenage reader) a generation after “96 Tears”.  Rather than the 1950s, in 1972 Michigan many were immersed in the revival of early-to-mid-sixties proto-Punk bands.  The influential Lenny Kaye-curated NUGGETS double album in 1972, documenting the “first psychedelic era” part of the Second Generation that may have most influenced the Third’s simple chord progressions and got its teenage fans buying early Who and Kinks. The term Punk Rock had begun to be used for garage-band economy, and Stanfield credits the Troggs as British Punk Rock. Yet there was also much Black music on US radio in 1972: Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, the Fifth Dimension, Diana Ross.  Like Reggae’s avowed influenced on the Punks of the UK, this was another whole axis, not the concern of this book.

Eno once declared there was “something about pornography which has a similarity to rock music.”  Stanfield peruses porn as one more influence on these 1972 notables, from a soft-core “pinup done in shades of blue” posing naked under leather or pants-open in Chelsea, to the cover band Rock n’ Roll Allstars appearing in a pornographic orgy in Curious magazine.  A photo of three members of the MC5 circa 1972, two taking pleasures upon a lass as a bandmate toasts them with his beer, was published in MOTORBOOTY magazine in the mid-1990s…for didn’t “A Clockwork Orange”, “Satyricon” and “Performance” (1970) all establish the threesome as the sexual ideal?

Pin Ups 1972 doesn’t end in a Glitterdammerung; in a less-than-satisfying conclusion, Stanfield lets the Desolation Boulevard album (1974) album by The Sweet sum up the passing scene, as their “Six Teens”—follow up to “Teenage Rampage”—continued youth rebellion tropes.  The American band Brownsville Station, perhaps our Sweet, did too, but often in Chuck Berry-inspired twelve bar blues progressions.  In the US, the Sweet’s “Little Willy” mostly entranced eleven-year-olds in 1972.

One notes the book’s minor typos: “Hugh Heffner” for Chicago-based Hefner, whose PLAYBOY magazine brought nude women out from under the counter onto the drugstore, grocery magazine racks.  As Reaktion Books are distributed by University of Chicago Press in the US, too bad one of its editors hadn’t perused the manuscript.  Dave Marsh, not Lester Bangs, was CREEM founder.  At one point Stanfield appears to call Love It to Death Alice Cooper’s first album, ignoring the two hippie-ish prog-rock albums, encouraged by Frank Zappa, at the time collecting L.A. musical eccentrics for his own label; otherwise the author might have linked T.Rex’s “Solid Gold Easy Action” and Alice Cooper’s second album “Easy Action”.  John Ned Mendelsohn was not Christopher Milk, or at least on their pre-album four-song promotional EP the band’s front man was a Mister Twister, an Iggy-like mad stage contortionist written up enthusiastically by Mendelsohn.  Or perhaps that was a Mendelsohn hoax.

It took a second reading to warm to Pin-Ups 1972 for one who grew up on rock writing at its most subjective: ironist Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches’ Hellfire biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, and especially the snowballing, drunk-driving CREEM magazine effusions of Lester Bangs.  Stanfield presents the historical evidence impersonally, with impressive reserve—there’s not even a footnote “At age 14 I loved that album.”  Yet this subjective reader savored this book, the product of an enthusiastic scholar in his study.  Love for these now aged or sadly deceased talents and their songs is likely a motivation for that scholar’s effort, but is muted. I suspect somewhere there’s an unpublished photo of fourteen-year-old Peter Stanfield on his way to a concert in 1972, in his shiniest jacket and uncomfortable high boots, significant haircut…and is that eye makeup?  A pin-up of which even his most enthusiastic American reader would probably make fun.