Gary Glitter, the King of Glam Rock, has had an unusual life to date. After excessive drinking and drug taking in his earlier musical career, he was declared bankrupt and began to turn his life around only to be confronted with allegations of paedophilia.
Born in 1944 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England, Glitter was named Paul Francis Gadd. From an early age he aspired to be a professional musician.
"I wanted to be like Elvis. In the early 50s nearly all the singers wanted to be like Elvis: Cliff Richard, Marty Wilde. We all walked around with 'the lip'
As a wannabe pop star he decided that a chance sighting of a building in 1958 sporting the Decca name was to help him break into his favoured profession.
"There was a Decca building at the embankment over Lambeth way. In my naivety I asked everybody in the building how to make a record - whether it be the managing director or the cleaner. My chances of success were slim; I was in the wrong place, it was Decca Navigation."
Paul Russell and his Rebels
Shortly after this set back, Glitter got formed his own band which he called Paul Russell and his Rebels after his step-father. The band first performed in public at the Sutton Granada in a skiffle competition where they performed Oh Boy! quite badly. According to Glitter himself, they were
"Just as bad as every other Skiffle group of the day. We had a Tea Chest bass with a broomstick and a drummer who had made his own drums by stretching thick brown paper over some old tin cans."
Members of the band left and new members joined to form a different version of The Rebels which had Brian Ramsey as the drummer and Mike Thompson and Pete Rainer on guitars. This new and improved version of Glitter's band managed to earn a regular spot at the Safari Club which was based in Trafalgar Square, London. Here Glitter met Robert Hartford Davis, a film producer who became his manager. In the year that Hartford Davis managed Glitter he was successful in arranging a contract for Glitter with Decca Records whilst Glitter was still at the tender age of 14.
Glitter managed to get quite few different paid jobs through this time, which was helped by Glitter lying about his age and pretending to be older than he was. He would perform at clubs on weekdays, then go to the Laconda Club on weekends. This club was fronted by Diana Dors, but actually owned by the Krays.
The Laconda Club
"The Laconda Club was great fun because I used to change in the dressing room - which was quite small - with all of the dancing girls, so that was nice. Not many 14 year olds get exposed to such things,"
Even whilst working all evenings, Glitter managed to carry on going to school, mainly to stop the authorities stopping him working. Due to not getting home from work until around 5am, he spent most of his time in school sitting at the back of the class sleeping.
"I used to get the milk train down to Croydon and roll in, but I always had the best uniform, hand-made actually, because I was earning 200 pounds a week and in 1959 that was a lot of money. It still is a lot of money!"
Cool for Cats
In 1960 Glitter appeared on the British television show Cool For Cats with his first single, Alone In The Night. This was released under the name of Paul Raven, and failed to sell many copies. It did, however, manage to raise Glitter's profile enough to get him a small part in a Stranger in the city, a film by Robert Davis which was made in 1961. This was to be Glitter's film debut. He also carried on touring with The Rebels and was included in a deal from his management company which advertised Paul Russell and his Rebels alongside Ronnie Corbett, Tony Newley and Bernie Winters. This contributed to the break up of the band though, as when it came to the crunch, only Gary wanted to become a professional musician, so the Rebels went their separate ways and Glitter continued on his own under the name of Paul Raven.
A solo career worked quite well for Glitter from then on and he toured Scandinavia throughout 1961 as well as releasing two singles. Walk on Boy failed to sell though, as well as his other single of the year, Tower of Strength which was produced by George Martin. Because of this, Parlophone, who he was signed to at this time, sacked Glitter who then took up a job as warm up man on Ready Steady Go. This made Glitter slightly annoyed though as
"I knew I could do better then a whole lot of the performers going on the show, yet there I was just entertaining the studio audience".
In 1962, whilst working on Ready Steady Go, Glitter met Mike Leander for the first time. Leander offered Glitter a job as the front man of the Mike Leander Orchestra whilst the group toured the UK as the support act to The Bachelors. Glitter took up this offer, and when the tour finished, toured the club scene in Germany with a new group which he had formed which was called Paul Raven and Boston International. This one month tour was so successful that it actually lasted for five years. During this time, the band changed their name to The Bostons. Whilst touring in 1963, Glitter got married which didn't last too long ending in divorce in 1969.
By the end of the German tour in 1968, Leander was made the head of MCA Records. This was a good break for Glitter as he had already impressed Leander and he was soon signed to his record label. As well as helping Glitter by signing him, Leander wrote a song for Glitter to perform called Musical Man which was a flop in the UK pop charts. For this record, Glitter changed his name yet again. This time to Paul Mundy.
Glitter changed his name again for his next single We Are All Living In One Place in 1969. This record, with Glitter as Rubber Bucket, included a sample of the chanting recorded outside the MCA Record offices when a group of squatters was evicted from the neigbouring premises. This single as well as a cover version of George Harrison's Here Comes The Sun which Glitter released later in the year, failed to impress the record buying public and failed yet again.
Jesus Christ Superstar
Another flop followed the next year, 1970, in the form of Stand, however, this was shortly followed by a small part on a very successful recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was good news and bad news for Glitter though as now he had participated in a well known recording and as getting his name known. The bad news was that he had only been paid a fixed rate for his contribution, and not a percentage of the sales revenue. To add to Glitter's bad fortune, he was sacked by MCA Records. This led to Leander resigning from MCA Records, setting up business on his own and representng Glitter full time himself.
Leander and Glitter started to think of ideas to help Glitter be more successful in his chosen career. They decided between them that what was needed was a change of image and direction musically. They used studio time which was borrowed due to David Essex not turning up to record one day, and managed to record a 15 minutes dance track under a new pseudonym. Many names were rejected, but the name Gary Glitter was eventually chosen on 3rd March 1972.
"After they changed my name to Paul Raven at the age of 14, Decca then changed my name to Paul Mundy, then I became Rubber Bucket. I could have been Terry Tinsel, Horace Hydrogen, Vicki Vomit, George Bean and the Runners. There were all of these different names going around, so in desperation I changed my name to Gary Glitter thinking that somebody would take notice of a record, but in fact the record wasn't noticed by Radio 1 which is where we needed it to be played to get a hit."
Top of the Pops
March was also the month in which the newly named Glitter released Rock 'n Roll Part One and Two. This was released as a double A side as Leander and Glitter were undecided as to which to release as the A side track. To begin with it looked as if this single was going to fail like all of his other attempts at breaking into the music scene, however, slowly the disco scene in the UK gradually started to play the instrumental version of the record which was on Part 2 more often. At around the same time Radio Luxembourg started to play the track too which led to Radio 1 playing it as well. Despite Part 2 being the favourite in the UK, Part 1 sold quite well in France. After all of Glitter's failed attempts at getting into the charts, he finally managed it in June 1972. Once the single got into the charts, Glitter was asked if he would like to perform on Top of the Pops. He agreed to a performance, but suddenly realised that he hadn't got a band to perform with any more, and quickly formed a new group which he called the Glitter Band.
"We had no band so we got as many people we knew who could hold an instrument, eight including myself and Mike who mimed the guitar, got ourselves kitted out top to toe in glitter and did the show!"
This band helped Glitter to make it through the television performance, but soon there were enquires about when the Glitter band's first tour would be made. This is when The Gary Glitter Rock'n'Roll Spectacular was formed. This comprised of John Springate on bass, Gerry Shepperd on guitar, Pete Phipps and Pete Gill on drums, and Harvey Ellison and John Rossall on saxophone. As Glitter is only 5' 6" tall, the band members, not including the drummers who were both 6', were all shorter than Glitter so they didn't overshadow him.
The Gary Glitter Rock'n'Roll Spectacular
The band's first performance was on 15th July 1972 at Melksham Village Hall in Wiltshire, which was followed by UK tour. With their big and bold shiny costumes, they made their concerts events which you were participating in as well as watching. Glitter's next single, I Didn't Know I Loved You was released in October and reached number 4 in the UK charts. After this single it seemed that Glitter has managed to fulfil his childhood ambition after all with more and more requests for appearances. As well as having his own fan club, the venues he performed concerts in got bigger and better, as did his costumes. The same year, Glitter released his first album which reached number 8 in the UK album chart.
By 1973, Glitter had had enough of his previous alter-ego Paul Raven. As a publicity stunt, he filled a coffin full of Paul Raven memorabilia and tried to sink the coffin in the River Thames. The coffin didn't sink and floated down the river instead, but Glitter had made his point. After this Glitter released several singles which all reached the top 10 in the UK charts with I Love You Love Me Love entering the chart at the number 1 position.
United States of America
In 1974, America was to be blessed with Glitter's presence after some success with singles which had been already released in the UK. He flew there first class but as there was no limousine to pick him up when the flight got in, he stayed on the plane and flew back to the UK in a bad mood. His record company met him back at the airport in the UK and told him that he had to go back to America, so he got back on the same plane this time to be greeted by his limousine at the airport. This pop star behaviour backfired on Glitter slightly as he had to pay for his second flight as the record company refused to. In March he released Remember Me This Way which reached number 3 in the charts in the UK. This record was quite different to other recordings Glitter had released as instead of his usual Glam Rock stomp, it was a ballad.
Glitter went back to his usual style of music complete with heavy percussion in 1975 with the release of Alright With The Boys which reached number 6, however Glam Rock was losing popularity quickly, and Glitter with it. Alright With The Boys was to be Glitter's last top ten singles in the 70's, but his popularity lasted quite a while with Glitter being the first artist in the world to have his first 11 singles to reach the top 10, an accolade which the Beatles and Elvis Presley never achieved.
In March of 1976, an appearance on Russell Harty's chat show was to be a significant point in Glitter's career. Due to bad sales for his forthcoming concert, Glitter announced that he had fallen in love and that the concert was going to be his last, as a publicity stunt to boost ticket sales. This was reported on The News at Ten and made the tour sell out quickly. Glitter carried on the pretence and released a farewell tribute song called You Belong To Me which reached the top 40, much lower than any other record Glitter had released as Gary Glitter. At the same time, Arista Records released an EP with Do You Wanna Touch and I'm The Leader amonst others. This record was a sell out in both Germany and Italy, however due to a drug problem and his fake announcement on the Russell Harty show, he spent the rest of the year relaxing.
A comeback single was released in February 1977 called It Takes All Night Long which reached number 25 at its highest point in the charts, but by May glam rock had seriously begun to decline in popularity. A Little Boogie Woogie in the Back of My Mind released by Glitter in July, only reached number 31 and it went even further downhill from there on with glam records only really selling to adults who were fans of glam in the beginning when they were teenagers. Even when new blood Shakin' Stevens recorded it, it was only a small hit.
Glitter spent the next three years on a world tour which made a huge loss due to excessive spending and not helped by Glitter being more and more dependant on drugs and alcohol which in turn led to a significant weight gain.
"It was very, very hard work. Consequently, I was given wake-up pills, pills to help me through time changes and pills to help me sleep. I was doing things I would never consider doing today. I'd just say 'Go and stuff it, I'm not gonna ruin my body like this, but at the time I'd never been in that position before and I was on a merry-go-round."
"I have lost so many friends through drug and alcohol abuse that I am really pleased to be living."
The Rocky Horror Show
Just when it was thought that Glitter couldn't get and lower, his next record release, Oh What a Fool failed to sell, apart from in Brazil. He moved to Paris, France and the next year, 1978 managed to get the part of Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Show in Australia.
"I was really into the whole spirit of Rocky Horror as the message was, 'don't dream it, be it', which was the true spirit of Glitter!"
Glitter played a rather rotund version of the transvestite inventor, and ended up living in Australia until late in 1979 when he moved back to England where he decided to clean up his act and start to lose his excess weight.
"I thought about my daughter and my first wife - both vegetarians - and started asking them about vegetarianism. My daughter, Sarah, said 'Well, fat makes fat, so if you think about that and start to go down that road then you will lose weight.' So I decided to cut all the fat off meat, chicken and fish. I like cooking and I know darn well that you can't cook any of that stuff without the fat on it."
"Now, of course I wouldn't consider eating any meat or fish products."
More bad record sales followed with Gary Glitter, a four track EP only making it as far as number 57 in the charts. Desite his bad record sales, and debts from mismanaged tours, he bought his first house.
"I'd never actually owned a house before then, and I'd never lived in the same place for more than two years in my life, so suddenly I bought this great big mansion and I wanted to design the curtains and pick out the marble from Italy, do all the stuff that others take for granted. I stopped working to do it which is one of the reasons why I went broke,"
Also this year, 1980, Glitter was declared bankrupt, however Glitter says he was only declared bankrupt because,
"somebody didn't fill in the right forms."
Glitter's extravagant stage costumes and all of the awards which he had been given were taken from him and auctioned off to try to pay his crippling debts, but even after all this was taken from him, he still owed £180,000 to the Inland Revenue. Glitter saw this as a wake up call and decided that he was going to do something to change his situation and started touring again which carried on almost continuously for the next 6 years. On this tour, Glitter went back to basics and didn't spend so much money on the extravagances of touring and at the Rainbow Theatre in London in 1981, he appeared on a cheap set wearing a leather jacket with leather trousers and black trainers. For the second half of the show, he wore a white jump suit which unfortunately emphasised how overweight he actually was.
In June, Glitter teamed up with Gerry Cottle to start up The Gerry Cottle Rock and Roll Circus. This was another bad decision for Glitter and was disbanded within two weeks as a huge financial disaster.
Desert Island Discs
Glitter made an appearance on Desert Island Discs in August 1981, which was then hosted by the late Roy Plumley. This turned out to be a bad publicity exercise for Glitter though as on the programme he attempted to be funny when asked what two items he would like to take with him to the desert island. His answer was A blow up doll and a puncture repair kit. This didn't go down too well with the listeners to the radio show, and was to be used against him in a few years time.
1982 and 1983 were spent by Glitter touring universities with his show. This appealed to Glitter as the people at university at this time were the teenagers who bought his records at the peak of his success. This success was followed by Glitter being asked to appear as a guest by his friend Rod Stewart in 1983 at his concert at Ibrox Park in Glasgow. Glitter jumped at this and appeared in front of an audience of 20,000 people which was many more than he was used to at this time. At the beginning of his set, Glitter had a mixed reaction from the audience, but his unique style of working the crowd had them crying out for more by the time he had finished, so much that Stewart had to put in a very good performance to compete.
Also at this time, a cover version of Do You Wanna Touch was released by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in America. This version reached the US top 20. Partially due to this, a second apperance on Top of the Pops for Glitter was to be had in 1984 when Dance Me Up reached number 25. Glitter's biggest hit for years followed in December with Another Rock'n'Roll Christmas which reached number 7 and went gold. More touring came next for Glitter as well as the release of the album Boys Will Be Boys which didn't sell very well. Even gimmicks didn't help the release of Love Comes as the star shaped single was a flop in 1985 as well.
More bad news came for Glitter in 1986. He was waiting to be sentenced for his third drink driving offense when he decided to take an overdose of tablets, although after the event he told everyone that it was an accident. Many people thought that Glitter took this overdose as he was too scared to go to prison if the court case went badly. Luckily for Glitter, he got away with a fine and a 15 year driving ban. The same year, Glitter collaborated with Girlschool to record I'm the Leader of the Gang.
"The booze had caused me to lose my driving licence for 15 years, and I could have gone to prison, and my girlfriend left me. I was already a vegetarian by that time, but I was drinking an awful lot and doing drugs as well, so l needed to cleanse myself."
In 1987 Glitter started touring with a performance he calls the Gang Show. His show toured November and December of every year and was the only time that he toured from then on. The shows were very popular and became so big that the city halls which were chosen for the venues had be to altered to arenas and stadiums. Despite this, his records still don't sell and end up in bargain bins in records shops country wide. A sample from Glitter's first hit was used by the Time Lords the next year, 1988, and their song, Doctor in the Tardis went straight to number one in the UK charts. Because of this Glitter collaberated with the Time Lords, and made a remix of the song with Glitter appearing on the sleeve.
The next year Glitter was involved with many different jobs. As well as appearing on the cover of the NME, he participated in advertisements for British Rail and Heinz Soup. Despite having been seen in a bad light on televised talk shows in the past, due to being under the influence of numerous legal and illegal substances, in 1988 Glitter was given his own slot on the late night chat show, Night Network. This didn't alter in any way his perception of panel game shows though which he thinks of as a dumping ground for has-been celebrities.
This is Your Life suprised Glitter with a show dedicated to his life and career in 1991. His brother and mother appeared on the show with a selection of people who had met Glitter and appreciated his talents and sense of humour. The same year he released his autobiography, Leader which didn't sell too well.
In Sepember 1993, a kiss and tell story about Glitter was sold to a Sunday tabloid newspaper by one of Glitter's ex-girlfriends. As well as selling her story to the press, she sold photographs of a bald Glitter, and and explanation of how she used to have to wash his wigs. Glitter's large windswept hair styles were one of his trademarks, but despite this, Glitter managed to see the funny side of the story, and dealt with it in a tongue in cheek manner. This story helped keep his name in the spotlight for a little longer, and his tours sold well and maybe even better than before. A couple of years later, a fan of Glitter's from Holland set up a website about him which both Glitter and his manager approved of immensely even as far as to enquire about selling Glitter merchandise on the web. The price of the technology in 1995 was too expensive though to go througth with the business idea, but the idea is kept in mind by Glitter and eventually in 2001 he released his new album primarily though the internet. In the first year alone, Glitter's fan portal was visited by around 1700 visitors!
1997 was the beginning of some very stressful times for Glitter. With Mike Leander, the co writer of all of Glitter's hit records, and the man who believed in Glitter from his early days, dying from cancer the previous year, Glitter had lost a very good friend and advisor. Things started to look up for Glitter though, as he was offered two milion pounds for the rights to all of his hits records which he accepted. He was also offered a part in the Spice Girls film, Spice World, and The Full Monty but then things started to get much much worse for Glitter.
Whilst Glitter's laptop computer was being repaired at PC World, Cribb's Causeway, Bristol, a technician noticed that there were some unusual files on the computer. When he investigated more closely, he found that these files contained pornographic pictures of children which had been dowloaded from the internet. This was reported to the police and a formal investigation took place which resulted in approximately 50 indecent photos being discovered at both of Glitter's homes, which he was arrested and bailed for and told that he would most likely be due to go to court in January of the next year.
After this, many jobs which Glitter was scheduled to take part in were cancelled. His role in Spice World was edited from the final cut of the film, his appearance for Children in Need was cancelled and Rock'n'Roll Part Two, a regular tune played at sports stadiums worldwide was refused airtime.
Whilst on bail, Gary went to Cuba to live with the family of his girlfirend of the time, before being charged with indecent assault of an eight year old in 1975, underage sex with a 15 year old girl and around 100 offences of publishing. The two trials for these cases started on 9th November 1999, one of which related to the paedophilic pornography on Glitter's computer, and the other relating to the sexual abuse issues. The first case to happen was concerning 8 charges of sexual assault, one of the alledged abuse victims being Allison Brown who later sold her story to the News of the World for £10,000 with an option of a further £25,000 if Glitter was found guilty of the abuse charges she made against him. This offer of money was called a highly reprehensible tactic by the Judge on Glitter's case, and the Press Complaints Commission investigated the payment. Brown herself was 14 when she met Glitter when he sang a song to her on the stage at one of his concerts. At this trial, Glitter was found innocent of all 8 charges.
The Mail on Sunday claimed that the 8 year old girl which was involved with Glitter was a girl, now a woman, named Justine Ackroyd. They also claimed that Glitter had sex with her whilst in the same bed as his daughter.
At the end of the four day trial against Glitter which concerned the downloading of 54 pornographic images involving children as young as two, didn't go in Glitter's favour at all and he pleaded guilty to all charges which resulted in him going to prison for four months. He appealed against the severity of his sentence which was made on Friday 12th November 1999 at Bristol Crown Court, but this appeal was ignored. It was alleged that there were up to 4000 downloaded images in all which Glitter's lawyer said were for his own use. When Glitter was led to the cells it was said that he looked dazed and confused in his dark blue suit with one of his trademark wigs. Glitter's barrister, Trevor Burke, made a statement at the end of the trial saying that Glitter accepted that his musical career was over, and Glitter was ordered to pay the £80,000 prosecution charges.
Glitter's time at Bristol Prison wasn't an easy two months for him. He was locked up in solitary confinement in the segregated section of the jail and was threatened by fellow inmates who didn't approve of his crime. He was going to be transfered to a minimum security prison, but when rumours that there were cameras being smuggled into jail, the idea was quashed. Despite prison regulations, he was allowed to wear his wig, but had to wear regulation jogging bottoms and sweatshirt.
A week into his sentence, he was transferred to the hospital wing of Horsfield Prison where he was put on suicide watch. Staff feared that he would harm himself, due to his depression and his lack of contact with other prisoners. Most of his time was spent in his cell reading and listening to music, however there were reports from Q Magazine, that a former inmate at the prison, Matthew Gallagher, claimed that Glitter was asking for hard-core pornography to be sneaked into his cell.
"When he asked me to get him some porn I couldn't believe it. Of course, I never got him any, but given the circumstances of him being in jail, I was surprised he even asked,"
After his release in January 2000 at a press conference organised by his solicitor, Henry Brandman, outside Queen Mary Gate in Regents Park at 12:01pm, Glitter made a tearful statement after being smuggled out of prison to avoid the press,
"I deeply regret doing what I was sent to prison for. I've served my time. I want to put it all behind me. And live my life".
Glitter, prisoner number EW4473, said that he had recieved death threats whilst inside.
A prison spokesman said of these allegations,
"We've had to make special arrangements because he's received threats which the prison governor considered serious enough to warrant special action,"
"All the time he's been in prison he's received a number of threats that gave us cause for concern about his safety -- at least one death threat and several threatening letters,"
During his time in prison, Glitter sold his house in Wedmore, Somerset, and prepared to move to Cuba with Cuban born Yeudenia Sosa Martinez, his 26 year old girlfriend. He eventually moved to Cuba in April 2000 where he was considered a very rich man as the average salary of a person from Cuba is $15 a month. Martinez kept the legal troubles her famous boyfriend has hidden from her family which eventually came out which her brother, Armando, said had torn our family apart. By August he had moved to Sotogrande where Glitter organised parties on his luxury yacht. By October, Glitter had sued his record company.
In 2001, Glitter released his long awaited CD, ON, which was only avaliable to buy on the internet. This caused some controversy and numerous British politicians thinking that it should be banned. Labour MP Tom Watson told the BBC,
"I think it's disgraceful that a convicted paedophile should be able to peddle his wares to young children, especially when young people are the biggest buyers of pop music. At worst, he should be handled with care, and at best he should be stopped from promoting and distributing his records."
But as a spokeman for a record company said,
'Gary is convicted, he served his time and he's a free man'.
Watson himself wrote to the British Phonographic Industry to ask for Glitter's album to be blocked when released which was unsuccessful. British tabloids jumped on the back of the MPs bandwagon, and falsely accused Glitter of writing records whilst in prison. These tracks however were co-written with Martin Jenkins in 1996. The cover of the album has no picture of Glitter though.
At the moment, in 2002, Glitter is threatened with deportation from Cambodia where he has been living for several months. According to officials in Cambodia he isn't registered as living in Cambodia which has become a popular holiday spot for paedophiles due to the thriving child sex indutry. Officially he is there on holiday.
Pol Phithey, Chief of Phnom Penh's Foreigner Police Department says,
"We will deport him immediately after Interpol police collect all his records,"
"We won't allow bad foreigners to live in Cambodia."
Due to Glitter's not registering as a resident, his passport was confiscated and Cambodia's minister of women's affairs, Mu Sochua, has been pursueing the case vigilantly in a hope that Glitter will be deported.
A DVD containing video clips from previous hits by Glitter is also in the pipeline as well as unreleased records.
On January 19, 2015 Gary Glitter appeared at Southwark Crown Court accused of seven counts of indecent assault, one count of attempted rape, and two other sexual offences, against three girls, between 1975 and 1980. The trial lasted two and a half weeks and on February 5, 2015 he was found guilty of child abuse and rape. On February 27, 2015, Glitter was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Television and Film Credits