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Throwback Thursday: The Glam Rock Anthem That Conquered Sports, And The Convicted Pedophile Behind It

Thirty-four years ago, Gary Glitter released "Rock and Roll Part II," the sine qua non of stadium jock jams. The silly song masked a dark secret.

by Michael Weinreb
Mar 3 2016, 3:40pm

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Thirty-four years ago this week, a man named Paul Francis Gadd released a 12-song album laced with an idiotically kitschy glam sensibility. Gadd had been recording music since the age of 14, and ever since then he'd been casting about for the hit song that would break him loose. So he teamed with songwriter Mike Leander in the mid-60s, and after much deliberation—and after rejecting stage names like Terry Tinsel and Vicky Vomit—Gadd adopted the moniker Gary Glitter, and on March, 3, 1972, released the album Glitter, having no idea that he would alter the landscape of American sports.

Glitter included largely pointless covers of songs like Chuck Berry's "School Day" and Dion's "The Wanderer"; in a review for his Consumer Guide to music, rock critic Robert Christgau gave it a grade of C. The final sentence of Christgau's three-sentence review is simply the word, "Dumb," and for the most part it's hard to disagree. But there was a hit on Glitter's album, the biggest one of his career, a mindless instrumental that was the last song on the record. It was the largely wordless second refrain of the song that kicked off the album, a song titled, mindlessly enough, "Rock and Roll Part 2."

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If you have not heard this song, I imagine you are probably not the type of person who reads this website. For the better part of several decades, the song was ubiquitous at sporting events, re-interpreted by marching bands and by intoxicated fan bases, laced with chants of "You Suck," embraced as one of the original Jock Jams. As Christgau wrote, it is a song "reputed to be reggae, but I don't understand why, unless reggae has been reduced to a catchall for anything with a simple beat." There are no intelligible lyrics to the song, outside of the words "Ugh" and "Hey" (which is why it is often colloquially referred to as "The Hey Song"). It is the Rob Gronkowski of glam rock, undeniably blockheaded and yet weirdly charming, and it might have been the kind of song that lasted forever if Glitter himself hadn't turned out to have committed some of the worst crimes imaginable.

Back in 1992, before he landed in prison, Glitter told Sports Illustrated that "Rock and Roll Part 2" was actually an attempt to sound "like Wembley Stadium full of football supporters." He tuned his guitar to C to give it a "bottlenecked sound," then, along with Leander, recorded saxophone, bass guitar and drum tracks alongside it, and also sang and clapped his hands. What came out was an easy singalong, the kind of track that even the tone-deaf could clap along to, given that the claps themselves were part of the song. The song got up to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts in the United States; Glitter followed it with a string of hits in the United Kingdom—he sold 18 million records by 1975—but largely receded into obscurity in the United States.

Gary Glitter escorted by police into a courtroom for his 2006 appeal hearing in a child molestation case in Vietnam. Photo by Julian Abram Wainwright-EPA

Two years after its release, in 1974, a public relations director for an International Hockey Team in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was digging through his collection of 45s, searching for some canned music he could play on the loudspeakers. Kevin O'Brien happened across "Rock and Roll Part 2," and immediately began to play it to welcome the home team onto the ice. In 1976, O'Brien became marketing director for the NHL's Colorado Rockies, and kept on playing "Rock and Roll Part 2," to the point that it became known locally as the "Rocky Hockey Theme Song." The Rockies wound up leaving Denver for New Jersey, but the Denver Broncos and the Denver Nuggets picked up the song, and eventually, the New Jersey Devils did, too.

As the glam era receded, Glitter struggled. He divorced his wife, went bankrupt, and was arrested multiple times for drunk driving. He made a comeback in the '90s, and Oasis sampled his lyrics for song off the album (What's The Story) Morning Glory; then in 1999, he was sentenced to four months in prison for possessing images of child sex abuse on his computer. He apologized publicly (without taking any questions from the media), moved overseas, got deported from Cambodia, and was convicted for abusing a pair of underaged girls in Vietnam in 2006. Glitter denied the charges, blaming his troubles on the British tabloid media; he spent nearly three years in prison. Then last February, Glitter was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexually abusing three underaged girls between 1975 and 1980, which was part of an investigation related to the allegations against longtime BBC host Jimmy Savile.

Glitter's horrifying crimes have obviously dampened the song's place as a sports arena rock song, but it had been around for long enough that it's not easy to fully displace. As of 2014, a source told Billboard, the song was still generating roughly $250,000 in royalties for Glitter. The NFL banned the song after Glitter's conviction in 2006—after the New England Patriots began playing a cover version by the punk band Tube Tops 2000 in 2012, the NFL prohibited them from playing it at the Super Bowl—and these days, "Rock and Roll Part 2" has begun to fade from view, replaced by more modern tracks like the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." Glitter appealed his most recent conviction, and in November 2015, that appeal was denied.

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