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Most people, especially those of you who just gawked at the photo on the right, wouldn't disagree with the assessment that glam rock is dead. Few, however, might agree on what exactly is glam rock and when the bedecked patient actually stopped breathing.
To some, it died when the New York Dolls let Malcolm McLaren talk them out of rouge and into commie flags. For others, it died when Gene Simmons shed a tear at the end of the "World Without Heroes" video, knowing all too well that the once-empowering makeup would have to come off if record sales didn't improve and he'd be left there with his tongue sticking out, looking for all the world like some schmo ready to lick a stamp.
To others, glam died more recently, when horrendous bands like Warrant and Winger pushed the power-ballad button one too many times, leaving audiences wary of anyone with overly conditioned hair who might also be packing no-smudge eyeliner.
But who's to say Poison wouldn't still be selling truckloads of CDs if it hadn't panicked at the first sight of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, changed its sound and traded in its hair extensions for goatees? Once you waver in your own superficiality, the power of the pomp wears off and you deserve to be shown the door on both sides. Poison noticeably flinched, the fans saw the shivers and rightfully sent its transitional Native Tongue album into the crapper.
Those fans include Eddie, Tim, Mykel and Eric, who make up (and I do mean make up) Phoenix's lone glam holdout band Psycho Gypsy. They've been the only keepers of the flickering flame since 1992, when MTV dropped Headbangers Ball and glam bands began dying at a rate of two per minute. Eddie believes that glam's demise was preplanned by the industry, but that the industry's ongoing abhorrence of it is fueling its gradual reemergence.
"The reason we're starting to see a glam comeback is that people are being told they cannot like it. Anytime you're told you can't do something, you wanna fucking do it," Eddie hypothesizes while cracking open another beer.
With his head safely encased inside a baseball cap and his Psycho Gypsy tresses tucked away in some top dresser drawer, Eddie is as far removed from his swishy stage persona as Liberace in a warm-up suit. But rest assured, if he and his glittering pals ever decided to go to Home Depot and buy some rivets in their festive Psycho Gypsy garb, they'd be nailed to the nearest piece of standing lumber.
"The same two things keep getting recycled over and over again. Music gets very glamorous, it becomes very image-oriented, and then it becomes very anti-image. And it keeps going back and forth," he says, laughing. Five years ago, Eddie urged his bandmates to wait out the grunge cycle, and, except for one sudden lapse of faith, he's never stopped believing that some of glam's residue pixie dust could fall on Psycho Gypsy's members and make them stars, too.
Back in the late '80s (around the Dr. Feelgood era of Mstley CrYe, for those of you following the glam time line), 17-year-old Eddie formed his first band, a self-described "cheesy power trio" called Widow with Tim (no one in the band uses last names, preferring to keep the Gypsy shrouded in mystery). Back then Eddie left the house daily looking like a "Cyborg Nikki Sixx," while Tim was a platinum blond who modeled himself after Tammi Downs of Faster Pussycat. Except for the scarves he borrowed from his mom, that is.
"We didn't have jobs or anything," Tim says. "We were just a couple of dropout losers who'd wake up, throw on our lipstick and go out. We'd wear makeup 24 hours a day. My mom was convinced that her son went over to 'the other side.' But I'd turn on MTV and show her, 'Those guys aren't homosexuals, see? They get plenty of girls.'"
Widow petered out after six months, and Tim and Eddie lost touch until both ran into each other again at the state fair. Tim had just quit the group he was in, and Eddie was still trying to find someone else in Arizona who wanted to be in a glam band. Psycho Gypsy was formed just as the last few remaining glam bands were going alternative.
"We didn't want to go grunge," says Tim disdainfully. "To me, most grunge vocalists sound like a cross between Al Jolson, Ethel Merman and a drunken Indian doing a rain dance. You have to do what's from your heart. If we sat down and tried to write a thrash-metal tune, it'd sound forced, fake. So it took about two years to find two other people crazy enough to do what we wanted to do."
Tim and Eddie eventually got a drummer and a guitarist who came as a package and subsequently left as one, too. "We always had to keep selling our own drummer on the whole concept of Psycho Gypsy," says Eddie, reciting his customary "this is cool, let's stick with it, no one else is doing it" spiel. "But he'd fight us on it. 'Maybe we should tone this down, maybe it's a little too much.' I hated those words: 'tone down.'"