Society & Culture & Entertainment Music

The Rise and Fall of Sports" Greatest Anthem

Rock and Roll (a/k/a "The Hey Song") by Gary Glitter

Written by: Mike Leander, Paul Gadd
Recorded: December 1971, Chappelle Studios, London, England
Mixed: December 1971 
Length: 3:02 (part 1), 3:10 (part 2)
Takes: unknown
Produced by Mike Leander
Mixed by John Hudson


Gary Glitter: lead and backing vocals, wood block
Mike Leander: guitars, bass, drums, backing vocals
Harvey Ellison: baritone sax
John Rossall: trombone 


Bell 1216 (UK: March 3, 1972; double a-side with "Rock and Roll, Part 2")
Bell 45,237 (US: July 15, 1972; b-side "Rock and Roll, Part 2)
Highest chart position: (US #7, UK #2)


Gary Glitter was merely a music industry outsider named Paul Gadd when, in late 1971, he entered the studio with longtime associate Mike Leander to take one last shot at establishing a successful recording career. Gadd had been on the UK scene since the early days of rock, first as a skiffle/rockabilly singer named Paul Raven and later trying his hand, under various names, at everything from hippie protest pop to Beatles covers to blue-eyed soul. None of it worked, although he managed to nab a small part in the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar and enjoyed a nearly five-year residency at Hamburg, Germany's famed Star Club. The closest he'd come to success when "Rock and Roll" was released was leading the warmup band for BBC-TV's teen musical program "Ready Steady Go!"

The genesis of Gary Glitter began with the song "Rock and Roll," which only came about when both Gadd and Leander found themselves dropped by their label, MCA, at the same time; Leander had some studio time left over when David Essex (of "Rock On" fame) fell ill and canceled a session, and the two went in to try, at all costs, to finally give Gadd his first hit single.

Noting the "glam rock" craze that was just starting to take off in Great Britain, Gadd had rather puckishly changed his name to Gary Glitter, and the duo began working on a song that would work for the personality. An early demo of a song they'd both worked on, "Shag Rag, That's My Bag," served as the template with its tribal beat, influenced by what Leander later called the "New Orleans voodoo rock" of acts like Dr. John. To that, he overdubbed several more heavily compressed drum tracks, looping them endlessly, then created a strange symphony of overdubbed slide guitars, heavily fuzztoned and thickened still further with low-end brass imitations. It was the genesis of what would be known as the "Gary Glitter Sound" or the "Glitter Beat."

By the end of the night, Gadd and Leander had turned the sound into a song, writing a tribute to the early days of rock n' roll, a retro anthem very much in keeping with the anti-hippie, anti-prog revisionism of the glam scene. However, the song in question lasted close to fifteen minutes, containing long instrumental guitar passages and football chants, and the two weren't sure what to do with it. They eventually decided to pare the track down to two basic ideas, both of which seemed equally ready for success: the actual song, featuring Gary's vocals, and an instrumental featuring nothing but Leander's guitar orchestra and their overdubbed chants. Both songs were released as a double a-side, but while the song proper stalled for a few months, DJ Alan Freeman of BBC Radio 1's "Pick of the Pops" eventually began playing Part 2 -- what would become known as "The Hey Song" -- and it soon made the top 10 on both sides of the ocean. 

At that point Glitter's career took off, at least in the UK. His outrageous appearance, featuring a paunchy middle-aged man in sci-fi alien hair and platform boots, nevertheless endeared him to a generation of glam-rock fans, who eventually adopted the vocal Part 1 as their anthem. Gary enjoyed several hit singles through the mid-70s. In the US, however, "Rock and Roll" was just a one-hit-wonder guitar instrumental, quickly forgotten until Denver sports teams began using it to pump up crowds in the late '70s; from there it gradually expanded out to college and professional sports teams across the US -- football, baseball, basketball, even hockey. Glitter began to enjoy popularity in the states at that point, bolstered by the avowed admiration of '80s rock acts like Joan Jett and Adam Ant, but his conviction in the late '90s for possession of child pornography stopped his renaissance in its tracks, especially after Gadd fled to Vietnam and was later arrested for pedophilia there. Several sports teams have banned the song from their stadiums since, in protest; the NFL banned it from all games in 2012.

  • Leander was already well-known as a producer and arranger when "Rock and Roll" hit, having had hits with Vanity Fare's "Early in the Morning" and Peter and Gordon's "Lady Godiva." He also arranged the strings on the Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk" and the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home."
  • The New Jersey Devils of the NFL were infamous for using "Rock and Roll" as a taunt to their opposing teams, shouting "HEY!" in the chorus and following it up with " suck!"
  • The initial idea for naming the songs "Part 1" and "Part 2" came from a Melody Maker article on the history of rock entitled "Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2."
  • Duke University claims to be the first US marching band to perform an arrangement of "Rock and Roll," back in 1982.
  • France was the only country where Part 1 proved more popular on the charts than Part 2.
  • The University of Maryland banned the song in the early 2000s for a while, claiming it had incited its basketball fans to riot.
  • The EDM pioneers KLF relied heavily on "Rock and Roll" for their own infamous dance hit, "Doctorin' the Tardis," a 1988 tribute to the "Doctor Who" theme. When they realized the Glitter beat was the only one that would fit the theme, they turned the chorus into chants of "Doctor Who!" and "The Tardis!" (Sweet's UK smash "Blockbuster" was also sampled for good measure.)
  • Joey Ramone, leader of punk icons the Ramones, cited "Rock and Roll" as an early influence, and recalled being shamed right out of a New York record store for having bought a copy.
  • The "Hey Song" features the word "Hey" sung or chanted 108 times.

Covered by: Bongwater, Phish, The Human League, Hoodoo Gurus, Die Toten Hosen

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