Glamour Camp: Case Study in Pop Progeny

The mid-to-late 80s was an interesting time in popular music in that the children of the “classic rock” generation were just starting to come in their own.  Ziggy Marley and Julian Lennon come prominently to mind, both having enjoyed hits with “Tomorrow People” and “Valotte,” respectively.

In 1985 my college roommate was a music writer for the school newspaper, and as a consequence of his work covering the contemporary music scene, I and a percussion student from the university were allowed to tag along on a recording session with a musical duo just in case they needed the services of a bass guitarist (which they didn’t) and a drummer (which they did, on one track).   The two principal artists were Alex, a classically-trained keyboardist who did a lot of the compositional and arrangement work, and Chris, the vocalist, lyricist & guitarist.  Chris, as it turned out, was Chris Otcasek – son of Ric, frontman for The Cars – who was attending art school at that time.  The name of this musical duo was Glamour Camp.

I got to watch Alex and Chris work on several tracks that one could describe favorably as “dance synth pop,” which was big at the time on the college music scene.  This was my first time getting to witness how the new digital synthesizers were being “programmed” and “sequenced” – terms that had not previously been applied to popular music.

Here is one of the songs Alex and Chris worked on that day – “Number 3”:

Number 3 – Glamour Camp

The opening vocals, as I later learned from Alex, are a native Chinese speaker – as instructed – speaking random Chinese words, phrases, and idioms.

A couple years later, while working as a schoolteacher, I went down to the local record store and was a little surprised to see that Glamour Camp had got signed to a major label (Capitol/EMI).  However, to my disappointment their debut album used none of the material from the demo tape that I had heard, nor came close to capturing the dance-synth-pop vibe that struck me as the essence of their initial sound.  Maybe their sound had, indeed, changed by that point, but my sense was that Capitol decided to emphasize Chris (and his connection to rock royalty) at the expense of the original musical partnership.  Keyboards, for instance, which had been such a big part of the group’s sound, seemed much more buried in the mix on their Capitol debut.  At least, that was my youthful, reactionary view at the time:  anger at the major label for their heavy-handedness and contemptible need to alter the sound of every artist in their employ simply because they could.   I was such a hothead about it, that I actually got rid of my cassette – which I now regret.

Capitol did shell out some dough for a video though:

Pop Art Experiment:  Discover your inner art student by playing both Glamour Camp songs simultaneously – the video for “She Did It” and the demo for “Number 3.”