Game 055: Virginia Commonwealth 62, at Drexel 59Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Daskalakis Athletic Center - Philadelphia, PA
As a piece of music, it's not lacking for interesting qualities: most arrangements are in the song's original key of B-Dorian, although some bands screw up and flat the last B of the verse. And it's easy to learn too: all those big, juicy whole notes. Every college band in America knows it... hell, every high school band knows it. Anywhere you have a gym, a basketball game and a pep band, you'll hear the song. It is, quite simply, the national anthem of college hoops.
I am talking, of course, about "Rock and Roll, Part 2" by Gary Glitter.
In the waning moments of a tight Colonial Athletic Association seeding battle, a scene that is repeated hundreds of times each season around Hoops Nation. During the final media time-out, the Drexel
band's woodwinds and horns launch into that familiar refrain, backed by the pounding and steady beat provided by a full drum kit. It's their second playing of the song that evening, but nobody minds the repetition.
In true Philadelphia tradition, the yellow-clad DAC Pack
chants Hey! You suck!
at the appropriate times. Visiting Virginia Commonwealth
University has bused up a group from their "Rowdy Rams" student section, and their fans supply their own cheer. Instead of three cries of Hey!
, they insert the acronym of their beloved school, complete with two-arm gestures to spell out the letters: V!
... U! Let's! Go! V! C! U!
Once play resumes, the well-travelling fans keep the song alive: dun dun dunnnnnn, da-dunnnnn, da-dunnnnn....
They make a joyously sloppy noise but then again, the original song is pretty sloppy too.
The song's slipshod sound can be traced directly to its slapdash genesis. There was once a man named Gary Glitter, you see - a man who'd used to be known as Paul Raven, and whose birth certificate says Paul Gadd. The first 15 years of Mr. Gadd's music career amounted to nothing but failure, as he was dropped by three record labels over the course of the Sixties. One day in 1972, a producer friend named Mike Leander invited him into the studio - a local singer named David Essex hadn't show up for a session, so there was some free time. (Essex would go on to record a hit called "Rock On" two years later... hey kids, rock and roll.
Gadd brought along some friends, as well as a discarded beat from one of his failed songs, a little number called "Shag Rag, That's My Bag." When the session was over, the man who would soon be rechristened Gary Glitter - Vicky Vomit
wasn't going to cut it - had a messy, sprawling 15-minute dance tune featuring a lot of (drunken?) yelling as well as kitchen-sink instrumentation (guitars and
saxophones!). Because songs with such epic lengths never make it to the airwaves, Leander cut and spliced the opus into two evenly-matched three-minute singles. It was cut as a double-A-side single, so that DJ's could choose which song they liked best. On one side, "Rock And Roll, Part 1." Flip it over if you want to hear Part 2.
For a while, radio stations didn't warm to either "part," but one of them slowly caught on. After a groundswell of purchases and requests, "Rock And Roll, Part 2" rocketed to the second position on the British singles chart. Gary Glitter adopted a "glam" persona to help sell the record: mylar clothing, suede platform boots. Though David Bowie's glam-rock Ziggy Stardust alter-ego debuted the same year, New Musical Express
asked the musical question: "Are You Ready For Gary Glitter?"
Though the song also enjoyed modest success in America (7 on the Billboard charts), Glitter never matched the success of "Part 2" in England or elsewhere. He grew attached to the extravagant rock and roll world which the song had flung open for him, and he was forced to declare bankruptcy in the Eighties. But his real problems lay ahead.
On November 18, 1997, Gary Glitter ran what appeared at the time to be a simple errand. He took his laptop to a local PC World, it wasn't working right. While fixing the machine, a technician found what appeared to be thousands of image files featuring children engaged in sex acts - the store notified the authorities immediately. Glitter was promptly arrested, then released on bail. London's infamous tabloid newspapers, itching to cover something other than the four-month anniversary of Princess Diana's death, went wild with 150-point headlines. The glam rocker had been disgraced and disglammed.
The timing couldn't have been worse: Glitter's latest comeback attempt had been picking up real and actual steam. He and the reformed Glitter Band had been performing to crowds as large as 10,000 a year earlier. He had nearly finished production on a new album called "Lost On Life Street," with a lead single called "Rock Hard Men." He'd also been branching out into the cinema: he made a cameo in the male-stripper comedy The Full Monty. He filmed a performance scene with the Spice Girls for Spice World, joining the English lasses for a version of a minor followup hit of his called "I'm The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)." But as soon as the charges were brought to light, Glitter's movie career was finished - both scenes were axed just days prior to their films' release dates.
His loyal fan base remained vigilantly by his side during the turmoil. "Gary is well-known to be attracted to girls," his fansite's webmaster wrote at the time. "It is only hoped for both Gary Glitter and all his fans that this devastating news isn't about pornography, but just a healthy appetite for a portion of sex with people old enough to decide for themselves."
The sad fact, however, was that they weren't old enough... not even close. In 1998, Glitter pleaded guilty to over 50 counts of child pornography offenses. At Bristol Crown Court, the government built a solid case that proved conclusively that he had been spending 12 hours a day on the Internet, building a library of hardcore pictures featuring prepubescent girls and boys that ran into the thousands. He served four months in prison, during which time he was on strict and constant suicide watch.
Upon his release, Glitter quickly found that the "convicted child-sex offender" tag wasn't going to allow him any further comeback attempts. He fled to Cuba and then to southeast Asia, where he took up residence in the nation of Cambodia. But they didn't want him either. The minister for womens' affairs led a sustained campaign to have him deported, saying that Glitter's presence was bad for the country's image. Now 60 years old, he's doomed to live out his days looking back over his shoulder - that is when he's not fighting with his record company over the royalties for his most famous hit.
But one might argue that the song doesn't belong to a tragically-starred convincted felon anymore. It belongs to the people now. Everywhere you go in Hoops Nation, you'll find as many different versions of the song as there are schools. Most don't even need the help of a band: its simplicity allows a well-organized student section to easily fill a hall with a rousing acapella version. Some colleges, like VCU, substitute the Hey! with letters. In the mid-Atlantic region, you'll find a lot of Hey! You suck! chants. Still others insert the team nickname into the chorus: Hey! Go Cats! A handful of schools use the drum-heavy downtime between "verses" to get creative, with chants like Go! T! U! (what?) Go! T! U! A few choose to take the blue route: Syracuse University banned "Rock And Roll, Part 2" last year, because students were yelling out Hey! Fuck 'em up! and We're gonna kick the shit out of you!
And of course, there's Maryland. Despite constant pressure by the administration to curb "Part 2" after their student section's chants made the national airwaves a few years back, folks in College Park fiercely defend their right to chant Hey! You suck! and We're going to beat the hell out of you! "It was our only tradition," UMD junior Matt Greisler told student newspaper the Diamondback after head coach Gary Williams put the kibosh on the practice. "It brings us together," chimed in psychology major Valerie Hagan.
And like that other national anthem, the one they play before the games, there's a part that nobody knows the lyrics to. While hardly anyone can remember how the clumsy second verse to "The Star Spangled Banner" goes, even fewer can recite the words of the flip side of that double-A-side single: "Rock And Roll, Part 1." It's the same tune as "Part 2," with lyrics. (By the way, there are also parts 3 through 6. They were recorded in the Eighties in a desperate, and largely unsuccessful, attempt to raise money for Glitter's legal bills.)
There's nothing particularly ground-breaking or earth-shattering about "Rock and Roll, Part 1." The lyrics were, after all, probably scribbled or improvised during that bleary studio session 33 years ago. But upon close examination, they reveal a desire to return to an idealized young adulthood, a simpler place and time when authority was successfully circumvented by the power of the rebellious spirit. A lot of us in the "real world" look back to our college years with that kind of sentimental longing - 'cause when it comes down to it, all kids just want to rock and roll.
Can you still recall in the jukebox hall, when the music played?
And the world spun round to those brand-new sounds in those faroff days.
In their blue suede shoes they would scream and shout.
And they'd sing the blues, let it all hang out.
Times have changed from the past but we won't forget.
Though the age has passed, they'll be rockin' yet.
Rock and ro-oh-oh-oll, rock and roll.
Rock and ro-oh-oh-oll, rock and roll.
Rock and ro-oh-oh-oll, rock and roll.
Rock and roll, rock, rock and roll.
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