Johnny Warman

Hour Glass

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The music world is awash in peculiar partnerships, but a more bizarre coupling than glam rocker Johnny Warman and Fab Four drummer Ringo Starr can scarcely be imagined -- except, of course, for Warman's equally unexpected collaboration with Peter Gabriel -- which came in 1981, three years after Hour Glass -- and resulted in the awesome "Screaming Jets."

With the demise of his band Bearded Lady, the singing guitarist was determined to soldier on solo, and with the help of a few friends and like-minded acquaintances, record a few demos, which he promptly began shopping around. In the liner notes for Hour Glass, Warman describes his thrill when Ringo Records decided to sign him up, resulting in this 1978 album, possibly the punkiest glam extravaganza ever recorded. Warman saw himself totally in tune with punk, and hearing the demos of "London's Burning" (not the Clash song) and "Mind Games," as well as album tracks like "It Ain't Funny" and "Tomorrow Babies," it's easy to see his point. But rubbing shoulders with these incendiary numbers are the consummate glam rock songs -- "Twilight Zone," the journey through the astral-plane "Silver Towers," the bubbly, glitter tossed "Wonderland," and the ethereal power ballad "Street Angels." The astonishing title track may take its inspiration from Ziggy Stardust, but amazingly lays the groundwork for, of all things, Simple Minds' "Life in a Day," their 1979 debut hit single. Producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, picked by Warman for his work with the Jam(!), brilliantly captured the savage energy that was the core of Warman's sound, giving the glam numbers a fire that equaled their punk counterparts. To the surprise of many at the time, the punks held Marc Bolan in high regard, and the glitter king was experiencing a major revival in his fortunes, brought to an abrupt end by his tragic death in 1977. By rights, Warman should have donned Bolan's mantle, and further solidified the link between glam's glorious past and punk's pyrotechnic future. This reissue provides even more evidence of that potential with eight bonus tracks, split between polished-to-a-spit-shine live performances and equally high-quality demos. And perhaps if signed to a major label, the history of British music as we know it would have been rewritten. Unfortunately, Ringo Records, presented with one of the most exhilarating albums of the year, proved incapable of launching Warman to fame. Regardless, the intriguing possibilities of Hour Glass remain just as exciting today.

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