“Chains! Chains! I’m all in chains,
Your love will drive me insane”
Alvin Stardust was the Glam Rock star who was mean ‘n’ moody, never smiled and dressed all in black; while his songs were in a 50s/60s rock style with a 70s production sheen. Probably not the most likely of stars but his stage presence and persona helped overcome any negative tags that critics tried to apply to him. At the time I remember thinking of him as the ‘bad guy’ of rock and didn’t really understand my mum’s comments that she liked him better when he was Shane Fenton and really used chains in his act.
All of the above was because Alvin Stardust was actually a repackaged and updated rocker who had originally performed under the name Shane Fenton (with the Fentones). Whilst they had four hits in the early 60’s, the biggest being ‘Moody Guy’, and were a big hit on the live circuit, they were very much a spent force by the time that the 70’s arrived.
It was at this point that Shane was rechristened Alvin. Why Alvin Stardust? Well Alvin was formed from merging Elvis and Vincent (from Gene Vincent), and Stardust was originally Starr but was extended so that it sounded better!
Alvin’s first single, in November 1973, was the classic hit “My Coo Ca Choo” that made the most of his moody style and showed him at his best when staring into the TV camera. It reached number 2 in the charts and sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide – not bad when you consider it was recorded for only £700. It was his appearances on TOTP that instilled the leather clad image into our teenage minds, not least being his leather gloves (complete with ring). Now remembered as a key Alvin accessory the leather gloves were, initially, only used to cover his hands that had turned green while putting on his hair dye at the TOTP studios!
While Alvin’s follow up “My Jealous Mind” went one better and reached number 1 early in 1974, his later hits were destined to peak lower down the charts and by mid-1975 he scored his last chart success of the 70’s with “Sweet Cheatin’ Rita”.
Alvin continued to record and tour and to everyone’s surprise (including himself most probably) he had another 6 chart hits in the 80’s albeit in a less accessorised and “leather-ised” style. He still tours the nostalgia circuit and pulls in the crowds – not bad for someone who initially had hits in the early 60s and was written off before the 70’s had even started.
Unfortunately there is a downside to all of this. Yes, his singles did include some classics. Yes, his outfits were extreme – they were of their time. Yes, he was a repackaged rocker – this helped his stagecraft no end. But why did he agree to do the Green Cross Code advert? Now most people’s memories are of him standing in full stage gear accusing two girls of being “out of their tiny minds” and being “crackers” for crossing the road without looking!
For more info go to Alvin Stardust