Iron Virgin were a Scottish glam rock band from Edinburgh, formed in 1972. Nick Tauber, who produced Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town, had scoured Scotland for a new band for the Deram label, a spin-off of Decca, and “discovered” the band at a local gig. Tipped for fame, and with a classic glam image, (big hair, ludicrously high platform boots and chastity belts), the band, however, were not sucessful, and recorded only two singles before disbanding. What went wrong?
Bad management and badly-judged song choice dealt a severe blow to the band before they even got going. When they first went into the studio with Tauber, they indicated that they wanted to release a song of their own as their first release. They were, however, strongly encouraged to record instead a glammy cover of Jet, originally recorded in 1973 by Paul McCartney’s Wings, from the album, Band on the Run, as their first single. This single was duly recorded and ready for release in December, 1973, but Decca delayed its release until February, 1974. This was a poor decision, because although the band enjoyed some success with this cover version, the single gaining some momentum in terms of sales, it was eclipsed by Paul McCartney’s own, original version, which was released as a single that very same month.
If the failure of their first single was down to bad management and song choice, the failure of their second single, Rebels Rule, (their own composition), also released in 1974, was a mystery. The song has been described by Billboard as, “A brilliantly bombastic ode to teenage anarchy; the single’s commercial failure is one of the great mysteries of its era”. It’s a stomping, pounding, fist-pumping glam anthem, the sort of song that Slade would have scored a Number One hit with, and with a chorus that the Bay City Rollers and indeed, the Ramones, would have killed for. It is frankly bewildering that it flopped. More puzzling still, is the fact that a variation of the song called, Stand Up for Kenny Everett, was often played on the BBC by the DJ, and so the tune must have been reasonably well-known to the radio audience.
Like many other such acts of the mid-70s era, however, Iron Virgin faded into obscurity until relatively very recently. This is because a critical reassessment of this period in music has taken place from the 2000s onwards, and many records of this type, (i.e. forgotten and obscure glam rock songs released on minor record labels), dubbed “Junkshop Glam”, have become collectable. I suppose that the popularity of 1977 punk as a collectable category has entailed that it has now become an overly-mined seam, with few surprises or “discoveries” left, and collectors are constantly looking out for “the next big thing”. In this context, Junkshop Glam, particularly in the context of tracing the pre-1977 punk timeline, has become suddenly popular. Indeed, Rebels Rule is the first track on the excellent Velvet Tinmine compilation of obscure glam released by RPM Records in 2003. Other compilations of faded glitter acts also appeared around the same time, such as Glitter from the Litter Bin (2003), Glitterbest: UK Glam with Attitude 1971-76 (2004), and the curiously entitled, Boobs: The Junkshop Glam Discotheque (2005). These are all well-worth a listen, (despite some crap on them, it has to be said), as a starting-point for the Junkshop Glam genre.
Because of their relative scarcity, some Junkshop Glam records, including the Rebels Rule single, are very difficult to get a hold of in good condition, and fetch high prices on eBay and Discogs, amongst other online marketplaces. I, myself, paid over-the-odds for the French version of this single, (see above), an impulsive and overly-generous late bid on eBay. I would instead recommend readers that if they want to track down Iron Virgin records, that they buy a copy of Rave-Up records of Italy’s excellent 2007 compilation of Iron Virgin’s songs in 2007, called 1974 Scottish Glam Rock.
Stay tuned for a special Junkshop Glam article soon.