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The Vibes of Victory
Lisa Twyman Bessone
November 30, 1992
Sports fans know that the strains of 'Rock and Roll Part II' can turn chumps to champs
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November 30, 1992

The Vibes Of Victory

Sports fans know that the strains of 'Rock and Roll Part II' can turn chumps to champs

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Few basketball fans will forget Game 6 of the 1992 NBA championship series. The Chicago Bulls were down by 15 points at the start of the fourth quarter. Things looked bleak for Chicago. But as Michael Jordan and most of the team's other starters sat on the bench, Bobby Hansen hit a three-pointer, sparking a run that left the Bulls down by only three with 8:36 remaining. Portland called timeout.

Jim Irwin, the Bulls' sound engineer, was in the organ loft at venerable Chicago Stadium, seated behind a computerized stereo system that resembles the control panel of a space shuttle. Through his headphones he heard the command "Play 312" from his boss, David Brenner, the Bulls' promotion manager, who was at courtside. Irwin snapped into action, and before most of the players had even stepped off the court, the pulsing drumbeat of Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part II boomed out of the stadium's P.A. system at an earsplitting level.

The standing-room-only crowd of almost 19,000 responded as predictably as Pavlov's dogs. The fans were on their feet, swaying and clapping. Some punched the air as they belted out the song's trademark "Hey!" After the game a few observers suggested that it was this unleashing of fan energy that had helped the Bulls charge on to their 97-93 win and second consecutive NBA title.

Bull partisans aren't the only people to go gaga over Rock and Roll Part II. In fact, these days sports fans are lucky to escape the song. It was blared in Denver and Detroit during last season's NFL playoffs, and Atlanta played it between tomahawk chops at the World Series. College basketball arenas rock to the music; so do college football stadiums, though with a decidedly big-band sound. Last winter there was even an Illinois high school basketball game—Bolingbrook versus Lincolnwood—during which fans, lacking a band or a sound system, simply started clapping, air-guitaring and hey-heying a cappella.

All of which seems to secure Rock and Roll Part II a place in the pantheon of rock-song sports anthems, joining such historic hits as Steam's Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye and Queen's We Will Rock You. All of this is music to the ears of Glitter, the man who cowrote—with Mike Leander—and first performed Rock and Roll Part II 20 years ago. "I'm on a high about it all," says Glitter, who was born Paul Francis Gadd, from his home in Surrey, England. "Believe it or not, when we wrote the song we were trying to sound like Wembley Stadium full of football [soccer] supporters."

Glitter, a pleasant chap of 48, has been recording since the age of 14. In the mid-'60s he hooked up with Leander, a songwriter and producer, and several years later they wrote and recorded Rock and Roll Part II. "I had never been able to get that hit record," Glitter says. "So we were trying to come up with something different."

Glitter and Leander played all the instruments for the sound track of Rock and Roll, quite a feat in the days before supersophisticated recording equipment was available. Glitter tuned his guitar to C. "That gives the music its bottlenecked sound," he says. "Then we plugged into our five-watt amplifier and simply kicked it again and again for that growling effect. We wanted the music to seem a little angry." Besides the guitar, other instruments used were saxophone, bass guitar and drums. Glitter also sang and clapped his hands.

That year, 1972, the song was at the top of the pop charts in both the U.S. and Britain. "I even won the equivalent of your Grammy," says Glitter. "It was crazy, really. Read the sheet music. The only words in the song are hey and ugh."

Rock and Roll Part II was the first and last hit Glitter had in the U.S. In England he went on to usher in the era of glam-rock. Singers performed wearing lipstick, eye makeup, plenty of Lurex and platform shoes. It wasn't long, however, before Glitter's career hit the skids. In the late '70s he ended up in bankruptcy court and was ordered to pay a bundle in back taxes. "I had to start all over again," he says. "Playing on the college circuits in the U.K. And good came out of the bad because I tapped into a whole new generation of fans."

These days Glitter is something of a cult figure in England—a sort of Jerry Garcia in Liberace duds. In 1991 his 20-day British tour was mostly sold-out, and all told, Glitter has had 12 Top 10 hits in the U.K. But he has never heard Rock and Roll Part II played at a sporting event. Which raises the question of how the song got its start as a sports anthem.

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