The King of Avant-Garde Pop-Rock - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The King of Avant-Garde Pop-Rock

The King of Avant-Garde Pop-Rock

By Eugene S. Robinson

Bobby Conn in concert.
SourcePeter Pakvis/Getty Images


Because between real naturals and fake naturals, we prefer the real ones every time.

By Eugene S. Robinson

Standing stage front and watching the diminutive and makeup-smeared Bobby Conn do his frantic, sweat-drenched pop paeans to love and politics in Chicago a few years ago, a few thoughts came to mind. One was that never had we seen an artist so completely immerse himself in the sensibility of about 10 years of life in America, specifically 1967 to 1977, despite being born in the first year of that era. And two, never had we seen one do it so lovingly and honestly.

Which led to the final conclusion: Current Chicagoan, former New Yorker Mr. Bobby Conn had completely lost his mind. In the best of all possible ways.


It’s never a surprise to see his shows — part kid show, part revival meeting, part disco dance party, part orgy — break out in each and every one of these aspects all at the same time as his frantic croon cuts through songs that are sometimes so oblique, they’re opaque.

With eight records out plus a handful of singles, the zig-zag fun fact about him is that he’s part of the only couple to have their genitalia cast in plaster by the famous Cynthia Plaster Caster. Fitting since his first solo album in 1997 immortalized the rest of Bobby Conn with its screw-you approach to mixing glam rock, funk and a punk sensibility with a sly kind of wit and outré style.

His frantic croon cuts through songs that are sometimes so oblique, they’re opaque.

And now he’s clambered up the side of his most audacious undertaking yet in a history rife with audacity. This Nov. 15 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Conn will play live as part of the David Bowie Is career retrospective.

What’s he going to play?

The classic Bowie album Station to Station — an occult, drug-fueled, politically suspect masterpiece of music alternatively pegged as krautrock or glam rock. 

If anybody can do it? We’re absolutely sure Mr. Bobby Conn can.

As evidence, we submit one of our faves from the vault.


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