9780862417260_l
T. Rex iTunes Tracks Marc Bolan Official Website

Marc Bolan / T. Rex 

+ {Tyrannosaurus Rex}

For the latter half of the psychedelic 60s and more so for the early part of the glam-chic 70s, Hackney boy MARC BOLAN (born Mark Feld, 30th September 1947) and his respective pop-rock incarnations TYRANNOSAURUS REX and T. REX were all the rage. Tragically, we’ll never know that from his flagging years running up to his car-crash death on 16th September 1977, he just might’ve been on a resurgence of sorts. By all accounts, and through the release of a plethora of posthumous albums (and hit 45s), BOLAN just might’ve followed in the footsteps of his old mucker, BOWIE.
Leaving school at 15, male model Marc began his performing career under the improbable stage moniker of Toby Tyler, although his first acetate recordings (including a take of DYLAN’s `Blowin’ In The Wind’) were sold by his child actor flatmate Allan Warren to pay the rent; they’d later turn up in 1991 as something of a collector’s item. From Mark Bowland to MARC BOLAN, the mid-60s saw the strummer-boy release a trio of now highly-collectable flop singles, two for Decca Records (`The Wizard’ and `The Third Degree’) and one for Parlophone (`Hippy Gumbo’). In early 1967, on the fringes of the mod/psych-scene, singer-songwriter Marc took up an all-too brief invitation from manager Simon Napier-Bell to join JOHN’S CHILDREN; the single `Desdemona’ was the only proper record to emerge from their times together.
Along with bongo player/percussionist Steve Peregrine Took, TYRANNOSAURUS REX looked a better prospect, Marc now far from the hoary, chest-beating proto-metal that the band’s name might imply; the duo’s sound was now a folky melange of acoustic guitar, manic bongos and pop melodies. Unfortunately the band were victims of their era and prone to lyrical flights of fancy that often broke down into hippie cliche. A bit of a hippie himself at the time, Radio One DJ John Peel championed their first single, `Debora’, as well as material from their forthcoming Top 20 debut album, MY PEOPLE WERE FAIR AND HAD SKY IN THEIR HAIR… BUT NOW THEY’RE CONTENT TO WEAR STARS ON THEIR BROWS (1968) {*8}.
Surely the longest LP title up to then, the Tony Visconti-produced set forsook the aforementioned minor hit and opted for a dozen melody-driven mantras of magical mystique. `Child Star’ (the B-side of `Debora’), `Strange Orchestras’, `Hot Rod Mama’, `Dwarfish Trumpet Blues’, `Knight’ and `Mustang Ford’ have since become freak-folk staples; assorted multi-percussionist Steve was also adept at the odd toy instrument including the pixiephone. John Peel himself was even given the task of reciting a Tolkien-ish children’s story on the end of closing cue `Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)’. “Hari Krishna, indeed”, one might’ve stated.
Sophomore set, PROPHETS, SEERS & SAGES, THE ANGELS OF THE AGES (1968) {*5}, was a little dislocated in direction; the omission of Top 30 hit `One Inch Rock’ was on reflection daring but foolhardy. From the opening “backwards” reading of a previous hit as `Deboraarobed’ (an early indication of how pompous this was going to get) and the Hare-Krishna mantras of `O Harley (The Saltimbaques)’, MB was found wanting. There were exceptions to the Bolan rule, but only with star-crossed songs such as `Stacey Grove’, `Conesuela’, `Salamanda Palaganda’ and `Scenes Of Dynasty’ (the longest track here at just over 4 minutes).
UNICORN (1969) {*5} stretched the duo even further, their classy acid-folk tales now a tad dour and over-indulgent. Okay, opener `Chariots Of Silk’, `Pon A Hill’, `Iscariot’ and `She Was Born To Be My Unicorn’, had moments of wonderment, but the feature of the 16-track set rested with `Cat Black (The Wizard’s Hat)’, while finale `Romany Soup’ featured stalwart fan John Peel in poem mood once more.
Having dumped Steve Took in September ‘69, A BEARD OF STARS (1970) {*6} was the first set to feature bongo-player Mickey Finn (the only bearded one here!). The new TYRANNOSAURUS REX emerged from the depths of a studio in wintry Snowdonia, Bolan now free to express his mystical musings through partly-electrified neo-folk-rock. Yes, “the smallest rock’n’roll band in the land” had no need of a rhythm section – they were the rhythm. Featuring flop 45 `By The Light Of The Magical Moon’ alongside gems such as `Great Horse’, `Lofty Skies’ and `A Daye Laye’, the album’s good points certainly outweighed the bad. Leaving the best to last, the album closed with the lengthier `Elemental Child’, a guitar-led freak-out, complete with a blistering Hendrix-like solo – the “Electric Warrior” was now fully incarnate. During this transitional period, BOLAN wed June Child, played guitar on friend BOWIE’s `Prettiest Star’ flop 45 and made time to appear on a rare single (`Oh Baby’ b/w `Universal Love’) as Dib Cochran & The Earwigs.
Marc’s ex-male model features and effeminate charisma did no harm in duly making him an object of hippie-chick lust, and it was about time the “band” had a sexier name to match. Now as T-REX, the spanking new single `Ride A White Swan’ (a maxi-single also featuring `Is It Love’ and a re-vamp of EDDIE COCHRAN’s `Summertime Blues’) nearly nailed the No.1 spot in October 1970. A jaunty little number with a stabbing guitar-line, it heralded the duo’s strident new Tony Visconti-produced sound, although it retained the quasi-mystical lyrical schtick. Steve Currie (bass) and Bill Legend (drums) were drafted in as auxiliary/filler members – at least initially – while the eponymous debut Top 20 set, T-REX (1970) {*7}, left fans a bit perplexed to omission of their biggest hit to date. Bookended by short-takes `The Children Of Rarn’, the curly one has moments (however short-ish) of beauty and grandeur by way of opening tracks `Jewel’, `The Visit’, `Childe’, `The Time Of Love Is Now’ and `Diamond Meadows’ (`One Inch Rock’ was another minor gem), although the near-9-minute excursion of `The Wizard’ was half-a-song too long.
Back on the singles trail, the celebratory `Hot Love’ (a non-LP track) and the timeless `Get It On’ both hit the top spot as did the ELECTRIC WARRIOR (1971) {*9} sophomore album, all displaying a welcome move to raunchier (but often equally silly) lyrics. Ditto T. REX’s fourth consecutive classic Top 3 smash (also from the set), the almost orgasmic `Jeepster’. Visconti lends a certain jeunesse doree to the work, as campy Bolan and his backers trash out giants like `Cosmic Dancer’, `Mambo Sun’ and `Life’s A Gas’. Without underestimating the strength of his “glitterati” followers (SWEET, SLADE, et al), BOLAN and BOWIE almost single-handedly invented the “glam-rock” phenomenon, achieving the rare feat of being a rock idol and pop star at the same time.
Bypassing the odd exploitation hit 45/LP re-issues from his TYRANNOSAURUS REX days (`Deborah’ hit Top 10 and a double-up of “Prophets” and “My People” reached No.1), the chart-topping Bolan-mania phenomena continued through `Telegram Sam’ and `Metal Guru’; both tracks lifted from the rather rush-released THE SLIDER (1972) {*7}. Relying on more than a dash of doo-wop, boogie and bop, the youth of the day had found their own pop idol, and while others latched on to BOWIE’s alter-ego for glam-rock album substance, the less discerning BOLAN fan could mirror their boy on ditties like `Buick Mackane’, `Baby Strange’ and `Rock On’ – all rather derivative for any prog-ster.
Premiered somewhere in between the teeny-bop adulation, came Marc’s BEATLES-esque diversion into the world of celluloid through the part-rock-doc `Born To Boogie’. Directed by RINGO STARR and featuring the drummer and ELTON JOHN, the movie was patchy and flawed for the most part. Nevertheless, consecutive Top 3 entries `Children Of The Revolution’, `Solid Gold Easy Action’ and `20th Century Boy’ (all non-LP) bolstered BOLAN’s CV from autumn ’72 to the first months of ’73 – all guaranteed to get one dusting down one’s 6-inch platforms a quarter of a century on. TANX (1973) {*6} followed the same formulaic glam-rock patterns, tracks such as `Tenement Lady’, `Broken Hearted Blues’ and the soulful screecher `Country Honey’ had all merit, while `Born To Boogie’ was probably geared for a single release.
After the single `The Groover’ peaked at No.4 in June 1973, and after splitting with his wife June, Marc brought in his new girlfriend/singer Gloria Jones (and fresh guitarist Jack Green) to record `Truck On (Tyke)’. Whether it was this rather YOKO ONO-esque move or the ever-evolving times, the record was his first single as T. REX not to make the UK Top 10. Duly billed as MARC BOLAN & T-REX (Legend was superseded by Davy Lutton), he previewed his next set with the orchestra-laden soul cue, `Teenage Dream’. In a vein attempt to rid himself of the glam-boy tag (at least musically), although only to garner numerous critical rants of BOWIE/Ziggy Stardust plagiarism, ZINC ALLOY AND THE HIDDEN RIDERS OF TOMORROW… (1974) {*6} found Marc’s Achilles Heel – and some. Full of colourful characters portrayed in song, the record did not pass his loyal fan’s litmus test as it spent only three weeks in the charts. His creativity was ebbing and he moved to America to record some lacklustre formulaic material in a variety of styles. A costly mistake, `Light Of Love’, `Zip Gun Boogie’ (both from ’74) and parent album BOLAN’S ZIP GUN (1975) {*5} – with keyboard player Dino Dines) filled the bargain bins once again, as a stubborn Marc went through the motions on pastiche cuts like `Precious Star’ and `Token Of My Love’.
Subsequently without stalwart sidekick Mickey Finn and Jack Green, the downward spiral was curtailed only in minimalistic terms as the FM-friendly `New York City’, `Dreamy Lady’ (as T. Rex Disco Party) and `I Love To Boogie’ gave Bolan a tad of chart rivalry to BOWIE’s “Young Americans” drive. 1976’s apocalyptic FUTURISTIC DRAGON {*6} and 1977’s DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD {*6} restored some faith in the BOLAN of old, as his return to British shores heralded his own “Marc TV” shows. But at this stage, BOLAN couldn’t buy a hit, even a duet cover of The Teddy Bears’ `To Know Him Is To Love Him’ flopped. Much in the same way as early acolyte John Peel, BOLAN embraced the subsequent punk takeover (The DAMNED featured in one of his TV shows) as he also inked a new deal with R.C.A., a deal which might’ve brought some needed street-cred and commercial rewards.
Tragically, Marc’s life came to an abrupt end when, on 16th September 1977, he was killed in a crash when his car (an Austin Mini driven by his partner, Gloria Jones) careered into a tree near Barnes Common. In yet another bizarre rock’n’roll chapter, his death produced a plethora of obsessive fans and curious observers alike; all have lapped up a stream of documentaries, greatest hits packages, tributes and re-issues (mostly on fan club label Marc On Wax), and which show no sign of abating.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS-MCS/BG // rev-up MCS May2012

Share this Project

Leave a Comment