From page 42 of Classic Rock Magazine March 2001
From glam rock's crown prince with T.REX to children's TV star, MARC BOLAN had it all. Now CLASSIC ROCK looks at the man behind the corkscrew hair. Gettin' it on: MICHAEL HEATLEY
AAT HEN A PURPLE MINI 1275 GT CRASHED ON QUEENS RIDE, A NOTORIOUS deadman's curve on the south side of Barnes Common, west London, just before 5.00 a.m. on Friday, September 16,1977, killing its passenger and badly injuring its driver, British rock was robbed of one its most controversial and outrageous figures. After a high-spirited evening spent in trendy Berkeley Square, singer Marc Bolan and partner Gloria Jones were on their way home when their car swerved off the road and collided with a tree. Bolan, who was occupying the passenger seat, was killed instantly.
The accident had a ring of irony about it. Because of a profound love/hate relationship with automobiles, Bolan had never passed his driving test and relied on Jones to chauffeur him. What's more, had the Bolans opted for their usual, more flamboyant form of transport, a vintage white Rolls-Royce, this miracle of modern engineering would have protected Marc from the impact that crushed both him and the side of the Mini.
Bolan was just two weeks shy of his 30th birthday. To the world of pop it was a huge shock the self-appointed Guy'nor of Glam meeting his end only weeks after the King himself, Elvis Presley.
At the time of his death, Bolan had reached a major crossroads in his career. The glory years of the early 1970s when, as leader of T. Rex, he'd dominated the charts, conquered the globe and had every teenage girl hanging on to every last wiggle of his hips, were over. Record sales had slumped, his Midas touch had evaporated and the years of excess had taken their toll on his looks. Yet at 29 he was still far from being a washed-up has-been and, with the double success of an early-1977 tour to promote the 'Dandy In The Underworld' album and the syndication of his kids' IV series Marc, was still very much in the public consciousness. He remained driven by an unquenchable desire for stardom and, after so many different guises from Zinc Alloy to the Orpheus-like Dandy, was undoubtedly pondering his next incarnation. But who exactly was the real Marc Bolan?
Despite humble Jewish working-class beginnings in East London, Bolan then known by his original name of Mark Feld knew he was destined to become something special. Growing up in the austere 1950s, with future singing star Helen Shapiro a neighbour, he looked towards the glamour of American culture Hollywood films, fast Cadillacs and, of course, rock'n'roll for inspiration. Chuck Berry was tops, but Marc even favoured home-grown talent like Billy Fury and Cliff and the Shadows. He was expelled from school at 14: 'I didn't think they were teaching me things I wanted to know: he later claimed.
It was as a male model that Mark/Marc got his first break. "I found that clothes thing very appealing visually, and I got right in there and made myself look like these other cats who were somewhat older than I was." The precocious teenage Bolan was featured on the front cover of Town magazine and also got a gig modelling menswear for the Freeman's mail-order catalogue. A friendship with Allen Warren (presenter of kids' TV programme Five O'Clock Club) introduced the starry-eyed Marc to the entertainment world; the ambitious lad was soon flirting with the gay scene though, as Warren observed, "He was there for decoration rather than people taking him home. Gays took an interest in him and if they could help him get on then he had no qualms about it."
With his taste for foppish, effeminate clothes (he even admitted to buying women's shoes because "they look nice, and because you can't get men's in green and silver and purple,") the question of Bolan's sexuality was something that would haunt him all of his life. Tackled about it in 1969 by Zigzag's Pete Frame, he said: "I quite enjoy the Greek idea of two warriors going to war and mentally being very close they didn't actually screw each other on the battlefield, but mentally they were really into each other...." Nonetheless Marc's formative years were littered with significant encounters with gay men.
Brief appearances on popular children's TV serial Orlando aside, Bolan began to look to the pop world for his big break. Short of stature he may have been, but his ego more than made up for that. The Mod phenomenon was, in Marc's mind, already passé. Instead, calling himself Toby Tyler, he based himself on the singers of the burgeoning folk/protest movement, adopting the acoustic guitar and harmonica of Dylan and Donovan even down to the latter's peaked fisherman's cap! Demos were hawked around London's Tin Pan Alley and led to his recording debut (as Marc Bolan) with a single for Decca in 1965 called 'The Wizard', first of a series of myth and magic-themed releases.
Bolan's meeting with pop Svengali Simon Napier-Bell was to bring him a step nearer to his ultimate goal. After 'Hippy Gumbo' failed to crash the charts on Parlophone a year later, his new manager suggested he become lead guitarist and backing singer for another act, he was looking after, John's Children. It was now 1967, the fabled 'Summer of Love' was about to happen and this was to be a major turning point in his young life. John's Children recorded `Desdemona', a Bolan composition, as their debut single for Track Records and, though fellow band member Andy Ellison handled lead vocals, Bolan's distinctive voice can be heard trading lines in the choruses. The song brought Marc's first brush with controversy when its sexual imagery caused it to be banned by the BBC. Not that Bolan was worried in the company of the other Children, he'd just got his first front-page of the New Musical Express...
His short three-month liaison with John's Children was reputedly a wild time with, Ellison recalls, a red-wine-fuelled Marc whipping his guitar with a chain on stage. However, a tough tour of Germany supporting the Who proved the last straw. With his head stuck firmly into Dylan's 'Blonde On Blonde' and regularly filling notebooks with poetry, the 19 year old had a new ambition to front his own band.
The venture, dubbed Tyrannosaurus Rex, debuted just one month later in mid-July as an acoustic duo Bolan and Steve Porter, better known as Steve Peregrine Took, stories Various circulated as to why they chose their unusual line-up. Some said their equipment had been repossessed, Napier-Bell that it resulted from Marc witnessing a Ravi Shankar concert while on tour in Belgium a few months earlier. Whatever, there was suddenly a very definite change in Bolan's character as he subsumed his normally ebullient personality and embraced the new, cooler hippie ethos. As Took told the NME in 1972, after the band had shed him, shortened its name and gone electric, "Tyrannosaurus Rex was a completely different concept from what T. Rex is now. I guess for a while Marc was a good hippie. We used to sit around and rap about what needed changing." Napier-Bell soon tired of Bolan's new persona, but by then his protégé had found a new mentor in John Peel.
* CURVED AIR
Marc had come across Peel when the latter was a pirate DJ in the Thames Estuary. When the Labour Government outlawed the pirates that summer, he signed up as a presenter for the BBC's new pop channel, Radio 1, subsidising his income by deejaying at various key 'underground' venues such as UFO and Middle Earth. The quick-witted Bolan had sent Peel copies of his early singles and the pair started to correspond. In the autumn of 1967 they were already firm friends, and Peel invited the duo along to play at his live gigs and make their radio debut on his new show, Top Gear. He'd later reveal that so many of his listeners were turned off by Marc's 'Larry The Lamb' voice that it paradoxically drew him closer to the object of their disaffection. Tyrannosaurus Rex would record many sessions for him over the next three years.
The group fitted perfectly into the new seriousness pervading the pop world at the end of the 1960s. Bedecked in velvets and satins, the two earnest young bohemians looked the part especially Marc, who grew his hair into a huge curly shock that accentuated his exquisitely chiselled features and bestowed an ethereal, elfin beauty. Discovered by young American producer Tony Visconti, the twosome eventually signed to Regal Zonophone and, over the next 18 months, made three albums and four singles, including the classic debut single 'Debora'.
Their appeal didn't just lie in the records, however it was in their whole aesthetic. Unlike the mass breakout of blues-boom bands in '68, Marc and Steve couldn't just set up in the back of a pub and play; they'd have died a death. Like the Incredible String Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex turned live appearances into special events. The show might start with a set from a sitar player, a mime artist or John Peel reading a Ray Bradbury short story, the vibe later enhanced by Marc's gentle between-song chat. Aside from being the singer and guitarist, Marc was also perceived as a poet in the grand Romantic tradition of Wordsworth an impression sealed by the publication of Warlock Of Love, his one and only book of poetry, in March 1969.
D URING THIS PERIOD MARC APPEARED to operate under a strict non-drug and alcohol regime, something his partner began to balk at. Perhaps fuelled by frustration and jealousy at
they perform only his new single had produced a delightful material, Took's appetite for euphoriants began to spiral out of control and he was busted. Marc and new girlfriend June Child bailed him out of Ashford Remand Centre but, following a disastrous series of gigs in America in the late summer of 1969 to promote the band's third album 'Unicorn', during which Steve's on-stage behaviour reached unacceptable proportions, he was ousted. After a brief flirtation with the Pink Fairies, he followed an erratic solo career until his untimely death in 1980.
Steve Took's departure marked the end of an era. A tone of cynicism was creeping in, as Tony Visconti noted when, 20 years later, he recalled the recruitment of a new sidekick: "One day Marc just phoned me up and said 'We're going to do a new album and, by the way, I've sacked Steve. I've got this new guy called Mickey Finn, he's a thousand times better than Steve, he's really great, he's better looking.., it's the same image, and the conga drum, the kids won't even know Steve's gone...' Everything Mickey Finn did was an imitation of what Steve Took invented."
Finn was another former male model who, thanks to a mutual friend, had met Marc by chance "in a macrobiotic restaurant in west London where they sell brown rice with brown rice". He was in some ways the ideal sidekick. Firstly, as he tells Classic Rock in a rare interview, he wasn't a rival for the spotlight. "I enjoyed the game but I was much more laid back; it wasn't as important to me. Marc dreamt, slept, ate and did everything to be rock'n'roll. It was something he set his heart at and nothing would change it, that's what he wanted to do." Certainly, no time was wasted in cementing the new musical partnership. "He came round the very next day and we played for about 12 hours."
The combination was certainly not one of equals; Finn's talents were limited to conga and hand-drum playing plus a dark, sultry glamour. Yet it was to last five years. "We had so much in common the be-bop era, the rock bop and the mysticism. there was so much we had in common and we didn't find out until about two or three years later that we were into the same things. It wasn't in your face, it gradually came out."
The watershed year of 1970 began with the release of the band's fourth long-player. 'A Beard Of Stars' developed the electric sounds of Steve and Marc's last single together, 'King Of The Rumbling Spires', but eschewed the Spector-esque wall of sound of those recordings in favour of an almost ghostly minimalism. Marc claimed he'd been taking lessons from Clapton at the time, a fact seemingly borne out by the extended 'Elemental Child', with its long, fiery guitar solo. When playing these songs live Bolan could no longer assume his favoured cross-legged position but had to stand up and dance wildly around the stage, earning him the nickname of the Boppin' Elf.
ANIAITCLACTONON-SEA. ISSEX441 Just before the new album's release, UOU SANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND he married long-standing girlfriend
June in a small, private ceremony. Her hard-headed business approach would start to pay dividends; as John ▪ Peel later noted, "she more than played o set
J r GALLAGHE * her part". Though the album failed t
However, Marc was about to head back to the mainstream, recording sessions for a version of Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues', and the spirit of his long-time idol surfaced again on the self-penned A-side, 'Ride A White Swan: While still rooted in fantasy, the lyrics were simpler and more accessible; it boasted an immediacy and pop sensibility most of Tyrannosaurus Rex's previous work had avoided. The kids dug it in large quantities and, to his obvious delight, Marc was heading up the charts. It was also notable that he'd shortened that mouthful of a name to the snappier T. Rex and added a bass player, Steve Currie.
When they appeared on Top Of The Pops Marc was covered in glitter June had hired the services of scenemaker Chelita Secunda, wife of rock manager Tony. As Barney Hoskyns described it in his book Glam, "Chelita saw that Marc was very pretty. It was her idea to take Marc round town and hit the women's shops, getting him the feather boas and beautifully embroidered jackets he wore. [She] was the first person to really make up Marc. She didn't just put some eye make-up on him, she threw glitter on his cheeks."
This pioneering of the glam style (six full months before Bowie's cross-dressing 'Man Who Sold The World' cover) didn't go unnoticed elsewhere: aspiring Wolverhampton guitarist Dave Hill of then-struggling Slade was just one interested observer. "We were influenced by him I certainly was especially with the clothes and things. He used to wear a tear on his face, a silvery tear, and that influenced me to put glitter on mine."
T HOUGH THE EPONYMOUS FIFTH ALBUM pulled no punches when it appeared at the end of the year if anything, it was
disappointingly less adventurous than its predecessor bigger upsets would follow in early 1971 with the release of a single destined for No.l. 'Hot Love' was written, according to its composer, in just 10 minutes and totally polarised the public. Many long-standing fans considered its puerile words and three-chord simplicity a sellout, while thousands of young girls were investing their pocket money to send it up the charts.
The dumbing-down of the mystical lyrics from the early records may have been too much for the duo's dedicated 'underground' following to swallow. But had they thought seriously about the supposed volte-face, they'd surely have remembered that barely four years before Marc had been part of proto-punk band John's Children and writing songs with an accessible pop edge.
He'd now returned to this mode, but was tailoring his latest songs to the challenges of a new decade. This was especially true of the follow-up, 'Get It On', a magnificent slice of Chuck Berryinspired rock which harnessed a monster chorus to a contemporary and highly danceable beat. To recreate the new sound live, Marc called up drummer Bill Legend, Americans Flo Et Eddie from the Turtles as backing vocalists and saxophonist Ian MacDonald. The band could at last live up to its original name as a true rock'n'rolling beast!
Marc was seizing his moment. Suffused with a burning ambition, he'd engaged Tony Secunda as his new manager, the deal sealed with pure amphetamine sulphate that aptly reflected the righteous energy now coursing through the young pop star's veins. Yet he could still connect the Marc of yore with his new image, as he told Zigzag magazine: "I'm no longer interested in abstract thought I'm now living my fantasy. I am what I used to write about on those old albums, I don't have to write about it any more."
Despite the critical backlash, Bolan it seemed could do no wrong. `Jeepster' was kept off the Number 1 spot for five weeks over Christmas 1971 only by Benny Hill's 'Ernie' while its parent album, suitably titled 'Electric Warrior', hit the top of the album chart by sticking to Bolan's new-found success-formula of basic trashy 12-bar boogie. It was to prove the cornerstone of many a new pop fan's record collection and the first of three consecutive chart-topping albums in eight months (a double package of early material and the newer 'Bolan Boogie' being the others). Live and on TV, Marc had his arsenal of rock-hero moves at the ready: he'd only have to shake his shock of glittered hair, wiggle his bum or strum his guitar and his audience would swoon.
'T. Rexstasy', as the eager press dubbed it, had become big business on both sides of the Atlantic, and over the next two years the hits just kept on coming: 'Telegram Sam', 'Metal Guru', 'Children Of The Revolution', 'Solid Gold Easy Action: Thanks to these and albums like 'The Slider' (a glam-rock masterpiece), Marc was lording it over all the bands that followed in his wake from Roxy Music to the Sweet. Only his old chum from the 1960s, the chameleon-like David Bowie (who took a pop at him in 'All The Young Dudes' with the line 'Who needs TV when I got T. Rex?'), seemed to be doing better. And Bolan was amassing major wealth. One night Marc and June celebrated this new-found fortune by throwing dollar bills from the balcony of their New York hotel room.
Melody Maker's front page report of T. Rex's two-night stand at Wembley's Empire Pool (now Arena) in March '72 was typical. Headlining 'Bolan Mania Hits New Peak' and likening the scenes to the Beatles' touring days of 1964 and 1965, they marvelled at the hysteria of "ten thousand fans who bought official Marc Bolan sashes which they waved like football scarves throughout the show... virtually the whole audience standing on their seats." Outside, ticket touts were asking £3 for the 75p tickets, while former Beatles road manager Mal Evans was charged with spiriting Marc and pals away from the Bolan-besotted hordes in a repeat of his duties with the Fabs.
Footage of the Wembley event formed part of the feature film Born To Boogie directed by exBeatle Ringo Starr, but Bolan managed to survive even this self-indulgence. Any notion that he was losing his grip was countered by the classic single '20th Century Boy' which hit the Top 3 in early 1973, but living in the goldfish-bowl gaze of public life was taking its effect on the glam-rock guru. He started to believe his own press, was on a daily diet of brandy and cocaine and his weight was beginning to balloon the once classical cheekbones replaced by a podgy moon face.
Close friends fell by the wayside as they outlived their usefulness, John Peel one of the first. "I suppose I always knew there was a harder side to Marc than that boppin' elf projection he would have you believe, but I felt wretched when it came to dominate." When Marc belittled his contributions to his records, producer Tony Visconti followed suit, while new-found pal Ringo was out, too. These were all voices that could have told him that he should vary his act, not believe all the hype and take some time between releases to formulate a strategy. It was this short-term thinking that would help accelerate his downfall.
As wife June, who would eventually become yet another victim of Marc's increasing megalomania, pointed out: "If you do a volume of cocaine, it makes you drink more and you drink without getting drunk. It alters your character completely and you can't see the wood from the trees." On the other hand, bass player Danny Thompson, called in to rescue some of the parts on the 'Zinc Alloy' album, recalled a wholly different Bolan of that period: "When he shut that door, he forgot all about that star trip. I thought he was really sweet, and remember him laughing about Gary Glitter and all the hype. Of course he used to brag about writing 14 songs a day, and I loved that about him: I don't think he really believed it. To see him as an egomaniac is to totally misread him. If anything, he seemed a bit lonely."
S 0 WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG? IT'S certainly the case that other band s had attempted to steal T. Rex's thunder, and in some cases succeeded. Slade were rated Number 1 glam-rock band in the recent Channel 4 series, edging T. Rex into runner's-up position. Dave Hill remembers going to a show where they were the headliners. "Our manager said to us 'next year it will be you, lads'. He was right, because eventually Marc faded and we took over."
The similarity of the music certainly had something to do with it the BBC-TV programme Nationwide cruelly spliced together a medley of his songs to illustrate their growing sameness. The music press turned too, as he became increasingly self-opinionated and egotistical, they allied themselves with his ever-increasing bank of critics.
When 'Children Of The Revolution' was eclipsed by Slade in late 1972, foiling a hat-trick of Number is, it marked the beginning of a swift
decline. Less than nine months later, 'I he Groover' would register T. Rex's last UK Top 10 single of a run of 11. Having traded credibility for teen appeal, Marc was watching his audience grow up in front of his eyes and was unable to retain them.
Dave Hill agrees that Bolan's demise could have been averted with stronger songs. His band not only had a consistent hitmaking team in Noddy Holder and Jimmy Lea but the presence of a Svengali in manager/producer Chas Chandler, who'd been through it all in the 1960s as bass player with the Animals and had already steered Jimi Hendrix to success. Bolan had parted ways with producer Visconti and his flitting from manager to manager arguably served him poorly there was no-one strong enough to guide him, say no to him both in the studio and out and, most crucially, stop him believing his own publicity."
The 1. Rex line-up which had rode to fame in the early 1970s had begun to fall apart. Drummer Bill Legend was first to go, followed by Mickey Finn in early 1975 during an eventful tour of the States a country that, crucially, he was never to conquer despite a 1972 Top 10 single, 'Bang A Gong' (the re-titled 'Get It On').
When his US label Warners dropped him in 1974, Marc disappeared into semi-retirement declaring to Melody Maker that "glam rock is dead" and hanging out in Monte Carlo where his boozing reputedly reached epic proportions. More happily, a liaison with backing singer/keyboardist Gloria Jones led to a more stable lifestyle, and she produced a child, Rolan Seymour, in September 1975.
Now back in the UK, Bolan accepted an offer from TV producer Mike Mansfield to appear on a new children's programme Supersonic a much-needed
lifeline that opened up new career possibilities while keeping him staunchly in the spotlight.
I N THE NINE MONTHS PRIOR TO HIS DEATH, Marc may have looked like a cartoon version of his former self, but he seemed to have a handle on his life again. A British tour saw him playing in front of ecstatic, TV-fuelled audiences, there was an ambitious if ultimately flawed new concept album, 'Dandy In The Underworld', while, best of all, he had cleaned up and was buckling down to a fitness regime. A number of singles were also released which, though not charting, continued to keep him in the public eye, and proved he still had a knack for good songwriting.
Most crucially, after initial reluctance, Marc was the first of the old dinosaurs to come out and embrace the new punk phenomenon sweeping the UK. Many of the new wave had grown up on Bolan and 'Electric Warrior', and he recognised the fact by inviting one of its foremost proponents, the Damned, to support him on the tour. As their Captain Sensible recalled, "There was no sense of him in any way as a has-been.., we'd see him jogging... he didn't smoke, drink or do drugs, though he was still a bit portly at that stage."
It seemed that in 1977, as many of his contemporaries railed against the upstart punks, Bolan was a man with everything to live for. EMI were planning a new compilation of greatest hits, he was invited to perform at a huge fan convention in October at Earls Court to celebrate his upcoming 30th birthday and, in the early summer Mike Mansfield and Muriel Young (who had been the producer of Five O'Clock Club all those years ago) courted Marc to front his very own TV series. Titled just Marc, the first of the six shows was broadcast by Granada with Bolan performing some old hits like 'Jeepster' and premiering the new single 'Celebrate Summer'. In keeping with his new role as punk's elder statesman, Marc invited The Jam to appear, while bands like the Boomtown Rats and The Damned also performed on future editions.
The series was deemed a success, despite a disastrous climax to the final programme where Marc was to perform a specially-written duet with long-time rival David Bowie. Bolan managed to tumble off the stage 50 seconds into the song in what was to prove his last TV appearance.
Ah S WITH OTHER GREAT ROCK ICONS, IT'S hard to imagine Bolan growing old gracefully. At 53 this September, would e have survived with credibility intact like today's David Bowie, or would he now be playing the 1970s Golden Oldies circuit like versions of Slade or The Sweet? Certainly, Bowie's ability to reinvent himself and add fans to his hardcore support was what Marc had conspicuously lacked.
Nevertheless, Danielz, long-time fan and singer with tribute band T. Rexstasy, plumps emphatically for the Bowie model. "Marc wouldn't be doing your Butlins with Mud or The Rubettes. You've got to think who Marc associated himself with people like Bowie he would've been a survivor like Page a Plant. And he'd have ventured into production and carried on writing, doing more poetry."
He could, of course, have taken the Page Et Plant route and gone unplugged: indeed, Mickey Finn insists Bolan was about to turn back the clock and do just that. "We were talking about getting together again and going back to the roots, to the days of bongo drums and acoustic guitars. We both thought it was time for a change... when everybody else was crashing forward, we'd go the opposite way."
Fact or wishful thinking, it didn't happen. Finn has just re-emerged after two decades fronting his own electric version of T. Rex, "doing Marc's numbers with a '90s feel, how we feel they should sound for today." Of the other major players in the story, drummer Bill Legend would resurface in the 1990s as part of a blues trio, Legend while Steve Currie died in 1981 in a chillingly familiar incident; around midnight on 28 April, his car veered off the road near his home in Val De Parra, Portugal, with fatal results.
Even now, Marc Bolan seems to have a knack for grabbing headlines from beyond the grave. Son Rolan recently visited London with the aim of discovering where the millions of pounds of royalties from his father's back catalogue have been ending up. The money is paid into an offshore trust, Wizard (Bahamas), in the Caribbean, but, instead of reaching worthy beneficiaries such as Rolan (an aspiring musician based in LA) and mum Gloria (who lives in South Africa with her present husband), the income apparently disappears into a complex financial maze and becomes untraceable.
Ultimately, however, Marc lives on via an inimitable body of recorded work that continues to be covered by artists as diverse as Def Leppard, Siouxsie Et the Banshees, REM, Robert Palmer, Duran Duran and Morrissey, while more recently, the British hit film Billy Elliot included 'I Love To Boogie' as a key musical motif.
Even artists with seemingly little in common with Bolan harbour an admiration that remains bordering on hero-worship. Gary Numan is one. "Marc was probably the biggest hero I ever had when I was up and coming. He was the biggest single idol of my entire youth. I was a massive fan; I loved the music, I loved his voice and I don't think to this day anyone has got the sound he had.
"Most things that sound dated is because they're so typical of that era of music, they all have a particular sound to them, but there are a few people who have the ability to sound current and yet still sound unique. They tend to be people whose music doesn't age and he's one of them."
The decade that began with 'Electric Warrior' ended with 'Are "Friends" Electric?'; the beat went on, but the Dandy was gone.
Additional reporting and interviews: Nigel Cross Further reading: 20th Century Boy by Mark Paytress (Sidgwick Et Jackson)
Five essential Bolan/T.Rem albums every collection should include UNICORN After two stripped-down acoustic albums, 'My People Were Fair...' and 'Prophets, Seers And Sages' had established Tyrannosaurus Rex's credentials among the 'underground' musical cognoscenti, Bolan started to introduce a lusher, bigger wall of sound with fuller instrumentation and the first hints of electricity. The album sounded a shotgun marriage between Phil Spector and JRR Tolkien and was their most creative work to date, in no small way thanks to the growing studio craft of producer Tony Visconti. Stand-out tracks included 'Cat Black (The Wizard's Hat)', 'She Was Born To Be My Unicorn' and Nijinsky Hind'. 'Unicorn' was the last Tyrannosaurus Rex to feature founder member Steve Took.
BEARD OF STARS With Mickey Finn making his debut on hand drums and bass, this fourth album returned to a far more minimalist sound and broke new ground with Marc adding electric guitar to most tracks. One-time John's Children colleague Andy Ellison reckoned Marc never learned to play decent guitar but no-one ever sounded as original as Bolan did here on 'Elemental Child'. Lyrically Marc still had his heart firmly set on becoming a Romantic poet for the late part of the 20th century. The result, a vastly underrated record, maybe even Bolan's masterpiece, something akin to the pixies and elves of one's childhood bed-time stories discovering acid and rock'n'roll!
This was the last record to be issued under the full Tyrannosaurus Rex moniker, and remains Finn's favourite today. "That's when all things were fresh and there was an openness there and an easiness there. They were good times and they were unpredictable. It was what we were and what we stood for. No pretence, no hard sell, that was just us."
ELECTRIC WARRIOR The 'Wind Cheetah' had changed his spots and with hits like 'Hot Love' assailing the charts, had moved on with his sleek rock'n'roll beast, T. Rex. Packed with intoxicating teenage anthems, strutting 12-bar boogie, daft lyrics and enough testosterone to finish off a
thousand contemporary girl bands, the new core line-up of Bolan, Finn, bassist Currie and drummer Legend showed they could raunch'n'roll better than most. Contains such T. Rex classics as 'Jeepster', 'Get It On' and the semi-acoustic 'Cosmic Dancer' containing the immortal line that might've made a great epitaph: 'He danced from the womb to the tomb.'
T. Rex's second album sold a staggering 100,000 copies during the first four days of release and heralded the advent of T. Rexstasy all over the Western Hemisphere. It boasted more of the trashy three and four-chord minimasterpieces that had made the band such big business, including the smash hits 'Metal Guru' and 'Telegram Sam'. Bolan was also writing lyrics of a far more personal nature than he'd ever done during his hippy-dippy days. The latest waxing also tried to expand the sound with a stab at heavy metal on 'Buick McKane' and was memorable for the top-hatted monochrome image of Marc on its front cover. Far from being the 'total artistic collapse' with which journalist Charles Shaar Murray dismissed it at the time, 'The Slider' would come to represent the pinnacle of Bolan's career.
BUMP'N'GRIND Glowingly reviewed recently in these very pages, this deluxe Japanese import, released via the T. Rexstasy people and with the full co-operation of the official estate Wizard Artists, this double CD is compiled from a cache of over 150 unreleased tapes made between the early 1970s and Marc's death in 1977.
Recorded at various locations around the world London, Hollywood, Denmark and remastered with the intent of showing Bolan as a rock musician rather than a pop icon in the Cassidy/Osmond vein, this set includes many alternative versions of Marc masterpieces such as the full-length 'Twentieth Century Boy' and 'The Soul Of My Suit' complete with studio banter with Marc explaining the chord sequence and the lyrics to the other musicians at the session. All this is topped off by an epic 'Children Of The Revolution' with Flo & Eddie on vocals and Marc playing superb Hendrix-style guitar.