Sunday, 17 April 2011

Well, you're dirty and sweet clad in black, don't look back, and I love you

Songs Everyone Should Know

“Get It On (Bang-a-Gong)”, T-Rex, (1972) 

There are certain artists that died early that leave us wondering what they might have done and evolved into, had they only lived. Marc Bolan is one of them.

Bolan was killed in a car accident in 1977 after taking his glam-rock band ‘T-Rex’ to commercial success.  Although his fame was waning at the point he died, he is considered the father of glam rock by many.

Originally Bolan played homage to early rockers like Eddy Cochrane and Gene Vincent – with a couple of bongos and an acoustic guitar. Steve Took and him after forming Tyrannosaurus Rex,  eventually made several albums and had modest U.K. success in the late ‘60’s, supported by Radio One’s John Peel who helped them get started.

Bolan was doing sort of folk acoustic rock with his own weird Baroque. His lyrics were surreal, and mythological. He was learning his craft and preparing for the next phase of his musical journey - which started when Took got involved in drugs and the U.K. underground and they parted ways.  Hard to believe, but Took was too extreme for Bolan – in the style of shock-rocker Iggy Pop, he took off his shirt on stage at a Los Angeles show and whipped himself with a belt until he bled. The audience looked on in shock. That was to be the parting of Took and Bolan. 

Bolan replaced Took, and come up with a more Rock and Roll guitar style and some new more accessible lyrics. Success came with the album “T-Rex”.  “Ride a White Swan’ went to number 2 in the U.K. in 1970. The second single, “Hot Love:” went to number 1 in the U.K.
Some say Bolan changed at that point when the name was shortened to just ‘T-Rex’. They did not understand why he was so campy now. His previous ‘hippy’ fans did not like his addition of electric guitars or his suggestively sexual lyrics. Hippies were not quite as open to new things as they would claim it seems. They didn’t like the androgynous clothes or glitter I guess, and what was with that attitude?  Was he a boy or a girl?

A certain Chelita Secunda1 put a couple of globs of  glitter under Bolan's eyes before right before he appeared on the widely viewed British show ‘Top of the Pops”, which some consider the birth of ‘glam rock’. Bolan entered the world of glam rock - platform boots first!

With their next album, Bolan’s fans were in “T-Rextacy"2 as Electric Warrior” again spawned  a huge U.K. hit, but now top 10 in the U.S with “Bang a Gong (Get it On)”. This was arguably the apex of the T-Rex’s reign – and then their Ice Age began, or was it a meteor?

After this, the band put out “Slider” in 1973 with modest success. After that, Bolin’s ego and drug/alcohol use pushed the other members of T-Rex away, although he continued to record with modest success.

After an all-night drinking session Bolan’s girl friend3 whilst driving them home crashed Bolan’s purple Mini 1275GT into a tree about a mile from Bolan’s home. Two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, on September 17, 1977 Marc Bolan was dead.  His ‘baby’, Glam Rock wasn’t. All the acts Bolan had inspired; David Bowie, The Sweet, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, The New York Dolls, and Gary Glitter and others would live on. The next generation of bands such as Kiss, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, The Culture Club, Adam and the Ants, even Prince, and ultimately Goth-rocker Marilyn Manson were also under Bolan’s spirit’s spell. 

RIP Marc Bolan.

1.        Trinidad-born Chelita Secunda was band mate Mickey Finn’s girlfriend.  
2.        T-Rextacy was a term coined by British publicist BP Fallon, to compare the success of T-Rex, particularly with “Electric Warrior” to that of ‘Beatle mania’.
3.        Gloria Jones was severely injured in the car accident. Oddly enough, Steve Curry from the band also dies in a car accident 4 years later in 1981.

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