It’s been a while since I wrote about Marc Bolan, but recently I have been listening to some of his lesser known music and it strikes me that Marc has never fully received the credit he deserves for being an innovator who took risk with his music, as many [risks] as David Bowie ever did … but whereas Bowie was applauded for his daring new styles, even when they were pretty shocking, no, make that dreadful …. Marc was vilified for releasing pompous drivel; something that I feel should be readdressed.
Don’t get me wrong, I am more than aware that Marc Bolan and T.Rex released some fairly mundane stuffs when [he] was in his drink and drug fuelled state, but in amongst some of the not so good stuffs are some genuine moments of T.Rex magic at its finest.
Don’t get the wrong, I am more than aware that on occasion Marc literally plagiarised what his nemesis in stardom was releasing.
Futuristic Dragon with it’s opening monologue was a blatant copy of Bowies style of opener on Diamond Dogs (…any day now)
Zinc Alloy and the Hidden riders of tomorrow was a play on Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars, well if Bowie could have an alter ego, so could Marc, even if Ziggy had long since been killed off.
Before that though…..
Early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums with their mystical, nonsensical lyrics (salamander palaganda ….) were praised for their whimsical words and music, whilst Bowie was singing about a Laughing Gnome. At that moment, Marc was way ahead of his friend in the musical stakes.
Then, along came Space oddity and everything started to change.
T.Rex had their MONUMENTAL run of MEGA HITS that made them (for a while) the 70’s most adored band, Marc, Mickey, Steve and Bill were at the pinnacle of their success for a good few years and then…. well then, my musical hero went off the rails.
Whilst T.Rex dominated the musical landscape, David began his onslaught of innovation that left everyone else, including Marc standing.
Tanx came along after the huge successes of Electric Warrior and Slider. There had been some odd moments on Slider, the lyrics weren’t as edgy as Electric Warrior but it was still an incredible album.
There are some genuine genius moments on Tanx, Shock Rock, Tenement lady, Mister mister, but it didn’t achieve as much success as the previous releases.
And then came Zinc Alloy and the hidden riders of tomorrow or A creamed cage in August. Lots of screechy guitars and screechy voices added a bizarre element to the normal pop sound of T.Rex … who at this point had become Marc Bolan & T.Rex… the ego had taken over by now. Some fo the tracks are fabulous… Teenage Dream is an incredible, highly underrated single that, even with its odd lyrics should have been a bigger hit. Venus Loon is immense, You’ve gotta jive to stay alive / Spanish midnight is beautiful but the rest of the songs are very average indeed.
Followed by Bolan’s Zip Gun, an experimental album that has some cool rhythmic arrangements but exceptionally mundane lyrics. It felt perfunctory and left me disillusioned, even the singles Light of Love and Zip Gun Boogie failed to impress. I was devastated by the lack of innovation shown here.
Bowie released young Americans the same year to incredible global success … Marc continued on his downward spiral.
Futuristic Dragon, with its George `underwood cover was an attempt to capture some of the old genius and add a modern twist to it. The opener, full of pomposity and nonsensical lyrics was an absolute favourite piece of T.Rex music for me… deep beneath an ancient shadow, stunned with age and too much wisdom, dwelt the wild grinding cyclopean pagan…(see what I mean) not sure why I love it as it is rather odd. And yet the album has some trademark T.Rex sounds, some good ‘Electric warrior’ style lyrics and overall is a rather good collection of tracks, especially Chrome Sitar, Calling all destroyers, Theme for a dragon and Dreamy lady …. the catchiest single released by T.Rex in a long time. My heart was lifted!
Dandy In The underworld is sublime, a real tour de force of rock/pop/soul that hinted at a huge return to form for the newly cleaned up Marc Bolan.
Bowie released Low the same year. interestingly enough where the ruins of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle reeked havoc with Marc’s creativity, it had the opposite effect for David, Low being one of his (many) innovative masterpieces.
And then, Marc Bolan was tragically taken away to strum his guitar upstairs. Who knows what might have happened. If we look at Bowie’s trajectory, he went on to have immense success with the Berlin trilogy, Low, Heroes, Lodger, then there was the phenomenal Scary Monsters …and then he went off the rails for a while after the global behemoth that was Let’s dance.
After a long period of very average stuff with a few moments of genius thrown in Bowie brought his career back with a bang on The next day and Blackstar. I believe Marc might well have followed a similar path had he survived.
We won’t ever know, but what [I] know is that there is genius in almost all of Marc’s work when listened to again and he definitely was one fo the UK’s most influential musicians.
Now where is Salamanda Palaganda when you want to hear it!
Or would you rather be ‘built like a car’ as Marc Bolan so eloquently put it