Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
I was foresaken by rock and roll in the early 1970s. Gene Vincent, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones had died. The Beatles disintegrated. The Byrds broke-up and then reunited to record their worst album. The Stones released their last great one. The Who were making tedious, bombastic operas choked with bad symbolism and simple minded metaphors. Pink Floyd took the brown acid and became boring. The Dave Clark Five became Dave Clark and Friends. Phil Spector went into seclusion. Elvis went to the White House to shake Nixon’s hand. Bob Dylan went Nashville. Brian Wilson went mad and Arthur Lee wasn’t too far behind.
Top 40 radio was in dire need of a Rotor-Rooter. The pipelines were full of excremental sludge consisting of some of the worst songs to be sprung from the a-hole of rock n’ roll.
“A Horse With No Name” - America
“The Candy Man” - Sammy Davis Jr.
“Joy To The World” - Three Dog Night
“One Bad Apple” - The Osmonds
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” - John Denver
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree” -Tony Orlando & Dawn
” Bad Bad Leroy Brown” - Jim Croce
“The Way We Were” - Barbra Streisand
“Seasons In The Sun” - Terry Jacks
“The Streak” - Ray Stevens
“One Hell Of A Woman” - Mac Davis
All of the above were best-selling singles from 1971-74, all of them appearing in the Top Ten.
And when it came to rock criticism, Robert Christgau’s insulting and utterly clueless one-line review of Tim Buckley’s masterful 1970 release Starsailor is one of the most odious things that sandal-wearing beatnik ever wrote:
A man who was renowned for his Odetta impressions on Jac Holzman’s folkie label switches to Frank Zappa’s art-rock label, presumably so he can do Nico impressions.
Yes kids, it was a wasteland. If it was some fresh badass rock and roll you were looking for, you had to look hard. If you were lucky, you found Iggy… and eventually you’d come upon a few other shards of light within the shitstorm: Marc Bolan’s Electric Warrior and Roxy Music’s debut album, with Lou Reed’s Transformer and Ziggy not far behind. The guys with the make-up, glitter and hairspray brought something essential back to rock and roll: big hooks, guitars, a little danger and sex.
I took a pass on Bowie. Reed, as a Velvet, was already a hero. Roxy music knocked me out, but it was Marc Bolan that blew me way. Everything about T. Rex worked for me : the chugging guitar riffs, undeniable hooks, propulsive tribal rhythms, sassy vocals, surreal alliterative lyrics and Marc’s pimped out fashion sense. It all came together with a certain inspired savoir faire. Bolan, like Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Elvis, exploded fully formed out of the rock and roll godhead. He was one for the ages. His influence reached far and deep, inspiring and setting the stage for The Ramones, The Runaways, Blondie, The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
Marc Bolan:The Final Word is a BBC documentary that provides a fairly detailed overview of Bolan’s life. It’s narrated by Suzi Quatro and features contributions from his companion Gloria Jones, brother Harry Feld, producer Tony Visconti, Queen’s Roger Taylor, Steve Harley, Zandra Rhodes and more.