Marc Bolan and Gloria Jones at Rod Stewart’s party at Morton’s on the night that he died.
Although many of his songs refer to cars, Marc Bolan himself was deathly afraid of driving, fearing a young death. Despite owning his famous white Rolls-Royce (among many other ostentatious vehicles) he never learned how to master an automobile. On September 16, 1977, two weeks before Bolan would have turned 30, returning from a party thrown by Rod Stewart, he was killed when the purple Mini being driven by his girlfriend, American soul singer Gloria Jones (she recorded the original version of Ed Cobb’s “Tainted Love”) hit a chainlink fence and then a tree near Gypsy Lane in Southwest London. Neither passenger was wearing a seatbelt. The accident occurred less than one mile from Bolan’s mansion in East Sheen.
The funeral held four days later at the Golders Green Crematorium was attended by Les Paul, Rod Stewart, Bolan producer Tony Visconti, Eric Clapton and a contingent of sobbing fans. A swan-shaped floral arrangement calling to mind Bolan’s first big hit record, “Ride a White Swan” was displayed at the ceremony. Gloria Jones, hospitalized with a broken jaw and arm was not to find out about Marc’s death until the day of his funeral. Within a few days their home was looted by thieves.
The crash site has become a shrine to his memory with fans making pilgrimages to leave flowers and tributes and is maintained by the T.Rex Action Group. Today Gloria Jones runs a charity dedicated to Bolan’s memory in Sierra Leone.
The images here are courtesy of a new website devoted to nostalgia, Flashbak and the Press Association. Follow Flashbak on Twitter and Facebook.
A young couple comfort each other in front of the floral white swan.
Members of Marc Bolan’s family. Gloria Jones’ brother, Richard Jones, in hat behind them.
Rolan Bolan’s godfather David Bowie—who would quietly provide for Gloria and Rolan and paid for his education—arrives at the service.
Rod Stewart and friend.
What was left of the purple Mini.
If you go to the 4:15 mark below, you’ll see color footage of Marc Bolan’s funeral.