John Peel intros this early on—and I do mean really early on, he’d just left John’s Children—performance by his chum Marc Bolan’s brand new “little group,” Tyrannosaurus Rex.
After a single disastrous gig with a four-piece rock group, Bolan slimmed the act down to just himself and wild-man bongo player Steve Peregrin Took.
The duo are seen here performing in the legendary psychedelic nightclub, Middle Earth in late 1967. Tyrannosaurus Rex were one of the most regular acts to play the club, along with Soft Machine, Tomorrow, The Deviants and the Graham Bond Organization.
The number, “Sarah Crazy Childe,” was a John’s Children b-side written by Marc.
If there’s an earlier clip of Tyrannosaurus Rex, I’ve not seen it.
One of my top favorite Marc Bolan songs, the criminally obscure “Jasper C. Debussy” from The Beginning of Doves album, a 1974 compilation that collected together material recorded much earlier in his career. The version on that album clipped out a bit of how Bolan actually introduced the song, but when the CD came out it was added back.
Marc Bolan’s career was in decline by the time he appeared on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. His singles were failing to chart back in Britain, the original T.Rex line-up had split after the departure of Bill Legend, and Bolan was no longer working with his key producer Tony Visconti. There were also rumors of Bolan living an out-of-control, tax exile, lifestyle of cocaine and brandy, and his once svelte, androgynous frame, had ballooned into a debauched cherub.
The fans had changed too. A new generation had sworn allegiance to the tartan-trewed Bay City Rollers, rather than fantasies of Glam. This then was the background against which Bolan was first introduced to the American public on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, in 1974.
In a new line-up that included Bolan’s girlfriend Gloria Jones on keyboards and backing vocals, T.Rex kicked ass (even Bolan’s voice was occasionally flat) as they played “Jeepster”, “Zip Gun Boogie”, “Token of My Love” and “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” to an audience that seemed both literally stunned and amazed.
Nope, this isn’t an undiscovered song by the 20th Century Boy recently unearthed here in the 21st: “Childlike Men” is the first track from Tony Visconti and son Morgan Visconti’s “T.Rex Regeneration” project.
They’ve taken the multi-tracks from some vintage T.Rex recording sessions from 1970-72—which, of course, Visconti Sr. produced—to create an entirely “new” song. (Well entirely like a new—and highly enjoyable, don’t get me wrong—fusion of demos for “Jeepster,” “Diamond Meadows” and “Ride a White Swan” with a spoken word poem section, strings and an unrelated guitar solo or two, I guess is more like it).
A few years ago Visconti mixed a barnstorming version of Electric Warrior in 5.1 surround, and took great care that it still sounded sonically like what it is, an album from the early 1970s. I didn’t expect this to be as good as it is, but I really, really love it.
Marc Bolan’s would have turned 65 on the September 30, 2012.
Bolan with girlfriend Gloria Jones (who wrote sang “Tainted Love” in 1965), and son Rolan. Yup… Rolan Bolan. I suppose Rolan had play-dates with Zowie Bowie?
Though clips of Marc Bolan’s 1977 after school Granada TV series, Marc, have been floating around YouTube for a while, this is the first time I’ve seen all the episodes up in their entirety. It’s quite the visual parade. It’s got some really cool moments, though at times Bolan looks positively bleary, lip-synching to T. Rex tunes with what appear to be “The Marc Bolan Dancers” (one of the weirdest/awesomest parts of the show).
Many of the artists are were up-and-comers who came and went, but you can also catch some great performances by bands like Thin Lizzy, Hawkwind, The Jam and Generation X. David Bowie even makes an appearance on the final episode where Bolan trips over a microphone wire and falls off the stage. Not having time for a reshoot, they kept it that way as the paired giggled and Bowie allegedly asked “Could we have a wooden box for Marc [to stand on]?”
Nothing like basing a live television show around a guy with a serious drug and alcohol problem. Still though, it’s hard to imagine some honey-cooing glam rocker getting his own live musical variety show in this day and age, and the concept is golden. “If only…” you know what I mean?
Marc Bolan died 35 years ago today. He made an indelible mark on my life by reviving my passion for pop music when rock ‘n’ roll was starting to slide into irrelevance for me. With some of my heroes out of the picture, Morrison, Hendrix, Jones and Joplin, Bolan’s arrival on the scene, along with Roxy Music and Bob Marley, woke my ass up to the fact that rock ‘n’ roll will always evolve in ways that beguile and excite me…and it usually happens right around the time I’m about to give up on the music. Marc Bolan and the rest softened me up for knockdown punch of punk rock.
Rescued from rusting film tins found in Ringo Starr’s garage, here’s T. Rex firing on all cylinders. The concert was filmed by Ringo in March of 1972 at Empire Pool in Wembley London and released as part of the film Born To Boogie, lovingly restored for DVD in 2005 and praised by R. Metzger for its overall “Wow factor.”
Marc Bolan and his bandmates, Mickey Finn, Bill Legend and Steve Currie, played two sets on March 18. Here’s the entire second set.
Bang a gong, get your T-Rextasy on with this little-known promo clip for 1974’s “Light of Love” single.
Light of Love was Marc Bolan’s sole US-only album and came out on Casablanca Records. It was a flop and ended his attempts to crack the American market. It was also his first album without Tony Visconti and it shows. The soul-influenced Light of Love used to be for sale in cut-out bins across America for 50 cents back in the day and you can still find used copies sealed at flea markets. The songs from Light of Love appeared as Bolan’s Zip Gun in the UK in 1975, his least successful release there.
How young and beautiful, Marc Bolan looks in this TV interview from 1970. Filmed during the writing of songs for the first album as the abbreviated T.Rex - after 4 as Tyrannosaurus Rex - Marc can be seen working on “Children of Rarn” and “Suneye”, as he discusses the process of writing. Like many artists (David Lynch comes to mind), Bolan claimed he just pulled the songs out, as if they were already there, fully formed. He also said he was used by “melody” as if it were a being. O, to be touched by the Muse.
Although I have always appreciated his music (“Ride a White Swan” was one of the first 45s I ever bought), I have never been what you would call a Marc Bolan/T-Rex fanatic. Don’t get me wrong, I am indeed a fan, but I’ve always put Marc Bolan in the same category as I do Chuck Berry, Little Richard or Eddie Cochran. Translation: a decent greatest hits is probably all I probably really need to own (Bolan also stole shamelessly from each of these artists, of course).
In actual fact, I own quite a few T-Rex albums, even some releases from the deeper catalog. Probably my favorite song by Bolan is the little known “Jasper C. Debussy.” It’s not like I’m ignorant of his work, it’s just that a lot of it sounds pretty formulaic and “samey” to me. Bolan had “a thing” that he did quite well, but he just kept doing it and that’s the problem I have with his music.
Having offered the above disclaimer, last week I picked up a Japanese import copy of the “deluxe” Born To Boogie DVD reissue from a few years back in the bargain bin for a mere $7 bucks. A friend of mine had the film on VHS and I saw it twenty years ago and quite enjoyed it, but the DVD version, with a monstrously powerful 5.1 surround mix done by the great producer Tony Visconti, truly blew me away. It must be the apex of Bolan’s artistry. Nothing short of stunning.
You know there’s always one guy on every block who has one of those huge fuck-off audio systems that the neighbors for a quarter mile radius can hear? I’m that guy. After watching Born To Boogie on an HDTV with the sound cranked up so loud it would have drowned out a airplane landing on my rooftop, I finally, after nearly 40 years, really got Marc Bolan, and can see clearly why the flame of eternal fan love for him will never die.
Born To Boogie was directed by Ringo Starr and produced by Apple Films. The concert segments were filmed at the Wembley Empire Pool in 1972 at the absolute height of T-Rextasy and Bolan, Mickey Finn and the band are in fine, fine form. Bolan’s guitar is just FAT sounding here and the 5.1 mix is outstanding. Listening to it cranked up is like having, well… a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomp all over your head… in a good way!
There’s also a stellar jam session with Elton John and Ringo that was captured at the Apple Studio on Saville Row and some “surreal hijinks”—like the Mad Hatter’s party bit which was filmed on John Lennon’s estate—that bring to mind Magical Mystery Tour. Still, it’s the concert segments that dazzle the most with Bolan’s 500 megawatt charisma in full effect.
If, like me, you missed out on Born To Boogie when I came out in 2005, and this sounds like something you might enjoy, chances are you probably will. There are TONS of extras and both the earlier, late afternoon concert and the full show that was used in the film are included.
10/10 for content, audio/visual quality and overall “Wow factor.”
Below, “Children of the Revolution” with Sir Elton and Ringo.
Not T-Rex, but the earlier incarnation of the band, when they were still called Tyrannosaurus Rex. Marc Bolan is seen here with percussionist Steve “Peregrin” Took, performing “The Seal of the Seasons” from their 1969 Unicorn album.
After an American tour where the decidedly much more “party hardy” Took, well, partied heartily, Bolan sacked Took, replaced him with Mickey Finn and promptly became an internationally recognized superstar. Took immediately went off to work with more underground and anarchic types like Twink (from The Pretty Things) and Mick Farren (who’d been ousted from his band, The Deviants), forming a proto-version of what became The Pink Fairies.
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