The Glam Rock icon was born on this day in 1947
The Electric Warrior Marc Bolan 71st Anniversary
Earlier this month we published an article on the life of Marc Bolan, the iconic and charismatic T.Rex frontman. We re-publish the article today on what would be his 71st Birthday
Marc Bolan was born Mark Feld on September 30th, 1947 in London, England. During the early years of his life, Bolan briefly joined a modeling agency and became a “John Temple Boy”, appearing in a clothing catalog for the menswear store. He was a model for the suits in their catalogs as well as for cardboard cut-outs to be displayed in shop windows. Town magazine featured him as an early example of the mod movement in a photo spread with two other models. By the mid 60’s Bolan was highly influenced by Beat poetry and folk music, after joining several bands he founded Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1968, his own rock band together with guitarist Ben Cartland, drummer Steve Peregrin Took and an unknown bass player. The band was short lived as a 4 piece and Bolan decided to strip down the band to an acoustic psychedelic folk act just with him and Took. The original version of Tyrannosaurus Rex released three albums and four singles, In 1969, Bolan published his first and only book of poetry entitled “The Warlock of Love”. Although some critics dismissed it as self-indulgence, it was full of Bolan’s florid prose and wordplay, selling 40,000 copies and in 1969-70 became one of Britain’s best-selling books of poetry. Drug-taking Took was fired from the group after their first American tour, they were a force within the hippie underground scene while they lasted, he was replaced with Mickey Finn, and becoming more adventurous musically, Marc bought a modified vintage Gibson Les Paul guitar (featured on the cover of the album T. Rex), and then wrote and recorded his first hit “Ride a White Swan”, which was dominated by a rolling hand-clapping back-beat, Bolan’s electric guitar and Finn’s percussion. At this time he also shortened the group’s name to T. Rex.
T.Rex And Rise To Fame
Bolan took to wearing top hats and feather boas on stage as well as putting drops of glitter on each of his cheekbones, the era of glam and glitter rock was born. The glam era also saw the rise of Bolan’s friend David Bowie, whom Bolan had come to know in the underground days (Bolan had played guitar on Bowie’s 1970 single “Prettiest Star”; Bolan and Bowie also shared the same manager, Tony Howard, and producer, Tony Visconti) but their friendship was also a rivalry, which would continue throughout his career with both artists trying to beat each other works. Bolan followed “Ride a White Swan” and T. Rex by expanding the group to a quartet with bassist Steve Currie and drummer Bill Legend, and cutting a five-minute single, “Hot Love”, It was number one for six weeks and was quickly followed by “Get It On”, a grittier, more adult tune that spent four weeks in the top spot. The song was renamed “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” when released in the United States, to avoid confusion with another song of the same name by the American band Chase. It reached #10 in the U.S Charts, their only Top 40 hit there. In 1972, Bolan achieved two more British number ones with “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru” and two more number twos in “Children of the Revolution” and “Solid Gold Easy Action”. By late 1973, his pop star fame gradually began to wane, even though he achieved a number three hit, “20th Century Boy”, in February and mid-year “The Groover” followed it to number four. “Truck On (Tyke)” missed the UK top 10 reaching only No. 12 in December. However, “Teenage Dream” from the 1974 album “Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow” showed that Bolan was attempting to create richer, more involved music than he had previously attempted with T. Rex. He expanded the line up of the band to include a second guitarist, Jack Green, and other studio musicians and began to take more control over the sound and production of his records, including by then-girlfriend Gloria Jones on keyboards as well as backing vocals. In 1974, Bolan also played guitar for Ike & Tina Turner by appeared on “Sexy Ida (Part II)”, and “Baby Get It On”.In September 1975 Gloria Jones gave birth to Bolan’s son, whom they named Rolan Bolan, that same year, Bolan returned to the UK from tax exile in the US and Monaco and to the public eye with a low-key tour. The last remaining member of Bolan’s halcyon era T. Rex, Currie, left the group in late 1976.
Look back at Marc Bolan’s life in photos
Solo Period, Death and Legacy
In early 1977, Bolan got a new band together, released a new album, Dandy in the Underworld, and set out on a fresh UK tour, taking along punk band the Damned as support to entice a young audience who did not remember his heyday. Later in 1977, Granada Television commissioned Bolan to front a six-part series called Marc in which he hosted a mix of new and established bands and performed his own songs. Bolan’s longtime friend and sometimes rival David Bowie was the final guest on the last episode of Marc. The two performed Bowie’s song “Heroes” near the end of the show, and after Bolan’s signoff, they began to play a bluesy song over the closing credits. Right as the vocals were about to begin, however, Bolan stumbled off the stage and out of the camera frame. Bolan died on 16 September 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday, Bolan never learned to drive fearing a premature death, he was a passenger in a purple Mini 1275GT driven by his wife Gloria Jones. Despite this fear, cars or automotive components are at least mentioned in, if not the subject of, many of his songs. He also owned a number of vehicles, including a white 1960’s Rolls-Royce that was loaned by his management to the band Hawkwind on the night of his death. Marc Bolan has become one of the most influential singers and composers in Rock music, T.Rex’s discreet beginnings as the Psychedelic Folk Duo are not as remembered or influential, however, his electrically charged Rock songs composed during the T.Rex period still keep the same freshness today as they had back when were first released. There are countless artists that have claimed Bolan as their main influence, he was also one of the few mainstream Rock artists from the early 70’s that were embraced by the Punk Rock generation in the late 70’s.
Watch T.Rex amazing live performance of “Get It On” on The Midnight Special, 1973
Listen to some of T.Rex’s most memorable songs compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify
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