22 October 2015

Marc Bolan & T. Rex

He was a passenger in a purple Mini 1275GT (registration FOX 661L) driven by Gloria Jones as they headed home from Mortons drinking club and restaurant in Berkeley Square. Jones lost control of the car: it struck a steel reinforced chain link fence post and came to rest against a sycamore tree after failing to negotiate a small humpback bridge near Gipsy Lane on Queens Ride, Barnes, South West London. Neither occupant was wearing a seat belt. Wikipedia.
It's fashionable to talk of the 27 club, a roll call of rock heroes whose lives were cut tragically and coincidentally short at that age. The list includes some big names and there are many more whose lived on the edge and managed only a year or two more. Marc Bolan's star shone brilliantly but briefly until 1977 when he was the passenger in that car, aged 29.
'Metal Guru' by T.Rex was the first single I bought. That was in 1972, already past his heyday. The song went to number one in the charts and kept Elton John's famous 'Rocket Man' off the top spot. It's typical of Marc Bolan's output after he abandoned his acoustic guitar, his rug and joss sticks in favour of a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall stack. Many say those muscular riffs and simple, repetitive lyrics, combined with feather boas, high-waisted flares and a huge head of black curls did as much to usher in the dawn of Glam Rock as Bowie's Ziggy.
Frankly, listening to his material these days, I find the two significant T Rex albums are full of the same song rewritten over and over again. That was his ultimate downfall. He openly claimed that his artistic endeavours had little to do with art. His sole aim was to achieve fame and adulation. That he did on a scale only previously seen with the Beatles. But a one-trick pony get's stale and teen girls grow up.

Marc Bolan's star waned while his drink and drugs consumption (and apparently an addiction to fast food) rose.
By 1977 his hour was long past; his fans had drifted away and he resembled a bloated caricature of his former waif-like self. However he had lost none of his self-belief, had assembled a new band and was in the process of hitching his cart to the new punk train. He had lost fifty pounds, and by all accounts was fitter and healthier than ever when fate intervened.
Looking back, I think he took as much from the music scene as he bequeathed to it. His legacy is good but not magnificent; his mark a bright flash rather than an all-illuminating dawn. With the benefit of forty years' hindsight the posturing, image and attitude look contrived but, it takes you back doesn't it!

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