Sunday, August 17, 2014

At home with the Bolans, 1971

For a time in 1971 and 1972, before he was overshadowed by Bowie and the other Glam Rock bandwagon jumpers, Marc Bolan was unquestionably Britain's biggest pop star. In my archive I found these black and white photos which capture Bolan and his T. Rex band mates Mickey Finn, Steve Currie and Bill Legend as they are about to release the album Electric Warrior.
The photos were taken by Kieron "Spud" Murphy, who was also responsible for the original photo used as the image for the cover of Electric Warrior. The original photo, taken at Albert Hall, Nottingham on 14 May 1971, can be seen on the wall behind Bolan in the band photo. These interior photos and the colour photo here were all taken at the flat in Clarendon Gardens, Maida Vale, London, where Marc lived with his wife June Child. The band photo with Marc in the foreground was available as a poster with the album and has since been used as a gatefold sleeve and on the cover of a T. Rex greatest hits album.
Following on from the success of Hot Love, the Electric Warrior album contained the hits Get It On and Jeepster, which cemented Bolan's new rock style and created the greatest teen music craze since Beatlemania. But not everyone was taken in by Bolan's new direction. John Peel said his friendship with Marc and June effectively ended because Peel refused to play the new T. Rex single when it arrived at Radio One. He didn't specify which single it was, but having been such a fan of Tyrannosaurus Rex, he had to ask himself whether he would have played the record if he and Marc were not friends. He concluded that he wouldn't have.
It may seem strange, given that those early T. Rex songs were pretty good, that Peel would take that stance. But he obviously felt that Bolan had sold his soul to the screaming hordes. Whatever the merits of Marc's new direction, it was a hugely successful one and in 1972 the run of hits continued with Telegram Sam, Metal Guru, Children of the Revolution, Solid Gold Easy Action and 20th Century Boy. That he wasn't able to sustain it shouldn't detract from the sheer quality of his output in 1971 and 72. It's a wonderful legacy.  But as the photographer in the colour shot here (who is not credited so I can't name him/her) says, Marc was extremely vain and convinced of his own genius. Combine that with copious amounts of cocaine and it's not hard to see why he was destined for a short time at the top.

Here is a live studio version of Jeepster which I think captures the excitement of the T. Rex sound at the time. There's some contemporary footage included at the end of the video too.

and here's a version of Life's A Gas from the Electric Warrior album

and while we're celebrating this music, let's have some more. Probably my favourite of the 1972 singles. And Mickey Finn is a riot on this.

Here's an article from the Daily Telegraph that summarises Marc's life and career, warts and all:

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