[Today: Marc Bolan bangs a gong…]
Elfin starchild, psychedelic wizard, electric warrior. T. Rex mastermind Marc Bolan was all of the above, as well as a guitar hero who wore plenty of eye-liner and glitter and wrote so many hit songs that he smashed sales records set by The Beatles. Bolan and T. Rex pioneered the sound (and look) that would become known as Glam Rock and provide David Bowie a ladder to superstardom, and the early-70’s found them at the top of their game, in the midst of a run of Top 10 UK singles, and at the center of a British craze known as ‘T-Rextasy’.
With their 1971 album Electric Warrior, T. Rex captured the essence of Glam – infectious three-minute singles full of fat guitar hooks, fairy dust and casual innuendoes. Lead single ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’ was the group’s biggest hit, going #1 in the UK and Top 10 in the US. ‘Jeepster’ is even better, and might be one of the most infectious grooves ever laid to wax – the kind of tune that worms its way into your brain and never leaves. ‘Mambo Sun’ and ‘Cosmic Dancer’ are links between the peace & love 60’s and the raunchy guitar 70’s. Meanwhile, album closer ‘Rip Off’ perfectly conveys the teenage anxiety that everything is bullshit. Electric Warrior is the kind of album that validates the format and rewards a complete listen – every song works together to set a mood, and the whole is much greater than its parts.
T. Rex swam against the musical tide of their times in just about every respect. While their contemporaries were reveling in masturbatory solos and diffuse concepts, Bolan and Rex were churning out catchy, radio-friendly singles that celebrated the same stuff as 50’s rock & roll – girls, cars and music itself. Ironically, the very disposability of their music is what keeps T. Rex sounding fresh year after year. Bolan would die in a car crash in 1977, after his star had dimmed considerably, but as long as there are Saturday nights and kids looking for some action, the music he made with T. Rex will live on.
Listen: Mambo Sun
Listen: Rip Off