Monday, February 1, 2010

Deep Bands- T.Rex

T. Rex - The Slider
Picture: The album cover for 1972's The Slider. Marc Bolan is on the cover.


There are some bands that are more popular in one country than they are in another. When it comes to a band like T.Rex, they are probably one of the best examples. No matter what the case may be, T.Rex has been an influence on countless musicians. Singer/songwriter Marc Bolan was the fearless leader of the band and not having him in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame is a crime and a sin against God.

Marc Bolan was born Marc Feld September 30, 1947. Growing up, Feld became hooked on rock n roll music. Feld was given his first guitar at the age of nine and at fifteen, he formed a skiffle group. After a short career in modeling at seventeen, Feld later found himself back into music. This time, he was influenced by the folk rock scene. Marc Feld soon changed his name to Marc Bolan and started writing songs in the style of Bob Dylan and Donovan. One of his first songs, “The Wizard”, became his first single. It did little but managed to get him in the band, John’s Children. The band didn’t last long and broke up after a few singles. Bolan wasn’t into electric rock at the time. He was interested in psychedelic folk-rock. With him on guitar and percussionist Steve Peregrine Took, Bolan formed Tyrannosaurus Rex. After meeting with a young New York producer named Tony Visconti, the duo recorded their first album. In 1968, My People Were Fair and Had Stars in Their Eyes…But Now They are Content to Wear Stars on their Brows was released. It was a minor success with the single “Deborah”.

Tyrannosaurus Rex were one of BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel’s favorite bands. Peel played Bolan’s music all the time and as a result, the band had an underground following. Peel and Bolan even became good friends. Bolan and Took released two more albums (Prophets, Seers, Sages: The Angels of the Ages and Unicorn) until 1969, Took left the band after one too many arguments with Bolan. Bolan and Visconti tried looking for a replacement and found one in percussionist Mickey Finn. Finn wasn’t that great of a player, Visconti recalled years later, but he was extremely good-looking and just fitted in with Marc. As a result, Finn got the job. With Finn, A Beard of Stars was released in 1970. The album’s closer, “Elemental Child”, saw Bolan playing an electric guitar. Some of Bolan’s fans feared the worst as it was considered not cool to switch to electric. For the fifth album, the Tyrannosaurus Rex name wasn’t working. Legend has it that Visconti got so fed up with writing the band’s name on the master tapes, he wrote “T.Rex” instead. Either way, the duo changed their name to T.Rex and released a self-titled album in 1970. Bolan also had ideas to expand the group from two people to four people. His ideas would make him famous.

In 1971, Bolan hired drummer Bill Fifield to expand his group. However, Bolan decided that Fifield’s new name would be Bill Legend. Visconti stayed on bass for a while until bassist Steve Currie was haired as the fourth member. The band recorded the single “Ride a White Swan”, which became a hit and went to #2 in the British charts. The follow-up, “Hot Love”, did even better and stayed at #1 for a few weeks. T.Rex then started to record what would become 1971’s Electric Warrior. The album would include the poetic “Cosmic Dancer”, the whimsical “Life’s A Gas”, and the rocking “Jeepster”. However, the biggest hit off the album was “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”. It was so big that the band had a hit in the US. Electric Warrior became a hit record and by this time, T.Rex were big in the UK. Soon enough, glam rock was becoming a popular genre. David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Slade, and many others were getting a boost in their career. As a result, Marc’s old friends (such as John Peel) weren’t happy: Bolan had sold out.

T.Rex were the most popular in 1972. That same year, The Slider was released. The album may’ve not been as good as Electric Warrior but it was collection filled with glam rockers such as “Metal Guru”, “Spaceball Ricochet”, “Buick Mackane”, and “Telegram Sam”. Like Electric Warrior, The Slider was also a hit. In the UK, critics called the popularity of T.Rex “T.Rextasy”. No one had seen anything like T.Rextasy since the days of Beatlemania. Speaking of which, Ringo Starr decided to direct a movie on T.Rex. Starr filmed two shows (a matinae and an evening performance. The evening show made the movie while the other show wasn’t seen until 2005 on DVD) the band performed at the Wembley Pool. Along with concert footage, the movie would feature a jam session with Starr and Elton John. The movie also had a taste for the bizarre: in one scene, Bolan is being given a ride in a car by Starr (dressed as a mouse). Another scene includes Bolan as the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland, hosting a tea party for nuns who are eating hamburgers and hot dogs. In 1972 the movie, Born to Boogie, was released. The movie was panned by film critics but was loved by the fans as it captured T.Rex at their best.

In 1973, T.Rex were enjoying their success. The band now had another hit single with “20th Century Boy” and a new album called Tanx. Unlike the band’s last two albums, Tanx wasn’t much of a hit. Also at that time, Bolan added guitarist Jack Green and some back-up singers. One of them was Gloria Jones. Jones was best known for writing the song “Tainted Love”, which was later a hit for Soft Cell in the 1980’s. Bolan and Jones had an affair and when Bolan’s wife June Child found out, the couple divorced. After the release of the minor hit “The Groover”, Bill Legend and Jack Green left the band. Legend was replaced by Davey Lutton while keyboardist Dino Dines was added. In 1974, T. Rex released Zinc Alloy & The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow. The album flopped and was seen as a rip off of David Bowie’s The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Mickey Finn left the band as his bongo drumming couldn’t be heard anymore. Tony Visconti also left as Bolan’s producer, citing later on that bolan had become hard to work with (Visconti went on to produce several albums for David Bowie). Bolan kept T.Rex going and released two more albums (Bolan’s Zip Gun and Futuristic Dragon) that were also flops In 1975, Bolan became a father as Jones gave birth to a baby boy named Rolan. In 1977, Bolan hired a whole new T.Rex band consisting of session musicians such as Herbie Flowers, Miller Anderson, and Tony Newman. Dandy in the Underworld was seen as a “return-to-form” album and because of this, the album did fairly well. By September 1977, Bolan ended his short-lived television show Marc. The show’s last episode ended with a failed jam with David Bowie.

On September 16, 1977 Bolan and Jones were at a party. On the drive back, Jones decided to drive while Bolan sat in the passenger seat. Suddenly, the car crashed into a tree. Jones had several minor injuries and survived. Bolan, however, was crushed and killed from the impact. He was only 29 years old. Bolan’s death shocked the music world. It seemed as now people liked Bolan more than ever. Gloria Jones was instantly blamed for Bolan’s death and had nasty things said about her. Jones and Rolan (Bolan and Jones’ child) relocated to the US to avoid the press. Bolan’s death was the first in many passings of former members to follow. In 1980, Steve Penegrine Took died after choking on a cherry cocktail while under the influence. Bassist Steve Currie was killed in a car crash the following year. In 2003, Mickey Finn passed away after battling liver cancer. Before Finn passed, he and one-time member Paul Fenton reformed T.Rex. This version still tours as Mickey Finn’s T.Rex in the memory of Marc and Mickey. In 2004 keyboardist Dino Dines passed away from a heart attack.

In 2005 Marc’s son, Rolan Bolan, helped get the long lost Born to Boogie movie released on DVD. The DVD set featured the movie, another concert, and a few bonus features. One of them includes a short feaurette on Bill Legend, the sole suriving member of the classic T.Rex line-up. Today, people still remember Marc Bolan and T.Rex. In fact, a T.Rex fan group (T.A.G.- T.Rex Action Group) set up a memorial by the tree that Bolan died near. The memorial, simply known as The Tree, is still visited by many to honor the man and his music.

Recommended albums: Electric Warrior and The Slider

Personal thoughts on the albums: These are the two albums that everyone should own. Both are pretty easy to get. Electric Warrior can be purchased on CD and on iTunes while The Slider can be found at any place that sells music.

Recommended songs: Elemental Child, Ride a White Swan, Comsic Dancer, Hot Love, Bang a Gong (Get It On), Jeepster, Life’s a Gas, Metal Guru, Buick Mackane, Spaceball Ricochet, Telegram Sam, Ballrooms of Mars, The Slider, Baby Strange, Children of the Revolution, Solid Gold Easy Action, 20th Century Boy

Recommended Compilations: There are a lot of these out there. If you do see one, I would get it no matter what. Make sure that “Ride a White Swan” and “Bang a Gong” are on it. I think the best one out there is one called 20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection. It’s missing a few songs but it’s the best $14 you’ll spend on T.Rex!


T.Rex/Tyrannosaurus Rex

Line ups

Tyrannosaurus Rex I (1967-1969)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Steve Peregrine Took- percussion

Albums

My People Were Fair and Had Stars in Their Eyes…But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars on Their Brows (1968)

Prophets, Seers, Sages- The Angels of the Ages (1968)

Unicorn (1969)

Tyrannosaurus Rex II/ T.Rex I (1969-1970)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Mickey Finn- percussion

Albums

A Beard of Stars (1970) as Tyrannosaurus Rex

T. Rex (1970)

T.Rex II (1970-1973)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Steve Currie- bass

Bill Legend- drums

Mickey Finn- percussion

Albums

Electric Warrior (1971)

The Slider (1972)

Tanx (1973)

T.Rex III (1973)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Jack Green- guitar

Steve Currie- bass

Bill Legend- drums

Gloria Jones- keyboards/backing vocals

Mickey Finn- percussion

T.Rex IV (1973-1974)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Steve Currie- bass

Davey Lutton- drums

Dino Dines- keyboards

Gloria Jones- keyboards/backing vocals

Mickey Finn- percussion

Albums

Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1974)

T.Rex V (1974-1976)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Steve Currie- bass

Davey Lutton- drums

Dino Dines- keyboards

Gloria Jones- keyboards/backing vocals

Albums

Bolan’s Zip Gun (1975)

Futuristic Dragon (1976)

T.Rex VI (1976-1977)

Marc Bolan- guitar/vocals

Miller Anderson- guitar

Herbie Flowers- bass

Tony Newman- drums

Dino Dines- keyboards

Albums

Dandy in the Underworld (1977)

Rest in Peace…

Marc Bolan (1947-1977)

Steve Peregrine Took (1949-1980)

Steve Currie (1947-1981)

Mickey Finn (1947-2003)

Dino Dines (1944-2004)

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