Synopsis of Pop Music
One of the most memorable pop singles of 1971 was a nifty little rocker called “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” by T-Rex. Starting with a guitar riff that would have been at home on a 1950’s Elvis record, it soon built into a driving slice of rock and roll that blended gritty guitar with smooth strings. There were also nifty exotic touches like bongos and the wailing back-up vocals of former Turtles members Flo and Eddie. Best of all was the voice that topped it all off: Songwriter and lead singer Marc Bolan sang his poetic, image-strewn lyrics about mystical love in a warbling voice that was otherworldly and attractive all at once. “Get It On” became an international hit and paved the way for Marc Bolan’s career as the king of glam rock.
Marc Bolan grew up a fashion-obsessed mod in swinging 60’s-era London. Developing an interest in Bob Dylan, he began penning his own poetic songs and performing them on acoustic guitar. After stints as a solo performer and as a member of the Who-styled band John’s Children, Bolan formed a duo called Tyrannosaurus Rex with percussionist Steve Peregrine Took. In this group, Bolan banged out poetic songs that were halfway between Bob Dylan and J.R.R. Tolkien on an acoustic guitar while Took created all sorts of unusual percussive sounds to flesh out the music. The elfin-like warble in Bolan’s voice added the crowning touch to the dazzling music they created.
Through albums like Unicorn, Tyrannosaurus Rex became a critics' favorite and a cult sensation in the U.K. Just the same, cult stardom wasn’t enough for Marc Bolan. Although he originally wanted to be a pure folk artist, he decided to change over to an electric sound and merge his poetic style with the power of rock and roll. Took left the duo and was replaced by bongo player Mickey Finn as Bolan shortened the group’s name to the punchier and more memorable T-Rex. They ‘went electric’ on the album Beard Of Stars and also put out a killer single called “Ride A White Swan.” It matched Bolan’s poetic lyrics and unique voice to a bouncy pop melody driven by an electric guitar and a lush string arrangement.
U.K. audiences took to “Ride A White Swan” in a big way, driving it to #2 on the charts and making Beard Of Stars a hit. Marc Bolan also began cultivating a more glamorous image involving flashy clothes and makeup. As a result, the music press began to refer to his music as ‘glam rock.’ In 1971, T-Rex broke through on an international scale with an album called Electric Warrior. This collection of poetic narratives infused with the swing of old-fashioned rock and roll became an early milestone of glam rock, also boasting the single that made T-Rex a household name, “Get It On (Bang A Gong).” This driving classic became a Top-10 hit in the U.S. as the world took notice of the T-Rex sound.
By 1972, T-Rex was riding high. Their next album, The Slider, became a Top-20 hit in the U.S. Meanwhile, Marc Bolan continued to knock out glam rock singles like “Telegram Sam” and “The Groover” to great success in the U.K. These singles were perfect pop; a flawless blend of catchy melody and flashy guitar. Between 1970 and 1973, T-Rex scored ten consecutive Top-5 singles in England in this style. At this point, Bolan decided to push the band’s sound into more complex and soulful territory on albums like Tanx and Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow. These albums gained a strong r&b feel from the powerful back-up vocals of Gloria Jones, who would soon become Marc Bolan’s wife.
As glam gock lost its favor with pop fans in the mid-1970’s, Marc Bolan sharpened up his sound to stay current. On his 1975 album Futuristic Dragon, he blended guitar-driven tunes with danceable numbers like “All Alone” and “Dreamy Lady,” which incorporated a disco style to create an intriguing cross-breed of glam and disco. When the punk revolution began in 1976, many punkers pointed to the in-your-face style of T-Rex as a major inspiration. These heartfelt tributes inspired Bolan to go back to basics. The result was one of the finest T-Rex albums, Dandy In The Underworld. Bolan also toured with The Damned and hosted a successful BBC series that introduced punk bands like Generation X to the public.
Just as T-Rex seemed to be making a comeback, it was unexpectedly cut short on September 16, 1977, when Marc Bolan died in a car accident. Although more than twenty years have passed since then, Bolan’s influence on rock and roll remains potent. Countless modern British bands, from Love and Rockets to Suede, have borrowed a page from Bolan’s book of rock and roll style, and artists as diverse as Lloyd Cole and Joey Ramone have paid tribute to Bolan’s influence on their work. Meanwhile, the T-Rex fan club remains active, and Bolan’s classic recordings with T-Rex continue to be listened to by pop fans all over the world. As long as people want a little ‘glam’ in their rock, Marc Bolan’s work with T-Rex will continue to provide the perfect example of how it is done.
Artist Release History07/07/68 - My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair, But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows
10/14/68 - Prophets, Seers, And Sages, The Angels Of The Ages
05/18/69 - Unicorn
03/22/70 - A Beard Of Stars
12/11/70 - T-Rex
09/17/71 - Electric Warrior
07/23/72 - The Slider
03/23/73 - Tanx
02/01/74 - Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow
02/16/75 - Bolan's Zip Gun
01/31/76 - Futuristic Dragon
02/11/77 - Dandy In The Underworld
11/08/94 - Great Hits: The A-Sides 1972-1977
11/08/94 - Great Hits: The B-Sides 1972-1977
07/22/97 - Live 1977
01/31/98 - T-Rex Unchained: Unreleased Recordings (eight volumes)
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsElectric Warrior (Warner Bros.)
Great Hits: The A-Sides 1972-1977 (Polygram)
Band MembersMarc Bolan vocals, guitar
Mickey Finn bongos
Steve Currie bass
Bill Legend drums
Flo and Eddie back-up vocals