September 16, 2002
11:59 AM   Subscribe

The Bolan Tree.
Today is the 25th Anniversary of the accident in which folk-singer turned glam pioneer Marc Bolan died. The tree his car hit - driven by his partner, soul singer/producer Grace Jones - has been purchased by a fan group [T-Rex Action Group], who have also contributed a bust sculpted by Canadian Jean Robillard (with Quebec Government Cultural Attaché to Great Britain attending the unveiling today).
You may not think you know his music, but if you've seen Velvet Goldmine or Billy Elliot, watched the NBA Playoffs on TNT [using 'Get It On/Bang A Gong'], or ever wondered where the ubiquitous '20th Century Boy' [with the definitive power chord + squeal opening burst] comes from, now you know.
Marc inspired devotion in his fans, and respect from the likes of Bowie, the Damned and Billy Idol in his own lifetime - and influenced musicmakers like The Strokes & The Red Hot Chili Peppers [according to this article in The Philidelphia Enquirer].
Dandy's in the Underworld, indeed.
posted by dash_slot- (34 comments total)
I've always wondered if the ad agency that crafted that commercial for the Pontiac Vibe that features 20th Century Boy ever appreciated the irony of it all.
posted by NedKoppel at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2002

Gloria Jones, not Grace.
posted by datawrangler at 12:21 PM on September 16, 2002

Check out Born To Boogie. Directed by Ringo, some great live T-Rex and assorted weirdness.
posted by Fabulon7 at 12:22 PM on September 16, 2002

As great as Bolan was with T-Rex, his real contribution to lies with Tyrannosaurus Rex, his duet with Steve Took. Gorgeous British psychedelic folk. "My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars on Their Brows", "Unicorn", "Beard of Stars" and "Prophet Seers and Sages, The Angel of the Ages" are the two LPs (s'pose now CDs) to look for.
posted by ubueditor at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2002

My Marc Bolan Tribute: Tanx For the Memories.

Heh heh heh
posted by hackly_fracture at 12:29 PM on September 16, 2002

My bad - in my draft I named Gloria correctly, but lost it when writing the post.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:33 PM on September 16, 2002

It's always boggled my mind how many Americans who say they're into glam (or Classic Rock for that matter) have no idea who T. Rex is.

Marc Bolan, to me, was king of the rockstars. The ultimate megalomaniac wearing clothes with his own image all over them. (my fav. pic - check out that jacket!) He was the ultimate self-proclaimed messiah, and still managed to pull off seeming innocent every now and then.

Born to Boogie, the concert film Ringo Starr directed for them is a must see for any fan, but hard to find. If you're a little bit more masochistic, check out Bolan's short lived TV variety show from the U.K. He was already pretty fried at that point, but he did still have some moments of brilliance, like a team of go-go dancers on rollerskates.

If only life could be like that all the time...
posted by HellKatonWheelz at 12:51 PM on September 16, 2002

I named Gloria correctly, but lost it when writing the post.

Phew. For a minute I thought Grace Jones might have been more than a mildly amusing '80s scenester.
posted by yerfatma at 2:22 PM on September 16, 2002


...which sheds new light on 'Pull Up To The Bumper, Baby'...

posted by dash_slot- at 2:34 PM on September 16, 2002

Bolan, indeed!

But do not ever, under any circumstances, assume that Velvet Goldmine has anything whatsoever to do with Bowie, "Glam" rock (gawd, I hate that term!), or Marc Bolan. Or anything else for that matter. It was a dreadful misfire which sadly made an interesting and nebulous time period seem much more like an essay in post-structuralist identity politics. When people started writing dissertations on the "Glam Rock" period, it made those of us who grew up with ithide our copies of "Alladin Sane" under rocks till the craze blew over.
posted by evanizer at 3:15 PM on September 16, 2002

Well, Ev, you may be right ("I may be crazy"), but didn't The Naked JockTM get his kit off, as per, in VGM? (Haven't seen it, I lifted the reference from the linked article)
Gotta be worth seeing for that, even tho' he seems to do that in every film!

And, tell the truth, I've loved Marc since, as a pre-pubescent, I lifted the pin-ups from my sisters copies of 'Jackie' and posted 'em to the cieling above my bunk-bed with flour paste. So, I too am wary of the fad of glam-rock as an original believer (passed on matrilineally, we do not proselytise)

Aah, such innocence...
posted by dash_slot- at 3:36 PM on September 16, 2002

Marc Bolan was really amazing. Who else could write lyric such as "... hubcap diamond start halo..."?
posted by riffola at 6:12 PM on September 16, 2002

er star not start
posted by riffola at 6:12 PM on September 16, 2002

Waiting for "Metal Guru" (my fave) to be used in some sort of TV commercial...
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:48 PM on September 16, 2002

I used to think Metal Guru was a song about religion, honestly....y'know, "Metal Guru, Is a Jew"...

again, I plead my youth...
posted by dash_slot- at 7:14 PM on September 16, 2002

Anyone agree with me that The Power Station's version of "Bang A Gong/Get It On" is actually better than Bolan's? Not trying to be blasphemous -- I like Bolan & T-Rex -- but this is one of the very rare instances when a cover/remake surpasses the original.
posted by davidmsc at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2002

Just a sec, I'll just fire up KaZaa...
posted by dash_slot- at 9:32 PM on September 16, 2002

BTW, is it true that 'Get It On' was renamed 'Bang A Gong' for the US because it was too saucy a title (tho' the phrase was not edited for radio play, obviously, keeping the offending lyrics in place)?

Yh, it's good, apart from all that twangy 80's style bass solo, and the messy production at the beginning.

God, I sound like my dad.

I'll get me coat.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:50 PM on September 16, 2002

One of my favorite moments in the T-Rex ouevre is also ones that shows that however much fun all the glamminess and theatrics were, at heart Marc Bolan wasn't nothin' but a good old fashioned rock and roller.

I speak of course of the Chuck Berry quote at the end of "Get It On"...."meanwhile I'm still thinking..."

Bonus points for those who know what song Bolan was paying tribute to there.

NTM, the pre T-Rex mod rock of Bolan's old outfit John's Children holds some treats as well.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 PM on September 16, 2002

Im guessing 'Little Queenie'...
posted by dash_slot- at 10:40 PM on September 16, 2002

20th Century Boy "ubiquitous"??

Gee, you must have been hanging out in some much hipper places than I...
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:59 PM on September 16, 2002

A few further notes:

1. Re: Tyrannosauraus Rex. Agreed, in spades. "Chariots of Silk" is one of the sexiest songs ever written.

2. Does anyone remember a book about rock style that came out in the mid-80s, featuring, among other things, an essay by Ian Dury on the Teds, and a long disquisition on the distinction between "Glam" and "Glam Rock"? F'ing genius...
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:03 PM on September 16, 2002

It was a dreadful misfire which sadly made an interesting and nebulous time period seem much more like an essay in post-structuralist identity politics.

True, but Ewan MacGregor and Christian Bale had sex. *swoon*
posted by Summer at 3:13 AM on September 17, 2002

Even Guns'n'Roses liked them...

It is well worth checking out both versions of Buick Mackane.
posted by catchmurray at 4:01 AM on September 17, 2002

My brother used to live just up the road from the tree, and there seemed to be a constant trickle of people leaving flowers and tributes around the tree. Young, old, all sorts.
Sort of cool, really.
posted by jackspot at 4:07 AM on September 17, 2002

Talk about it being twenty (five) years ago today Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play... I hadn't seen dash_slot-'s thread when I posted the Callas commemoration. I remembered the day Callas died but not that it was the same day Marc Bolan died.

Then, of course, all those NME covers and stories came back to me. Great thread, dashy! There are some good articles here, from your tilldawn link.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:28 AM on September 17, 2002

i like how marc bolan (and led zeppelin!) was super influenced by jrr tolkien :) *swoons*
posted by kliuless at 4:45 AM on September 17, 2002

Anyone agree with me that The Power Station's version of "Bang A Gong/Get It On" is actually better than Bolan's?

It's definitely smoother, with less of the twang and more of the latent funk brought to the fore, but then, it was produced by one of the members of Chic, so what would you expect? It's still hard to say whether or not it's "better" than the original, which is a messy concept altogether. It certainly takes the original to where it might've been had it been conceived (what was it?) 15 years later.

As a young(er) Duran fan at the time, though, I know that i can personally thank Powerstation for introducing me to the world of glam. That cover opened the door to a whole genre of music that I never knew about previously, and I know that I'm not the only one. (This is widely discussed in fan circles.) Ah, the evolutionary forces of music... Thanks, Bolan.
posted by Dreama at 7:27 AM on September 17, 2002

Hey, jonmc! What's my prize :)

btw, according to an interview here, it was Marc's musical partner Mickey Finn's idea to add the comment on the outro to 'Get It On'.

Even more surprisingly, Mickey [who often comes over as having less than a full set of bongoes in his drumkit] describes his predecessor in T-REX, Steve Took, as "an acid casualty"! 'Pot, meet crack', I say :)

The band are touring again (huh? without Marc, I can hardly imagine what they sound like?) as 'Mickey Finn's T-Rex', and have re-recorded the greatest hits. I'm not sure I wished to know that. But now I do, & I just had to share...
posted by dash_slot- at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2002

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned that Gloria Jones, who drove the car, recorded the original version of Tainted Love, later made famous by Soft Cell.
posted by jonp72 at 6:12 PM on September 17, 2002

Well said, Dreama. And speaking of Duran Duran...boy, were they amazing back in the day. The energy, the music, the look...
posted by davidmsc at 6:15 PM on September 18, 2002

This is the point at which I refrain from mentioning that the original lineup of Duran Duran has reformed with a new CD to come out early next year and a world tour in the summer, right?
posted by Dreama at 6:38 PM on September 18, 2002

This site - which has a comp to 'Win the new (!) "Essential" Collection' - has an interesting Top 5 of trivia, including allegations that "artists as musically diverse as Demis Roussos, Michael Stipe and little Mark Greaney from indie upstarts JJ72" also owe a debt to Marc. Aaah, what you can see when you lok for it...
posted by dash_slot- at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2002

*look* for it..
posted by dash_slot- at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2002

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