So… with all of this talk about Bowie vs. Bolan, I noticed that the ‘Electric Warrior’ was NOT on our illustrious unHOF list. Well, this is all kinds of wrong and needs be rectified.
It’s a uniquely British path of success followed closely by both the young David Bowie and Marc Bolan: Start out as hippie folksters, sprinkling Faerie dust on the ears of all who dare listen. Then, do a massive 180 and head to the future… space and time travel whilst covered in glitter, all while turning The Marshalls to *11* to play slowed down demented Eddie Cochran riffs. Yeah… it worked.
T. Rex fans were neatly split between two (at least) camps, those who loved the original Tyrannosaurus Rex band and those who liked the later, electric stuff. Original partner, Steve Took, was very experimental in his approach to Marc Bolan’s music and, by all accounts really wanted to move to a more aggressive, punky style. Bolan disagreed so Took was out. Producer Tony Visconti remarked that Took’s replacement, Mickey Finn, who had no aspirations toward songwriting or band direction, was not as talented as Took, so put more of the emphasis on Bolan to sing harmonies and come up with even more inventive songs.
By the time of T. Rex’s hugely successful British single, “Ride a White Swan” in 1970, the earlier hippie fans were being replaced by teenagers and Marc Bolan had become a pop star! In fact, Bolan’s appearance on Top Of The Pops performing their second hit, “Hot Love,” is considered to be the birth of ‘Glam Rock!’
If the hippies were outraged by the makeup and electric instruments, they hadn’t seen nothing yet! In September 1971, T. Rex released their second album ‘Electric Warrior’ which featured Bolan with Finn and bassist Steve Currie and drummer Bill Legend. This, of course spawned the song T. Rex would forever be known by: “Bang A Gong.” Despite massive popularity in their home country of Britain (where the term, “T. Rexstacy” was coined to compare to “Beatlemania”), they never achieved that kind of success in the US, despite the ubiquitous quality of “Bang A Gong.”
The follow up to ‘Electric Warrior’ was, of course, ‘The Slider,’ which was more of the same from Bolan & Company. Again, immensely popular in the UK spawning the hit, “Telegram Sam,” the LP did little business in the US. ‘Electric Warrior’ and ‘The Slider’ were the high points for Marc Bolan and T. Rex. All that was left was the slow slide down. T. Rex continued to perform and release albums, but none with the success of the two aforementioned. Poor record sales and spotty live performances doomed their chances of being big in the United States.
On September 17, 1977, just two weeks short of his 30th birthday, Marc Bolan was killed in a car crash, being driven by his girlfriend and backup singer, Gloria Jones. Despite dying just as the Punk era was beginning to blossom, T. Rex’s sound was massively influential to a whole new generation of punk and post-punk rockers.
Johnny Marr of The Smiths spoke for the new generation when he said: “The influence of T. Rex is very profound on certain songs of the Smiths like “Panic” and “Shoplifters of the World Unite”. Morrissey was himself also mad about Bolan. When we wrote “Panic” he was obsessed with “Metal Guru” and wanted to sing in the same style. He didn’t stop singing it in an attempt to modify the words of “Panic” to fit the exact rhythm of “Metal Guru”. He also exhorted me to use the same guitar break so that the two songs are the same!” Marr rated Bolan as one of his ten favorite guitarists of all time!
Stan Ridgway Black Diamond LP