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Marc Bolan - Single Reissues

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 28 / 9 / 2007

Marc Bolan - Single Reissues


To commemorate the 30th anniversary of glam rock star Marc Bolan's death in a car crash, three of his classic singles are being re-released with unreleased demos on their B sides. Chris O' Toole finds them four decades continuing to be absolutely timeless

During the 1960s Marc Bolan was the lead singer of a folk-rock duo called Tyrannosaurus Rex, along with bongo player Steve Peregrin Took – a name given by Bolan to reflect his obsession with 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy. (Indeed most of the band’s material, including their high-water mark 'A Beard of Stars', released in 1970, contains references to the JR Tolkien trilogy). The group played at the infamous U.F.O Club on Oxford Street, along with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, and eventually persuaded Tony Visconti - who would later work with David Bowie and emerge as one of the most revered producers of the era – to record their material. Less than a decade later he was dead, killed in a car crash in 1977. In between lay a glittering career of glam-rock excess, littered with hit records, infamous exploits and outrageous live shows. While his original band was respected, it was never going to break the restrictive mould of the folk canon, but his later work with his second band, T-Rex, would ensure he was remembered as a legend. Bolan was the quintessential glam-rock icon, ahead of Bowie – although he never reached the same levels of same decadent surfeit – more sincere than genre shifting Wizard, and in a different league to the now disgraced Paul Gadd. After the new group's first single, 'Ride a White Swan', reached the top ten of the charts in 1970 they secured a further nine consecutive hits and became international stars. Expanding into a full band, (welcoming bass player Steve Curry and drummer Bill Fifield to the ranks,) the group also produced a number of hit albums, including 'The Slider' and 'Electric Warrior', to become one of the defining groups of the decade. However, the year punk broke also saw the death of Bolan; leaving behind him a legend which is still revered today. In memory of his achievements three of the group’s pivotal singles are being reissued. The ostentatious, flamboyant stomp of 'Metal Guru' - to many not only the group's finest single by the most evocative song of the whole era – the two chord wonder and rhythm & blues backed 'Children of the Revolution' and the definitive, hand-clapping grove of '20th Century Boy'. The first peaked at number one, the second at number two and the third at number three in the charts, but all have been remember as classics – instantly recognisable to generations of music fans. All are virtually timeless. No matter how many times the records are spun the impact remain; beautifully controlled excess; at once seemingly flowery and throwaway, but with a calculated, intense depth. The three singles are backed on their reissues with unreleased demo versions. 'Metal Guru' is followed by an acoustic version of 'The Slider'; 'Children of the Revolution' by 'The Leopards' and '20th Century Boy' with 'Teenager in Love', a duet with his girlfriend Gloria Jones. All three revert to a more Tyrannosaurus Rex era, light, whimsical and slightly ill-formed, but still capturing the illusive spirit of Bolan. They provide an interesting juxtaposition to the A-sides, showing the multi-faceted Bolan at his creative best. And while the release of '20th Century Boy' was the last time T-Rex would be trouble the top of the charts, the timeless quality of their work ensures, despite their gaudy style, they are remembered as a band of quality and substance in this celebrity obsessed era.

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