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T. Rex - T. Rex 1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?

  by Eoghan Lyng

published: 3 / 7 / 2023

T. Rex - T. Rex 1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?
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In our 'Re:View' section, Eoghan Lyng examines a new four CD box set which assesses T. Rex and Marc Bolan's work in the prolific year of 1973.

'The Slider' is generally considered to be Marc Bolan's strongest studio effort, but his gift for melody never wavered in the years after. The songs written in 1973 boast some of his most infectious and commercial sounding works, presenting anthems that survived in the public consciousness at a time when many of his contemporaries have drifted into the annals of pastiche. Much of Bryan Ferry´s work has dated with the passage of time (in fairness, so has David Bowie´s), but Bolan's work lingers in a new generation, evidenced by Alex Turner's menacingly seductive turn at Glastonbury in 2023. Listening to it now, 'Country Honey' is the type of helium-induced anthem Suede might have penned in the 1990s, bolstered by an energetic vocal and some truly exhilarating displays of guitar. Many of the tracks that are compiled on 'T. Rex 1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?'were produced by Tony Visconti, who countered Bolan's muscle with a breezier production value; the feminine alternative to Bolan's more masculine direction. On these cuts and elsewhere, Visconti's penchant for tight, sophisticated arrangements is up to the calibre he displayed with Paul McCartney and Wings (there's no need to comment on Visconti's disputes with the former Beatle - let's leave that for Mark Lewisohn and co.) The focus found in 'Teenage Dream' highlights Visconti's crisp production against Bolan's barrelling vocal - perhaps his apogee as a rock and roll balladeer at that. The song, my favourite at that, has the majestic, orchestral sweep found in 'Band On The Run', offering value to the assertion that Bolan was McCartney's successor. But Visconti was keen to allow the message to sing out, no matter how powerful the strings sounded: " What I saw in Marc Bolan had nothing to do with strings, or very high standards of artistry; what I saw in him was raw talent. I saw genius... I saw a potential rock star in Marc – right from the minute, the hour I met him." Then there's 'Jitterbug Love', a fiery rocker that pummels along under the weight of its turbo-charged riff. Although it lacks the emotional resonances of 'Teenage Dream', Bolan's infallible instinct for choppy, spontaneous guitar playing overrides on a superlative track. The compilation also boasts the wiry blues of 'Solid Gold Easy Action', later covered by The Fratellis on Timothy Dalton vehicle, 'Hot Fuzz'. More interestingly, the album also boasts the jauntily recorded 'Xmas Riff', which segues into '20th Century Boy' with impressive precision. His music was a triumph of creative spontaneity, which he was quick to point out in interviews: "The only thing that I’m aware of nowadays is that when I wake up every morning I’m still alive. I’m not so sure about anything else. I don’t think that one can be, especially if as a musician you look upon what you do as being relatively serious.” Buoyancy is what ties his work together, whether it was the bass-heavy patterns of 'Free Angel', to the more calypso-soaked groove heard on 'Explosive Mouth'. What's more, the album highlights Bolan's prowess as a guitarist, his hooks wet with ingenuity and sonic invention. Even something as trite as 'Nameless Wildness' is given new life during the instrumental segments, the flashy solos recalling Eric Clapton's work with The Yardbirds. 'Carsmile Smith And The Old One', meanwhile, reinforces Bolan's idiosyncratic wordplay, positing him as the missing link between the early Syd Barrett -led Pink Floyd records and the art-pop anthems heard on Lol Creme's work. 1973 was a strong year for Bolan, who was using his well-earned celebrity to push his work, pursuing new genres, and inventing some in the process. Listening to it now, 'Interstellar Soul' is a well-crafted work that avoids pigeonholing. At its heart, it's batty, bucolic, and beautifully British, backed by a chorus that is rife with nonsense. 'T- Rex 1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?' is a must buy.

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T. Rex - T. Rex 1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?

T. Rex - T. Rex 1973: Whatever Happened to the Teenage Dream?

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