Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Mark Feld, 30 Sep. '47, London; d 17 Sep. '77) Pop singer, songwriter, bandleader. Same primary school as future Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid; in school group with Helen Shapiro. Male model at 15; pursued pop career as Toby Tyler, then single 'The Wizard' as Marc Bowland on Decca earned spot on TV's Ready Steady Go!; flop follow-up 'The Third Degree' saw first use of name Marc Bolan. Met Simon Napier-Bell (pop svengali who steered Yardbirds, later Wham! to success). Turned down offer from Yardbirds; joined John's Children '67, reportedly wrote their mini-hit 'Desdemona' in 25 seconds, BBC banned it. Formed acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex with percussionist Steve Peregrine-Took (b 28 July '49, London; choked to death '80); fans of Tolkien's Hobbit books, they were stalwarts of the London hippy scene; disc jockey John Peel read a fairy story on their first LP, My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair, But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows '68. (Peel wrote in the Observer '85 of sitting onstage at Albert Hall reading a 'half-baked story written by the late Marc Bolan, a performance which in a more discerning age would have resulted in serious insurrection...') But Bolan's distinctive, quavery vocals had a fey charm, i.e. on early single 'Jaspar C. Debussy'. Second album Prophets, Seers And Sages, The Angels Of The Ages '69 was wholly acoustic, with childlike poems and delicate guitar, but hippy charm did not hide Bolan's love of classic rock'n'roll (he'd been a Bill Haley fan as a child). Transitional LP was Unicorn '70, first real hit 'Ride A White Swan' (no. 2 UK). One-off single 'Oh Baby' same year credited to 'Dib Cochran and the Earwigs'; rumoured to be in conjunction with David Bowie; it wasn't, but they were close friends, shared producer Tony Visconti.

Bolan published a book of poetry, Warlock Of Love; Took left (later joined Pink Fairies); Bolan hired bongo player Mickey Finn (b 3 June '47), featured electric instruments on Beard Of Stars; shortened name of group to T.Rex, became premier UK pop star with lineup incl. Finn, bassist Steve Currie (b 21 May '47, Grimsby; d '81), Bill Legend (b Bill Fifield, 8 May '44, Essex) on drums, backing vocalists Flo and Eddie (ex-Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman), churned out electric boogie for kids: 'Hot Love', 'Get It On' (as 'Bang A Gong' in USA), 'Telegram Sam', 'Metal Guru' were all UK no. ones; albums Electric Warrior and The Slider '71--2 also no. 1; top five hits with 'Solid Gold Easy Action', 'Children Of The Revolution', 'Jeepster'. Music press called T.Rex 'new Beatles'; headlined gigs with 'T.Rexstasy!' With nonsense lyrics and the relentless thumping T.Rex sound, the first generation after the Beatles had found its idol. The hysteria was captured on film by Ringo Starr in semi-documentary Born To Boogie '73, but teenybop fans are fickle: competition was David Cassidy and the Osmonds; after 'The Groover' '73 Bolan's star waned: 'New York City' ('75, with line 'Have you ever seen a woman coming out of New York City with a frog in her hand?') was his last top 20 hit. He revamped band with girlfriend Gloria Jones (vocalist who did original version of 'Tainted Love', later Soft Cell's first hit), Dino Dines (ex-Beach Boys) on keyboards, retaining Currie; TV series Marc was '77 showcase for emerging punk bands the Damned, the Jam, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Generation X; Bowie was a guest: punk brought rejuvenation, as many were Bolan fans; he toured with the Damned as support '77, T.Rex now incl. Herbie Flowers on bass, Tony Newman on drums, Dino on keyboards; made proficient LP Dandy In The Underworld, started a family with Jones, but was killed in a car crash near Putney Common, the offending tree still pointed out by everyone who passes, a stone placed there '97. Songs covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, '80s 'supergroup' Power Station; one suspects that his posthumous fame is due to his huge kiddie fan base and will not outlast that generation. Acoustic Warrior on Telstar compiled '70s tracks from US radio, A Wizard, A True Star 1972--77 on Edsel UK had 92 tracks, Electric Warrior Sessions on Pilot the '71 band jamming, alternate takes etc, all '96--7. More from Demon incl. the last T.Rex concert in Portsmouth Live In 1977 and out-takes series T-Rex Unchained.