Friday, September 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, Marc Bolan!

Happy Birthday to Marc Bolan, born September 30th, 1947.

He would have been 59.

This is his story, according to my impeccable source, the Jackie comic strip The Magic of Marc (in four parts, 1972). One day young Marc is ill in bed when his mother brings him a book about dinosaurs. Marc immediately knows that one day he will be as big as T. Rex. By nine years old, he is practicing Elvis moves in front of the mirror with a guitar, which he cannot yet play.

His parents give the restless Marc some freedom and at 16 he goes to Paris and meets a wizard who teaches him magic and prophesies that there will be a star in Marc's future. Marc appears on Ready Steady Go, with Jimi Hendrix pictured hanging around backstage, as he prepares for his shot at stardom. But it was not to be! There is a setback! The backing band is out of tune and out of sync, and the demoralized young Bolan goes home. But meanwhile, in a pirate ship three miles offshore – to the rescue! It's John Peel with his Perfumed Garden Show, playing Marc's new waxing Hippy Gumbo. John introduces Marc to the Middle Earth club, Marc finds Steve Took, and Tyrannosaurus Rex is born. "We'll be the biggest thing to hit the music scene!"

In the summer of 1967, Tyrannosaurus Rex are playing in Hyde Park, hippies are rapt, and his manager introduces him to his secretary, June. For a split second, apparently, time stands still. From that moment Marc and June are inseparable. After their wedding, Marc meets Micky Finn and in 1970 we see Marc and June feeding swans in the park. Marc says, "If Ride a White Swan doesn't make it, I'm packing it all in."

The rest is history, or at least I hope it is as I never bought part four of The Magic of Marc, and now it's a little too late.

We do know that Marc Bolan, who died on September 16th, 1977 after a car driven by his girlfriend (not June) crashed into a tree, had never driven a car himself, because, according to Jackie, he had a nasty spill from a scooter on his way to Brighton in the early sixties and vowed never to do so.

In fact, I do know a bit more about Bolan than I read in Jackie 34 years ago. One thing that strikes me is that the early records, glossed over by Jackie's barrow-boy-to-pop-phenom account, were remarkably well-produced. They weren't much good, mind you, but they had excellent production values. Bolan, despite his appearance, was always a canny businessman not a long-haired, drug-addled hippie, and he evidently knew how to find the best producers. He recorded under several names and the results, while disturbingly weird, had sound, arrangements and backing that were the best Tin Pan Alley had to offer. I say weird because no amount of Cliff Richard or Billy Fury-style production can begin to cover the eccentricities of Bolan's voice. He was evidently never going to be a pop star on Tin Pan Alley terms, but that mustn't have occurred to him. Eventually he just changed the terms and in doing so trashed the Tin Pan Alley system. Simple once you've thought of it.

Ride a White Swan was a hit, and there were many more after that. Bolan was my first crush. I saw him live once and I still have all the singles. Truck On, as I believe I am supposed to say at this time, Tyke.

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