Saturday, December 27, 2008

Electric Warriors

Electric Warrior doesn't have anything
to do with this post, but it's one of the coolest covers ever,
so here it is.

One of the bands I've dug the most over the years had an unusual line up – a guitarist/vocalist and a percussionist, and that's it. No bassist, no rhythm guitarist. They had a full sound though, due to great production and the guitarist's blues-based, Hendrix-loving power-chords and feedback ethos. The albums echoed to the rafters, though the vocals were a little high and fey for the sheer decibels produced by his instrument. He was pretty, high cheekbones in a wide face and a body that had a little meat on it, not like most of the pipe-cleaner men that fronted the average rock band. His hair was black, unruly, uncombed (and possibly backcombed or discombed) and he had a mischievous grin that would melt ice. He himself was of the folkie persuasion, but a love of rockabilly, Marshalls and Les Pauls eventually won out.

The band was T. Rex, and the album was also called T. Rex. Actually the last album by Tyrannosaurs Rex, A Beard of Stars, counts too. The folkie guitarist/vocalist was of course Marc Bolan, and the year was 1970.

That 'video' is actually of an oddity – an earlier single, King of the Rumbling Spires, from 1969. It has more enthusiasm than actual execution in evidence but I've loved it for years. If you think about the bands Bolan was seeing and competing with at the time – Cream, Led Zeppelin – trying to do it their way made sense. In the end, after the T. Rex album, he got a bassist and a proper drummer (the type with a drum kit) and made four-piece pop music - with five people, as he kept the percussionist up front on congas, trusting Mickey Finn's cut-glass cheekbones and straight hippie hair to lure in a few more chicks. (He was right.) The next album was Electric Warrior, the one which had a cover of pure, distilled rock and roll imagery, one of the finest covers ever produced. Just a long-haired guitarist in flared jeans, with a Les Paul, in front of a Marshall stack, in black and gold.

Now, over the past couple of days I've been listening to the White Stripes, an unusual band in that it features only a guitarist/vocalist and a percussionist…oh, just read the first paragraph again.

(Updated to mend links, 7/17)

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