Monday, October 08, 2012

"Marc", TV series 1977

In 1977, Marc Bolan was quite successfully attempting a comeback. After a massive string of hits and teen popularity in the early seventies that had led journos to dub the phenomenon "t rextasy", Marc spent two or three years in the wilderness (the exact time depends on how much you reckon his later hits), getting high and getting fat. His marriage disintegrated when he fell for singer and songwriter Gloria Jones, as one does, and by 1976 the writing appeared to be on the wall.

But something about Punk appealed to Bolan - after initially writing it off, as most hitmakers did, he decided he liked its spirit. (In fact both my two main dinosaur loves, Led Zeppelin and Marc Bolan, were in the unusual-at-the-time position of supporting the movement that had vowed to sweep the old guard away.) In February 1977, Bolan invited the Damned to support him on tour.  According to biographer Mark Paytress, in Twentieth Century Boy, Marc dove into a diet and fitness regime, working on Dandy in the Underworld and appearing on the pop show Supersonic, his lifeline to youth culture, until it was canceled in March.

The punk rejuvenation did a lot for Marc, if not much for his record sales. It was also parlayed into obtaining his own show to replace the lost Supersonic, a six-episode Granada Television programme in the 4:15 after-school slot.  With characteristic reticence, Bolan named the show Marc. He envisioned Vera Lynn and Elvis Presley, but got what he was given for such a timeslot.  Between those teenybop acts, he managed to smuggle in his beloved New Wave acts, and for the final show he booked his old friend and rival, David Bowie, who was at the time stratospherically famous. He agreed to do a song (Heroes) and a duet with his host.

Paytress describes the bittersweet meeting of the two famous ex-Mods and the song they wrote in the afternoon before taping began. The production ran behind schedule to the extent that the finale was in doubt - was there to be no duet? But with moments to spare, Marc got on stage with Bowie. As Paytress puts it,
He should have been elated, but the pressures of the day had taken a visible toll on him. There was a look of genuine sadness in his eyes.... Bowie counted the group in things under way. But...Bowie missed his vocal cue. Eventually, he found his way in, singing, "What should I do...", just as Bolan tripped into his microphone and off the stage. The camera zoomed in on Bowie's resigned grin...Bolan had bowed out of his final television appearance, his final public performance in fact - an ungainly exit...which somehow crystallised the unfulfilled promise of Bolan's last few years.
With great timing (since I'm in the middle of a Glam Rock reminiscence), Marc has become available on YouTube (Episode 2 on Vimeo).

Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6

Hat tip to the fabulous Dangerous Minds blog which unearthed this major gem and provided this afternoon's viewing pleasure!

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