Monday, October 07, 2013

Marc Bolan - The Final Word (Video 2007)

Not sure why I hadn't heard of this before, but thanks to BP Fallon's twitter, I now have:

A 2007 BBC Documentary on the life of Marc Bolan called The Final Word. Remarkably, it's on YouTube apparently unmolested by copyright takedowns.

This is a show that appears to have been put together with genuine love for its subject. Narrated by Suzi Quatro, it starts, as they inevitably do, with Marc The Mod, but unlike most goes deeper into fashion further on, beginning with the odd factoid that Marc read a book about Beau Brummell as a child. Beau Brummell being, of course, the first dandy in the underworld. The program then illustrates Marc's influence on clothes and appearance. Zandra Rhodes talks about the clothes of her line that he wore.  There's a short history of glitter make-up and the rather sad detail that his brother Harry has a little vial of his glitter to remember him by. It's interesting to see again the fashions of that time - there's a sort of pastel, monotone quality to seventies clothes that I don't think you can duplicate nowadays. Whether it was the use of natural dyes (or more likely in the seventies, completely unnatural dyes that are now banned because they were poisonous) or a trick of the TV cameras, I don't know.

After Marc the Mod, we get to hear friends', musicians' and Marc's brother Harry's thoughts on Bolan accompanied by clips of many songs. (One thing I dislike about most documentaries is the use of clips instead of full songs. I assume that it is a cost issue, but playing the introduction and first chorus of a catchy song and then cutting away from it is just teasing.) In particular I must track down the sensationally heavy version of 20th Century Boy from an appearance on Germany's Musikladen, the preservator of many, many great seventies performances.

George Underwood, the artist responsible for several of his covers, gives away the secret of the crowded, fulminating cover of My People Were Fair - he ripped off figures from the Gustave Doré bible, and now, armed with this link, so can you! Tony Visconti says that Marc asked him to read Lord of the Rings in order to understand him, and Visconti believes that Marc really did see LOTR as somehow true, and himself as a sort of reincarnated bard from the days when elves walked the earth.

My People Were Fair cover

One of Doré's illustrations

The phrases "selling out" and "went electric" feature prominently as Marc switches from pleasing the hippies to pleasing the pre-teens, which was the bridge he built for me from my brother's music (my brother's back at home with his Beatles and his Stones, we never got it off on that revolution stuff) to music for my generation, which my brother can't stand and will probably be along to say so in comments shortly.  (It's a mystery to me why the world calls us both Baby Boomers, given the fundamental split between coming of age in the sixties versus the seventies.)

BP Fallon talks about the word T.Rextasy appearing to him in a flaming font floating just within reach of his outstretched left hand, a new word shrewdly summing up the zeitgeist.  Several speak of Ringo Starr's film Born to Boogie, the Beatlemane passing the baton to the Rexstatic. There's the split with June Child, the musical and life partnership with Gloria Jones, the Godfather of Punk thing and of course Supersonic, and Marc falling off stage to David Bowie's wide grin on his show Marc.

Marc on Supersonic. The interviewees are not kind about this performance.

And then of course Marc meets a tree, and it's all over, except the memories. Which this brought back in droves - not just seeing T. Rex at Bradford St. George's Hall, but the clothes (and their tones, see above), the Three Day Weeks, the Rolling Blackouts (not, alas, a band), the hot summers, the fairground rides to T. Rex songs.

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