LYLE HOPWOOD·WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2016
I was tagged by my friend Dan on Facebook to post a David Bowie track each day for seven days. This is day 3.
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a Marc Bolan fan. I’ve been a fan since about the time I bought Electric Warrior hot off the presses back in 1971.
Marc, who had always wanted to be famous – he wanted to be the biggest thing since the Tyrannosaurus rex, he said, at least according to Jackie magazine – took to fame like a duck to water. In doing so, he alienated just about everyone he had grown up with, or who had helped him along the way. He famously stopped speaking to John Peel, a special friend who had supported him since the early days at the Middle Earth Club, when Peel did not consider one of his new pop singles worthy of his (determinedly non-pop oriented) evening radio show. Fellow DJ Whispering Bob Harris did not get cold-shouldered, but as best I can recall, he came to feel no need to continue speaking to the world famous object of T. Rextasy, as he’d become arrogant and needy. I didn’t really notice from down here in fandom, though I did notice in the movie Born To Boogie, Marc wears a t shirt with his face on it while standing in front of a larger than life-size cardboard cut-out of himself.
His friend David Bowie also started to baulk at his pushiness. I remember reading a pull quote from Bowie, in 1972, that Marc was “prissy and fey and engrossed in his own image”, which at the time struck me as funny – Bowie was nothing if not fey and engrossed in somebody’s image, though I’ve never thought of him as prissy. That led to a minor high-schooler’s dilemma for me. Keep on liking David Bowie and sort of betray Marc Bolan’s trust, or drop Bowie? The latter, obviously, was the correct immature way to go, so I took it.
I wasn’t one of Marc’s friends, but it did dawn on me after a considerable time that the Boppin’ Elf was not the sunny, dimpled hippy of his earlier incarnation, and even I eventually stopped buying T. Rex records in 1973, between Tanx in January 1973 and Zinc Alloy in February 1974. Ironically, not much later than that, everyone else started liking Marc again. He’d come through his own coke-and-red-wine addiction and gotten seriously into punk; and punk admired him back. He got his own TV show in Summer 1977, which he used to feature himself (natch – the show was even called “Marc”) and a few punk bands. Then, eventually, in September 1977, he featured David Bowie, back on his friends list once again. Bowie sang “Heroes” and looked quite fabulous.
The show was taped on the 7th September, and went out on 28th September. By the time it aired, Marc was dead, killed in a car crash. His second stab at fame was not to be. Since I’d stopped listening to him years earlier I wasn’t aware of his TV show, or of his revival amongst the punks until later.
For his last live TV appearance, Marc and Bowie rehearsed a song called Standing Next To You together and then played it live on stage. About half-way through the song, Marc fell off the stage and the camera caught Bowie laughing at him. Although it was taped for broadcast later, the live gaffe was used in the show, when it finally aired, and played over the credits. It’s always been one of life’s little ironies that Marc’s last TV appearance is of him fucking up, but it’s wonderful that he was back to playing with one of his old mates, David Bowie.
The partial song as aired is on the second video, but you can hear the whole song (sound recording, with visuals added later) in the first link of them rehearsing. It’s clearly a Bolan song – who else would write that riff? Or that hook? – but it’s great to see Bowie smiling and working on playing his guitar here.
Highlights of the show as aired, with David Bowie singing Heroes, among other things. The new song starts at 6’ 10” in.