Marc / The Words and Music of Marc Bolan 1947 - 1977(Double LP (1978) CD (1998). Original tribute.)
At least we Boley fans were spared the worst cash-in excesses and rash of tastelessness that chased the late lamented John Lennon and Elvis Presley into the ground.
It is worth remembering that by the time of the 1978 release of ‘Words ...’ the Anglo-hippy witterings of Tyrannosaurus Rex were about as unhip as could be. Although Bolan had definitely recovered some respect with a new younger punkish audience his popular reputation was still that of fallen teen idol. Meanwhile the Fly label had ceased to exist. Consequently it’s easy to feel that this is not the work of a team who loved Marc Bolan, but that of people trying to work some money out of their assets.
Seen in that hard light this does what it has to do and contains all the Regal Zonophone /Fly hits bolstered by album tracks. Early issues of the original LP included a special postcard that would earn you a free 15-minute interview single. The interviews were by Steve Dixon with Marc from 1973, and Jennifer Sharp, Steve Harley & John Peel from 1977 on the other side. The interviews are not included on the CD reissue.
Even so, ‘Words ...’ is not an outstanding compilation from the RZ /Fly vaults. It falls short of completeness for A-sides, the rarities are too few, and you can’t escape a reverential air to it all. The near fabled ‘Children of Rarn Suite’ is an interpretation because Marc Bolan left it unfinished in his lifetime, an incomplete "sketch" that Tony Visconti fills out with some "light accompaniment" (his words). Sadly it suffers the usual problem of ‘overdubbed’ recordings, the backing musicians clearly lack the direction of Bolan in the studio.
For an official album the credits are all over the place, possibly betraying the parlous ownership of the Fly catalogue at the time. Tyrannosaurus Rex is spelled Tyrannasuras Rex repeatedly on the back cover, and tracks from ‘Beard of Stars’, (‘Great Horse’ and ‘Elemental Child’ but not ‘By the Light of a Magical Moon’) are wrongly accredited to T.Rex. There are other typo’s too. The inaccuracies on the LP are only partly corrected on the CD reissue.
The LP’s gatefold sleeve front cover is a tasteful drawing of Marc’s face, while inside it is spattered with interesting memorabilia, including Marc’s birth certificate and his drawing called ‘Hercules’. The UK budget CD reissue does not include these photos. We are spared any gushing notes beyond a few tasteful words from Tony Visconti on the back cover. A genuine tribute put together by those who understood the catalogue they were trying to sell would have included biographical notes.
As an introduction to early to mid Bolan this is an adequate more than engaging compilation. Boiled down to basics you have a famously unreleased recording and the hard to find John’s Children ‘Desdemona’ propping up otherwise easily obtainable RZ/Fly material. Because of that you may prefer to own one or two of the other (excellent) compilations of the period. However, ‘Words ...’ remains a significant release because of the previously unissued ‘Children of Rarn Suite’ and it should have a place in your collection. ‘Words ...’ was not seen again until the mass reissue of RZ/Fly albums on A&M in 1998, which makes it fairly rare in any form. The cover art is good and with photo’s exclusive to the LP you may feel inclined to seek out the vinyl version.
Track list in LP running order:(With typo’s)
[side one]; Desdemona, Debora, Strange Orchestras, Child Star, Afghan Woman, One Inch Rock, Stacey Grove, Eastern Spell, Salamanda Palaganda, [side two]; Cat Black the Wizards Hat, She Was Born to be My Unicorn, Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles, Woodland Bop, By the Light of a Magical Moon, Great Horse, Elemental Child, Cosmic Dancer, [side three]; King of the Rumbling Spires, Beltane Walk, Ride a White Swan, Hot Love, Get it On, Jeepster, [side four]; Frowning Atchuallpa, The Children of Rarn Suite (previously unreleased track)
Thanks to the wise paw of George Rab for helping with some historic info. for this review.
Post Script comments:
Pierre Champion points out that the version of 'Desdemona' is the even rarer radio play version,
" 'Lift up your skirt and fly' has turned to 'Why do you have to cry' ".
Vampyre added "IMHO this is a great essential collection. I'm happy to have it especially for the 'Children of RArn Suite', 'Desdemona', & 'One Inch Rock' and the cover".
And of course the version of 'Frowning Atchuallpa' is an extract from the original.