T-REX (Brown) LP
Reviewed by STEVE KILBEY (of the Band “the Church”
The first time it occurred to me that delicate-ness could be a powerful
ingredient in rock music; this is one of the most special rock records I
know. In one sense a transitional record, but one where it all became clear
for one dizzying moment and he "stole a scene from Icarus and sussed"
In a glorious hodgepodge of styles; part middle earth, part electric,
Elizabethan, part Chuck Berry and part a genius of his own, Marc Bolan is in
metamorphosis from other worldly fey troubadour to otherworldly fey rock
AND (according to me!) at this point in the journey it all came into focus,
a bewitching synthesis of the caterpillar and the butterfly, like watching
him become himself.
Bolan's warbling still wobbled like a lamb bleating but the lyrics had
sharpened their edge from the C.S. Lewis days of fauns and unicorns (though
elves and elf kings and wizards all make appearances but in rock and roll
terms!?) and Bolan has discovered in himself a budding narcissism as well as
a new precocious sexuality which gives the whole thing a strange
out-of-time-ness, making much of this music almost impossible to categorize
for the neophyte. (In other words a lot of my 16-year-old friends didn't
know what the fuck this racket was)
But I loved it. I devoured it. I studied it. The words, the sounds, the
cover, the lyrics, the credits, the record label. (EMI Orange)
It was the first record I had ever fallen completely in love with (like you
do with another person.) and I quoted, scribbled and appropriated all the
words on this record and I tried to figure out the chords and lacking Bolan'
s curly hair I tried to affect a Mickey Finn look, (He was the dude on the
cover with Bolan, with the white make-up and suitable medieval ambience, he
was however, the bongo player.)
Every song on this album will transport you off to that place in your head
where make-up weaving satyrs cruise the ultra-babes-in-the-woods in Mustangs
while U.F.O.'s and dinosaurs bear down upon the love child populace.
"Summer Deep" is simply one of the most beautiful and romantic things I've
ever heard and I say that still after all these years. The way Bolan
pronounced 'zeeebra' instead of the English 'zedbra' sent me into wondrous
reveries and I too wanted to be in those hills with summer and my coat of
grapes. To me these songs were spells, they were portals out of Canberra
1970 and into a Technicolor anciently Greek souped up modern panorama with
an accompaniment of bongos, primitively spare throbbing bass and delicate
electric guitar versus distorted all het up electric guitar and always lots
of beautiful acoustics.
Occasionally punctuated by Tony Visconti's lovely string arrangements, this
is a minimalist record although not for the sake of it. Bolan was slashing
away the labyrinthine mythology of his last incarnation and was trying out
the direct approach. On "Is It Love" this merely turned into asking over and
over "is it Love that makes us rock?"(Which actually, to a 16 year old me
seemed a perfectly relevant question.)
This was accompanied by Bolan's spare but rock and rolling rhythm guitar
playing which was primitive, sexual yet at times strange and exotic, A
weird, wonderful mixture of tribal pulsing bongos and Bolan's heavily
accented (but what accent was it supposed to be? my friends variously
guessed German, Middle English and Irish but I guess it was some kind of
very affected mock-cockney only all the vowels had elongated and melted
hence rending the words unintelligible without a lyric sheet) sibilant
The album begins and ends with the same song, "Children Of Rarn" which
washes in on a wave of 'Pixie phone' or Stylophone' or whatever that archaic
sound is, before we start to rock.
Jewel is one of Bolan's many comparison songs in which he compares his
"little babe" with sleek and strange combinations of things. The rhythm
guitar punctuates youthfully and shyly yet slyly rampant before collapsing
in a sheet of unravelling feedback.
In "The Visit" Bolan comes into contact with something alien in which "a
shape that was golden and crimson extended a claw to my frame" but at the
end of each verse and its description of the encounter Bolan bleats
pitifully "Truly I do love you" as if the girl will never now see him again.
Or is it that he repeats this mantra so as to focus on his "babe" and thus
endure the overwhelming force of the visitors?
The songs are short and often end abruptly on an unforeseen chord or change
On "Seagull Woman" Bolan creates a most perfect, simple, quietly throbbing,
song over which he lays down one of the most poignant solos ever to emerge
from a gently weeping yet rocking guitar.
On "Suneye" Bolan is again seemingly desperate to assure his "babe", love
you, oh girl, I do love you" which must sound so crushingly ordinary on this
page in black and white but coming from Bolan in his foppish vibrato and in
context with his lush minor acoustic it sets up a list of Bolan's
protagonists from the abandoned "Children Of Rarn" suite/story and giving
each his main characteristic or power.
"Lithon the Black, the Rider of Stars"
"Swan King the Elf Lord the eater of souls' etc which came across to me as
Shakespearean (Midsummer Night or Tempest-ish) rather than simply silly.
On "The Wizard" Bolan (re-) does an old song which tells the
semi-autographical (yeah,sure!) story of Bolan's meeting and studying under
a real life Parisian wizard, before halfway through turning into a hobbit's
idea of what a "free-form freak out" might sound like; Bolan's shrieks, lisp
and undergoes meltdown while a chamber string group churns and bops.
Elsewhere, Bolan invokes some Celtic past with "Beltane Walk" and gets coyly
Beatle-y on the descending cellos and fairytaleish"Root Of Star"
His next album would be the mega-success
"Electric Warrior" where he makes good on all the innovations first heard
here. But in the process he lost much of the delicate-ness. Two albums later
on, on the depressing vapid pathetic "Tanx" he was so far away from this
records spirit and inspiration, it was almost someone else, altogether; but
in 1970 Bolan's painful demise was impossible to imagine ands this record
celebrated youth, love and romance with words and music that are deliriously
close to some idiot-savant muse rudely plucked from Arcadia and sat down in
the 20th century and for a fleeting point in time, he reconciled it all