Rolan Bolan Interview
Born to Boogie
(Thanks to Ivan K for sending it in)
Sunday Times; London; Nov 29, 1998; Jennifer Asiama;
When Marc Bolan died in a car crash in 1977, he left behind a little
boy with a lot to live up to. By ROLAN BOLAN
I was two when Dad died at the age of 29, so for me there were never any
memories of him. I vaguely remember spending my second birthday in the
hospital with Mum and, although nobody ever sat me down and said, "Your
dad's dead", somehow I just seemed to know. I grew up in LA thinking that
every child's father was a rock star. I grew up with kids who had parents
who were much more famous than mine, so there was never that pressure. And,
unless you were from Europe, you didn't really understand how big a deal my
dad was. Mum's family raised me to be myself and to find my own identity.
They were always telling me how much he loved me.
I was lucky to have both my mum's father and grandfather in my life.
Although I'd lost a father, I gained several. After the accident, a lot of
his stuff - clothes, instruments - was taken from the house by friends and
family, and if it wasn't for a few photos of him with Mum, all of it would
have been hard to believe. It wasn't until I was 18 that I saw footage of
my father, and it blew me away. I was like: "Wow! That's my dad."
Mum's voice was injured in the accident - she was driving their little
- but she's still making music as a producer. She's a black woman who was
working all the time in the 1970s - I mean, in those days she had people
like Jermaine Jackson saying, "I want Gloria."
Mum and Dad met when she was in the musical Hair on Broadway and was at
friend's house playing piano. Someone came in saying, "Guess what, T Rex
are in town!", and she was like, so what? She said that Marc then walked in
the room, but he was being bothered by a big afghan hound, so they didn't
get a chance to talk. I have so much respect for her because she had it
rough. I mean she lost my dad and she lost the one gift she was given - her
voice. I think raising me was what made her survive.
I guess I always knew I would end up in the music industry. For a long
while, Mum refused to buy me a guitar because she knew that when she did it
would all be over. The pressures have been easier to deal with because of
my dad, but I question my own ability sometimes. Some say they hear him in
my voice, others say they hear Mum. I've created my own style - yet you can
still hear his influence. I think if he were alive he'd probably want to
play in my band.
It's strange, but there are times when I feel him spiritually. It can
happen when I walk into a department store and hear one of his songs
playing, or when we're rehearsing in the studio - it's like there's a
presence. I also felt it the first time I visited the scene of the accident
by Barnes Common in south London. That's definitely a place where a tear
comes to my eyes. Life's an Elevator is my all- time favourite of his. I
love hearing Mum and Dad sing together.
The unveiling of his memorial last year was 20 years of emotion crammed
into two days. It was really tough, and I still haven't digested that whole
experience - it's going to take time. I don't think I'll be going there
again, though; I'd rather go to the crematorium and put flowers down. I've
been coming to London for the past four years to do that.
Mum's never been back to the crash site, because it's still really hard
her. I don't think she blames herself for what happened.
I once said to my band how cool it would be if we handed out tambourines
the crowd. Months later, I watched Ringo Starr's film Born to Boogie and,
bam! There was my dad and his band doing exactly the same thing. I was
like, "Isn't there anything I can do..." I think that was the day I saw
myself in him. It's the little mannerisms that you pick up from your
parents: the way you talk, the way you dress. My dad's old friends came
backstage to see me when I performed in London a couple of weeks ago, and
they all teased me about how much I dress like my father - I guess I am
quite flamboyant. My Mum says I even have the same toes as him.
I'd say the most valuable thing Marc Bolan left behind was the ability
me to learn from his mistakes and to do the things he wanted to do. He
really wanted to go to college and, when I graduated, I felt I'd laid that
ghost to rest. He also left me with the opportunity to become a musician,
as well as his name to carry on the legacy - and, of course, it has opened
One night David Bowie, my dad and their producer, Tony Visconti, were
sitting around discussing children's names. Bowie had called his son Zowie
Bowie, so Dad said he'd call me Rolan Bolan - and that's how my name came
about and I'm proud of it. I throw it around every chance I get.
Right now, Dad's still a chapter in my life that people always want to
about. At the moment I'm comfortable with that, but one day I'll have my
own story to talk about.
I know I've lost a great deal, but I could have done a lot worse. *
Interview by Jennifer Asiama