Rock Scene March 1975
Marc Bolan: Past, Present, and Future
Written by: Alan Betrock Up Down
          It's a weekday night in New Jersey and there's another school day to face tomorrow.  Yet the Joint in the Woods is packed to the rafter with thousands of kids who have come to see Marc Bolan and T.Rex.  The huge parking lot is jammed full, and inside the dressy crowd pushes up to the stage.  Everyone's here to enjoy themselves, paying homage to the very same Marc Bolan declared dormant by much of the mass music media.  His records haven't gotten their share of airplay lately, and some papers view him an aging glitter rock imp.  But words of his demise have been greatly exaggerated, (if not totally fabricated), and he has come back to lavishly prove it.

          The next day, after a fabulous crowd reaction, Mr. Bolan talks exitedly to Rock Scene: "Last night's gig was easily the best we've played this tour.  The kids were great and it was just like when we started out in England.  I haven't played a club-sized gig like that in a while, and it really gave me a buzz.  In Europe we're too big to play really, but fortunately I don't have to go out on the road."

          Marc has been dividing the last year or so between Monte Carlo where he now lives, ("for tax purposes; I still love England - it's made me what I am today - for better or worse..."), and the U.S. where he has been recording recently.  T.Rex has just issued a new album on a new label and Marc explains these developments.  "Warners and I felt we had gone as far as we could go together.  I felt they just didn't know how to promote us, and we were, how should we put this, uh, interfering with my commercial success."  Enter Neil Bogart, head of Casablanca records: "Neil was excited about us and our music, which was really what it's all about - not as a catalogue number or just someone who sells product.  He's got a new label which gives everything a nice fresh feel, and he's hungry, you know."

          Marc's new album is a compilation of sorts, and he likes the way it was put together.  "Zinc Alloy came out in England seven months ago, but not here.  Since then, I went into a studio in L.A. and cut 8 new tracks.  Neil came down to listen and wasn't that excited about Zinc Alloy.  He didn't feel it was my best, and honestly I agreed with him.  There's moments of course, and some songs I'm quite proud of, but since it was put together over a two year span, it's very choppy.  So I took the eight new one's that I'm pleased with, and added on three from Zinc Alloy, to make an album that I'm most happy with.  In Britain I'll just release those eight plus three new ones which I've just recorded, so there won't be any overlap."

          Marc knows that the fans follow his music but feels that the business has given him a raw deal.  "The people in the business think I've had a cold spell since 'Bang A Gong', whereas in reality I've been selling loads of records all over the world.  But if you're not hot in their country, they think you've had it.  I admit that I would've approached America differently after 'Bang A Gong' was a hit here.  I should have come over and followed it up, but we were all just so busy all over the rest of the world, we didn't have time.  I guess it was a bit stupid, really..."

          But Bolan has not been idly living off the fat of the land these past 14 months.  "I've been waiting to time myself here.  Artists go through hot and cold periods so I've just waited for the time when I fely hot.  Meanwhile I've written 5 books, 3 screenplays, and 95 songs, and now I can use all that material on the road."  Not only has Marc been busy creating new material but he is planning to branch out into other areas as well.  "I'm very interested in film and video and want to create something for the environment we live in.  I have the good fortune to be free financially and mentally, so I can stop one thing and experiment in other areas whenever I get the urge.  I want to put down on film what's inside my head.  I don't think that many people have successfully done that..."

          Following a discussion on the merits of two of Bolan's fave filmakers, Fellini (Satyricon) and Jodorowski (El Topo and The Holy Mountain), Bolan continues: "I would have loved for Dylan to make a film of 'Desolation Row' - not a rock and roll film, but an exciting visual presentation of what was going on in his head at the time.  It's hard work and it takes a lot of time, but I really feel that I am going to get involved in that area soon."

          As far as music goes Marc states that he will continue to produce himself ("I find it exciting"), and revealed for the first time publicly his intention to produce other artists for a new label he is planning.  "First thing I'm working on is a very liquid sort of band involving me and a lot of other people called the Cosmic Choir.  I've already cut ten tracks.  I also hope to record Gloria (Ms. Jones, the female backup singer currently in T.Rex) as well, and have already cut three tracks with Gloria's brother.  He's really a good singer, and he's doing some of Gloria's songs>"

          When discussing the penchant the press often has for putting him down, Marc gets agitated.  "The press have never been off my back ever," he says, storming around the room.  "With a very few exceptions I've never had a good review for anything.  All their reviews say 'sounds just the same, piece of shit, must be a Number 1...'  Now what does that mean?  Those records aren't made for those people so why should they review them???"  Then as an afterthought: "I don't read the reviews anyway."

          How did it all begin?  "I started in a rocker type band called John's Children, which was great, but we really couldn't play.  So I started Tyrannosaurus Rex which began quite simple musically.  I wanted to slowly progress and build up.  All my early albums have two or three hit singles on them, but I didn't find my own beat.  They just weren't done the right way.  It took me until 'Ride A White Swan' until it all came together, and I was back to rock n roll where I had originally started at. John's Children sounded just like T.Rex does now.  It was obviously meant to be that way."

          Marc is at ease, glibly discussing his life and hard times when I mention the release of some early studio tracks put out in England.  "Those were all demos done when I was 17 or 18 and never meant for release." Marc grimaces.  "Track were originally going to issue them two years ago with a cover package made to look like it was new stuff.  That would have been the ultimate ripoff, so I put an injunction on it.  Now it's alright that they're out because people know what they are, and they are represented as such.  They're interesting for me to hear now, 'cause I could never get those tapes before."

          After releasing two singles for Decca in 1965, Marc teamed up with producer Simon Napier-Bell.  "I went to Simon because he was very hot with the Yardbirds.  He put me in the studio and said 'Go', but that was it.  We usually just did one take and then went on to the next one.  The tracks I did with Simon were actually done at the end of a Yardbirds session where they did 'Happening Ten Years Time Ago'.  They were merely done as demos to sell the songs.  Only one 'Jasper C. Debussy' has any real semblance of production (with John Paul Jones on bass).  And two of them 'Rings of Fortune' and 'Beyond the Rising Sun' were the first Tyrannosaurus Rex sessions, done as demos as well."

          Marc leapfrogs a decade explaining his current ambitions: "I'm glad to try and make it here now on the music rather than a few years ago on the hype.  I like America, especially recording-wise, and intend to spend a lot of time here.  The makeup thing got so stupid and boring after a while. I'm glad I cut myself off from that a couple of years ago.  Every group was going around looking like circus clowns.  I'm still concerned with glamour to some extent, but certainly not all that glitter shit."

          Bolan's new stage show illustrates that point.  It's a slim-lined T.Rex this time around, with only one guitarist, two keyboards and one backing vocalist.  The songs are tight and Marc states that the unit gives him a new freedom onstage.  "This is the first time we've really rehearsed before a tour.  We have a new band, a new show, and have really structured the whole thing.  Last time out we had two drummers, a sax section, and backup singers.  But the whole thing just got too messy. I'm really happy with the band as it stands now.  I suppose we headlined too soon on the first tour, and didn't really have a tight show, so perhaps that was a mistake.  But now I don't think that there's any band that can wipe us out onstage!"

          Influence-wise, Marc doesn't follow any one group in particular but has been tuning into the radio regularly.  "Top 40 is very tiring, but I've been listening to a lot of soul stations.  Black producers are just rediscovering the use of sound, like the rock n roll producers did after Sgt. Pepper's."  It's interesting to note Bolan's new found soul influence, because his old mate David Bowie is exploring that area as well: "Bowie and I have the same influences, but it just comes out sounding different.  In fact, when David and I got together a few weeks ago and suddenly totally related for the first time after ten years, we sat down and played records for each other.  Amazingly we all had the same records... black soul records."

          Talk turns to John Lennon's latest LP and the obvious soul and rock 'n roll influences abounding there: "David, Me, and Lennon have always had the same backgrounds.  In the old days, we all listened to the same records - always exactly the same.  But it all comes out different now, and that's what makes it so interesting.  In terms of doing a 'Pinups' type album, I still can't find that many songs I want to play that I can't rewrite better.  In fact, I've already finished off four new tracks for my next album."

          So Marc Bolan, the self proclaimed "rock and roll kid" is back, and has come full circle. He now seems poised to lead us, along with the likes of Bowie and Lennon, into a new directional surge in modern rock.  And as one observer so aptly put it, "When things are rocking like they did tonight; You know for sure it's gonna be alright."   Ain't that the truth.


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