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Audio Autopsy, 1971: Marc Bolan and T. Rex ⚡"Electric Warrior" LP
A glitter/glam rock linchpin, the 6th Bolan/T. Rex album inspired many who followed, and informed such diverse genres-to-come as punk, metal, and even disco fashion.
In 2000, T. Rex obtained a whole new audience of fans, as the motion picture, Billy Elliot (starring charismatic Jamie Bell as the dance-loving title character in his debut role), chose to feature many of the British band’s songs:
In fact, of the five T. Rex songs featured, three were originally stand-alone singles (“Ride a White Swan,” “I Love to Boogie,” and “Children of the Revolution”), and two were taken from the T. Rex (Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn) album, their sixth, Electric Warrior (Reprise/Warner Bros. Records/U.S., Fly Records/UK, 1971, produced by Tony Visconti).
“Cosmic Dancer” opened the Billy Elliot film (set in 1984 England) as the music bed underneath the title and credit sequence. “Bang a Gong (Get it On)” was the other EW song featured on the soundtrack.
Jamie Bell was 13 playing 11 when shooting commenced in the North of England in August 1999. Whatever Bell, himself, knew or thought about T. Rex at the time, I was 16 (and just starting my junior year in high school) when I first heard Electric Warrior upon its release in September 1971.
In fact, I had been on them since the year before, and the release of their self-titled album, their first with their newly-shortened (from Tyrannosaurus Rex) moniker.
The Warlock of Love
Such a fan was I, that I even acquired Marc Bolan’s now-rare poetry book, The Warlock of Love, and at 14, packed it along to a church youth group retreat the summer of 1969 (and understood not a word, but loved showing it off)!
In October 1972, I saw T. Rex’s concert at the Houston Music Hall, as they were touring to support their follow-up to Electric Warrior, The Slider. I believe the opening act was fellow Warner Bros. act, The Doobie Brothers:
As Bolan once revealed about the album’s third track, according to Songfacts: “I don’t sing the old rock ‘n’ roll songs myself. I prefer to change the words and make new songs out of them. That’s all ‘Jeepster’ is.
“The music to ‘Jeepster’ is based on a Howlin’ Wolf blues song called ‘You'll Be Mine,’ which was written by Willie Dixon,” Bolan explained.
“As is typical of many blues songs, there are many sexual references in the lyrics, which are made in the form of car metaphors.”
Producer Tony Visconti recalled to Uncut in 2016: “When I heard ‘Jeepster’ I thought, ‘Wow, this is seriously different!’ I know there’s an old blues song he copied, but he threw in some dramatic melodic and chord changes. The song’s in A, but the chorus jumps to the key of C – no one in the ‘50s did that!”
According to Visconti, also, the stomping and rattling at the beginning of the song “happened organically and was not overdubbed: A very enthusiastic Marc Bolan jumped up and down as he played guitar, shaking the microphone stands. These kind of noises are typically considered mistakes, but in this case they added to the feel of the song.”
But wait, there’s more! London-based Shazam Entertainment created the music-recognition app Shazam, and initially launched it only in the UK. On April 19, 2002, using pre-launch software, “Jeepster” became the first-ever Shazamed song! Back in those days you had to dial 2580 to Shazam a song, then they’d text you with its details!
For decades, I’ve been touting that T. Rex show I saw in ‘72 as the loudest I’ve ever attended! Not that it was bad (although it was painful), it’s just that Marc must’ve had (with little to no bass response) his Les Paul’s volume and treble in Spinal Tap mode:
For the skeptical, please know that I’ve seen, live in concert (among many hundreds), 1970 Led Zeppelin, 1974 The Who, early-’70s Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, over a dozen Ramones shows, and the Sex Pistols in a club setting. I’m more than familiar with LOUD!
Great video of “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” from England’s Top of the Pops. The bad news: They’re synching to track. The good news: Elton’s on piano (Marc, Elton, and Ringo were huge buds back in the day. In fact, ‘twas Ringo who took the sleeve photos for the band’s The Slider album), and while not there, you get to hear Flo & Eddie (The Turtles’ Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) doing the helium-filled high harmonies on the chorus!
One of my favorite songs on Electric Warrior is “Rip Off.” While the phrase means, basically, a theft, I had heard, too, that the phrase was slang for a bedroom activity, and as an angst-ridden 16-year-old, I was titillated by lyrics like, “Bleached on the beach, I wanna tickle your peach, it’s a rip-off,” and “See the girl dance in her man-skin pants…” And, then there was “Raw Ramp”! Get thee behind me, hormones!
Here’s an audio/vid with rare in-studio false starts, studio chatter, and aborted takes on “Rip Off,” with rare pix, as well:
The Encore: Marc “Gets it On” in his element, fully live, incredible….and greatly missed:
Mitchell Stirling’s “The Run Out Grooves” takes you to Marc and T. Rex’s next album, 1972’s The Slider:
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