Marc married poetry and music with a simplicity that has never been matched. With his good looks he was always going to be a star, the only question was whether the music would sound as good as he looked – it did and still does.
Marc Bolan’s first musical influences were rock and roll’s Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry but by the early 1960s he had become a Mod, hanging around their haunts and latching onto their music and lifestyle. After a brief period as a model Marc’s musical career started in 1967 when he joined ‘John’s Children’. While the band were a successful live act they sold few records and after the inevitable split Marc started to weave the first of many myths around him. He alleges that he moved to Paris to spend time with a wizard, learnt to levitate and was given secret knowledge.
On his return Marc concentrated on his song writing and formed Tyrannosaurus Rex with Steve Peregrin Took (percussion). While they recorded a number of albums and singles they were very much an ‘underground’ success, only emerging on national radio via John Peel.
Trying to develop his first hit Marc replaced Took with Mickey Finn, changed from playing acoustic to electric guitar and shortened the band’s name to T.Rex. The first hit came with 1970’s release, ‘Ride a White Swan’; suddenly the press had a new good looking, fashionable singer supported by a hit single to write about – Marc became an instant star. Both his musical and fashion style declared the start of Glam Rock and while it is arguable that he invented the genre he can definitely be considered one of its founding fathers.
Marc’s style of poetic (arguably simplistic) lyrics coupled with catchy rifts and memorable hooks seemed to have a magnetic attraction to the charts as, over the next two years, he had hit after hit. By the end of 1972 Marc was at the height of his powers, his success was on such a scale that during the year, alongside appearing in Ringo Starr’s ‘Born To Boogie’, his record sales accounted for approximately 6% of all sales in the UK market.
While 1973 saw his all conquering presence falter, and the disbanding of T.Rex, it also saw him release one of his most famous tunes ‘20th Century Boy’. His time as a constant at the top of the charts was at an end but he still managed a hit each year under his own name for the next four years – impressive for someone who was considered at the end of his musical powers.
Unlike many established artists Marc embraced punk when it appeared on the scene, touring with the Damned and opening himself up to a whole new generation of fans. With his return to the spotlight forecasting a possible upturn in his career the future looked good for Marc. Whether he would have reclaimed his assault on the charts will never be known as on September 16th, 1977 he was killed in a car crash.
- The Tea Party sequence that features Marc in ‘Born To Boogie’ was filmed at John Lennon’s Ascot estate – the same location used for Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ video.
- A 1970 single release by 'Dib Cochran' (“Oh Baby”) – includes Marc, Tony Visconti and Rick Wakeman. Mick Ronson was also at the recording but didn’t have his guitar so he just watched.
- It is rumored that Marc assisted Alice Cooper in writing ‘Hello Hooray’. Marc was very much a guitar for hire it the US at the time and one indication that this rumor may be true is that in the song’s credits thanks are given to a ‘Reggie’ – one of the aliases that Marc used to use when signing into hotels.