|Bolan & girlfriend Gloria Jones... awwww...|
"Wear A Tall Hat"- T. Rex and Marc Bolan
It's late February and I'm noticing that it's unseasonably chilly for Phoenix. Seriously, the breeze that blew through here on Sunday was like a postcard from my hometown up north. There's still frost on the car when I leave for work in the morning. I suppose this lingering winter is better than the record-busting heat we had last summer, and I suppose as such that a little gratitude is in order. But I'm looking forward to spring. Spring in Phoenix, pollenfest notwithstanding, is a beautiful thing. Temperatures are blissful and the air smells like the newborn orange blossoms. Springtime means trying new cookie recipes and listening to bright, playful music with the windows open. And I haven't made a springtime playlist for a long time that has been without a pinch of T. Rex.
T. Rex might seem like an obvious and natural extension of my Bowie enthusiasm. There is a lot of overlap in the fanbase. Bowie himself was a fan of Marc Bolan. They were on-again, off-again best friends and bitter rivals since they met in the '60s, when Bowie still went by Jones and Bolan by Feld. Marc Bolan found success much sooner than Bowie with his band Tyrannosaurus Rex, later shortened to T. Rex.
Their aim was to be "bigger than the Beatles", and by some accounts, for a while at least, they succeeded. T. Rex, at the forefront of the rising wave that was glam rock, made some really fun music. Their songs contain a kind of wacky sci-fi-laced sexuality, mixed with the swinging rock and roll jive that's so characteristic of the rock of the 1950's and pop of the '60s. In fact, Bolan's voice suggests to me something of Buddy Holly. (That exaggerated vibrato? Tell me that's not a Holly-ism in platform boots and satin bell-bottoms.)
Another thing Bolan shares with Buddy Holly? A fatal accident. Nothing catapults a band to cult stardom than the tragic demise of the charismatic So-and-So from Such-and-Such (I can hear my dad saying this about a certain Seattle band from the '90s... ha ha). T. Rex hadn't changed remarkably much, stylistically, between their emergence and Bolan's deadly car accident in 1977, so I'm not sure how long they would have been able to compete in the face of things like New Wave and post-punk. But whatever "could have beens" exist or don't exist, T. Rex's catalog is still smart and funky, and their following is absolutely rabid.
Fun fact: the sycamore tree in southwest London, blamed for decades as the tree that took out MB, was slated to be felled by city ordinance, but the TAG (T. Rex Action Group) purchased the land upon which it stands to save it. There's a bronze bust of MB there now, and a plaque, and ribbons festoon the tree. The site is now recognized as a "Sight of Rock and Roll Importance" according to the English Tourist Board. You have to write to TAG and donate to them to legally display a picture of it, so you'll just have to google it yourself. :)
I think it's this combination of that old-school catchiness and the glam-rock brightness that I really like about T. Rex. The music is effervescent and the lyrics are silly and sly, and I find it refreshing. It's a sort of energetic twist on a classic feel-good structure.
For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" from Electric Warrior
2. "Ride A White Swan"
3. "Dandy in the Underworld" from Dandy in the Underworld
4. "Baby Boomerang" from The Slider
For Your Playlist: Side B
1. "Country Honey" from Tanx
2. "Jupiter Liar" from Futuristic Dragon
3. "Girl in the Thunderbolt Suit" from Bolan's Zip Gun
4. "The Avengers (Superbad)" from Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow
Check it out on my Spotify under the title "Wear A Tall Hat".
And in closing, I'd like to dedicate this post to the lovely blogger Ashley G.. She and I got to talking at the blogger function held at Sweet Cakes in Mesa on Friday night, which was hosted by Katie and Camille. She told me she doesn't like classic rock, which shocked the daylights out of me, but said she really liked "oldies". So, Ashley, I give you T. Rex. An excellent cocktail of both. As for all the other lovely ladies I met, if you're out there listening right now... thanks. For those about to blog, we salute you.