Marc Bolan and T. Rex’s 10 greatest songs of all time, (Credit: Gloria Stavers / Copyright Danny Fields), Start typing to see results or hit ESC to close, Denial of death: 35 years of Stuart Gordon film ‘Re-Animator’, The Story Behind The Song: ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ the Ramones ultimate boredom anthem, Rare and previously unseen images of John Lennon on the streets of New York City, Drag queens, strippers, love and lust: A raw photographic tribute to the subcultures of the 1980s, Sanyu nude painting sells for record $21million at Sotheby’s, A 215-track playlist chronicling John Lennon’s career, From John Lennon to Bob Dylan: Lou Reed’s 100 favourite songs of all time, From Brian Eno to Sufjan Stevens: A playlist of chill out music to keep you calm. ’20th Century Boy’ is undoubtedly his call to charge. Re-titled for America, it was the first song to make waves across the pond for T. Rex. “It is a festival of life song. As the first T. Rex hit single, it is replete with the big beats and memorable hooks that would define the newly minted band and introduce the world to glam. Elsewhere, demos and rehearsals do round up a few more items of interest, but the entire package is really recommended only to collectors who, having spent the last decade or so in a land with no record stores, haven't already been tempted by much the same material in a wealth of other packagings.
Like his counterpart David Bowie, Bolan was able to transcend genre tribalism and connected with people in a whole new way. Somehow belying the R-rated nursery rhyme simplicity of their approach, his lyrics were curiously effective and affecting. A few of the live recordings, too, seem to hail from hitherto untapped sources, although the only disc that really counts as "invaluable" would be the one that delves into the sessions for 1971's Electric Warrior watershed and hauls out the hitherto unheard title track -- which shifts so quickly into the so-familiar "There Was a Time" that one wonders what all the fuss has been about. The first major release under son Rolan Bolan's stewardship of Marc Bolan's back catalog, Total T. Rex is a six-disc, 72-track collection that rounds up a mountain of material from 1971-1972, largely live but also including radio sessions, demos, and even a bonus DVD's worth of live footage. Inspired by Chuck Berry’s track ‘Little Queenie’, the song has become a piece of classic rock iconography. Lost to the world far too young, the real sadness comes when you understand that just months before his untimely death Bolan had finally gotten himself back on track after years spent lost in a glittered kaleidoscope of ecstatic highs and tempestuous lows. Bolan himself, always a latent hippie warrior, had begun his career with a series of forgettable “Summer Of Love”-era releases under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex. In 1969, Marc Bolan parted ways with percussionist Steve Peregrin Took, hired drummer Mickey Finn, secured the services of Tony Visconti behind the board, and began the band’s transformation from acoustic to electric. His signature two-note guitar riff, as heard rumbling off the low E string on “Bang A Gong (Get In On)” is as individually characteristic and wonderful as Bo Diddley’s shuffle or Chuck Berry’s up-the-neck intros. but I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T. Rex”. “Cosmic Dancer” is all wide eyed wonder and no small amount of existential terror, as the singer strikes a strangely confessional tone while explaining that he has ALWAYS been dancing, “danced himself right out of the womb,” and in fact will ultimately dance until he dies.
Not one of Bolan’s biggest hits, they’ll follow shortly, but one of the songs that showed off exactly what he could do.
A bumping bassline which hints at the classic R&B of old, all punctuated with Bolan’s poetic lyrics and his undeniably charismatic delivery—half waif, half potent poet. So, sit back and take a listen to one of the most jam-packed pop songs you’ll ever hear. “My brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his Stones/ The joyous bounce of this insistent, infectious gem is the sort of perfectly manicured pop bauble that only Bolan and the band could carry off and make it appear this easy. Nothing about “Get It On” should work — from the multiple saxophones, to piano virtuoso Rick Wakeman’s talents used only to play the occasional glissando, to Bolan’s preposterous lyrics (nobody, not a sex therapist, not a best friend, should ever offer the two pieces of advice “Get it on, bang a gong” in the same breath — who owns a gong, anyway?!
Other artists have been more influential, but have any been more imitated? It is, quite simply, one of Bolan’s most beautiful and heartening compositions, perhaps the song where we see the most naked and vulnerable piece of Bolan’s soul. From the Beatles with the Maharishi to Pete Townshend with Maher Baba, British rock stars of the early ’70s were drawn in waves to the sketchier sides of Eastern philosophy. Their particular revolution wasn’t against an oppressive class system or an outrage over Vietnam, but instead created an ersatz army of social outcasts who didn’t fit into the cookie cutter roles of gender or behaving as typically macho or feminine.
What was revolutionary about T. Rex was its boundary pushing openness — a fully recognized bending of gender concerns that considered the spectacle of fey, glitter-spackled waif-boys as fully normative two years in advance of Transformer and The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.
From the song’s most poignant refrain “I was dancing when I was 12” which hints at a life waiting to be given the spotlight, to the track’s incandescent groove, it’s almost impossible to dislike this song.