It has been a while since I last printed an article with this influential artist on the blog, so here goes once again. I hope you like it.
T. REX on the wane? An emphatic no comes from the lips of Marc Bolan as he unveils the new Zinc Alloy persona for his first British tour in two years.
From bopping elf to rock and roller to teen idol, Bolan says:
I`ve never been just a pop star
Feature by Steve Peacock
Well, whatever happened to the teenage dream? It came true, that`s what, and then Marc Bolan veteran of the 21s, self proclaimed king of the mods, and latterly sage of the hippies, became a teen idol.
He was fond of saying that he`d known it would happen all along, that he knew he was destined to be a star, that it had been planned that way. It was four years ago?
Somehow it doesn`t seem as long as that, but it`s getting on that way that Tyrannosaurus Rex became T. Rex and electric. “Ride A White Swan” hit the charts, and Marc Bolan dressed up, made up, and waggled his arse into a million teenage fantasies.
It`s true, he did lead that particular revolution, shimmying from mystic romanticism with stars in its hair to million dollar romance with glitter round the eyes: and he took the mainstream of British pop with him – always rock and roll, that broadest of musical definitions, but a revolution in style.
Now he`s saying “Glitter Is Dead” – a good headline, but a rather strange statement if you`ve been watching `Top Of The Pops` lately. What it means is this: “Of course, showmanship and glamour will never be dead, but the impact of what that change meant is over. As far as I`m concerned, it has no use any more.
“If you went to a talent show – do they still have those things? – you`d find that ninety per-cent of the groups would be in satin jackets and make-up; that`s what I mean by the impact being over, and if I was managing a group now I`d avoid it like the plague.”
Mind you, that good and faithful satin jacket served him well. Tyrannosaurus Rex was a reasonably saleable project, but interviews were invariably at the top of an old house off Ladbroke Grove, with a bed in one corner and a stove in the other. These days there`s the well-appointed West End office with gold discs on the wall, and he can off-handly remark “Oh, I never have to worry again, anyway if you`re talking in those terms” and move swiftly on to something else.
See, appearances can be deceptive, especially with a man who says he never plans, and who makes a point of living for the moment. With his singles automatically zipping into the charts, his face in all the teen-mags and his concerts sold out to a mass of waving arms and screams – and him so obviously enjoying it – you began to wonder just what had happened to Marc Bolan. You`d dug him, enjoyed his music, liked his style, but it all seemed a bit distant and smacked a bit of the instant hero. Was he blowing everything for the instant buzz of being this year`s craze?
Well, T. Rextasy did fade: but Marc Bolan ain`t no fallen heart-throb, sitting back with his feet on a pile of royalty cheques while his investments provide a handsome pension. The tour which started at the weekend marks the return of T. Rex to the British stage after an absence of two years, some changes in the line-up of the band, now known as Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow, and a new approach to presenting the music on stage. Where he used to rely on the basic strut your stuff and hear `em scream approach, this time the presentation will be more subtle, with more extravagant lighting: more of a total stage-show concept.
And the music? Well, he`s been developing the use of a particular sound – mainly on record, but with the augmenting of the basic band with extra singers, horns, two drummers (Dave Lutton and Carmen`s Paul Fenton) and guitarist Jack Green, you can expect Zinc Alloy`s band to sound a lot fuller, and a lot different. Though they`ve been away from England, and they`re coming back in a new style, it is something that`s been evolved through working in America, Japan and other far flung reaches of the world.
“It`s true, I did get a bit tired of playing concerts at one time,” he says, “but I haven`t just been lazing around. We`ve been round the world twice since we last played here, and I`ve been writing, recording… you know. It wasn`t a conscious decision to leave England alone either – it was good that we did, but it took care of itself really. I spent practically a year doing the new album, and at one stage I had 33 tracks down for it…do.”
And the fact that last year wasn`t as successful for him as the year before in terms of chart singles neither worries him nor makes him think that T. Rex are on the wane. He points out that he only released two singles last year, says that although he`s quite prepared to admit that “Truck On” wasn`t his strongest single, it also got lost in the pre-Christmas rush, and he says that his audience is still very definitely and visibly there. “The reason I was late this afternoon was because I couldn`t get out of the house because there were about 100 girls outside.
“The thing is that I know what`s going on, and the kids know what`s going on, so it really doesn`t matter what other people think, what the media think.”
But again, he recognises that while there is a strong T. Rex following still, with his last few things he hasn`t really caught the attention of people who might have bought the odd T. Rex record that caught their fancy, but don`t automatically buy everything. “There are probably 200,000 people who are super-dedicated to T. Rex, definite T. Rex fans, but there are another 400,000 or so who`d buy a record if they liked it, or come to a concert if they liked the last album or something. That`s the same for any group – it all depends on what you put out.”
In a way though, it is fair to say that the new tour, the single “Whatever Happened to The Teenage Dram” – which will surprise you – and the album all add up to something of a re-launch. He did cool it for a while, even though it happened as much by circumstances as decisions, and the Zinc Alloy thing shows a definite maturing of both music and approach, and what appears to be much more positive thinking from Marc than came out at the height of the teen-mania.
He says he`s never felt so free as he does now, admits that although he obviously enjoyed having his face all over the colour mags and the win-a-chance-to-meet-Marc thing “it was all getting a bit too close to Donny and David for comfort. Any rock star can do that.”
But equally, he says he wouldn`t change what happened – it was something he conceived and dreamed when he was nine years old, it happened, and he dug it. “Of course, for the first two years I was really enjoying it, anyone would, but once you`ve done that… I just didn`t want to lose sight of what I originally did it for, which is to play music. It`s nice to be screamed at. Jagger still likes to be screamed at, and I do too, but there`s more to it. I`d still put a recording session before anything else, but two years ago I wouldn`t have.
“Whatever happened I wouldn`t change and I`d like it to happen to everyone who wants it, but what I am is a craftsman. I`m a craftsman at what I do, and whether people like it or not is none of my concern.”
T. Rex lives on, but so too does Marc Bolan as a solo artist. The official title these days is Marc Bolan and T. Rex As Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow – which gives him plenty of scope for surprises and a range of different ideas around the basic T. Rex axis. The new single is in effect a Bolan solo track, cut in America with 40 piece orchestra and friends, including War`s Lonnie Jordan on piano, and he`s working on ideas for a solo album alongside future T. Rex records. He hadn`t intended “Teenage Dream” as a single, but record company people picked up on it “and who am I to fight destiny?”.
The search for a sound was much of the reason for the album taking so long. They recorded in various places, and it wasn`t coming out as he`d heard it in his head, until one time it just happened.
“I had a definite conception of what I wanted, most of which I get in the mixing anyway, but suddenly I got it, it was there. Mostly it`s got a lot of spaces – kind of intergalactic Neil Young, very under-produced in a way. But compared to the last two albums, it`s very wordy too – I think “Teenage Dream” the best record I`ve ever made lyrically, and I just wrote that down in the studio, just wrote it down without thinking about it. I got what I wanted on the album, got what I`d been looking for, and I`m proud of it. Unintentionally, it`s very different.”
Destiny strikes again. It`s difficult to say before you`ve seen the tour and heard the album, but from what he says and from hearing the single, it seems that Bolan pulled back from becoming last year`s face, and has – as he says – regained his sight of what he originally did it for. The glitter hero stage has given him the opportunity to ease back and get on with as many projects as he`d like, and apart from T. Rex he`s about to set up his own label and produce and release music of a kind you might not necessarily associate with him.
He hopes T. Rex will be accepted as a band of musicians, as people who play music and happen to be successful. “I hope we`re seen as not just going out to make a hit record – that`s a different part of the business, a perfectly valid one, but I`m not involved in it.
“Anyway, I`ve never been just a pop star.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Dylan, Status Quo, Ralph McTell, Incredible String Band, Kiki Dee, Carl Palmer, Jethro Tull, Pointer Sisters.
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