Bolan says some true words in this article printed by the NME shortly before the tenth album by T. Rex “Bolan’s Zip Gun” was released.
Hope you like it!
`74 – A bad year for Geniuses
Marc Bolan didn`t have a very good time of it either
By Roy Carr
When photographers are barred from an interview suspicions awake, so that when such a communique came from none other than image-conscious Marc Bolan, I knew that all was far from being kosher. As I was about to discover, the truth behind his sudden bout of camera-shyness is that Marc Bolan appears to be…pregnant!
As he pads around his hotel room on the fifth floor of the Carlton Towers Hotel in mangy “Moon Boots” and a flowing black and purple Mothercare maternity smock, I can`t think of any other way to explain the current obese shape of the body Bolan and the accompanying double-chin; unless he`s swallowed Mickey Finn.
Slugging on the first of a succession of mid-morning beers, Bolan, who after six months of self-imposed exile in America is back in Britain on a four day business trip, momentarily glances at a rather disturbing photograph of his plump personage attempting to slip incognito through Heathrow Air Terminal, and grunts: “Oh God, just look at the state of me. I look like an old totter…”
With the evidence firmly in his grasp, Bolan expresses a wish never to see the offending photograph again. Yep, this kid`s got problems and they`re not all down to counting the calories.
To put it mildly, 1974 wasn`t a particularly good year for Marc Bolan`s somewhat tattered reputation. Come to think of it, neither was `73 a memorable vintage.
A lot of people had long since chosen to write Bolan off as a transitory figure, and each successive T-Rex release (and by Christ, there were enough of them) only seemed to corroborate the belief that Bolan had blown whatever credibility he once possessed, and was content to both xerox and parody existing licks without so much as bothering to camouflage their source. He made Chuck Berry look like a novice when it came to feeding off a single riff. Moreover, he appeared to be ignorant of the fact that he was close to the point of, boogieing himself to oblivion. One can only assume, that at the time, he felt that if he ignored it long enough, then it would go away. Well it didn`t.
Now, for the first time, he`s quite prepared to own up to his mistakes; well almost.
“I agree, 1974 was the worst year of my career,” he admits. “But then, it has been a very bad year for all Libras – John Lennon for instance. (What about Ferry then? – Ed). It ain`t just been a crazy year for rock`n`roll,” he continues, “it`s been a crazy year for the whole world.” You don`t hear Sheik Yamani complaining.
The truth as Bolan presents it for the first time, is that it was quite unintentionally that he became a leading participant in the rat race for supreme success. Sure, it was great fun to begin with (it always is); but after 18 months of staying just one juhp ahead of his nearest competitors, Bolan suddenly realised that he couldn`t continue to meet the recurring 12-week deadline for new product he was committed, contracted and sworn to.
“I really was putting out far too many records.”
Isn`t that what we all said?
“It wasn`t so much a question of maintaining quality, but my mental consistency. After four years of being a hit machine, I`d suddenly become a victim of my own success, and I`d be lying to you if I said I wasn`t. I wasn`t able to give sufficient attention to every aspect of my career. If you want to know, I was getting bored. After 16 hit records the thrill had gone, there`s no two ways about it. I was in a position where I couldn`t sit back and say, `Do I really want to put a single out? Do I have a single?` People were ringing up and saying, `So where is it?`
“When you get to that stage, it`s pretty obvious that all the records can`t be as good as each other. Sometimes, a thing won`t be particularly good, but because an artist is hot it can still sell millions.
“`Paperback Writer` wasn`t as good as `Hey Jude`. Likewise, `Watching The River Flow` wasn`t nearly as good as `Positively 4th Street`, but that doesn`t mean that they were total bummers.
“Now though I love `Teenage Dream` I agree I should have changed drummers before that time.” I didn`t mention anything about drummers!
“I never liked `Solid Gold Easy Action` but it sold half-a-million in England alone and the same goes for `Truck on`.
“Though I had pressures, it didn`t affect my mind completely, even though I have to admit I was going up the wall…over the edge as they say…over the edge and ending up on the hill the other side.”
Seems like in retrospect, Bolan is now willing to concede that he was breaking under the many pressures that automatically arrive with the kind of success he had. The reason that this was never made public at the time, was due to Bolan`s preference to confine any acute emotional distress and deterioration to the strict privacy of his own home and not, as he says, “in Tramps”.
“When it looks like you`re going to make it…hit the big time, everyone is right there behind you. But once you`ve made it, then those very same people just can`t wait for an opportunity to kick you down.
“A year ago,” Bolan confesses, “I was actually beginning to believe what people were saying and writing about me, you know the things: `Is Bolan Slipping?`.”
Well, were they correct, were you slipping?
“Let`s put it this way, I was feeling bored, so obviously it was only a matter of time before the public felt precisely the very same way about me. So I stopped. I`m 27-years old and, though it`s younger than most of the other studs, I`m now a man. I`ve done my five years as teen idol…I`ve been very lucky and I appreciate it, but the pressure is off me now and I could only achieve this by staying away. I no longer want to overcompete; to start worrying what Gary Glitter is doing or what the new Slade album sounds like. If I hadn`t organised myself quickly then I could have suffered.”
Jeez, if ever a man had the ability to rationalise his own misfortune…Some people would say that you left things a little too late?
He laughs. “I know what I`ve got on tape…no less than five hit singles that I`m going to put out this year and you better believe it. Listen, when you`ve fought this hard to get somewhere, you ain`t going nowhere else. If I didn`t think I had a place in rock`n`roll, I`d be out of it like a bullet. But this is my life, I`ve put ten years into it and I think I`m pretty good at it.”
I know people who`ll argue the point.
There seems to be only one subject that both Marc Bolan and his critics agree upon and that`s his vulnerability as an easy target.
“Last year it was me, this year it`s Bowie. There`s no overnight sensations in this game anymore. I must have been a success and a failure at least eight times in my career. I was a star in `65, the Face of `66, the has been of `67 and that`s all before I`d even made it.
“You know, it`s bleedin` lonely to be into that whole superstar thing, but the trouble is that nobody really understands it, unless you`ve either been one, are one, or know a very close friend who is one. And that`s why so many rock stars go over the top and screw up completely.”
So is it really worth all the effort?
“No”, he yells, laughing at the same time. “To a certain point I suppose it is, but mentally…there comes a time when you really have to sit down and question it, and that`s precisely what I`ve just been doing. I wanted to find out where I wanted to go and not where I was going.”
So: Quo Vadis, Boychick?
Well, first there`s the problem of renegotiating a new American record deal which has always been tough territory for the tyke, which demands getting the facts straight about whether or not T-Rex are worth more than a plugged nickel in the States. Bolan has always had this hard-fast rap about how he`s pure dynamite with the American public but, now he`s telling me, that it was only on the last tour that he made a profit.
“This time there was no hope..the Americans have always over-hyped me and this has worked against me.” (This really is own-up time, kids.) “I thought on this last tour if I was going to bomb again, then I was going to make sure I bombed quietly.”
Anyway, as Bolan tells it, T-Rex are now established on the B category circuit at ten grand a gig and not, as he used to infer, the A circuit which is the stomping ground of Zeppelin, Jethro, the Allmans, the Who, and the rest of the Sixth Form. Returning to the subject of Bolan`s immediate future; in March he`s due to commence filming the role of a psychotic killer with sexual and drug hang-ups (what else?) in “Obsession”, alongside David Niven.
“If I`m any good in it, it`s definitely an Oscar touch,” he admits in all modesty. “I`ve always talked about doing serious acting for ages, in very much the same way as Pete Townshend was always talking about writing a rock opera, and you can only talk about something for so long. I`ve always been pretty good at firsts and this looks like opening up a whole new career for me. I mean, I was the first one to point out that glam rock was dead.”
Still Bolan seems to have this uncanny knack of being able to survive where others perish.
“If you don`t believe in yourself,” he insists, “then no one else will. I`m like John Lennon – an egomaniac. I don`t believe in `genius`, but if they exist then I`m one. But tell people that and they`ll call you a bastard.”
But Marc…oh never mind.
Upon reflection, Bolan attributes his will to survive to the fact that he surrendered his virginity at the age of nine.
“Self-confidence,” suddenly interjects a friend out of left-field “was always regarded as the greatest asset by the Greeks.”
“But second only to screwing,” Bolan insists.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Lowell George (Little Feat), Alan Hull (Lindisfarne), Kiss, Doobie Brothers, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, John McLaughlin, The Soft Machine, Bob Pegg, Little Milton, Ian Bairnson (Pilot).
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