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20th Century Boy
by Clint Wayne
2007-09-16 10:13:08
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I’ve heard it said that everyone has a period in their life that they call ‘My Time’. Having left school in the ‘Summer of ‘69’ it was the first time that I realised that my life and destiny was in my own hands. Financial independence had enhanced my teenage years with music, alcohol and girls all on to my ever expanding horizons. Shopping for the latest trends in clothes at London’s indoor Kensington Market, my prized Afghan Coat became my constant companion and my frizzy mop of hair remained uncut for three years.

Music, as every young buck of every generation will agree, is quintessential in their young adolescence. Whether it was being locked away in my bedroom with my brother’s ol’ ‘Dansette’ record player playing at full volume or at the seemingly endless parties held whenever someone’s parents were away music and alcohol fuelled good times were the sole aim.

Although my taste in music was to eventually mature, for me ‘My Time’ was the early seventies and ‘Glam Rock’ in particular with its outrageous costumes, ‘post hippie’ lyrics based on sex, science fiction and teenage revolution backed by the thumping beat from Noddy Holder’s Slade, Brian Connolly’s Sweet, Roy Wood, Bowie and, the all time ‘King of Glam’ himself, my own teenage idol Marc Bolan, the eccentric frontman of T. Rex. I cannot believe that it is now 30 years since his death.

Owing considerable debt to the rock pioneer influences of Elvis, Chuck Berry and his own hero Floyd’s Syd Barrett, much of the credit for this genre’s appeal of glamour and raunch is quite rightly given to Marc Bolan the then musical messiah. For three short years he dominated the charts and ruled the airwaves and discos with his classics ‘Hot Love’, ‘Get it On’, ‘Telegram Sam’ and ‘Metal Guru’ with only ‘Jeepster’ failing to give him five consecutive number one UK hits, although it was justifiably kept off the top spot by Slade, but his other number twos ‘Ride a White Swan’ and ‘Solid Gold Easy Action’ were only eclipsed by novelty songs.

Bolan’s emergence heralded the start of this new era of British music which could be appreciated by both serious rock fans, legendary Radio One DJ John Peel was a big fan, and pop loving teenagers as well. With his ‘Carnaby Street’ clothes, corkscrew hair and glittering cheekbones adorning his fresh boyish good looks he was the new darling showman of rock probably somewhat unwittingly inventing this new style of music that was to become ‘Glam Rock’ restoring a brash and exciting new sound to a rather stagnant chart. His later top hats and infamous feather boas made him the ultimate showman.

His album Electric Warrior released in 1971 was a monumental success and is without doubt the essential T. Rex album to own becoming a multi-million copy seller praised by critics and loved by the fans.

Bolan married poetry and music together like no other artist with the utmost simplicity that has never been matched with fantastic wordplay and nonsensical lyrics, such as Metal Guru’s “Silver stud sabre toothed dream”. He sang about guys called ‘Golden Nose Slim’, ‘Purple Pie Pete’ and ‘Jungle Faced Jake’. Who knows! Who cares! We just loved it.

Bolan’s music found a new generation with the release in 2000 of the intriguing movie Billy Elliot with its pulsating T. Rex soundtrack. Who can ever forget Jamie Bell and Julie Walters bounding around the gym to ‘I Love to Boogie’ and young Billy bouncing on his bed to the evocative lyrical painting of ‘Cosmic Dancer’ as Bolan sings “I danced myself right out the womb”. He probably did!

Bolan died just two weeks before his 30th birthday when his speeding purple Mini, driven by American singer and girlfriend Gloria Jones, struck a tree after spinning out of control in Barnes, south-west London, less than a mile from his home.

Ironically, Bolan never learnt to drive fearing he would die like James Dean, although he did own a white Rolls Royce. At his funeral a floral tribute of a White Swan in recognition of his breakthrough single was the centrepiece with an array of stars, including Rod Stewart, Steve Harley and his friend David Bowie, in attendance. The tree has become a shrine to his memory ever since with a bronze bust being added to mark the 25th anniversary of his death, unveiled by his son Rolan.

Marc Bolan was a five-foot two-inch dreamer who looked and played like an elf-like minstrel and whose bizarre voice and songs were dismissed as just another fleeting pop-star. He had a near mystical aura and belief in his destiny who became the biggest pop-star of his generation and whose untimely death like many before him just added to the magical mystique.

As for me, his memory is simply his songs played regularly on my favourite radio station and in my son’s name Asa Marc, given in fond memory of my teenage idol.

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Asa2007-09-16 10:53:49
That's a coincidence! My middle name is also Marc after Marc Bolan.

edu2007-09-16 12:41:53
Great Marc Bolan!

I'm not sure about the Asa / Bolan connection. I can't look at you the same way now. Honor your middle name and get some platform shoes and make up.

You are sleazy, indeed!

Emanuel Paparella2007-09-16 14:47:16
Indeed, one has to go back to Wagner's times to find the same passion for music (music supplying the very meaning of one's life as one listened to it)exhibited by the rock-adoring generation; still an ongoing phenomenon. But whether it enhanced a genuine cultural life or deafened one to it remains a bone of contention. Here are three dissenting voices: that of William Buckley, Solzhenitsyn, and Allen Bloom (but not necessarily mine):

“Solzhenitsyn at Harvard pronounced rock music intolerable. Allan Bloom wouldn’t have disagreed, but suggested the futility of protesting it on the grounds that it is as unquestioned and unproblematic as the air the students breathe. Bloom was even fatalistic about the failure of a countermovement. ' ... rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire - not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. Rock gives children, on a silver platter, ...everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later. …In quiet corners of civilization one dares express concern for what MTV is, but there is scant attention to what it does. This is what liberal education is meant to show. But as long as they have the Walkman on, they cannot hear what the great tradition has to say. And, after its prolonged use, when they take it off, they find they are deaf. It required a singular deafness, visual and moral, to find entertainment in the MTV spectacular” (William F. Buckley).

Simon2007-09-16 18:11:14
A tree wrecked T-Rex.

Thanos2007-09-16 22:53:58
Clint, the last three years I often wander if we grew up in the same neighborhood or we went in the same school!!! :D

Clint2007-09-17 11:11:26
Thanos - You're not the 'Pavarotti' look-a-like rebel kid who our teacher made sit in the front of our class so he could keep a constant eye on you and stop you ogling all the pretty girls as they passed by the window are you?

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