The Boogie Man Cometh

- Page Three -

by Bruce Harris (1972)

"I made Electric Warrior for America," Bolan declares. "I never expected it to happen for us in the States until Electric Warrior and I knew it was going to be a big album. It just had to be or we would never mean anything here. I also felt that "Bang a Gong" was going to be a hit. It took a long time, and had that not happened, I'd have been really surprised, because it was so American."

"Bang a Gong (Get It On)", like all of T. Rex's recent singles ("Jeepster", "Telegram Sam", and "Metal Guru"), was a Number One record in England and all over the rest of the world, but it has thus far been the only T. Rex single to go Top Forty in America. The sense in which it is an American record, like the Electric Warrior album from which it came, is very basic to its sound and style. It is as gritty and teen-sexual as the best goose-rock records ever: The Troggs' "Wild Thing", The Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together", or the Doors' "Hello I Love You" in which Morrison's line,

Sidewalk crouching at your feet
Like a dog that begs for something sweet

is a true precursor of Bolan's own erotic cartoon style.

But, more importantly, in the tradition of Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys and Dylan and Morrison and other indigenously American artists, Electric Warrior is very much a "car" album, in which cars and girls and the violence of sex and death in the back seat are virtually interchangeable concepts, ultimately metaphors for each other:

Just like a car
You're pleasing to behold
I'd call you Jaguar
If I may be so bold

From the "Jeepster" to the girl who's "built like a car" with a "hubcap diamond star halo" to the "dragon head, machine of lead, Cadillac King", Bolan is working with a specifically American symbol, one that has been an essential rock image for Americans. He once went so far in a song called "Suneye" to define his band as "Tyrannosaurus Rex, the eater of cars." The albums, and especially the singles, that originally made Bolan in England were more concerned with "white swans" and "metal gurus".

The extent to which Bolan draws heavily from this aspect of American rock imagery is perhaps even more apparent on his latest album, "The Slider", on which car-girls (complete with "car-scars" between their lovely chrome-white thighs) are "armor plated chairs" and "silver-studded sabre-tooth dreams" and "pollution machines" and "Buick Mackanes" and "two finned Caddys". Bolan croons it to us over our car radios,

I have never kissed a car before
It's like a door

Bolan's world is in part the world of Morrison's "L.A. Woman":

Cops and cars and topless bars
Never saw a woman so alone

When Bolan Choogles in "Rip-off": "I'm the King of the Highway", isn't he really asking for a date with his ideal mate, Morrison's "Queen of the Highway"? Isn't he really trying to capture America's highways?

And still, like King George III, Bolan is having a hard dime winning the thirteen colonies and their lands. Bolan's eventual superstardom in America seems assured, however: his manic grace, his animal dynamism, and his "corkscrew hair" are ultimately irresistible, and as the new British musical invasion gains impetus, Bolan will become one of its leaders. Remember the first few Beatles singles didn't make it in the States either... "Hype might work, but it doesn't last very long", Bolan says. "Longevity is so important. I'd rather be a road-sweeper than a one-hit wonder."

Bolan seems to realize at this point that just because a single hits big in England is no reason to believe it will also click in the States, which is such a different market. Bolan's acceptance in Europe makes records like "Metal Guru" phenomenal smashes, while in America, where he is not yet truly a superstar, records such as that are decidedly NOT Top 40 material. "I'm not prepared to release any more singles here just because they're English hits," he says. "If I want to have an American hit, all I have to do is sit down and write one. It'll take me five minutes."

Now, after his second not-so-successful headline tour of the States, Bolan is counting on the film, "Born to Boogie" and T. Rex's new single, "Children of the Revolution" (which he feels is "doubly right for America") to do the job. Like "Rip-Off", the new song has those intriguing political implications that seem to stimulate the American psyche:

You can bump and grind
It's good for your mind
You can twist and shout
Let it all hang out
But you won't fool the Children of the Revolution

I would have known that was Marc Bolan even if I read it on a Men's Room wall at a 42nd Street movie house.

Ironically, "Born to Boogie" will have a "G" rating, making Bolan suitable family fare for that great American mass known as the "general audience". "It's not a rude film", says Bolan, "though, of course, everything I do is rude. But don't tell them that and they'll never know. It's cheeky... cheeky little Bolan."

Next: Marc's Thoughts on Fame...

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