1967 - Tyrannosaurus Rex form
First Gig Disaster
Marc retained the services of Napier Bell and placed an advert in June 1967 for people to join his new band.
Just before his twentieth Birthday, Tyrannosaurus Rex was formed. One of the people who would answer this advert
was Steve Peregrin Took, still aged seventeen. Initially the band was a five-piece. They gave one performance at
the Roundhouse before immediately breaking up in disarray. It was noted that Marc was under the impression he could
form a band as they would magically be able to play with no rehearsals. Naturally it didn't work. Then to compound
things Track reclaimed the electric equipment leaving Marc with only his acoustic guitar.
Steve Peregrin Took
Steve Took's 'real name' was Stephen Ross Porter. He was a former Shooter's Hill Grammar School Boy whose childhood was blighted by two things. Severe and very painful eczema (according to his mum) and had to go to school in bandages. This earned him the name 'The Leper' at school, although school friends said he didn't seem to mind (outwardly) and at school Steve was a very popular, likeable, somewhat 'bookish' boy, with a talent for making everyone laugh with a quick wit and impersonations. Steve's childhood was also blighted by the break-up of his parents' marriage.
Steve was a 'serious' 'Tolkien Buff' and although it has been suggested that he changed his name at the request of Marc there is no evidence to support this. Took himself placed an advert in the Underground paper 'Gandalf's Garden' for people to form a 'Tolkien Club' and gave his name as 'Steve Faramir Took', showing that he was an avid fan, toying with a Tolkienesque name. Steve's signature also progressed from a 'normal' style to a 'monogram' signature, a style used by Tolkien and finally, he was sufficiently Tolkien-influenced to name his first band (after Tyrannosaurus Rex) 'Shagrat' - an Orc Captain from Lord of the Rings.
THE SUCCESS OF MARC BOLAN WITH TYRANNOSAURUS REX:
IMPORTANT FACTOR ONE - A WORKABLE 'TEAM'
Steve Took's girlfriend recalled "Steve always said that he answered this ad and he met Marc and they really liked each other, really hit it off ". So, with the other three band members gone, Marc Bolan, and Steve Peregrin Took continued as a duo. They began producing eccentric pastoral and folk tinged ditties steeped in Tolkienesque mythology, with spiritual homages to Gene Vincent thrown into the whimsical mix for good measure. Marc began living with Steve Took for a time and although Took has a full drum kit when he met Marc he had to sell it so they could afford to live. They also busked on the streets of London. As Steve Took recalled "as it happened a pair of Bongos sufficed". It's unclear where the bongos came from. There are a number of stories. It seems most likely they were 'found', probably at someone's flat. Whether they were actually 'lost' to be 'found' is another matter!
THE SUCCESS OF MARC BOLAN WITH TYRANNOSAURUS REX:
IMPORTANT FACTOR TWO - TONY VISCONTI
Marc was very lucky during the second half of 1967. In Steve Took, he found a musician talented enough to take on the complete arrangement of all of his songs and a musician able to learn new instruments quickly. Although many were percussion instruments, by 1969 Steve Took was also playing Bass Guitar in Tyrannosaurus Rex. Then came a very fortuitous meeting with young producer Tony Visconti who was intrigued when he saw them play live: "I was impressed by this strange little person, seated on the floor, singing in what I thought to be something other than the English language". Visconti would not only produce all the Tyrannosaurus Rex albums but many of the T-Rex ones (and all the 'hits').
THE SUCCESS OF MARC BOLAN WITH TYRANNOSAURUS REX:
IMPORTANT FACTOR THREE - JOHN PEEL'S SUPPORT
Crucially, Tyrannosaurus Rex found an early champion in Radio One DJ, John Peel, who gave them plenty of radio exposure from mid-1967 onwards and took them to his gigs in his Mini. When offered a DJ gig he insisted that Tyrannosaurus Rex went with him. He eventually read stories written by Marc on two of their albums. Peel was a close friend of Marc's until 'Get It On' in the summer of 1971. Peel refused to pay it - classing it as too 'commercial' and Marc felt insulted. Of course by then Marc was famous and moved in a different circle of friends. Suddenly, he was too busy to return Peel's calls.
THE SUCCESS OF MARC BOLAN WITH TYRANNOSAURUS REX:
IMPORTANT FACTOR FOUR - JUNE CHILD
The Final piece in the 'Jig saw' which allowed Marc Bolan to gain the success which had so far eluded him arrived in Marc's life in the Spring of 1968. Or rather he arrived in her live - June Child. Marc approached Blackhill Enterprises, Pink Floyd's management company. June was their publicist. It was love at first sight and after spending four days sleeping in the back of June's van, they moved into their first home - 57 Blenheim Crescent, Ladbroke Grove. Initially, the couple first rented a cold-water attic flat (the name means as it says with no hot water in the flat apart from that boiled in a kettle). The rent was £2 8s. 6d (UK Imperial money - Two Pounds, Eight Shillings and Six Pence = £2.421/2 pence).
June recalled that often they "had difficulty getting that together". Later they were able to move down to the floor below, to a better flat where Marc made a corner of the living room into his own studio - "Toadstool Studios". The photographer Pete Sanders moved in their former flat. June Bolan recalled: "It was a very good time. I was very happy. It was the first time Marc [properly] lived away from home, and he loved the freedom."
It was fortuitous that Peter Sanders moved into their old flat because as an up and coming photographer he was able to take many early photographs of Marc. His photographs graced the first five album releases by Tyrannosaurus Rex/T-Rex. Peter Sanders also took the photographs of Marc and Steve performing in the Middle Earth Club, London which TAG used for its album release 'There Was A Time'. This recording, their debut at the Middle Earth was made on September 23rd 1967 - just nine weeks or so after the pair had first met.
1968 - 19th April -The First Single - 'Debora'
Unlike previous record releases when Marc was solo, working with Steve Took added a completely new depth to the music. Marc wrote the songs, but it was Took who was left to do the entire arrangement. With the production of Tony Visconti and June helping to carry Marc's 'drive' forward, their first single, 'Debora', was released on the 19th April 1968 and reached the Top Forty at #34. 'Debora' stayed in the charts for seven weeks. Not a bad result for a first single! The combination of Marc's guitar and slurred, 'Larry the Lamb' singing style, with Steve Took's bongos, assorted percussion (which often included children's instruments such as the Pixiephone) and superb harmony vocals gained them a devoted following on a thriving underground scene.
1968 - 7th of July - The First Album - 'My people were fair and had sky in their hair ... but now they're content to wear stars on their brows'
Following on from their single was their first album, the name of which was 'lifted' from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings 'My people were fair and had sky in their hair ... but now they're content to wear stars on their brows' was made on the tiny budget of £400. It was released on the 7th of July 1968 and cruised into the Top Twenty at #15.
1968 23rd of August - The Second Single - 'One Inch Rock'
Just over a month later a second single 'One Inch Rock' was released on August 23rd. This remained in the charts for a respectable seven weeks and reached the top thirty at #28.
1968 - 14th of October - The Second Album - . 'Prophets, seers and sages, the angels of the ages'
A second Tyrannosaurus Rex album was released in 1968. 'Prophets, seers and sages, the angels of the ages' came out on October 14th and strangely failed to enter the charts although it contains some fine tracks. However, to have produced two singles and two albums in their first full year together and to have three of the four chart is not a bad way to start.
In addition to releasing two albums and two singles in 1968, Tyrannosaurus Rex played a multitude of gigs and festivals. They appeared regularly at 'Middle Earth' where the TAG CD was recorded.
1968 - Other Things - Syd Barrett
An interesting side note: Marc was a big fan of Syd Barrett. In fact when his wife to be June was Syd's girlfriend Syd had his hair in corkscrew curls. When June first met Marc he had shorter hair combed flat and it was at June's suggestion that he grew it and encouraged it to go curly. June remaking her new boyfriend in the image of her old one perhaps? Also, while Steve Took was in Tyrannosaurus Rex he performed with Syd Barrett on several songs recorded for EMI. The most notable one is 'Rhamadam' which has never been released and is a 'Holy Grail' to Barrett and Took fans alike.
1969 - January - A single 'flops'?
Although 'Pewter Suitor/Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles' released on January 14th 1969, their first single of 1969 fails to chart this may well have been due to the post-Christmas 'lull'.
1969 - February - Tyrannosaurus Rex Fan Club is formed @ 16 Bruton Place
Despite the last single and album failing to chart there was sufficient interest for a Tyrannosaurus Rex fan club to be started. It was based at 16 Bruton Place which was also the office of Lupus Publishing Company, Marc's publishers and of 'The Bryan Morrison agency' who handled Tyrannosaurus Rex in the late 1060's.
1969 - Marc and Steve - The Jackie 'Pin-Ups'
Through well attended gigs and now a fan club Tyrannosaurus Rex were popular. So popular in fact that Jackie, the 'bible' for Teenage girls featured Marc and Steve twice in 1969. Once as a 'pin-up' in the magazine itself and for September in the 1969 calendar! Interestingly September was the month of Bolan's birth and also eight years after this calendar was produced - the month of his death.
1969 - Going Electric
Although it is often written that Marc 'went electric' at the same time Tyrannosaurus Rex's name was cut-down to 'T-Rex', this isn't really true. Marc bought his white Fender 'Strat', in March 1969 and during the final six months with Steve Took the duo had been playing some electric tracks with Took taking on the bass guitar (see left). The last single with Steve Took, 'King of The Rumbling Spires' released in July of 1969, shows that Tyrannosaurus Rex, were dropping their folky, hippy sound to go electric.
1969 - Warlock of Love Poetry Book + Marc and 'Borrowing'
This purple patch also saw the publication of The Warlock of Love, Marc's book of poems, derided by critics but which nevertheless became the best-selling poetry book of its time. Marc sent the sci-fi writer, and period Special Guest with Hawkwind, Michael Moorcock, a copy of Warlock of Love when it was published. Michael, delightful chap commented that some of the poetry text was clearly recognisable as parts from his own books.
A couple of years after Warlock of Love was published Jeepster was released by Fly which was a very close 'take' on a song by 'Howling Wolf'. Marc himself admits it to Roy Wood on a posthumous album release "A Wizard, A True Star". Not only does Marc use the 'riff' but some of the lyrics too! Marc had an amazingly creative brain. However, as June said "Marc was a sponge", he 'borrowed', or as he preferred to think of it - 'be inspired'! Another source was the 1958 song "The Walk" by Jimmy McCacklin. This single reached #7 when Marc was eleven years old in 1958. Marc would reincarnate Jimmy McCacklin's "The Walk" as Marc's "Beltane Walk".
1969 - May - 'Unicorn'
When their third album, 'Unicorn' was released on May 18th it reached #12.
This was the highest album chart position achieved so far. Although the last Bolan/Took single 'King of the Rumbling Spires' released on July 25th only reached #44, does that mean the audience didn't like a heavier Tyrannosaurus Rex?
Most likely NO!
The single 'King of the Rumbling Spires' is a powerful track with Took's thundering Drums and Marc's electric guitar. It is more likely to be a cumulative effect of a lack of promotion and poor timing. The single was released just as the duo set off for America so they weren't available to promote it and the Bolan/Took split meant that it couldn't be promoted after the tour. So a good song got 'lost' as is sometimes the case.
The success of Tyrannosaurus Rex - Don't under estimate it.
Although it is often said that Tyrannosaurus Rex didn't 'make it' in a commercial sense, the chart positions, particularly of the albums clearly shows they had a decent fan-base within the Underground. Unicorn reached a very respectable #12. The sound was not commercial enough to generate high chart positions for the singles.
1969 - Bolan Took Rift - an end to Tyrannosaurus Rex 'proper'
By 1969 there was a clear rift between the two halves of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Bolan and his girlfriend June Child (ex-girlfriend of Syd Barrett) were living a quiet life while Steve Took was fully embracing the anti-commercial/community spirited/drug taking ethics of the UK Underground scene centred around Ladbroke Grove. Steve was also attracted to the most anarchistic elements such as Mick Farren/Deviants and members of the 'Pink Fairies Rock 'n' Roll and Drinking Club'. By now Steve was writing his own songs and wanted the duo to perform some of them. Marc, seeing himself as the creative force behind the duo refused. Probably the final straw for Marc was when Took 'donated' two songs to Twink's Think Pink album and ignored warnings by the management to stop seeing members of the hard-core UK Underground as it was not good for the band's 'image'.
Possible Jealousy over Syd Barrett?
There was probably also an element of jealousy regarding Syd Barrett. Marc hero-worshipped Syd. That was the reason he's visited the offices of Blackhill where he'd met June, because they were Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd's management. June said Marc "Bolan "adored Syd" and that of Blackhill Marc felt "if Syd's there I want to be there too". On the other hand, Steve actually worked with Syd in 1968. This must have galled Marc, who from an early age was focussed on becoming 'A Star'. Anyone with the drive to become famous has to believe in themselves, which means of course having a large ego Marc would have therefore thought Syd should have been working with him rather than Steve.
There was a great amount of cross-band activity between Underground bands including The Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, Soft Machine, and The Deviants. They invaded each others gigs, formed a 'Freaks' Cricket Team and spent time enjoying the new mind expanding nature of the Underground Music, drugs and culture Scene. Steve Took was in the thick of it. Steve and Syd were both members of 'The Pink Fairies Rock 'n' Roll and Drinking Club' a bunch of underground radicals. One of these leading 'radicals' was Mick Farren* who in an interview recalled "Steve would drag Syd along to events".
It was the late 1960's and expanding your mind was something which was seen as positive. Forward thinkers in psychology and psychiatry were recommending the use of LSD. One such man was Timothy Leary who coined the immortal phrase "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out". When President Richard Nixon said that "Timothy Leary was the most dangerous man alive" that simply made what he said seem more relevant to people in the Underground who saw Nixon as an example of all they were against. The one noticeable absentee was Marc, who was happy to stay at home with June. Common 'interests' between Syd and Steve was a love of acid (LSD) and love of experimenting with 'strange noises'. Together with Steve's impeccable ability to keep time these two factors were probably reasons why Syd chose Steve for his recording session with EMI.
* Quick side-track to Mick Farren
Mick Farren was (and actually still is) the Lead singer of 'The Deviants' who, in the late 1960's were more 'punk' than many 1970's punk bands ever were! Mick Farren has spent much of his life writing. In the 1960's he worked for IT (International Times). In the 1970's he went 'main stream' for the NME. Mick has also produced many sci-fi and vampire books as well as having written many non-fiction books. These include biographies on Elvis, plus other subjects mostly relating to the 1960's and 1970's such as the History of 'The Black Leather Jacket' and 'A Decade of Rock Music posters'. He, along with Steve Took was a founder member of the original line-up of 'The Pink Fairies' with Twink. His first solo album featured Steve Took as 'Shagrat The Vagrant' and was approved by the London Hell's Angels! His other claims to infamy include leading the assault on the fences ("Tear down the fences - Music should be free!") at the first Isle of Wight Festival and disrupting the 'David Frost Show' to protest about the environment.
The departure of Steve Took
Steve Took has, for countless years been blamed for the unsuccessful US Tour. Two principle reasons have been given: 1) His behaviour on stage and 2) his drug-taking on the tour. However, he was sacked before these events had occurred. Before the US tour. He only went to the US because he was contractually obliged to go. As you can well imagine Steve's heart was not in it.
1) Violence on Stage
The acoustic duo were billed along side loud electric acts Steve Took commented later that the audience often didn't even notice they'd started so in an "Iggy Pop" manner he calculatedly stripped to the waist and whipped himself with a belt while shouting at the audience to take notice! This most certainly got the audience's attention! It is interesting to recall and compare Marc's on stage chain wielding antics while he was in 'John's Children'!
2) All the drugs Took took
Steve Took could certainly consume drugs, particularly acid! But then he'd had a lot of 'practice' with 'master' Syd Barrett and those who drop tabs (take acid) regularly reach a point where they can function pretty normally while tripping. It is widely stated that Steve took large amounts of drugs while in America and this is certainly not disputed. The source of these drugs? The management saw Steve as a problem; a rebel and Marc as a serious candidate for stardom. Steve's girlfriend at the time said he was being fed a constant supply of drugs during the tour and asked him "What were they giving you?" Took replied "I don't know".
Of course the sensible will say that you don't have to take drugs just because you're offered them. One of Steve's faults was that he had the will power of a lemming. If he was offered it - he took it, especially as he was on a tour he didn't want to be on. So it was convenient for Steve to be out of his head so it could be cited it as a reason for his sacking.
The tour wasn't a success because it was very poorly promoted and planned. They were in New York when the rest of America was at Woodstock! In the end it was sabotaged by the management possibly to be able to 'blame Steve', but also quite probably also to ensure that eyes didn't turn towards them with questions about the organisation and promotion! Yet despite Steve going on the US tour to fulfil his contract, Caroline Boucher ('Disc and Music Echo') reported that Steve: "was presented with a bill for £2,000" by the management.
The last word: Tony Visconti "A sad period, in that Steve Peregrin Took was ousted from the group due to "musical differences", according to the press. The differences were that Marc wouldn't have a song penned by Steve on the albums. When Steve became insistent, Marc just fired him."
November 1969 - Marc finds Mickey Finn
As soon as Marc returned to the UK Marc replaced Took with bongo player Mickey Finn which genuinely was his real name. Mickey Finn was a wonderful person. Easy going and jovial. However, Tony Visconti commented he was not so talented as Took, "Mickey wasn't as inventive as Steve. Mickey's backing vocals weren't strong, so Marc would double-track them with his own voice for reinforcement".
1970 - Bowie Connection
While in his 'Mime stage' David Bowie had supported Tyrannosaurus Rex. Early in 1970 Marc played on David Bowie's 'The Prettiest Star'. Interestingly, in the same year Steve Took, now sacked from Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared on a David Bowie BBC Session which was finally released only a few years ago.
1970 - 30th January - Marc marries June
On January 30th 1970, Marc married girlfriend June Ellen Child at Kensington Registry Office. Photographer Peter Sanders is one of the witnesses. At the time of their marriage, Marc was 22 and June was 26.
March 1970 - The Final Tyrannosaurus Rex Album - The first with Mickey Finn
The final album under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex was A Beard Of Stars (1970) featured Mickey Finn who would remain with Marc until 1975. Finn had no song writing aspirations. As well as progressively shorter titles, the albums show increasing production values, more accessible song writing from Marc and experimentation with electric guitars, and a rock sound. The breakthrough with this was in King of the Rambling Spires (recorded with Steve Took) which used a full rock band and which, despite the lyrical content, is a long way removed from the first couple of albums. It is certain that had the Bolan/Took line-up continued (in a way which would not have left Steve feeling so artistically under challenged), the Bolan/Took incarnation of 'The Beard of would certainly have been 'heavier' than the version which was released.
Go on to David Mantell Tyrannosaurus Rex Essay
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