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T.Rex - The Golden Years

1970 - First Album as T.Rex (self titled)
This was released in 1970 and continued the process of simplification by shortening the name and completed the move to electric guitars. (Legend has it the Tony Visconti got fed up with writing the name out in full in his diary and tapes and began to abbreviate it. When Marc first noticed he was furious, but later claimed it was his idea.) Whilst T.Rex were working on the self-titled album, Marc recorded the song that would become his first hit.

1970 - Ride a White Swan
June recalled Marc calling her over to listen to a new tune he had written in their flat. He played her a simple high-pitched four-verse tune called 'Ride A White Swan'. He then immediately rang producer Tony Visconti to sort out a studio session. The single made slow progress in the UK Top 40, gathering momentum until it finally peaked in early 1971 at Number 2, making Marc a new star. 'Ride A White Swan', spent five months in the charts in all.

1971 - February - 'Hot Love' and Glam Rock is born!
'Ride a White Swan' was quickly followed with 'Hot Love', released in February 1971. This proved to be a second hit, staying at #1 for six weeks. It was obvious that Marc needed a rhythm section, so Steve Currie on bass and Bill Legend on drums turned T.Rex from a duo into a quartet (briefly through a tri of Bolan, Finn & Currie). This allowed them to perform the new music live. Their appearances on Top of The Pops, and the low ticket price meant that their audiences increased in number and got a lot younger, (teeny boppers). Gone were the hippies of old.

1971 - Chelita Secunda and a touch of Genius
For the 'Hot Love' Top of The Pops appearance, Chelita Secunda (wife of Tony Secunda manager to The Move and for a brief period T.Rex) added two spots of glitter under the eyes of Marc and Glam rock was born! With his corkscrew hair, boyish good looks and cheekbones daubed with glitter, Marc's emergence heralded the start of the glam rock era of British music, which also saw the rise of Marc's long time friend David Bowie, as well as bands such as Slade and the Sweet. Glam Rock Fever would sweep the UK and many parts of Europe during 1971/1972 and result in various artists of differing merits.

1971 - Fly release the cash in 'The Best of T. Rex'
On 25th March, 1971, fly released 'The Best of T. Rex'. This was a compilation LP of old Tyrannosaurus Rex songs made to cash in on the bands rising popularity. Most of the tracks are Marc Bolan/Steve Took recordings. This 'unofficial' release reached #21.

1971 - 'Get It On - Bang a Gong'
That summer, 'Get It On' was released and went to #1 for four weeks. It had a grittier, more adult sound. 'Get It On' was renamed Bang A Gong when released in the USA where it was a minor hit.

1971 Album - 'Electric Warrior'
In the Autumn T.Rex went on a tour to promote the album 'Electric Warrior' which became one of the best sellers of 1971. Electric Warrior is considered by many to be their best album. The music press at the time coined the term 'T.Rextasy' to describe the audience reaction at their performances. A couple of years of regular chart success followed, with hit singles such as 'Metal Guru' and 'Telegram' Sam pouring off what came to resemble a production line.

Marc's Own Record Label
At this time, Marc left Fly records and with the assistance of his new manager Tony Secunda set up his own record label 'T.Rex Wax Co', distributed by EMI. Against Marc's wishes, Fly with Marc no longer on their books released the Electric Warrior album track 'Jeepster' as a response to Marc quitting. It reached a very respectable #2 for an 'unofficial' release.

1971 - Fame and an inflation of Marc's ego.
On the 16th September 1971 - A day ironically six years before Marc's death, to the day, 'Rolling Stone' Magazine published an interview with Marc. In reply to a question asking if he knew where Steve Took was, Marc rather unkindly replied: - "Oh in a gutter somewhere (laughs)". In an interview with Steve Took from NME the following year (1972) Charles Sharr Murray noted that Steve "took to heart" Marc's comment. It is also interesting to note that until Marc achieved fame through the teenybopper market both he and June had lived in Ladbroke Grove - The very 'gutter' Steve Took was still living in! Steve replied to Marc two weeks later through the small circulation Underground Press saying "Dear Marc, Just thought I'd let you know that there's an awful lot of people in this gutter - it's the nicest one I've been in so far".

Chartwise, T.Rex finished the year as the UK's most successful singles band, dominating the charts, with Marc what he always wanted to be: A Star in the now becoming trademark sparkly jackets, feather boas and androgynous beauty.

Effect of Tony Secunda's Arrival in 1971
June confirmed that Marc never took drugs in the 1960's. That was one reason he found Steve Took annoying - because he did. However during 1971 that changed. Marc and June called in manager Tony Secunda, who had the weight to be able to get Marc a US record deal as well as set up 'T.Rex Wax Co'. Tony was famed for the amount of cocaine he consumed. He was also famous for supplying cocaine to artists he managed. Tony certainly made an impact on Marc, or rather cocaine did, because Marc wrote a song for Tony Secunda. The clue is in the initial letters of Tony's name (TS) and the initial letters of the song Telegram Sam (TS). Tony Secunda even signed himself Telegram Sam on the liner notes to the Steve Took album he released posthumously.
Clues can also be seen in the lyrics:
"Telegram Sam - You're my main man" - 'Main Man' = Dealer
'Golden Nose Slim - I know's where you've bin' - 'Nose' = method of taking cocaine
'knowing where he's been' = the white powder residue around the nostrils which can sometimes be seen in cocaine users.

In 1972, Marc achieved two more Number 1s - Telegram Sam in January followed by Metal Guru. On January 15th, 1972, while Telegram Sam was charting the Ladbroke Grove underground newspaper FRIENDZ organised a coach trip to see Marc perform at the Boston Gliderdome. This was to be the first meeting between Marc and Steve in over two years. Steve Took's girlfriend recalls the event: "We went backstage and June and Marc were there. Marc was giving orders to the band. Marc was in one of his spangly suits. Marc nearly fell on the floor when he saw Steve, (laughs). They hugged each other, then it was like, what were they going to say to each other? Marc was like this made up doll, off his head completely and so full of his own importance, and Steve was like this raggedy, Ladbroke Grove, come-up on the FRENDZ bus Hippy, it was funny! I think that whole Bolan thing had gone on so far by that point, it was like a bright candle burning itself out fast, it was like 'How long can this last? I mean we all know how cocaine makes things brittle, it was very brittle".

1972 - Reissue of My People Were Fair.../Prophets, Seers, and Sages....
Another Fly 'cash in'. This double LP budget reissue of the first two Tyrannosaurus Rex LPs. Unlike the 1971 'The Best of T. Rex' cash in, the 'double-back' of the first two Tyrannosaurus Rex albums reached #1 in the album charts and introduced a generation of Teenyboppers to 'Hippy Music'. Some recoiled in horror, but others grew to love it (the author is included in the latter category).

1972 - 24rd March - 'Debora/One Inch Rock' - Reissue
To go with Fly's cash in 'double back' Fly reissued the two most commercial Tyrannosaurus Rex singles as a double 'A' side which spent ten weeks in the charts, reached #7 and confused a lot of Marc's new fans because it wasn't the 'Glam' music they associated with Marc.

1972 - March - the Wembley Empire Pool & Tony Secunda's sacking.
In March Marc performed his biggest ever gigs when he played two shows at the Wembley Empire Pool (Wembley Arena). By the Wembley gig Tony Secunda had got Marc a US record deal. No longer needed he was sacked just before the Wembley gigs. Unaware of this photographer Keith Morris arrived at Wembley and asked where Tony was. He was told "Shhh. He's been sacked and Marc has banned him not only from back stage, but from the building."

1972 - Tony Secunda's Revenge
Tony Secunda was not a man to take such a thing lying down. He sought revenge and found it in the form of Steve Took. While he had been Marc's manager Tony had discovered that the royalties owing to Steve Took for the reissued Tyrannosaurus Rex material were being withheld. So he could 'punish' Marc by finding Steve Took and getting him the money which was rightfully his. He did this and Steve's girlfriend at the time remembered that the back royalties were enough to buy a small house in London. Secunda realised Steve had talent and signed him up to Warner. However, Steve's treatment by the management had a lasting effect on Steve which is summarised in a 1972 article in 'Disc and Music Echo' entitled 'Steve Took's happier without T. Rex'. Caroline Boucher reported: "For the first time since he left T. Rex in 1969 he's found a manager that he trusts. His old management troubles started after T. Rex's first tour of the States. He was presented with a bill for 2,000 and from that day onwards he fought shy of managers". The cocaine Secunda supplied to Steve, just as he had to Marc had a different effect on Steve. It made him paranoid. So although initially Steve didn't know Secunda had managed Marc, when he found out, he became paranoid that it was a 'Bolan plot' and stopped trusting Tony. Steve missed an opportunity because he refused to produce any finished work for Tony. The material Tony did get were simply what he wrote on the box "Took rambling".

Meanwhile, after Metal Guru, the next two singles of 1972 both 'stuck' at #2: 'Children Of The Revolution', released in September and 'Solid Gold Easy Action' released not long before Christmas and bearing a Christmas greeting from Marc to his fans.

Of the four #2 singles ('Ride a White Swan', 'Jeepster', 'Children of the Revolution' and 'Solid Gold Easy Action') three were held off the top spot by 'novelty' singles recorded by Clive Dunn, Benny Hill and little Jimmy Osmond.

1972 - The Slider album
Later in 1972, the album 'The Slider' was released. Many reviews of 'The Slider' were hostile. Marc's film 'Born to Boogie' was released late in 1972 to poor reviews and cinemas not as full as one might have expected given the fervour only six months earlier. Born to Boogie featured 'surreal' footage of a 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party and footage from the shows at the Wembley Empire Pool (Wembley Arena) recorded in March 1972. But, by the end of 1972, there were continual criticisms that T.Rex records all sounded the same.

1972 - Cracking America & more 'Glam' bands than you can shake a stick at!
Marc was obsessed with cracking America. 'Get It On' was a moderate hit in the U.S., but nothing else had been able to 'break'. Marc invented Glam in March 1970. But the end of 1972 the 'Glam Rock' band-wagon was groaning under the weight of Glam acts. All has started later than Marc. But by 1972 they had most definitely caught him up! Most importantly, 1972 saw the rise of Slade, whose string of hit overtook the number of T.Rex's hits. By the end of 1972 everyone was dressing up. Rod Stewart was fronting the Faces, wearing a pink satin jacket. Bowie was in red boots as Ziggy Stardust. Gary Glitter was in bacofoil, and a host of plastic acts from the Chinn/Chapman stable were clogging up the charts.

1973 - Marc on the Cilla Black Show
Early in 1973 T.Rex appeared on the Cilla Black show. Cilla was part of the '60's 'Liverpool invasion' of the music scene hearalded by The Beatles. Her music and show catered to an alder audience, so T.Rex's appearance on the show took many by surprise. Marc mimed to "Mad Donna" (off his new album 'Tanx' to be released at the end of Marc). Following 'Mad Donna', Marc and Cilla sang a live duet of 'Life's A Gas' off the "Electric Warrior album, Unfortunately, Marc was breathless from performing 'Mad Donna' when he sat down with Cilla to sing live. Marc also gave Cilla his pink feather boa and when Cilla commented about the crowd being jealous members of her audience called out in agreement!

1973 - Touring and Backing Singers
Marc continued touring and headed once again to America. He hired Jack Green on second guitar, to give the concerts a fuller sound. He also added three female backing vocalists. Previously this had been handled with tapes. Among these background vocalists was Pat Hall and a black American singer-songwriter soul star named Gloria Jones. The first T.Rex single Gloria appeared on was 'Truck On (Tyke)'. At the end of 1973, T.Rex did another large and successful tour of Australia and Japan. Gloria and Marc would begin a friendship that would eventually become an affair. Gloria's son Walter was in the States with her father (a minister), allowing Gloria the freedom to travel and work with Marc.

1973 - The single 'Twentieth Century Boy' and the album 'Tanx'
By 1973, his star was gradually beginning to wane; even though he achieved a Number 3 hit with arguably his most famous tune to the generation which followed - '20th Century Boy' (released on March 2nd of 1973). Two weeks later 'tanx'. The album had been recorded in France and Denmark. The album had a fuller and mellower sound than the 'Slider' album, but it did not fare as well either in Britain or the US. 'Tanx' did gain some extra publicity though, because it showed an already bloating Marc sitting astride a Tank, the barrel pointing suggestively at the viewer. Mary Whitehouse tried unsuccessfully to get it banned as obscene. This album featured a brass section and has some fine songs although it is a little spasmodic. Marc proved unable to resist the egomania of stardom. He was less interested in writing good songs, and more interested in being the centre of attention. The music became little more than a prop, as 'The Groover' (released in June of 1973) demonstrated with its intro chant of 'T...R...E".X!'. 'The Groover' charted at #4, but fell back down quickly signaling that the two year stranglehold Marc had had on the British charts was over. However, in those two years, T.Rex had 4 #1's and sold 39 million records. After the Australia/Japan tour ended, drummer Bill Legend announced his departure from the band. He was the first of the original four members of T.Rex to leave.

Go on to Chapter Four - T-Rex - The Later Years
Go Back to David Mantell Tyrannosaurus Rex Essay

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