T-Rex singer/guitarist/songwriter Marc Bolan.
Forgotten Inspiration: T-Rex
By: Jonathan Zuckerman
Posted: 3/29/07Chances are, most of you reading this have no idea who T-Rex are. Some of you might know their only U.S. hit, "Bang a Gong (Get it On)," but you still probably didn't know who sang it. But if you were living in the United Kingdom in the 70s you weren't able to avoid them. In 1972 after the release of two extremely successful albums, Electric Warrior and The Slider, T-Rex achieved Beatle-like popularity in their home country. The phenomenon became known as "T-Rextacy." The Beatles may have minded their throne being usurped had they not been fans themselves. Ringo Starr even directed the T-Rex concert film, "Born to Boogie" (which is so bad you must see it), and released it on Apple Productions.
T-Rex was not so much a band as it was a man and his backing band. The man was Marc Bolan who sang, played guitar and wrote all the songs. Originally, the band was called Tyrannosaurus Rex and it consisted of only Bolan and a percussionist. Tyrannosaurus Rex was an acoustic act that played strange folk songs. By the time they became T-Rex, they were a full-blown, five-piece electric rock band. This band turned out to be one of the most influential of its time.
T-Rex were so important because of the time in which they came out. The Beatles had broken up, Jimi Hendrix was trying to make music that you could see, and the hippie thing was basically over. The people needed someone to admire. Forget that, they needed someone to worship. They needed someone to make them dance and feel good. Marc Bolan was more than up to the task. T-Rex's music appealed to people's most primitive senses. You didn't need your brain to listen to them, and isn't that what rock 'n' roll is all about? The riffs were simple, the beats were basic and the lyrics never seemed to say very much. All that mattered was that it was a whole lot of fun. It's amazing they never got big in the U.S. I guess Americans were all too busy listening to Styx.
While T-Rex helped transition the scene away from folk rock, they also helped pave the way for the punk rock scene that was just around the corner. Bolan was interested in stripping music to its core and just rocking hard. This was something that a lot of young people appreciated. He didn't need to add anything that was unnecessary. He kept the extra percussionist in, but that added to the heavy rhythm. When Bolan was given his own TV show in 1977, he used to feature the up-and-coming punk bands that he knew were keeping pure rock alive. The only major difference between T-Rex and the music that chronologically surrounded them was that both the hippies and the punks had some kind of social commentary. T-Rex's message was one word: Boogie.
T-Rex are perhaps most notable for starting the scene known as glam rock (the good David Bowie/New York Dolls one, not the Poison/ Motley Crue one). Bolan was a very flashy dresser and was very much about being eye-catching. The turning point, however, was when Bolan appeared on television with glitter on his face. Glam was about looking good and having a good time, and Bolan accomplished both. He reveled in his rock-star status and made it cool to be an icon again. T-Rex may not be a household name but the history of rock would be very different and much less glamorous without them.
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