T-REX ON TV
review by Andrew Darlington
Once, there were giants. Now, monosyllabic inarticulate footballers are bigger than any pop stars, and schoolgirls prefer to earnestly discuss the minutiae of reality-TV contestants with runaway Tourettes. Way back then, Marc Bolan - "a natural-born poet who's just out of sight," may only have stood 57-inches tall (according to his passport), but every inch was star, and he bestrode the world - well, at least the diminished 1970s' glam-rock world, like a god. Of course, he'd already been around awhile. He was the unmistakeable high-register bleat on John's Children's late-1960s' near-hitDesdemona. And he was the John Peel approved 'Bopping Elf', sitting cross-legged in a cascade of angel-headed hipster curls at Middle-earth doing an alternate Incredible String Band with his first Tyrannosaurus Rex duo incarnation. Then he went electric. Oddly, my first published item in Melody Maker was a Bob Dylan-styled defence of the electrified abbreviated T.Rex. Admittedly, it was in the letter column. But losing his 'It (International Times)' underground press credibility was part of a strategy leading to T.Rextacy, the first and unlikeliest post-Beatles wave of pubescent teen mania.
Suddenly, Marc's lips moved like lightning, girls melt in the heat. Watch him strut, pout and pose, while simultaneously fusing J.R.R. Tolkien to Chuck Berry, after all, his first conga-player was called Steve Peregrine-Took, and he was infiltrating Chuck's "meanwhile, I'm still here thinking" into the fade of Get It On, lifting Eddie Cochran licks, name-checking 'Howlin Wolf' into the fade of Telegram Sam and perpetrating direct rockabilly theft with I Love To Boogie. But - be honest, did teen-pop ever come ludicrously better? Or more literate? And whatever happened to that teenage dream?
Well, most of it is here within this lavish three-hour package. There are vintage Top Of The Pops clips of him cavorting against Pan's People's incongruous gyrations, the full Dandy In The Underworlddocumentary, plus highlights from the two-penny prince's own Supersonic TV series. Together, it takes in the full Bolan history from monochrome "wear a tall hat and a tattooed gown/ like a druid in the old days," to the 'Rupert-the-Bear' T-shirt and a hub-cap diamond-star halo for Get It On (but no sign of the Fluorescent Leech && Eddie who I seem to recall being there!), the crinkle-cut corkscrew hair and sequin tears on his cheeks for Telegram Sam, a tinfoil jacket and colour-filter drenches for Solid-Gold Easy-Action, the thrown-together stream-of-conscious nonsense of the monolithic Children Of The Revolution, the unwieldy juxtaposition of long white feather boa and dirty Hendrix guitar-riff for 20th Century Boy, all devolving towards the 'Fat Elvis' painted-tart period. There's a clip from the German Disco '74 show where he shares a bill with Suzi Quatro, Tanya Tucker, and Albert Hammond (check it out Strokes-fans), where Marc's is miming the camp transvestite vamp of Teenage Dream in a Batman cape.
Then there are two versions of Dreamy Lady. Why two? - perhaps the metaphor of Marc up to his knees in a rising tide of froth was just too apt to ignore, but then the metaphor of Marc crucified to his own neon star proved too apt too. Good times, bad times. But Marc's self-belief in his own neon star never wavered. And even at his most tacky, Marc Bolan never lost the immaculate boogie-gene. He cut his hair, rose to meet the challenge of punk by performing with The Damned... then died fast, leaving a glam corpse. But as this DVD reminds us - once, there were giants.