HOMEMARC BOLAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC (for the children)UNZIPPING THE ABSTRACT - The Marc Bolan Story
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info@marcbolanmusic.com
1969 UNZIPPING THE ABSTRACT

 





1969 







Tyrannosaurus Rex started the year with a prestigious performance at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on January 13th, supported by Vytas Serelis (solo sitar) and David Bowie (mime), with John Peel comparing 






 Tyrannosaurus Rex 'Pewter Suitor' Demo 7"

 Advert for 'Pewter Suitor' single

On January 14th, PEWTER SUITOR / WARLORD OF THE ROYAL CROCODILE was issued on Regal Zonophone [RZ 3016]. Considered a 'Chart Probability' by one reviewer, despite less than enthusiastic reviews - '...it's okay if you just want to leap about in a white hat making the floorboards shake, but to sit and listen to - unless you're in a mystic mood - is a bit mind-boggling' and 'The office Rex enthusiast hails it with glee so I reckon it must stand chances. Or is it just pretentious?' However, the single failed to chart


Pewter Suitor was simply wrong to release. I never thought of it as suitable, but a lot of people did, so we put it out



Pewter Suitor
Tangled in the bracken
The wild cat wishing of the hissing wheels of fortune that are known

Pewter Suitor
Tangled in the bracken
To rise beside us like a picture painted heartache of the home

Pewter Suitor
Tangled in the bracken
Dancing daily with his gaily wavy baton


- Pewter Suitor





On the morning of the 25th, Bolan and Took recorded a slot for the Danish radio show 'After Beat', following this by visiting a Danish TV studio to perform Debora and Stacey Grove for 'Top Pop'. They then went on to play at the Broendby Pop Club in Horregaard Hallen, Copenhagen and played material from their two albums and the freak-out show-closing track, an epic nine-minute long version of The Wizard





 

 


In  February, Marc and Steve began a short tour, some with David Bowie as support and John Peel in attendance, otherwise supported by Vytas Serelis on Sitar. The dates started at Birmingham's Town Hall on the 15th and continued at The Fairfield Halls, Croydon (16th), Manchester's Free Trade Hall (22nd), Bristol Colston Hall (23rd), Liverpool Philharmonic on March 1st and ended at Brighton's Dome on the 8th.


John Peel, in his colum for Disc and Music Echo, reported after the Liverpool show 'The audiences have all been really wonderous - if you have not been there I can't really describe it at all. It's just been very warm, like friends sitting in a circle on the floor talking to one another

The concerts have started with the sitar playing of Vytas Serelis who, refreshingly, makes no esoteric claims for his music but says, simply, that he plays what he is feeling. In Birmingham he played for 25 minutes instead of his alloted 35, but nobody minded. In the audience were many shining folk with stars on their brows and we've seen them everywhere

After Vytas has played, David Bowie performs two of his mime things. It has been good to seee the appreciation for what he does. Last night he was amazed by the warmth and understanding even though I'd told him all about Liverpool

Marc and Steve have played so well and everyone who has been there seems to have felt the same way as I felt over a year ago when they would come to sing their small songs on the floor of the original Peel Acres in Fulham'
 




Around this time Bowie saw Stanley Kubrick's 2001 - A Space Odyssey, was inspired and recorded a demo at his managers home of a song he titled Space Oddity - 


Ken Pitt (Bowie's Manager 1966 - 1967): "David idolised Marc for a while. He was going around to his flat every night, playing songs, listening to songs, talking about music, and then he'd come back here and we'd talk about our own projects, and David would say, ‘well Marc says this...’ or ‘Marc says that...’ Bolan had a tremendous influence on him at the time, and David considered him an authority. After David had recorded Space Oddity he took a copy round to Bolan to see what he thought of it - and came back here, happy as could be, and told me in Marc's elfin, lisping voice, 'Davie - it's gonna be a hit, Davie!'"


 


On April 11th Tyrannosaurus Rex played at 'John Peel's Midnight Court' at The Lyceum, London, with Eire Apparent, although Peel was absent that night. Most of the material performed was from their two albums, with the addition of two new songs, Once Upon the Seas Of Abyssinia and Do You Remember, they also played an extract from Pink Floyd's Interstella Overdrive, a track from Floyd's debut album



 





On April 25th, Marsha Hunt, an American singer who had been performing in the stage show Hair, released Walk On Guilded Splinters / Hot Rod Poppa. The A-side had been written by American singer / songwriter Dr.John, and this was backed by Bolan's retitled Hot Rod Mama and issued on Track Records [604030]. Hunt had been persuaded to leave the musical by Track label manager, Kit Lambert who brought in Tony Visconti to produce her first material


Marsha: "My producer Tony Visconti introduced me to Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and I'm going to record some of his songs for an album. There a kinda funny group, I actually don't know a lot about the group scene"


While Visconti produced the A-side, Gus Dugeon, the produced of Bowie's Space Oddity, produced the Bolan penned track.   Marc was very impressed by her version and they soon met up, he was even more taken by her beauty and they had a brief affair

Marsha Hunt

 


On May 5th the band appeared on John Peel's Radio One programme, Top Gear
 
On the 17th they performed at Mothers in Birmingham









 Tyrannosaurus Rex 'Unicorn' LP

May 18th saw the release of the third Tyrannosaurus Rex album - UNICORN, on Regal Zonophone [Stereo/Mono S/LRZ 1007]. In addition to the wide range of instrumentation from Marc Bolan (guitar, harmonium, lip organ and fonofiddle) and Steve Peregrin Took (bongos and assorted other percussion including talking drum and gong, pixiphone and organ), the album included some piano provided by producer Tony Visconti. The album reached No.12 in its third week and kept the position for a second week before leaving the album charts

We were living in Cornwall and Wales, and I was very close to the earth... it was a period of clarity and purity - and Unicorn was very much into my soul - it was all of me. It was the first time that I got into production as well... like Romany Soup has 22 tracks on it and took five hours to mix. And on the Unicorn track the drums give me a real buzz because I wanted to get a Phil Spector sound. I don't know how it came off

I was only trying to remake the Beach Boys `Pet Sounds'. It didn't sound like it in the end, but in my little head it was like that. It didn't come out right, but that was the idea I had

..We use a bass and a proper drum kit we bought in Hamley's, and I've bought a stratocaster... we've always had complete freedom to do what we like. I have a complete say in everything, and Tony Visconti, our producer, is such a lovely cat


I tried to rethink my whole way of singing. You see I use my voice as a physical release - like Clapton uses a guitar. But I had to discipline myself into making the words heard

As a kid I always wanted to record, and it took me so long to get into records I don't want to stop now

It's silly when you see groups in studios sitting around all day just dirtying up the place. There's no need to spend 20 hours getting a bass sound. Record it flat and 'live', then spend the time on recording


 Catblack the wizard's back
Daubed in doom in his tounge tombed room
We of the wind must rejoice and speak
And kiss all our starbrowed brothers on the cheek


Cat Black - That song was really inspired by those 'Runaround Sue' sort of songs - the chords and so on - and I wanted to do that sort of melody with nice words. I brought in the piano so people who were into rock 'n' roll piano could relate to it a bit



 Nijinski Hind is a remnant of Earth
As it once stood
A likeness in flesh of the magic
Contained in a pearl's shell
Breathing its breath uniquely

Nijinski Hind - Nijinski was a dancer in the 1920's. He was large for three years, and then freaks... he was very similar to Syd Barrett (of Pink Floyd) in that he was so into what he was doing, then he freaked partially and everybody kicked him in the face. Everybody said he was mad, and he died four years later. And I just liked the idea of a creature, an animal as agile as Nijinski... and the song just explains what a gas the creature was

 Marc Bolan 'Escariot' lyrics
Bolan's lyrics for Escariot, probably typed by June


Nick Logan reviewed the album for the NME - 

'In spite of the uneasy peace or domestic rifts that ensue whenever I play their records, I must admit to deriving a certain enjoyment from the joyful music of the monstrous duo - even though in certain quarters that admission would classify me as a nut.


I can't imagine why Rex should attract such loathing; neither can I fathom the "intellectual barrier" Marc Bolan says the public has against them. To me it's just a happy warming sound, absorbing, refreshing and stimulating... I should say that this LP, the third, is better than the second, though different to the earlier two.


Unicorn marks the start of the duo's excursion into electronic backings. Half is traditional Rex. The rest, recorded after a six month break, is new Rex plus electricity - a coupling full of introguing possibilities which they promise to take further on the fourth album.


Of the 16 tracks, the ones I like best were those with the fascinating electric backings and pop-like harmonies like Cat Black and Nijinski Hind. A good way to gauge in what regard an act is held by its record company is from the packaging they give them and on Unicorn the Rex have progressed to an attractive open-out sleeve with Marc's full lyrics inside.


On the whole, certainly a more acceptable LP for mass appeal, than previous ones.'
 




Ken Simmons for Rolling Stone echoed some of Kent's remarks -

'Tyrannosaurus Rex is not for everyone's taste, sure enough. You must be willing to accept the initial strangeness of the album... the overall sound atmosphere is murky, as if it was coming from the depths of an ocean.


But the beauty and subtle musicality of the album is great, and there for the grasping. The melodies and instrumentation are guileless, simple, well-constructed, and beautiful. The album feels loose and spontaneous, yet Bolan builds his musical palette carefully; his poetry is pure delight, intelligent fantasy and sensible nonsense.


The music has the grace and mysetery of a child's world, but so unconciously so, that Bolan must really live in this world. Bolan is a master of a musical land all of his own, and the album rings of a natural 'correctness'.'



 

 

      Marc Bolan 'The Warlock Of Love'  

At this time Marc's slim volume of poetry THE WARLOCK OF LOVE was published by Lupus Music and sold mainly through mail order. It has been reported to have sold over 40,000 copies and at one time to have put Marc amongst the top three selling poets in England. It was to be re-printed twice during the following year. The book featured fifty-nine pieces, Marc's thoughts and observations arranged mostly into verse -

The breeze from the hill journeyed through his
snowy hair like an omen.
His cloak of caution, threadbare and patterned, fell
to the moorland mire like a lamented autumn leaf.
He dribbled his thoughts like a mastiff.
“If only,” he muttered, uttering words of poetry in
magical wordways, causing violent upheavals in the
animal homesteads within earshot of his daggered lips.
The questical day had held all the promise of an artist,
but with the grey horseless cloud of the autumn
afternoon all hope of starfields revealed was lost, as
a pebble of love in the black scorched deserts of
civilisation.
As a last hermetic gesture, with the masts of the
day spent, the gaunt man, pure of skin but soiled
of soul, prepared his parchment scroll and crouched
like a beggar began the last task of his day — an
etching of a child, blue skinned and shapen like a
fowl of the skies, with eyes so true and hallowed
that the artition wept as he drew, and already the
quest was begun.

In the line ‘the artition wept as he drew’, the word ‘artition,’ which isn’t featured in the dictionary, blends so naturally with the rest of the words that it is accepted without query - 

Well it seems to me a natural progression from the other words that we have. If you draw, you're a technician. If you paint, an artition. I don't really have to think about things like that at all... words come easily to me. It doesn't take any conscious effort

Sycamore of sorrow, pray I’m swallowed
in the swell of your yelling leafy breast.
My crippled bended chest is shamed
through flaming crowsfeet, soaring nouns
of norse confessions,
dark earth gremlins, rootlegged, hobbling
in the cryptess of my turned wound.
Ill-famed fair prince, steal my lightning,
stake me with steel, for my haughtiness.
Straddle my storm head with your abyss shroud.
Call me harlot.
Call me wormywordler.
Everso, but out loud.

The book was reviewed in Gandalf's Garden, a  magazine published by a hippy / underground community in London -

'Oddsbodkins sirrah! Here be indeed a goodly lyrical work with echoes of Joycian wordmongery and evocations of De la Mare's The Traveller. Though the traveller in these realms of poetry should not ask if anyone is there, for the words are alive and teeming with the fair and friendly folk of every shade. But should he pause and tarry awhile and not look too deep for meaning, he'll find himself enwraped in the magical imagery of antique lands somewhere betwixt yon Middle Earth and Narnia'




On July 11th Bowie's Space Oddity was released and reached No.5. The instrumentation featured a stylophone which was reportedly given to David by Marc 


 


At this time plans were made for Marc and Steve to go to America mid-June for ten weeks to promote the band and Unicorn which had been licensed to the Blue Thumb label.


When we go to America we’ll be living in a house in California with Aynsley Dunbar (a Blue Thumb artist) and the Floyd. It’s cheap and practical

Going to America doesn’t really excite me at all. If we are a success – well, that will be lovely

We’ve never had anything released there, but I think some imports have sold about 2,000. We can only go on and play and show them we believe in what we’re doing

We've altered very much from how we used to be. We use a full drum kit now and we have done a completely electric single. It sounds like John's Children



 

Tyrannosaurus Rex 'King of the Rumbling Spires' 7" Advert

On July 25th came a new single, KING OF THE RUMBLING SPIRES / DO YOU REMEMBER, it was the heaviest material from the band, with Steve using a full drum-kit and playing bass while Marc supplied electric guitars and keyboard. Released on Regal Zonophone [RZ 3022] with a limited number released in a picture bag

It doesn't actually sound that much different, just more funky. We always played pop music anyway, and to me it's completely fair to use electricity

If I get a hit - I'm changing my name to Zinc Alloy and I'll wear an aluminium suit

I don't claim to be a guitarist... But I've got flaming hands and bleeding fingers. I steer the guitar like a ship and sing with my eyes closed. When I'm bopping it feels great


'Rather more direct and straightforward than some of the ramblings from this team' stated Peter Jones of the Record Mirror, 'I've never really doubted their talent - only mine in not knowing where on earth they are going. But their name liveth, despite various ups and downs, and this is at least an even-bets chance for the charts. Rather a good song idea. Flip: Another Marc Bolan epistle to the fans, not struck.' Although rated as a 'Chart Probability' the single entered and peaked at No. 44 on August 9th




Marc Bolan & Steve Took recording

Light all the fires
It's the King of the Rumbling Spires
Light all the fires
It's the King and he's coming home

We're so windy fair
Priestess of my young soul
Mighty eagles pair
On the peace of your hair

Light all the fires
It's the King of the Rumbling Spires
Light all the fires
It's the King and he's coming home

- King of the Rumbling Spires




 

During the day of August 10th Tyrannosaurus Rex performed at the 8th Jazz-Pop Ballads and Blues Festival in Sudbury in Suffolk, a three day event from the 9th to the 11th. Others who performed that day included Arthur Brown, The Nice, Jeff Beck, Joe Cocker, Deep Purple and Ginger Baker.  Later that night they headlined a concert at the Middle Earth, supported by Aynsley Dunbar, most likely performing on the morning of the 11th

Flyer for the Family Dog on the Great Highway Festival with Country Joe & The Fish and Tyrannosaurus Rex   

The duo had been booked in to the ‘Family Dog on the Great Highway’ festival which ran from August 8th to the 10th in San Francisco, California, as support to Country Joe and the Fish, however the Jazz and Blues Festival gave the duo an opportunity to prepare a set for their forthcoming tour during which they would be performing in San Francisco



With material already recorded for the next album, Marc and Steve set-off on their first American Tour which began on August 15th in Boston followed by seven nights at the famous Cafe Au Go-Go in New York (15th - 21st) before continuing on to play in Detroit (22nd) and Los Angeles (23rd), also on the 23rd Marc recorded a radio interview in Chicago, Illinois.  On a number of the dates Tyrannosaurus Rex supported The Turtles, a vocal group led by Howard Kaylan and Marc Volman


On September 9th, 10th and 11th they played at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia, one of the main venues on the US tour circuit at that time




In the months prior to the tour, Steve was increasingly pushing to perform some of his own material as part of Tyrannosaurus Rex's live set and for inclusion on future recordings, additionally he had been actively participating in the hippy drug culture and his behaviour both on and off-stage was not part of the image Marc had for the band, this resulted in him being asked to leave the band, however as he was contracted to undertake the US Tour he did. Things didn't improve while they were in the States and Steve returned to England no longer a part of Tyrannosaurus Rex

 June Child with Marc Bolan and Steve Took - Tyrannosaurus Rex 1969


We just grew apart. We were never that together. Steve was a really good percussionist, but when it got into expanding we just couldn't make it work together

We agreed to break up, but we were legally tied to do our first American tour. We did do it, but it was a shambles

 

Steve: "We went over there at the end of '69, and we kind of gooned around with the MC5 and Country Joe And The Fish, we'd sort of go on after some electric band, and people wouldn't even notice we were on. So I got into this trip, like I would take my shirt off, turn my back on the audience and start whipping myself, and being a great devotee of getting out of it, thoroughly ripped and wasted, after about five minutes, or probably more like five seconds, they'd shut up

I'd turn round and say, "Right, shut your mouths, sit down and fuckin' dig it, ya know, try and listen, you might hear something"....I used to smash up all the stuff with Tyrannosaurus Rex, at the end of the set, I used to smash everything up. Then I broke my hands in the States. That was my usual thing, we would get to the end of the set and we would do The Wizard which was my license to freak out. I scream such things as "I want a woman", throw my bottle up in the air and then I used to smash up my maracas, and the occasional drum, if I didn't like it. I'd sling things across the stage, and then I'd pick up my chair and, oh yeah, I used to throw my gong up in the air, kick it and bite it and dribble all over it, ya know... At this gig I picked up my chair, whirled it around my head and smashed it on the ground. It was a collapsible metal chair which I wasn't absolutely aware of at the time, and it went craaash, craaack, craack, oooh, ahhh! and broke two hands...

So I split after America - that was an experience. I was obliterated for a few months afterwards, I was totally chemicalised. I was well into chemicals then... I didn't go back to the (Notting Hill) Gate. I was living in S.W.7 - I hid away, started boogying with my guitar, writing, doing songs with rude words in them like 'breasts' and 'high'...

When we started of, Marc would look after the melody part of a song and I'd be responsible for the percussion and the arrangement, and it worked very well. Then I started writing things of my own and instead of being on the fantasy part of the trip, they were about what happens to the kids on the street around here. But the record company started objecting to words like 'breast' or 'drugs' and it frustrated me greatly. Also I was getting really shat on by the management

A typical thing was when I used to go out and jam occasionally with The Deviants and the Pretty Things. The management would come up and say, 'Boy, don't go and jam with this group, it's bad for the image' and I'd go, 'What? What image? I'm Steve Took, well-known drug addict'

Visconti: "Steve Took was more into electric music at the time. He was dying to pick up a guitar and play. He was writing loads and loads of songs...but...Marc isn't about to share billing with anybody. They broke up about that really"





 Mickey Finn of Tyrannosaurus Rex

Marc's management placed an advert for Steve's replacement in the October 11th edition of Melody Maker  -

 

However, Marc met MICKEY FINN at The Seed, a health food restaurant in Westbourne Grove, West London, where Finn was painting internal murals

Mickey: "I met Marc in macrobiotic restaurant in London. He overheard me talking about bongos to a friend and came round the next day. I've played bongos for quite a long time - purely for my own pleasure - but I did play with a group called Hapsash and the Coloured Coat in Amsterdam. That didn't work out very well. Otherwise I've just been painting - I did the shop fronts for Apple (The Beatles boutique in Baker Street), and for Granny Takes A Trip (Kings Road boutique, Chelsea)"

 

On the 24th October Melody Maker announced that Mickey Finn had replaced Steve Took, by which time he was already in Wales with Marc rehearsing songs for the next album, with the new duo's recording session taking place at Trident Studios, London on the 31st




Michael Norman Finn
was born on June 3rd, 1947 in Thornton Heath, Surrey and schooled at All Saints Primary and then Rockmount Secondary. He was still at school when he saw his first band, Johny Kidd and the Pirates -


Mickey: "I was only fourteen, so I had to pretend I was a bit older than I really was. It was very exciting, seeing them working away up there - I'd never seen anything quite like that before... But it didn't occur to me that I might eventually move into music myself..."

After leaving school Mickey went to Croydon College of Art, intending to do a four-year graphics course but left after eleven months after his 'work attitude' was questioned by the principal. Hapsash and the Coloured Coat included Tony McPhee (joining during a break away from his band, The Groundhogs) and recorded a number of singles and their first album (on Liberty) employed the band Art as session musicians (Art later evolved into Spooky Tooth), and was one of can-banging, foot stomping and guitar playing which 'is probably the one single riotous sythesis of the whole London 1967 scene', reported Rolling Stone . Musically Mickeys tastes included vocalist and bassist Jack Bruce of Cream and Country rock band, the Flying Burrito Brothers

Mickey: "I will try to keep on with my painting of course, but T.Rex is a very full-time occupation. Marc and I got on very well from the outset. If you don't get on well you can't communicate through music and Marc and Steve weren't getting through to each other at the end


Working with him is great - we went down to Wales at the beginning to rehearse and ended up playing for 12 or 13 hours a day. The work is good because it demands a lot of one as a person, which I need. Marc communicates through the words of his songs in the way that I did through the colours in my paintings, so that's probably why we do get on"


Melody Maker wrote that during rehearsals for the album the pair were staying in a 16th century cottage and that Marc and Mickey reportedly had a supernatural experience. Marc was asleep when he was shockingly woken by a hideous scream, rushing out of his room he saw Mickey running naked down the hall. “What’s happening, man?” asked Bolan

“There was a horrible face - at the window,” replied Finn. “It was the face of an old woman. She was looking at me – and crying.” Bolan attempted to calm Mickey down and said that it was probably a hallucination induced by fine wines

Three days later Marc was outside the cottage attempting to cut wood when to his horror he saw an old woman inside the cottage beckoning him from the window

Marc was terrified and dropped the axe he was using and saw that she was wearing an old-fashioned 16th century style dress. “She was opening and shutting her mouth – but no sound emerged,” said Bolan

The spectre suddenly vanished and Marc dashed in search of Mickey to compare notes and agreed that they had seen the same woman who must have been connected in some way to the cottage but they could never establish her origin


As soon as the duo returned to London they entered Trident Studios and began work on the new album

Mickey: "The sound of T.Rex has progressed... We're doing an album at the moment - 'Beard Of Stars' - on which we do some electric things

My first live appearance with Marc at Leeds University went down very well - I was nervous at first, but after the first number I relaxed"

This was an unscheduled performance on November 8th at the Refrectory Hall at Leeds University when they were called upon following a cancellation by Pink Floyd. Support on the night was The Idle Race


Through November and December they continued recording the new album, including work on the material recorded with Steve Took in April and May that year, wiping off Took's tracks and recording new percussion and instrumentation. Much of what Steve had recorded Marc replaced himself, in order to finish the project quickly. The sessions for for the album were completed on the 13th

 ...it will be called 'A Beard Of Stars' and will faeture the first instrumentals from T.Rex as well as the new lyric songs. This L.P. is a lot moreelectric than we've done, Mickey plays bass and tablas while I play acoustic. It never works if you play one type the way you play another



 Marsha Hunt 'Desdemona' / 'Hippy Gumbo' 7" German Picture Sleeve (written by Bolan)

On November 14th, Marsha Hunt released DESDEMONA / HIPPY GUMBO, both Bolan songs, on Track Records (604034), the A-side being produced by Kit Lambert, who produced for The Who, and Hippy Gumbo was handled by Visconti




On November 17th Mickey Finn recorded his first radio show as part of the, as described by Disc and Music Echo, 'newly formed' Tyrannosaurus Rex, on John Peel's Top Gear show which included five songs that had been recorded for the next album. They then began a short UK Tour at Manchester Free Trade Hall on the 21st, on that date supported by the Linsey Kemp mime troup. This was followed at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall (22nd), on which day Mickey's first interview was published in Disc and Music Echo, then Newcastle City Hall (23rd),  the Locarno in Sunderland with The Spirit Of John Morgan and John Peel (24th) and concluding at Mothers in Birmingham on the 30th




Tyrannosaurus Rex ended the year with a festive concert at Croydon's Fairfield Halls on December 27th






UNZIPPING THE ABSTRACT / 1970 






 


HOMEMARC BOLAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC (for the children)UNZIPPING THE ABSTRACT - The Marc Bolan Story