The Punk and New Wave Links of Marc Bolan.
Above Photo: Marc Bolan holds an autographed copy of the Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP.
Marc Bolan gets a few mentions in my book, Bombed Out!, especially when he died.
Long before that, I used to borrow my sister’s Electric Warrior LP and loved some of the tracks on it – I heard it recently and still like it. (I’ve added You Tube links to some tracks below).
When I was well into Punk in 1977, Marc Bolan has started hosting a Kids’ music show called ‘Marc’ which I’d catch when I got home from school. I couldn’t believe it. Glam Rock Bolan had reinvented himself for the Punk Age and some of his guests on the programme were Punk and New Wave bands such as The Jam, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Generation X, the Radio Stars, The Boomtown Rats and David Bowie.
He was delivering Punk and New Wave right into the schoolkid heart of Britain. I was delighted.
When I did some research for this article I found other strange links, relationships, friendships that Bolan had around that time, some of which I mention below, probably for me the most surprising being his link to a Punk/New Wave band called the Radio Stars and having taken The Damned on tour with him in 1977.
Even Marc Bolan’s live musical career with Tyrannosaurus Rex was born out of an event that sounds like it could have come from the Punk era. In the late 1960s he’d got a gig in London, put an ad in the Melody maker and at 3pm on the afternoon of the gig he was still interviewing musicians to play that night.
The gig was a disaster, he was booed offstage but his live career with that band had been well and truly kicked off.
Later he shortened the group’s name to T. Rex and during the early 1970s he began charting regularly in the UK and the US, where he settled for a couple of years in the mid-1970s.
He’d also begun an affair with a backing singer, Gloria Jones, who had Bolan’s son, Rolan (Bolan) in September 1975.
That same year he returned to the UK and revived his career, just as the Punk scene was taking off. Bolan seemed to like the spontaneity and fresh approach to music that Punk brought and was happy being seen and photographed with a succession of Punk and New Wave acts and personalities.
In early 1977, Bolan got a new band together, released a new album, Dandy in the Underworld, and set out on a UK tour, unbelievably taking along Punk band the Damned as support, presumably to entice a younger audience.
Bolan died on 16 September 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday. He was a passenger in a Mini driven by Gloria Jones (they’d been together for 6 years at this stage and their son was nearing his second birthday).
Jones lost control of the car after they’d been for a night out in London. The car hit a metal fence and a sycamore tree in Barnes, southwest London, and Bolan was killed instantly, while Jones suffered a broken arm and broken jaw. Bolan’s home, which was less than a mile away from the crash site, was robbed shortly after the crash.
The site of the crash has subsequently become a shrine to Bolan’s memory.
Ironically Bolan hadn’t learnt to drive, as he’d feared a premature death, but he owned a number of vehicles, including a white Rolls-Royce that had been loaned to the band Hawkwind on the night of his death.
After Bolan’s death there were massive legal complications about a trust fund he’d set up for his royalties and to provide for his family. His son’s godfather, one David Bowie, stepped in, unheralded, to ensure Bolan’s son had money and a decent education when the family were left with nothing.
Some other Bolan/Punk and New Wave bits and pieces I came across:
One episode of ‘Marc’ reunited Bolan with Andy Ellison, a former band mate from an early band called John’s Children. Ellison was by then lead singer for the New Wave/Punk band The Radio Stars, who had one UK Top 40 hit with “Nervous Wreck” in early 1978. (I still can’t believe they were band mates).
After learning about Marc Bolan’s death, The Damned’s Captain Sensible wrote Smash It Up (Part 1) in his memory.
And in 1979, Siouxsie and the Banshees released a cover of ‘20th Century Boy” as the B-side to their single “The Staircase (Mystery)”
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php
I’ve put a couple of my favourite tracks from Electric Warrior below:
Get It On (Some fantastic Top Of The Pops footage):
Jeepster (amazing live footage from a gig in London in 1972):