Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Even today, almost 35 years after his death, people still place flowers at the spot in London where Marc Bolan was killed.
Bolan was a fortnight short of his 30th birthday when the car he was in with his girlfriend Gloria Jones, hit a tree.
Some might wonder "what might have been", but the sad fact is Bolan was one of those who had already been.
At the time of his death, the career of this elfin icon of early glam-pop was in steady decline and time was snapping at his heels. The star and glitter had been fading in the previous four years, his band T. Rex, which he had taken to great fame, had broken up and young fans who'd screamed for him were now just that little bit older and had moved on. Punk had arrived.
Marc Bolan might have made some kind of comeback - some punks quite liked his short snappy pop and various goth, punk and New Wave groups covered his songs - but it seems unlikely.
Still, he left a short but impressive body of work behind, and no album was more concise, coherent, fun, exciting and crammed full of hit material than Electric Warrior released at the end of 1971. It topped the British charts and sprung two terrific radio singles in Jeepster and Get It On.
Electric Warrior, even now, sounds like a classic pop album which nudges into glam but also has pointed guitar solos (he was a much underrated guitarist) and enough post-psychedelic tripped-out lyrics to be timeless. It took Bolan five years to make it, and it was quite a journey.
The origins of the snappy electric pop of Electric Warrior were his earlier incarnation in Tyrannosaurus Rex, a duo with percussion player Steve Peregrine Took. Bolan played acoustic guitar on ambling folk with surreal lyrics.
A lot of people liked them - influential radio DJ John Peel was a champion - but the duo fell out and Bolan moved on to electric guitar, started writing songs full of pop hooks and under the more manageable T.Rex moniker cracked the singles charts with Ride a White Swan and Hot Love.
With his corkscrew locks, pixie-like demeanor, colourful clothes and tight pop with odd but suggestive lyrics, Bolan became a sensual figurehead for glam rock. And then came Electric Warrior produced by Tony Visconti who had stuck with Bolan the whole way, but who had also produced Bowie's Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World albums. Bowie and Bolan were two of the brightest stars coming out of the glam rock closet.
Electric Warrior sounds like a collection of singles woven together by sheer force of Bolan's personality and self-confidence. The songs strut (Jeepster, Bang a Gong, The Motivator) and slink (Lean Woman Blues, Planet Queen), sometimes simultaneously (Mambo Sun, Life's a Gas).
The lyrics are mostly nonsense but that hardly matters because the songs are memorable.
Over the years the album has been reissued in expanded formats, but the new, slightly belated 40th anniversary edition trumps them all with a Visconti remastering of the original album (with extra tracks including Hot Love), an extra disc of demos and other material, and a DVD of Top of the Pops appearances (Get It On featuring Elton John) plus other clips and outtakes from the Wembley concert in May 1972 which former Beatle Ringo Starr filmed for his Bolan doco Born to Boogie.
What Ringo saw was something he recognised: Beatlemania under a new name, T.Rextasy.
Electric Warrior was the album that caused it.
Turn it up and you can hear why.