Mark's Top Matches
About Mark Feld
<Archive obituary> <The Times, September 20, 1977>
A correspondent writes: Marc Bolan was one of pop music's most enigmatic figures and had reached a critical point in his career. After shrewdly adapting his early folk style to the needs of "heavy metal" rock in the early 1970s, and achieving considerable commercial success with his band, T Rex, Bolan's star declined. He was attempting to retrieve his position this year, hosting a children's pop programme on ITV, "Marc", among other activities.
Born Mark Field, he came from a family of Soho coster-mongers and was an early entrant into the pop world. He learned the guitar and sang in local London shows while still at school. After modelling and acting, he made his early recordings for Decca as a solo artist in 1965 when he was 17. At this time his lyrics were described by George Melly as "rather like Walter de la Mare", and he was indeed a child of that time. He sang about wizards and woodlands, sea beasts and satyrs - a reflection of the gentle "flower children" period.
The powerful folk music flavouring was sustained when, with Steve Peregrine Took, he founded in 1967 the duo called Tyrannosauros Rex. Bolan wrote all the words and music, and played acoustic guitar; Took joined him in the singing, and played exotic percussion and other instruments - including bongos, African talking drums, chinese gongs and "pixiephones". Typical titles of the period were "The Warlords of the Royal Crocodiles", "The Throat of Winter", "The Seal of Seasons", and "Cat Black (The Wizard's Hat)".
After two years, during which he won a modest but loyal following, Bolan's music began to change. He took to amplification and a harder rock sound, and when Mickey Finn replaced Took in September, 1969, the moment was ripe for a transformation towards the "heavy metal" rock which was increasing in vogue. Within a few months they had a hit album, "Bead of Stars". Within a year, their single, "Hot Love", held top position in the British charts for six consecutive weeks.
For over three years from October 1970 - by which time the duo's name had been shortened to T Rex - Bolan and Finn, sometimes augmented by other musicians, enjoyed consistent success in the British (and, less often, the American) rock charts. Among their best known singles were "Ride a White Swan" (1970), "Get It On" (1971), "Telegram Sam" and "Metal Guru" (1972), and "20th Century Boy" (1973). Their albums, including "Electric Warrior", "Bolan Boogie" and "Best of T Rex", were consistently in the charts.
After 1973, however, T Rex records achieved only lowly positions in the charts and the band lost its charisma. Not long before his death, Bolan had publicly described his efforts successfully to overcome drug addiction and alcoholism. He had prepared rigorously for his television comeback, and the show was accounted a success, with young audiences in excess of 10,000,000. He had plans to tour in Germany and the United States, and to make more recordings.