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T. Rex

T. Rex

Fact Sheet

Musical genre:Rock  
Country  England, UK
Years active1967-1978
Before finding teenybopper adulation as a 1970s pop group T. Rex began life as Tyrannosaurus Rex, darlings of the hippy scene in 1960s London. The band was founded by Marc Bolan in 1967 and gave one performance as a five piece rock band at the Roundhouse before immediately breaking up in disarray. Bolan retained the services of Steve Peregrine Took and began producing eccentric pastoral and folk tinged ditties steeped in Tolkienian mythology, with spiritual homages to Gene Vincent thrown into the whimsical mix for good measure.

The combination of Bolan's guitar and cat-like wail with Peregrine Took's bongos and assorted percussion (which often included children's instruments such as the Pixiephone) gained them a devoted following on a thriving underground scene that included the Incredible String Band and DJ John Peel, who befriended them and ferried them to and from gigs in his mini and eventually read stories written by Bolan on two of their albums. Another key pairing was with the record producer Tony Visconti who went on to produce all of their albums well into their second phase.

As Tyrannosaurus Rex they recorded the albums

  • My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair....But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows (1968)
  • Prophets, Seers and Sages, the Angels of the Ages (1968)
  • Unicorn (1969)
  • A Beard Of Stars (1970)
The reverse cover of Unicorn follows a convention begun by Dylan with Bringing It All Back Home: the pair are pictured lurking in a Bayswater flat surrounded by influences LPs, books and objets d'art. These range from the modish to the obscure Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare, The Bible, works of William Blake, a Muddy Waters LP, tabla drums and toy cymbals etc. The photo sums up Bolan's earnest playfulness and the duo's position as both typical within their scene and a unique proposition, and the music on Unicorn, with its melancholic grandeur, marks the high water mark for pixie-rock.

Peregrine Took left after Unicorn, following a distastrous tour of the US, to be replaced by Mickey Finn.

As well as progressively shorter titles, the albums show increasing production values, more accessible song writing from Bolan and experimentation with electric guitars and a rock sound. The breakthrough with this was in King of the Rambling Spires which used a full rock band and which, despite the lyrical content, is a long way removed from the first couple of albums. This purple patch also saw the publication of The Warlock of Love, Bolan's book of poems, derided by critics but which nevertheless became the best-selling poetry book of its time.

The next album, entitled simply T. Rex continued the process of simplification by shortening the name and completed the move to electric guitars. (Legend has it the Tony Visconti got fed up with writing the name out in full on studio chitties and tapes and began to abbreviate it. When Bolan first noticed he was furious, but later claimed it was his idea.) The sound was altogether poppier and the first single, Ride a White Swan, provided the first hit. This was followed with a second, Hot Love. A band was hastily formed and began to tour to increasing audiences, with teenage girls replacing the hippies of old. Inspired by his old chum David Bowie, Marc took to wearing sequins and glitter on his face.

The second T. Rex album, Electric Warrior is considered by many to be their best and brought great success. The music press at the time coined the term 'T Rextacy' to describe the audience reaction at their performances.

A couple of years of chart success followed, with hit singles such as Metal Guru and Telegram Sam pouring off what came to resemble a production line. Original members of the band, including Finn, began to leave in 1973, alienated by Bolan's increasingly egotistical behaviour. Having always been a fantasist, he had now become a pathological liar addicted to cocaine and cream buns.

Albums as T Rex

  • T Rex (1970)
  • Electric Warrior (1971)
  • The Slider (1972)
  • Tanx (1973)
  • Bolan's Zip Gun (1974)
  • Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1975)
  • Futuristic Dragon (1976)
  • Dandy in the Underworld (1977)
Bolan died in a car crash on September 16, 1977, and was survived by his wife Gloria Jones and son Rolan Bolan. Notable posthumous releases include The Beginning of Doves, a very interesting collection of early songs and demos recorded in between John's Children and Tyrannosaurus Rex, and The Children of Rarn, demos for the sub-Tolkien concept album that Bolan and Visconti had been talking about for years as the project that would re-establish Bolan as a creative force to be reckoned with.