Friday 20 September 2019

T.Rex - Electric Warrior

This T.Rex album from 1971 marks the point when hippie-dom was banished (almost) and the Rock God was born.

After 4 relatively low selling albums with (the first couple with elongated titles ('My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows' and 'Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages'), the Tyrannosaurus Rex name was abbreviated, and the guitars plugged in.
The single "Ride A White Swan" hit number 2 and late 1970, and stardom beckoned (which, if truth be known, Marc Bolan had always hankered for).

His first number 1 single arrived the following year ("Hot Love") and was followed by "Get It On" in the summer.
The formula was becoming clear - ditch the sub-Tolkien Hippie nonsense, and jack up the Chuck Berry riffs.

In the late 60s and 70s, "Pop Music" was all about the 7" single, but (with the obvious exceptions (ie The Beatles, The Stones etc)), singles artists didn't always make the transition to albums.
Well T.Rex managed it in September 1971 with the release of 'Electric Warrior'.

'Electric Warrior' still got an air of mysticism (certainly in some of the titles and lyrics - "Mambo Sun", "Cosmic Dancer"), continues the acoustic musings "Girl", but also rocks like a bugger ("Jeepster", "Get It On", "Rip Off").  It even gets a bit philosophical with "Life's A Gas"
(somewhere on YouTube is a performance of said song with Cilla Black).

The two winning parts for this album are Bolan's songs (albeit with potentially crass lyrics in search of a rhyme),and the production work and arrangement of Tony Visconti.
There is a (slightly obtuse) argument that the production Team on this album influenced the next 10 years of popular music.
  • Producer: Tony Visconti
    (with Bowie, Iggy Pop, Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, Hazel O'Connor, and a reputation that continues to this day)
  • Engineer: Roy Thomas Baker
    (worked with a little known faux-Prog band from Kensington, and then produced 'Bohemain Rhapsody)
  • Tape Operator: Martin Rushent
    (producer of Buzzcocks, Stranglers and Generation X.  And then produced the pinnacle of Synth-Pop records with Human League's 'Dare')

Frankly, no T.Rex album has surpassed this 11 track collection.  Some are "close" but never quite get there.

From Mid-1971 to the end of 1972, Marc Bolan was at the very peak of his powers and adulation - a pedestal that would soon be filled by old friend and sparring partner David Bowie (who would also be aided by Tony Visconti), as Bolan entered a world of extreme self-belief (self delusion?), aspirations to vary his music (although he never achieved the chameleonic prowess of his old mate Dave), and generally chopping and changing his styles, band members, and production team as suited his whims (if not his musical output).
The last single released in 1971 was "Jeepster" - this continued an unfortunate run as it was kept from Number 1 by Benny Hills 'Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)' - 1970s "Ride A White Swan" was denied top spot by Clive Dunn's "Grandad", and 1972s "Solid Gold Easy Action" stalled behind Little Jimmy Osmond's "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool".  Marc Bolan's collection of 4 Number 1 Singles could easily have been 7 but for the spectre of the Novelty Single.


"Rip Off"

"Cosmic Dancer"


  1. Marc Bolan was a genius. He was also a one trick pony and I say that as a devoted fan from his peak era. However, that one trick was so good that it ensures and enshrines his legacy.

    Electric Warrior was his opus magna. No wonder it was played on a loop in a trendy King's Road boutique as it defined the start of a new decade and age. The Beatles were gone, teenagers had their own scream idol. EW was so hot it didn't need his first No.1 Hot Love to prop it up.

    T.Rex were the biggest band in the UK and Europe. Their success didn't translate to the US, despite a top 10 hit with Bang a Gong (Get it On) and Marc wasted too much time there trying in vain to break the American Market.

    He was also exploited at home with a slew of unwanted unofficial album releases by his old record labels cashing in. This led to his over exposure. Nor could he control his public outbursts which came across as arrogance. Maybe none of this would have mattered if he had been able to stay fresh and change tack a la Bowie but he never could. Hence the decline.

    Yet that run of wonderful pop singles from 1970-73 and the masterpiece EW album is truly memorable.