“I know I’m small, but I enjoy living anyway” sings Marc Bolan, looking very small indeed. Some former flower children shed their hippie frippery crossing over into the 1970’s, but you couldn’t take the flower child out of Bolan. He carried over his habit of performing sitting cross-legged; probably the least optimal posture for playing to a stadium of squealing teenyboppers, but very cute. He also never lost his sense of cosmic wonderment. In nonsensical but heartfelt verse, he sang about being a small fragment in the universe, sometimes sad but still full of love. Or something. It was a vulnerable but ballsy performance, and that could be the epitaph for his entire life.
When I was in high school I spent a lot of time alone in my room listening to T. Rex records. I didn’t have very many friends, but I did have a lot of art projects. Marc Bolan was some of the best company a weird and socially maladjusted kid could have, with his soothing baby-lamb voice and personalized cosmology populated equally by talking woodland critters and sexy mamas in glitter. Bolan was quite the teen idol, in his brief heyday, but he long ago became an obscure curio. Other teen idols have cycled in and out since his time, a new one every 2.5 years or so, because teens and their burning passions have very short shelf-lives. I, meanwhile, am 35 years old now, and I still spend a lot of time alone in my apartment listening to T. Rex records. I don’t have very many friends, but a lot of unfinished art projects. There are many more things in my life than when I was 15, obviously; I have a career, I do socialize and go out sometimes, men vie for my attention, there’s a lot of new music to listen to, etc… But amidst all that, oftentimes I just want to stay home and listen to T. Rex records. Marc Bolan has been a lifelong friend, and his cosmology is part of my cosmology now. Some things in the world don’t ever change.
We all know ‘shock rock’ as a genre, aimed squarely at youngsters with easily offended families. It was a big thing in the 90’s. What Marc Bolan has to say about that – despite being dead long before that whole conversation rolled around – is “If you know how to rock, you don’t have to shock.” Most likely, all Bolan had in mind when he wrote those words was probably sex …or nothing. Bolan had a habit of churning out hard-boogieing riffs and leaving the words for an afterthought. But I think that he would agree with my out-of-context interpretation; shock value is no substitute for knowing how to rock.
“One day we change from children into people, one day we change”
Grains of wisdom from Marc Bolan. Amid the songs about wizards and magic and Rarn, Bolan had some real good life advice. Ride a white swan, for example, baby, can’t go wrong. Bolan’s vision was unique, even in a time when loopy mysticism was on-trend. Nobody else on the scene tried so lovingly to marry rock music with folklore. In the end, that marriage failed, partly because the wide-eyed wonder of the 60’s became the cocaine-eyed dystopia of the 70’s, partly because Bolan himself grew out of his interest in pastoralia. But it was a thoroughly charming, and thoroughly more innocent, moment in pop culture.
“Rock on!” is the simplest directive for life. Just keep on keeping on, living your rock star life, being your most rocking self, doing what you do. Totally meaningless yet totally inspiring. That’s kind of also the T.Rex credo. T.Rex isn’t music with a message, except for one of hedonism and fun aka ‘rocking’. T. Rex rocked in the firm belief that rocking is what gets you through; rock to live, live to rock. That’s a simple philosophy, it’s easy to follow, and right down to it, it’s all you really need.
This leaves me no choice but to put on Electric Warrior and then continue listening to T. Rex until it’s time to go to work. T. Rex just makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Marc Bolan has a legacy with a lot of impact, and we can talk about all of the ways his work is important and influential in the world. I can talk about all of the ways it’s important and influential to me personally. But really, it just makes me happy, and it’s supposed to do that, and that’s part of the legacy. I think I’m getting sentimental.
“Wear you hair long, baby, can’t go wrong”
Riding a white swan is symbolically not the same as riding a white horse, just so you know. Swans represent grace, beauty and refinement. Marc Bolan had a vision of himself as a mythical character, a warlock warrior prince with a guitar. A swan was the perfect mode of transportation for such a fantastical personage, though he had a taste for nice cars as well. With that image, Bolan took his phantasmagorical collection of interests and rode to stardom. It was a harbinger of future fashions, the first glam rock hit from the first glam-rocker.