Comfort-music is part of a much-needed psychological self-care arsenal, along with your tea, your macaroni-and-cheese-adjacent-substance, your responsible self-medication and your small furry animals. I think it’s very called-for in times like these, and even when times are good. So on that note we’re on quite a roll with the psychedelic folk music this week, and I’m warning you, it’s not about to end. I have a lot more coming up in a similar vein, so you might as well make it a playlist. Relax, fire up a bong or whatever it is you do to unwind, and let the #bigmood take you. Because Tyrannosaurus Rex well never not be what the kids call a ‘big mood’ for me. Marc Bolan’s voice just gives me a deep sense of comfort and well-being. Psychedelia and fantasy provides an escape from the grind of reality, takes the sharp edges off a little, makes the hours go by a little more smoothly. Reality just conspires to bring you down.
Tyrannosaurus Rex is, apparently, not a universal taste. Later-era T. Rex is highly accessible and well known, but those pre-name change early records mostly elicit confusion. Maybe listeners are put off by Marc Bolan’s mushy mouthed delivery, or, if they can get past that, the odd subject matter. You’re just not high enough to really dig the bongos and children’s lit references, my friends. Listening to Tyrannosaurus Rex is like being absorbed in another world – you have to surrender to it and accept its weird rules.
Marc Bolan never did write a book about the adventures of Kingsley Mole and Lionel Lark. He became a famous rock star and lost interest in fairy tales and whimsical creatures. Or rather, fairy tales and whimsical creatures went out of fashion along with peace, love and idealism at the end of the 1960’s and Bolan was at the cutting edge of fashion. He was. This doesn’t sound like the composition of a man who was at the cutting edge of anything, but let me assure you that in 1969 all of the coolest people were reading The Wind in the Willows and trying to incorporate its rustic charms into their own writings. It wasn’t a more innocent time by any means, but there was a belief that the world could become more pure and loving, somehow, and reverting to childlike whimsy was part of that mindset. Then, of course, everyone gave up on that pipe-dream and starting doing a lot of cocaine and heroin instead. But it was a wonderful, charmed time while it lasted.
“His prophecies were you”
One minute and twenty four seconds of Tyrannosaurus Rex. That’s almost not even a full song. No, but trust me, it is an experience. I think that perhaps with the early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums, the songs don’t work so well out of context. The famous T.Rex albums that followed were a parade of hit singles, but this was a very different animal. The early albums need to be taken in as a whole. The songs flow together, and not one of them is anywhere near being a hit single. They may strike you as strange, especially alone like this, but they grow on you. You can’t help being charmed by Marc Bolan’s world, with its light mysticism and fantasy.
Where does this fit into Marc Bolan’s cosmology? Firmly on the elves and talking animals end of the spectrum, where Bolan explored childlike and whimsical realms of fantasy. In the face of history, it’s clearly the strutting rock songs about cars and babes that hold the place of honor. That’s what people respond to, and that’s where Bolan’s legacy lies. But the fey charm of the Tyrannosaurus Rex years has its own appeal, though it’s obviously not for everybody. It’s for people who never grew out of loving The Wind in the Willows, who like to get lost inside their own heads and see little faces in the trees and imagine the inner monologue of every animal.
Swans do fly. One from the Tyrannosaurus Rex vaults. This one does a real 180 on you; it starts off like a mellow head trip with the bongos, then it explodes into a raging guitar solo. All in less than three minutes. It’s Marc Bolan being split two ways with his persona. It’s a tiny capsule in which you witness the failed ‘new Donovan’ reinvent himself as a guitar god. To use one of Bolan’s favorite animal images, the glam rock swan arises.
“We make feasties of the beasties but the beasties just live in the wild, you know you’re slower now, you were faster when you were a child.”
Profound truth. And, as promised, an organ. So just really open your mind and let the weirdness flow in. Marc Bolan loves you and don’t you know you love him too, yes you do. Bolan’s childlike mysticism was always so cute; he didn’t make much sense but his imagination was unbound. Is there any reason the sounds of an organ shouldn’t be put together with tribal percussion of some kind? Of course not, now bring out those bongos! It would help with your enjoyment if you were of a psychedelic mind. No need to trip, just have the mindset. Take Marc Bolan’s example; all the disparate things in your interest field can be tied together in a loose narrative, it doesn’t have to make sense, it’s your universe. You can be a wizard, and drive a hot rod, and converse with moles, and court an Inca queen, and find a cure for those summertime blues, and rock some platform mary janes, and make a movie with Ringo Starr. It’s the spring of 1970 and everything is possible.