MARC BOLAN: A Legendary Rock Star Glimmering A Shine To Modern Music Trends Today

With the recent news of T-Rex being voted to be one of the bands and artists to be inducted into the 2020 Rock and Hall of Fame, the individual behind it all and from beyond the grave, Marc Bolan continues to shine glam and rock and roll rebellion in a modern world constantly changing. 

Glam Rocker Marc Bolan. Photo credit: BBC

T-Rex fans will be delighted with the news that the British glam rockers will “officially” be acknowledged as rock and roll legends being nominated along with Whitney Houston and Biggie Smalls aka Notorious B.I.G into the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The significance in this historical moment musically speaking is how the main operator behind the band, Marc Bolan took the definition of what rock and roll is all about to another dimension with his musical range that remains to be impressive by today’s standards.

According to Gloria Jones, Bolan’s then girlfriend, bandmate and mother of their son, Rolan Feld Bolan said to Billboard, “He was a very humble spirit, but he understood who he was. He understood his worth.” Nevertheless, Jones adds, the glam rock pioneer, “would have been very, very honored, and I’m sure he would have been brought to tears. I’m sure he’s very happy, and he’s very honored.”

Why Marc Bolan Remains To Be A Glam Rebelling Rock Icon – A Flamboyant Identity That Thwarts The Restraints of Society Standards 

Marc Bolan was way ahead of his time in his short career as one of the top charting artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Being the “man who started it all” Bolan is responsible for pioneering the glam rock movement with  his 1971 performance on Top of The Pops performing ‘Hot Love’ – The performance showcased Bolan’s stage presence wearing glitter and satins and showing off extroverted energy combined with a vocal range and guitar virtuosity that was otherworldly.

Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone Magazine asserts, “Bolan has always stood for everything benignly insane about glam.” What can fans still appreciate about their rock hero today? Sheffield’s stance presents to us the egomaniac personality of Bolan that we need today and still need in the future of music which has always been reflecting of the times. Bolan’s egomaniac persona embedded with the glam movement demonstrated a certifying charm.

In the heart of the T-Rex’s albums there is a flamboyant sex appeal and rock ferocity that continues to shine on through the 21st century.

Bolan can be the one held responsible for propagating the glam rock movement of the early 70s. Bolan was ambitious to achieve the musical direction he wanted to capture and it cascaded a timeless aesthetic that is inspiring the musicians and artists who’ve popped up after his death in 1977.

The case of who reigns as the king of glam rock is often disputed to be David Bowie or Marc Bolan and this played into the lifetimes of these two musical giants. The two individuals shared a competitive rivalry, with Bolan overshadowing Bowie who was early in his music career. Bolan revered to be a harsh critic over Bowie who schooled him in who was glam king, by saying to 1970s rock magazine, Creem Magazine, “I don’t consider David to be even remotely near big enough to give me any competition.”

For Bolan who remains to be appreciated by hardcore fans and underrated by critics – he didn’t abandon the musical roots as a folk, glam and rock and blues artist. David Bowie however who did abandoned the glam movement, became the trend setting, changing chameleon we know today.

Yet, maybe this loyalty to staying to his roots embedded a originality to Bolan’s personality which still seems to pop up in modern conversation. Why? Because Bolan shared both image, charisma and capability as a musician to make a footprint on the cultural societal underpinnings of the time and not only thwart societal standards but transgress them.

In the same interview by Cameron Crowe for Creem Magazine back in 1973, Bolan asserts what it means to be authentic as an entertainer or an influencer, influencing the public masses:

“You have to have a certain feel; a certain something. I meant, ninety-five percent of my success is the way I look. The Beatles were mop-tops. The Stones were dirty, never-washed bad boys. That’s what people pick up on. The music is secondary. You do have to have good music, though, after the initial physical contact. But initially, it’s got nothing to do with music.”

The Musicians Who Thank Bolan’s Magical Musical Prowess 

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T-Rex photo credit: Amazon

Marc Bolan has continued to inspire the musicians and artists who have come after him. In the albums of T-Rex, Bolan definitely could hold his own as a guitar slinger to his contemporaries of the that period  such as Keith Richards. Bolan’s heavy crunchy tone when it came to his guitar solos on his Gibson Les Paul guitar saw a glimmer into the future happenings of hard rock and heavy metal. The combination of his folky, pyschedelic wordplay in his songs and acoustic guitar style playing came to be known as cosmic psychedelia or ‘Bolaneqsue’.

Bolan was a type of guitar playing whose style didn’t abandon his roots in folk, blues and rock. In knowing the limitations of his abilities, he tested himself to see where even the basic modes of playing could take him to unknown, unreached territories. This made Bolan an respectable guitar riffing machine and listeners can see this in T-Rex’s hits such as ’20th Century Boy’  and ‘Children of The Revolution’.

T-Rex’s second album Electric Warrior was the album responsible of starting the Glam rock movement. The body of work within the album established the band as an ongoing influence for future artists.

According to Steve Huey,  “Bolan’s lack of pomposity, back-to-basics songwriting, and elaborate theatrics went on to influence everything from hard rock to punk to new wave. But in the end, it’s that sense of playfulness, combined with a raft of irresistible hooks, that keeps Electric Warrior such an infectious, invigorating listen today.”

Listen to The Smith’s song ‘Panic’ showing a similar sound to T-Rex’s ‘Metal Guru’, former guitarist of The Smiths Johnny Marr in his own biography Set The Boy Free acknowledged Marc Bolan as a major influence in his early studies on playing guitar.

The opening of Oasis’s hit song ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ pays a near note to note homage to T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’.

But even younger artists are still referring back to Bolan’s hypnotising charms. Millennial musician,  Harry Styles who has been enjoying a walk in the park solo career since the aftermath of One Direction has released two albums which carry influences drawn from Bolan’s work and other legendary rock musicians. From the looks to his music Harry Styles continues to exert the image of the late 60s and 70s rock star. Entertainers such as Boy George could not miss to comment on Styles’ similarities and imitation, comparing the “One Direction member to David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Mick Jagger, in terms of their “ambiguous” sexuality.”

If the current generations are looking for guidance from previous musical or artistic legends it points out the images of rock and roll is still alive and well, only being rehashed and presented to a modern audience.

Harry Style’s fashion stylist Harry Lambert, commented on Harry’s likeness of his rock star heroes, commenting,  What’s feminine and what’s masculine, what men are wearing and what women are wearing – it’s like there are no lines any more.”

To which glam rock legend Elton John agreed on, ​It worked for Marc Bolan, Bowie and Mick. Harry has the same qualities.”

It points out that these rock and roll artists from the 20th century simply wanted to be themselves and express their views freely against a dominant oppressive society that contained them.

T-Rex Legacy & Marc Bolan Reappraisal

Marc Bolan tragically died in car accident in 1977 and so ended T-Rex with an astonishing eight albums filled with songs of cosmic, psychedelic rock. Bolan’s work is timeless because it continues to be appreciated in exploring different modes of human expression. His art flamboyant and influential of the glam movement and for rock music has often been underrated or overshadowed by his old rival and friend David Bowie. The effect of Bolan’s death on Bowie, lamented him saying, “I’m terribly broken by it. The only tribute I can give Marc is that he was the greatest little giant in the world.”

Many fans and critics would dissect the importance Bolan continues to have on the cultural sphere in music, as Neil Kulkarni states, “Bolan always moved, was always best when turning his own fractured consciousness inside-out and letting it spill into the world. It’s time for ALL of Marc’s output to be looked at with the same attention and awe as Bowie’s, cos frequently he got there before anyone else, pushed himself beyond his fans and detractors abilities to adequately follow or comprehend him.”

Marc Bolan and T-Rex have rightly earned their place in the 2020 Rock and Hall of Fame and deserve it so.

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