Almost Credible Reviews

Home | Album Reviews | WRC Links | Ratings Explanation


Back To Marc Bolan's Page

The Beginning of Doves—7


Released: 1974


Recorded: 1966 and 1967

Mark Feld was born of a working class Jewish family in East London, September 30, 1947.  He was a rebellious youngster who was apparently knifed in a gang fight even before becoming a teenager.  Music was his way off the streets though, and in 1961, at age 13, Feld formed a band with fourteen-year old Helen Shapiro called Suzie and the Hula Hoops (Feld was on tea chest bass).  Just a few months later, Shapiro quit to embark on a solo career that included 2 British number ones that same year.  Feld downplayed the impact of seeing one of his friends rise to the top so quickly, but it undoubtedly had an influence on his thinking. 


Mark claimed to have been expelled from school sometime in 1962, but probably just quit.  Regardless, he gave up on his music career to become a professional model, appearing in a few major magazines of the day.  At 17 he quit modeling and gave guitar another go, playing folk music and using the name Toby Tyler.  Tyler failed his audition for EMI, so he began calling himself Marc Feld again (though dropping the “k” in favor of a “c”) and tried his hand at acting.  Feld appeared on a few TV shows, including the "Sam Kydd Show," but grew bored of the whole process fairly quickly and decided to vacation in France to find a direction.


According to Marc, while in France, he met a black magician who ate human flesh and had numerous tomes on mysticism.  Marc claimed this “wizard” even let him witness sťances and sacrificial rituals.  In France, Marc also read John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings.  These events had such an influence on Feld that he began writing songs inspired by his experiences as soon as he returned to England.  He recorded one song, “The Wizard,” based on his magician friend from France, and sent the tape to Decca records, who immediately signed him.


When Decca sent Feld back the sample tapes, they changed his name to Marc “Bowland.”  Marc modified it to “Bolan” and Decca released the single in November of 1965.  Marc had just turned 18 years of age.  The Wizard” never turned into the hit Bolan hoped, and neither did his next single, “The Third Degree,” so Decca dropped him in June 1966.  By October, Marc was getting desperate and in a bold move, showed up at Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell’s door.  He sat right down and played, so impressing Bell that he immediately took Bolan into De Lane Studios in London and recorded 14 demos in one 50-minute session.  These demos (plus 6 others recorded later that year) were not released on an album until “The Beginning of Doves” in 1974.


While this is not Bolan’s official debut album (and in fact, almost all of these tracks are only demos), for the purposes of reviewing, it marks the logical beginning of Bolan’s output, so it is where I am beginning.  To make matters more confusing, I have the 2002 re-release with a total of 37 tracks recorded during this time period, many of which are just alternate takes of the same song.  There is no way I’m going to comment on each of these tracks so I’ll just concentrate on the highlights.    


The 2002 version of the album is made up of the flopped single Bell released in 1966, “Hippy Gumbo” backed by “Misfit,” the solo demo recordings Marc made at De Lane Studios, and the demo sessions Marc had with his first solo band, Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967.  Save for the single, these songs are as stark as possible and really show that Bolan’s hippie sound on his debut album did not just happen…there was a logical progression of sound as heard on these takes.  While many of the songs are straight blues and 1950s style ballads, they each display Bolan’s own signature whiney vocal style.  Most of the time you can’t make out any word he is saying, but the noise he comes out with fits into the song like another instrument and is above all else, unique. 


Being the released single, “Hippy Gumbo” had much more work put into it featuring orchestration and double bass.  I can’t believe it wasn’t a hit.  It is moody and haunting with all that talk about “chopping you up for firewood.” Clearly Bolan’s first masterpiece, the string section is particularly effective and it is easy to see why Bell was so enamored with Marc the minute he heard him.  Jasper C. Debussy” begins the whole album with Marc stating “Fuck off or keep cool.”  The tune features a piano and is a strange “circus blues.”  Bolan’s voice is ridiculously whiney, but the tune itself is fast paced and fun.  Beyond the Rising Sun” punches right in with expressive bongos and a crazy whistle.  It is insane and sounds unbelievably dated, but the ending portion where Marc sings his la-la-las is very prophetic to his later work.  Horrible Breath” is a little foreshadowing into Bolan’s future as well…this tune is proto-punk—fast paced and wild.  


Black and White Incident,” “Hot Rod Mama,” “Mustang Ford,” “One Inch Rock” and “Charlie” are original blues numbers with Bolan using a more restrained vocal and each demonstrate that Bolan was still not very capable on guitar just yet.  Observations” is a much better tune, with its age-old melody, but Marc adds his own mannerisms and contained shrieks to make it standout.  Eastern Spell” is an excellent folk tune, dripping of Bolan’s future output.  It has a great vocal melody and is easily one of the better songs here.  Sarah Crazy Child” rules—it is a fast paced, good time and the background vocals are perfectly out of focus.  Bolan lets rip with his soon to be standard scat singing of sounds instead of words.  Rings of Fortune” is another very good track, with an excellent melody.  A little more sinister, it is close to matching Marc’s eventual sound.  Jasmine ‘49” and “I’m Weird” are folk rock tunes with attitude.  They feature Bolan’s best guitar on the album and he real nails the vocals as well.  Misty Mist (Highways)” is a creepy tune with another great vocal melody over top of a gently strummed acoustic, while “Sleepy Maurice” features a very cool guitar lick and an excellent vocal hook—a very sloppy, but interesting track.    


In fact, virtually every song here is a very sloppy, but interesting track.  None are over three minutes in length and few are over two, but each track really shows the genius that Bolan most clearly was…whether it be solo on acoustic, backed by orchestration, or just with Steve Took pounding away on bongos, Bolan’s presence shines through.  This probably shouldn’t be your first Bolan purchase, but you should not overlook it.  There are some fascinating gems here and this are essential if you are at all interested in how Bolan created his hippie sound.   

The site was designed by Burnttoast45