1) Hot Rod Mama 2) Scenescof 3)
Child Star 4) Strange Orchestras 5) Chateau in Virginia Waters 6) Dwarfish
Trumpet Blues 7) Mustang Ford 8) Afghan Woman 9) Knight 10) Graceful Fat Sheba 11) Weilder
of Words 12) Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)
After Marc Bolan’s fantastic single “Hippy Gumbo” inexplicably flopped in
November of 1966, his new manager, Simon Napier-Bell convinced Bolan to join one of the first psychedelic bands in England,
John’s Children (also under his management). The band was, by all accounts,
chaotic and enticing on stage and close to becoming a hit (even opening for The Who). What John’s Children lacked was a true songwriter, so Bell figured Bolan could step right in. Marc responded by writing the classic psychedelic anthem, “Desdemona.” The tune was banned by the BBC for the line, “Lift up your skirt and fly,”
but it garnered enough of a buzz to give Bolan his first taste of pop stardom. The
band never really meshed well though, as Marc was only interested in drinking a little wine and writing songs, while the rest
of the band were untalented, full-bore druggies.
So Marc quit John’s Children (and left his contract with Columbia) 6 months after joining to
put an ad in the International Times recruiting other musicians to form his own band.
18-year old drummer Steve Turner responded, and after Marc convinced him to go by the name Steve Peregrine Took (a
hobbit from Lord of the Rings), he joined up with Bolan. Marc christened
the new “band,” Tyrannosaurus Rex and immediately began playing gigs in and around Covent Gardens in London. The twosome might have never made it at all if it wasn’t for a very influential
disc jockey that took quite a liking to the sound…the legend himself, John Peel.
Peel had liked Bolan from his first single, ”The Wizard, ” and used his influence
by frequently allowing Tyrannosaurus Rex to open for club dates he would MC. One
such establishment was the UFO Club made famous by one of Marc’s heroes, house band Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd. Soon enough, Bolan and Took had a solid following and obtained enough word of mouth
to attract record producer Tony Visconti who offered the teenagers a contract with Essex Music. Within weeks, Visconti recorded Bolan and Took on their debut album, ridiculously entitled “My
People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair…But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows.” The album itself is beyond description. With Took pounding away on bongos, and adding occasional bass and perfectly pitched background vocals,
and Bolan scat singing in his unintelligible yelps, it literally sounds like nothing else.
The Elvis and Bob Dylan influences heard on “The Beginning of Doves” has almost completely disappeared,
in its stead, Bolan has created a new sound: acoustic hippie music. There are
vocal hooks and melodies galore, but the songs are not fully developed and the added background noises sound too dated for
this to be anything more than a neat novelty record.
the time though, it introduced the world to Marc Bolan, as close to a real life elf as there ever was. His strange hippie tunes of far away lands written in old English were as far out as you could ask. Bolan once claimed that his music was on acoustic what “Piper at The Gates
of Dawn” was on electric—strong, but telling words. “Hot
Rod Mama” opens the record and sounds like a Middle Eastern blues song. There
is weird chanting, bongos, and even a gong in the background, Bolan plays guitar so sloppy it seems as if he has never played
Western rhythm before, and then there is that voice. I don’t know what
to say about it really…I absolutely love it, but can totally understand how someone could hate it. Just to get a sense, the best I can come up with is that Bolan sounds a little like a caffeinated Bob Dylan,
overtired, but in a great mood. Anyway, the song rules in its strangeness.
is a happy hippie tune. It has a cute little melody and sounds just like an elf
should, with strange high pitched little elf voices in the background and a warped cowbell keeping beat. “Child Star” has such a pretty vocal hook. The tune is most definitely out there, but that melody on the chorus is sublime. “Strange Orchestras” is another acoustic hippie freak fest. It is catchy as hell with that scat singing, and Bolan seems to be enjoying himself. The background noises are really irritating, but there is something charming about this song, and actually,
something charming about the entire album.
“Chateau in Virginia Waters” is the most normal sounding tune here,
but it isn’t anything amazing or anything. There is always too much ridiculous
background racket for any Tyrannosaurus Rex song to be boring, but this one comes very close.
“Dwarfish Trumpet Blues” is dark, captivating and has a great melody. This is the best song on the album and this time the coda featuring Bolan singing his typical crazy scat
sounds works very well. “Mustang Ford” is another Middle Eastern
blues tune. It is not nearly as good and is much slower than “Hot Rod
Mama,” but has Took really shining on the bongos.
Woman” is a pleasent folk number with a weird wind chime sound in the background that always makes my dog bark
because he thinks it is the doorbell. “Knight” has
nice little moody melody, but who the hell knows what the song is about? There
are only four stanzas…one being: “Head of plumes and crimson ostrich feathers/ 8th Hussars' manners gush out of
my bloodstream, my queen.” Also, Bolan literally barks like one of those
little pug dogs at the end of tune. “Graceful Fat Sheba” is
a slower song that doesn’t distinguish itself from any of the others. “Weilder
of Words” is one of the better songs here with a very effective chord structure, but
Bolan freaks out again at the end, pretty much ruining it. “Frowning
Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)” is a wacky ending for this bizarre album. The
song is by far the longest on the album and features a beautiful tune at the beginning, only to be ruined by Bolan chanting
“Hare Krishna” for about three minutes at the end like some sort of mantra.
The tune fades out and John Peel reads a strange poem about a mole before Bolan comes back in on acoustic and sings
a little ditty from which the album is titled.
This is one
of the most insane acoustic albums made and is completely a product of its times; there is no way ANYONE today could even
attempt a sound similar. There are times when I enjoy the hell out of the record as
a whole, but you do have to be in the right mood to really get into this distorted hippie soundtrack. In other words, if this album annoyed the hell out of you, Tyrannosaurus Rex does get a lot better, and
if you are the rare individual that likes this album…keep reading and you’ll soon be in for a major treat.