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The Slider—8 (A very low 8, but an 8 all the same)
 
Released: 1972

1) Metal Guru  2) Mystic Lady  3) Rock On  4) The Slider  5) Baby Boomerang  6) Spaceball Ricochet  7) Buick Mackane  8) Telegram Sam  9) Rabbit Fighter  10) Baby Strange  11) Ballrooms of Mars  12) Chariot Choogle  13) Main Man

 

Marc Bolan’s whole life was spent trying to be a star.  From his earliest days with Helen Shapiro and his short stay as a professional model—through his duo-days with Steve Took and right up through fronting a full band, he always strived for superstardom.  And after the release of “Electric Warrior” he got his wish.  In 1971 he had number one hits with “Hot Love” and “Get It On” and reached number two with “Jeepster.”  In 1972, he was even bigger, with five singles reaching the Top Ten in the UK including: “Metal Guru” and “Telegram Sam” at number one, “Children of the Revolution” and “Solid Gold, Easy Action” at number two and “Debora” at number seven.  In fact, in 1972, one in every twenty-five records sold in the UK were by T Rex.

 

Not only was Bolan the biggest act in music, he was a cultural icon not seen since the early days of the Beatles.  He would get mauled in public and teenaged girls would faint at his shows.  Everywhere you looked bands in England were copying Bolan’s sound: Slade, Gary Glitter, Mott the Hopple, Wizard, Sweet, Roxy Music, and David Bowie all reached stardom riding on Bolan’s campy, cocky, Glam aura.  Marc was so huge at the time, that he even tried his hand at the movies, with his Ringo Starr directed “Born to Boogie.”  The documentary, at a little over sixty minutes long, was predictably dumb, but did keep Marc’s name in the spotlight, something he just couldn’t seem to do in America.  Even with all his success in the UK, Bolan couldn’t break through in the United States despite his Glam Rock sound influencing Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, and the New York Dolls.

 

Although it seemed as if Bolan had been practicing his whole life for just this type of success, he didn’t handle it well at all.  He began using cocaine for the first time, and his heavy drinking was bloating his once heavenly appearance.  But what most of his friends and band members recall from this time was how arrogant he became…how his ego took center stage, and while it was only done as an act before in his interviews and photo sessions, it seemed as if Bolan was turning into his image…that once Marc reached his goal of superstardom, he kind of just went with what worked.  Pointedly, “The Slider” is all recycled boogie beats and generic rock, almost as if he lost interest in his songwriting and only cared about making hits.  There is still a little of that Bolan charm, but it is almost suffocated by the lack of diversity; every song sounds the same, with only a few exceptions.  What makes this record so difficult to review though is that most of these tunes are still good.   

 

The album starts with the do-opy “Metal Guru,” sounding like it was recorded for the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” soundtrack.  It is fun and catchy, with typically perfect orchestration (courtesy of Tony Visconti) and backing vocals by the Turtles.  This has often been called the prototype for all Glam songs, and it is hard to argue, as it is awesome.  The acoustic “Mystic Lady” slows things down a tad, but is still a gas.  It is a very good song, but not the kind of tune that really gets better with repeated listens.  In fact, that argument could be made for the entire album—a lot of fun, but with no real substance. 

 

Rock On” is just an electrified version of “Mystic Lady,” with only the coda making it stand apart.  The title track is a little more menacing, with a slightly bluesier sound.  It is an easy highlight and Bolan’s best vocal performance of his post Tyrannosaurus days.  The orchestration is catchy as hell and that chorus of “I…slide” is just great.  Baby Boomerang” is a short and fun with a stolen, grooving beat and uses some brilliant gospel-like background vocals.  An excellent mid-tempo song, not quite a ballad, “Spaceball Ricochet” features Bolan’s best lyrics on the record with lines like “Book after book, I get hooked every time the writer talks to me like a friend.”  It is calming and almost chant-like, relishing in that 1950s do-op style, and is one of my favorites on the album. 

 

Buick Mackane” rocks harder than any other track here: greasy, cock rock with orchestration.  The words are few and far between and Bolan really just uses the tune as an excuse to shout and solo over a compelling backbeat.  The hit, “Telegram Sam” follows and has a lot of similarities to “Bang A Gong,” meaning a good, likable rock song, but it is a little too generic for its own good…T Rex doing T Rex.  Rabbit Fighter” is just another standard mid-tempo 1950s inspired tune with only some Glam electric guitar fills to distinguish it.  A hoarse, deep “One and a two and a boppidy-boppidy-boo” opens the stale “Baby Strange.”  This has no bite on it at all and is the worst song on a Bolan album since his debut.  The ballad, “Ballrooms of Mars” is better with its name-dropping John Lennon and Bob Dylan, and great guitar solo.  It is a little too slow, but does manage to keep you interested throughout. 

 

Chariot Choogle” is a strange hard rock Alice Cooperish tune.  It has the dark sound of “The Slider” and “Buick Mackane,” but might be more greasy and brash.  Main Man” closes the album with a pleasant little sing-along-song, including the lines “Bolan likes to rock now, yes he does.”  It is really the only tune here that has Bolan’s earlier charm and although is nothing too inventive in terms of melody, it is genuine and cozy.

 

All in all, this album is a letdown after “Electric Warrior;” A catchy and rocking letdown, but a letdown all the same.  "The Slider" took all of the things that made that album into a hit and used them to the point of submerging you in recycled rock.  This album is full of toe tapping boogie and traditional 50s style, but Marc has virtually given up his clever chord changes and creative vocal hooks for this obviously more commercial approach.  While it won him a lot of fame and chart topping singles, the album really is just Bolan giving into the demands of his teenaged fans and selling out. 
 
But it is still a sell out you should buy. 

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