Part teen idol and part rock star…. Marc Bolan was glam’s answer to Beatlemania. He had the swagger that rock stars only dream about and the presence of a young movie star. His life was unexpectedly cut short due to an auto accident in September of 1977 while driving home from a night of frolic and merriment. The accident occurred two weeks before his 30th birthday and he was killed instantly when the car he was in hit a tree. During many interviews he would elude to the belief that his life would be short and would never grow old. His fear of aging was his motivation to always evolve as a musician and entertainer.
His father was a Jewish/Polish immigrant and he grew up in a London working class neighborhood. His born name was Mark Feld before he changed it to Marc Bolan.
He started playing the guitar at the age of 15 but his notoriety first began with male modeling because of his incredible good looks and long curly hair. Bolan took to wearing top hats, platform shoes and feather boas on stage as well as putting drops of glitter on each of his cheekbones. Stories are conflicting about his inspiration for this—some say it was introduced by his personal assistant.
Like most rock stars of this era he had a love for Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry. He became a great guitarist and appeared on songs from Bowie to Electric Light Orchestra. David Bowie and Marc Bolan shared the same manager, Tony Howard and producer Tony Visconti.
His image always stood in the way of his guitar virtuosity with the press and till his death he was unhappy that his ability wasn’t more highly recognized. As the glam movement grew Marc Bolan was its poster child, but could he wail on the Les Paul guitar! In 1971 his first big hit “Get it On” was released in Britain and became a huge hit. The song was renamed “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” when released in the United States, to avoid confusion with another song of the same name by the American band Chase.
The song reached #10 in the United States in early 1972, the only Top 40 single the band had in America. His follow-up “Jeeptser” which had tremendous airplay in England but didn’t have the momentum to score on the American charts following “Bang a Gong”. In 1973 he released “20th Century Boy” which became an anthem of an entire world movement of Glam music. He and David Bowie were close friends so there wasn’t any rivalry between their shared successes. The stage was big enough for these two rock icons to co-exist.
As he matured he continued to grow with his guitar ability and played back-up guitar to Ike Turner on the Ike and Tina Turner’s flamethrowin’ song, “Baby Get It On”. It’s hard to believe that it was Bolan playing that unforgettable riff. Imagine how great it would’ve been if Marc Bolan played with Ike and Tina Turner! Bolan had ths infactuation with Tina Turn while growing up and always dreamed to perform by her side. Many magazines have tried to discount Bolan’s involment but most of that came from Ike Turner.
Bolan wanted nothing more than to share the stage with guitar greats as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck yet he was unable to shed his “sweet boy” persona established by the British publicity machine. His music played a significant role in the movie version of “Billy Elliott” and created a whole new generation to his brand of rock n’ roll.