‘Well, I was born to move, with fire in my shoes…’ Thus testifies Marc Bolan on the first of 184 offcuts assembled on this eight-CD “bound book set”. The collection was released as eight separate albums in the mid-90s, and as a whole in 2010. In an act of God which only adds to the Bolan mythology, the 2011 Sony warehouse fire saw most of that print run consumed by flames. So we go again with new artwork, rare photos and updated notes.
The cover shot shows Bolan nestled among amplifiers and reel-to-reel recorders. It’s appropriate. These are Marc’s home demos, sketches, jams, rejected takes and unfinished ideas. They range from studio masters to rudimentary private memos. Rough diamonds, with much rough. Is there an elemental jewel here, screaming out its status as the great lost T. Rex classic?
Not really. Although Alligator Man (a Jeepster prototype) is a blast, the fusion of the bopping savant and Visconti’s vision is generally missed. It’s fairly fascinating as a behind-the-curtain insight into his methods. Loose, bitty and blatantly not intended to be heard even by the most ardent fans, it’s possibly a vault-scrape too far. It’s like staring at Shakespeare’s shopping list, hoping for poetry.
Nothing can now rattle Bolan’s place in the pantheon: they could package his old socks without making The Slider any less genius. If there’s a market for Dylan doing five million takes of Like A Rolling Stone, then there’s justification for* 20th Century Baby*, Love Drunk, Unicorn Horn and Savage Deception Of Love.
Unchained (arranged chronologically) opens with the boy blazing in the early 70s. It then stutters for its midsection, offers cracking curveballs in the ‘interstellar soul’ or ‘sky church music’ of the Zinc Alloy and Gloria Jones period, then peters out. There are solo acoustic confessionals – ‘did you ever feel afraid?’ he trills vulnerably – and wiry, wired archetypes which hindsight tells us mutated into glories like Rabbit Fighter.
On the charming Over The Flats, Bolan recalls his boyhood move from happening Hackney to suburban Wimbledon. He sings, ‘Here no-one knows my name/People all look the same/I walk unnoticed steps/They don’t know my rep.’ His reputation, since rightly canonised, can withstand the exposure of these napkin doodles.