Metal Guru: The Life And Music Of Marc Bolan by Paul Roland - review

Sad tale of a glamorous elf

Cover art for Metal Guru: The Life And Music Of Marc Bolan by Paul Roland

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Marc Bolan’s career was always slightly out of kilter. Parochially famous before his friend and rival David Bowie, the people he influenced usurped him. And while the punks held him in high esteem, he was destined to end up fronting a slightly dodgy TV kids’ show that cast him in the role of a teatime popular entertainer when he’d rather have been taken seriously as a musician and poet.

Tyrannosaurus Rex and T.Rex were big enough to satisfy his ego but as author Paul Roland points out, he didn’t translate in America where his lyrics were viewed as phony, though John Lennon reckoned he was a contender and Ringo Starr filmed his triumphant stint at the old Empire Pool in 1972. His decline – thanks to all the usual – was rapid, and his hits dated faster. Showbiz made him, but also did his head in. Listening to albums like The Slider and Electric Warrior again, which this book encourages one to do, is to hear a fragile talent, the Metal Guru of Glitter. As producer Tony Visconti said:“He was ready to branch out but his pitfall was always: ‘Let’s just do it once more for the kids.’”

Max Bell

Max Bell worked for the NME during the golden 70s era before running up and down London’s Fleet Street for The Times and all the other hot-metal dailies. A long stint at the Standard and mags like The Face and GQ kept him honest. Later, Record Collector and Classic Rock called.