T.Rex's 1972: an essential, mind-bogglingly comprehensive box set

Marc Bolan's landmark year 1972 celebrated with solid-gold studio, live and soundtrack multimedia set

T.Rex: 1972 packshot
(Image: © Demon)

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There is much weeping and gnashing of teeth these days concerning the question: which were the greatest 12 months of music in the entire history of the world, ever? Popular consensus seems to be either 1969 or 1971; I’d say it’s whatever year it was when you celebrated your fifteenth birthday. Thus, spiralling down Irwin Allen’s Time Tunnel, we tumble upon T.Rex and 1972. 

Basking in the success of his Electric Warrior album, released the previous year, in ’72 Marc Bolan enjoyed a brace of No.1 singles (Metal Guru and Telegram Sam); released a new LP, The Slider; headlined Wembley Empire Pool; starred in a feature film, Born To Boogie. All of which is catalogued in detail in this estimable collection.

It’s just a shame that Slider, which forms 1972’s backbone, is not one of Bolan’s finest hours. This writer speaks from experience, having been part of a Sixth Form coterie of Marc fanatics back in the day. We were confident to coolly strut around college while cradling 12-inch copies of the aforementioned Warrior in our arms; Slider not so much. Our bitter rivals – David Bowie devotees – sensed blood and, with Ziggy Stardust also released in ’72, we didn’t have a prayer. 

As an aficionado of Bolan’s silver-plated poetry, some of the sparkle was lost on Slider, his surreal lyrics not quite hitting the sweet spot. Examples include ‘Be my plane in the rain’ and ‘I have never never kissed a car before/It’s like a door’. Er… right. 

Then there’s the bonkers Baby Boomerang snippet: ‘Your uncle with an alligator, chained to his leg/ Dangles you your freedom, then he offers you his bed.’ Shades of I Am The Walrus – perhaps because Bolan had recently formed an unlikely friendship with Ringo Starr.

Still, no mistake, this is a terrific package with mind-bogglingly comprehensive sleeve notes and super photos. And it has to be said that Bolan’s naive missteps form part of its charms. 

Listening to the audio from the Empire Pool matinee concert, one cannot help but detect a degree of confusion from the audience, largely composed of teenage girls, when Marc embarks on a yet another freak-out guitar solo. (‘Bolan likes to rock now/Yes he does, yes he does,’ as our corkscrew-haired hero espouses on the Slider track Main Man.) 

The sounds of Marc in the early stages of an, ultimately tragic, implosion is what makes 1972 such an essential purchase, even at £100-plus for the full-on bells-and-whistles edition. What would have made it 10/10 perfect? Visuals of the Born To Boogie movie, rather than a mere audio soundtrack. For those who don’t remember or know the film, think Vic and Bob meet Marc and Ringo.

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.