Tyrannosaurus Rex:My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair

Definitive package of Bolan’s pre-superstardom psych-folk.

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To kids discovering the joys of rock in the early 70s via the electric grooves of T.Rex, it was a rite of passage to track back to Marc Bolan’s earlier incarnations.

Experiencing Tyrannosaurus Rex albums for the first time was bewildering. They sounded utterly, uniquely berserk and, almost half a century on, still do. Bolan’s 1968s debut saw the ex-mod/ex-beatnik turning his back on the loud guitars of John’s Children to indulge his psychedelic-folk acoustic hippie side. With Steve Peregrin Took rattling away on percussion, he warbled weirdly juxtaposed words about goddesses, Narnia and laundromats as Tony Visconti, himself a fledgling producer, aimed for something “different and unusual”. They achieved that. Bolan’s tremulous tones blend beautifully with the Eastern-influenced, sparse yet flamboyant arrangements. It’s like a team of medieval pixies are crafting theme songs for a spaceship. Two John’s Children songs – Hot Rod Mama and Mustang Ford – were re-recorded, and are the closest relatives to ‘rock’ here, but otherwise it wanders through the alleys of Bolan’s psyche with louche abandon. The finale, Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love), throws in Hare Krishna chants and one John Peel reading a Bolan-penned, Tolkien-esque children’s story. Child Star discloses an exquisite melody while Strange Orchestras is staccato but strident. Both stereo and mono mixes are included on this two-disc (or vinyl) deluxe edition: Bolan preferred the mono back then, though Visconti has now re-mastered both. There’s a fresh wealth of new-found treasures: 12 tracks recorded for Peel’s Top Gear, four Joe Boyd sessions, seven Visconti home demos and two Bolan BBC interviews. With Prophets, Seers & Sages and Unicorn also upgraded, it’s time to revisit a duo that were of their time but far out in space.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.