Marc Bolan At The BBC (Universal Music)
CD Box Set
26 August 2013
A six CD box set which claims to contain every Marc Bolan BBC session in existence plonked down into Louder Than War’s virtual office the other day. Being as how we’re all huge fans of said genius a review was inevitable. Paul Scott0 Bates stepped up to the oche,
In 1970, Marc Bolan sold 30,000 records. In 1971, he sold 5 million. His career, whatever guise it be in, started before I was born and ended before my age had reached double figures. I was barely aware of him in amongst the Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, Sweet and Slade filled “chart of the day” but his presence in my musical knowledge has steadily increased through adulthood.
This collection has brought together everything that the BBC still has in existence and it’s an incredible record of & story about the man that invented Glam, a man that had the ability to write not only some of the finest songs the world has ever known but also some of the most enthralling poetry – at one point, his words were outselling the Poet Laureate!
At 6 CDs this is nothing more than an incredible collection of hits and album tracks recorded for the Beeb. Starting with the psychedelic sound of John’s Children before evolving into Tyrannosaurus Rex and moving onto T.Rex, the tracks are interspersed with introductions to music shows a la Top Of The Pops and with many interviews with Marc. Also included are tracks originally recorded on cassette tape, which even though cleaned up for this release, are still of poor quality – but despite sounding sub-standard, they actually add to the complete package.
The interviews are of particular interest giving a fascinating insight to Bolan. Yes, he wanted to be a huge star and loved the adoration, but on the interviews you can listen to him express his desire to play to 100,000 people while keeping the tickets priced as cheap as possible and with all proceeds going to charity. He loved ‘the kids’ and ‘the cats’. He loved his art – and he loved talking about himself. He wasn’t big-headed – he simply knew that he was an amazing force in music and wanted everyone to know that too.
An interview with Nicky Horne sees Marc continually jibed about his work, where the ill-informed reporter makes accusations of continued formulaic songs to which Marc clearly becomes agitated and asks if ’20th Century Boy’ and ‘Children Of The Revolution’ sound the same – ‘We’ve sold twenty-four million records, man’. He then leaps to the defence of the record buyers with a “Don’t underestimate the public. They know more than we do!” He turns Diva when asked to talk about the new album (Tanx) – “No, I can’t do (that), just hear it”. Marc even predicts that music videos will take over from music and the public will play movie discs through their home television sets!
His name-checked friends were quite something – Ringo Starr (who he later worked with), Elton John, David Bowie. He described Gary Glitter as “a sweetie” and he professed his unforgettable thanks not only to the BBC, but also John Peel, the man who famously championed Marc and can be frequently heard introducing tracks and live performances.
You’d expect amongst the 118 tracks here to find versions of Bolan’s most well-known tracks, and you do – Metal Guru, Get It On, Jeepster, Debora, White Swan, they’re all here together with previously unbroadcasted songs like Wild Cheetah and TV / radio jingles. The sessions add a more rock / live feel to many of the tracks with several of them arguably bettering the original recordings.
Marc Bolan At The BBC is a must for any followers and an essential addition to any music fans collection. We can continue to marvel at where this superbly enigmatic performer would have headed had his untimely death not been forced upon us, but, we can also listen in wonderment and awe at one of the greatest songwriters ever.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. This article first appeared on Paul’s Blog here. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.