Page 1 of 11

The story behind the making of...

Just in time for the holidays, it's a treat for T. Rex historians everywhere! After a sudden resurgence of interest among Bolan fans at eBay auctions, a Massachusetts television program called "The Music Meter" recently filmed a 30-minute segment completely devoted to the story behind the publication of Electric Warrior Free Press. To accompany this historic event, here are some autobiographical notes never published until now which tell the story up until October 1974. Part Two of the story is explained at length in the TV documentary, and will eventually be published here on "Depth Charge!"

It would be presumptuous of me to think that every fan of Marc Bolan and T. Rex automatically recognizes my name, especially when so many people in the 1990s are discovering Bolan’s music and poetry for the very first time via the Internet. So, if you would like to know a little bit about me before I discovered T. Rextasy myself, read on. Otherwise, skip ahead to later parts of this story!

Like that old Police song, I just barely managed to be "Born in the Fifties," on November 24, 1959 in Englewood, Bergen County, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City. My parents, as you’ll see later, figure quite prominently in this story. My father was the late Captain Donald Trow McDonald, a high-ranking officer in the United States Naval Reserve who had spent most of his life in Seattle, Washington. He was hired by the Macy’s chain of department stores, and relocated to the New York area to supervise the construction of what was then the world’s largest shopping center, the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. This is how he came to meet my colorful late mother, Ingeborg von Held-Eibl Robertson. My mother was a German baroness who came to the United States during wartime. She assumed the stage name of Tracy Cranston and became a New York showgirl at such famous clubs as the Copacabana and the Latin Quarter, which is how she met bandleader Jerry Wald. They had a son, my half-brother Lancelot Robertson, but didn’t stay together very long.

My mother had remarried into a prominent Bergen County family at the time she met my father, so the divorce caused quite a local scandal in those days, especially because I was already on the way! I was born quite late into my parents’ lives (my father was 56, my mother was 34), and being a family man was a brand new career for my father upon his retirement from the Navy. It was even more of a surprise when I started showing early signs of being what was called a "gifted child." As early as the age of two, I was already able to read on my own, anything from street signs to maps and technical journals left in doctors’ waiting rooms.

We had moved to Hackensack in the early 1960s, the capital city of Bergen County, and finding the right place for a child with an IQ of 162 wasn’t an easy task. I attended a Catholic grammar school called Holy Trinity, but never really fit in with my classmates. I had been promoted two grades ahead of the other students my age, and many children came to resent me a great deal for that reason. My brother had enlisted in the Army to be closer to my German grandparents, and as a result, I didn’t have much company except my faithful transistor radio and the typewriter he had given me for my birthday. My mother was usually out partying, and my father had embarked on a new career in Manhattan working for the famous real estate developer, Harry Helmsley. I was a lonely, despondent child prodigy who became a fountain of AM radio trivia for the few classmates who would listen.

It wasn’t until 8th grade that things began to change in my life. Early in the semester, I transferred to Hackensack Middle School, which had a tough, urban reputation. Right before I left Holy Trinity, though, a vivid memory sticks in my mind. It was 1971, I was 11 years old, and I was lying on the floor in my bedroom doing my Spelling homework in my Catholic school uniform. The stereo was blasting a New York radio station, and the song was distracting me, insinuating its way into my head. Suddenly, I heard a strange noise mid-way through this tune, like an Alka-Seltzer dropping into water. It made me abruptly look up from my schoolbook at the speakers, and I muttered "Crazy English groups!" to myself and tried to resume my studies. But I couldn’t; the song seemed to take over the room, and I began to mumble along: "Get it on, bang a gong..." and when the singer yelled "Take me!" at the end, it was more than my young mind could handle. " ‘Take me’ ?," I cried, "You bet! Who is this guy, anyway?" The DJ announced it was T. Rex doing "Bang A Gong (Get It On)," but once my curiosity was satisfied, I went back to my homework and promptly forgot about the incident for several months to come.

Things weren’t going very well at Hackensack Middle School in February of 1972. The air was charged with racial tension and violence among the students, and though I hadn’t been happy at Catholic school, it seemed like I’d jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. I was still running home each day straight to the solace of my stereo, and my persistence had enabled me to win a number of radio station contests for various giveaway prizes. One night, a contest was announced on a new AM station in Hackensack called WWDJ (now a Christian format station) for four tickets to see T. Rex at Carnegie Hall in New York City, to be given to certain callers on the station’s request line later in the evening. Without yet picking up the phone, I first immediately ran and asked my father if he would take me to Carnegie Hall on February 27th, but he was somewhat caught off-guard by the frantic question and said no. Undaunted, I called my best friend Shelly Cleveland and asked if her mother would take us. Shelly’s mother misunderstood the question, and somehow thinking that we were going to see Dave Brubeck, she agreed. I shouted, "Great, now all I have to do is win the tickets, and I’ll call you right back!" My father stood in the doorway of my bedroom shaking his head over my strange, obsessive behavior, but suddenly I was indeed the "6th caller" and the tickets to the T. Rex concert were mine!

Continue to Page 2 of this story, or return to the "Depth Charge!" Welcome Page!

Page Design/Layout by Natalie McDonald, assisted by "Doc".
All materials © 1999 Natalie McDonald; all rights reserved.