[BACKGROUND: "Depth Charge!" is delighted to present the long-lost transcript of an interview conducted during T. Rexís final tour of the United States in 1974. The interviewers approached Marc Bolan in a dual capacity. On one hand, they were students at Indiana Universityís Bloomington campus who published both the WIUS Tipsheet and another fanzine called Beyond Our Control. On the other hand, these students also represented Natalie McDonaldís publication Electric Warrior, and brought with them a copy of the second issue for Marc to peruse during the interview. This transcript contains Marcís own references to both the second issue and also to the October 2, 1974 Joint in the Woods concert in Parsippany, New Jersey where Marc met both Natalie and her mother, Ingeborg von Held-Eibl McDonald, backstage. We hope you will share our excitement at rediscovering this buried treasure!]
by Bob Richert (aka "Mr. Bear")
Our 2-1/2 hour drive from Bloomington to Evansville over a network of back roads charted by a native of our destination was punctuated by periodic horn blasts to send pastures of lethargic pigs and cows off on their heels; the Hoosier countryside was all quite new to driver Jeremy Mishkin, a good Jewish boy and Marc Bolan look-alike from Philadelphia. Plus there was the whole bizarrity of witnessing this heartthrob of screaming throngs of British boppers, still a relative unknown in the States, in a cultural desert like Evansville, Indiana. We arrived at the backdoor of Roberts Stadium a good hour early, and unfortunately coincident with a nasty altercation between a Guess Who roadie who lacked a backstage pass and a burly cop more inclined to clubbing than reasoning. The roadie threatened cancellation of the top-billed Canadians unless an apology was forthcoming, and the over-muscled cop was hastily transferred to a less sensitive location. The confrontation scared our asses off as we contemplated a similar fate, but our passes were prominently displayed and we encountered no hassles henceforth.
We met photographer Larry Cohen during the wait, arranged a post-show interview with Bolan through road manager Tony Howard, and otherwise busied ourselves awaiting the entrance of Mod Marc himself. (We missed him Ė he walked right past Jerry, who thought his "double" was a woman!) The local warm-up band sucked bad, what with the lead singer using his mike stand for a guitar, and then explaining, "I hope you all realize weíve only known about this gig for four hours." They were off none too quickly, and we positioned ourselves in the very center of the chest-high stage (it made an excellent note-taking platform!), backed by pushing but well-behaved boppers behind barricades, to await T. Rex. Jerry remained backstage to offer encouragement Ė "Give Ďem hell, Marc!" Ė and quickly rushed up front to rejoin us after a slap on the back from Bolan.
The entrance was spectacular Ė Bolan fastened himself to a giant 12-foot-across black star with inset incandescent bulbs flashing, and leapt off when it rose to a vertical position. He was surprisingly short and lithe, no awkwardly huge dinosaur here, but at the same time pudginess and a developing double chin belied his near decade as a clothes hero and rock star. His attire was appropriately modish Ė "shoulder pad" frills (to counteract the pushing crowd?), a paisley silk scarf (which was tossed to the masses after the first song), and a flashy rhinestone-studded belt with sparkling inlaid gemstones made quite a visual spectacle.
T. Rex opened with "Jeepster," and cries of "Boogie!" from the bopper crowd came with the applause, so Marc yelled back, "Iíll boogie your ass off!" and launched into "Telegram Sam," the lesser of his but two Stateside hits. And then the title song from the current U.S. album, Light of Love, with the beautiful Gloria Jones, stunning in an outfit of purple glitter jacket, black knit scarf, shades, a flowered long dress, and silver high heels, sharing the vocals with Bolan from behind her clavinet. Most of the 9,000 people in the bowl-shaped arena sat back and took it all in, but those down front were boogying to Bolan, girls atop their guyís shoulders, etc.
Sweat now beading down his face and neck, Marc laid the crowd back with "Teenage Dream." Following the brief respite, he got everybody up again by dipping into a large cardboard box of el cheapo tambourines (but not too cheap for the band to play) and tossing them out to the crowd. The girl right next to me screamed, "Throw one over here!" and the always witty Bolan retorted, "Oh really?" He handed her one, and her girlfriend, not wanting to go home empty-handed, pleaded, "Oh, címon, Marc!" So he gave her a tambourine, too, plus a half-full Coke cup heíd been drinking from. They were ecstatic!
A long jam with the prototype "Bang A Gong" riff, that infamous boring T. Rex metal sound, was next; we later found out it was the new single, "Zip-Gun Boogie." Bolanís black star came erect, he kicked up his legs like a chorus girl and strutted across the stage, and segued right on into "Bang A Gong," even giving the crowd that classic Jim Dandy look of awe and disbelief once. The imbecilic-looking Mickey Finn, every inch the part in a wide-brimmed hat and sweat bands on his wrists, left his congas to toss out more tambourines, even line-driving a broken one into the mass boogying on the floor.
At the end of his lone big American hit Bolan performed a plethora of feedback antics, and, as some asshole in the crowd kept howling "Hawkwind!", he got sadistic, worshipping his guitar on top of the now prone star, humping it with his studded rhinestone belt, climaxing in bursting smoke pots set within fake amps, and then a session with a whip, and a final explosion of acrid smoke, leaving me with severely impaired hearing for several minutes.
And that was it, but six songs, but really much more for the entire half-dozen were extended to a minimum of twice their normal album lengths. Roadies roamed the stage frantically during the entire set, but the monitor difficulties seemed to have little effect on the performance. We gave Marc ten minutes to dry off and then the four of us joined the ironically sensitive, intelligent, and fragile Bolan over a locker room sink for questions and answers.
BR: Weíre all from a college radio station in Bloomington Ö Indiana University.
MB: Yes (pronounced "yis")?
MB: Iíve always wanted to meet someone from Indiana.
BR: Youíve undoubtedly seen this before.
MB: What, Electric Warrior thing? Yeah, Iíve forgotten what itís about. (Electric Warrior is a Bolan/T. Rex fanzine published by 15-year-old Natalie McDonald at 100 Prospect Avenue, Hackensack, NJ 07601).
BR: Natalie, you remember Natalie?
MB: Yeah, I remember her mother! After we did a gig outside of New York I must have had about 45 press people come in Ö she cleared the room in about two minutes. "Who was that?" they said. "Your mother?" I said, "No."
JM: The rumor was going around in the audience, "Thatís Marcís mother Ö whatís Marcís mother doing here?"
MB: Thank God my motherís not quite like that, not quite.
BR: Howís the tour going?
MB: Dynamite Ė very good in fact.
BR: You can keep that [copy of Electric Warrior] if you like.
MB: I would, actually, why not?
BR: And I have something else for you, too - this is a thing we put out. [Marc was handed a copy of WIUS Tipsheet #28, which sported a review of the latest T. Rex album, Light of Love, from the paleontological viewpoint.]
MB: Iíve got one of those here Ö Iíve got a review in it Ė it was good. So what do you want to know; what can I tell you?
JM: Ummm Ö
MB: No comment Ė ask my manager.
JM: What shouldnít we ask you?
MB: You can ask me anything Ė I just wonít answer it.
JM: What will you not talk about?
MB: Iíll talk about anything, unless I donít talk about it.
DM: Did you like the audience?
MB: Yeah, yeah, it was fine. I mean, weíve never been here before, so I was quite surprised.
JT: Can you tell the difference with this audience and a Northern audience or in England?
MB: Um yes, obviously for me thereís a difference but theyíre not that much different. The difference here is that they tend to be slightly older than I have in England or Europe, but not much difference Ö
JT: The acoustics here bother you?
MB: From where we were, the monitors werenít really working tonight, so I couldnít hear anything anyway.
JT: Every band I talk to says theyíll never play here again.
MB: I didnít mind it, it didnít feel bad to me from where I was Ö I mean, I was out in front.
JM: It looked like you were trying to get it [the monitors] fixed.
MB: Yeah, well it could have been so much worse, in a place like this. These places ainít been built for nothing apart from to cart cows around and sell horses. To get any reaction at all is a gas Ė I was quite pleased.
JM: What about being booked with the Guess Who, does that bother you?
MB: No, not at all, why should it Ö I mean, I quite like their music Ö I donít know enough about it to know.
JM: What do you like Ė do you listen to music?
MB: Um yeah, of course, sometimes. It depends what mood Iím in. In America I tend to listen to the radio mostly, because, if youíre on tour or something you play so much music anyway you certainly donít want to hear it when you get into your room. I bought about 25 cassettes the other day, all new things Ö I donít like the Stonesí album.
JM: You donít? Do you think theyíre copying you Ö Iíve heard that Ö
MB: Not particularly. I mean, "Itís Only Rock ĎNí Roll" sounds like they are, but I mean not necessarily. I think itís not a good album for them; itís the only one of Ďem that I bought that I didnít like particularly.
JM: That whole bit about "Would it satisfy your teenage lust" in "Itís Only Rock ĎNí Roll" Ö
MB: Yeah, well, Mickís full of shit, I mean as a man I like him, heís a friend of mine, but that for them doesnít sound like a hard core, sadistic, satanic, rock Ďní roll record, not remotely; hasnít even got a swear word in it Ö
BR: Who are the other guys in your band now?
MB: Whoís in the band? My drummerís called David Lutton, heís Irish. He used to be in a band called Heir Apparent, which Jimi Hendrix used to produce. Iíve got Dino, Dino Dines Ö plays on the organ, and various keyboards. Gloria Jones to play the clavinet, and vocals. Mickey Finn, as you know, is doing whatever he does. Iím still not sure what he does, after five years. And Steve Currieís on bass, and I do whatever I do, ass-wiggling, guitar playing, and vocalizing Ö and whipping. I broke my guitar tonight; I didnít mean to, but I did. I knew it was gonna go one day, and thatís sad too, Ďcos actually it was a 1952 Stratocaster, a very old one actually, and Iím told, from the Fender people, that it belonged to Buddy Holly at one time. So, Iíll just put a new neck on it. It was a great sound but I never really got into it, but that old white one I used to have which was my first guitar, that took two years to break, so I thought this one would last a bit longer, but it didnít Ö itís just the end thatís broken off now.
JM: What about the end to the concert? You make love to your guitar, whip itÖ
MB: I wasnít really makiní love to it, I was Ö
JM: Dry hump.
MB: I was sort of hanginí on it, laying on it. No, I do it different every night, really, I rarely do the same Ö sometimes we do the straight ending, sometimes I do that. It felt like the kind of audience that would appreciate some kind of visual speculation so you given them whatever. I excluded a lot of new numbers particularly tonight, also kept it more up-tempo. I mean, "Teenage Dream" was the only slow one we did, which was a nice place to have that. Normally I do about three more of the slow ones, but I donít think they would have grooved on that tonight. They were more loud-boogie, so you go with what the people want. In terms of that, theyíve paid their money to see it.
DM: Have you ever thought of going back into that acoustic soft stuff?
MB: Yes, Iím going to do a tour Ö Iím doing a concert with just me and David Bowie together, acoustically, weíre gonna do that. See live, on records itís too easy, but live itís very hard, especially in a hall like this, you wouldnít hear an acoustic. If it were a room this size, Iíd do it all acoustic, just use bass and drums. Itíd be easier, but you canít do that now.
DM: Itís really strange, following your progression from Unicorn.
MB: Well, itís not strange to me. Of course, I donít really listen to all those old records, but when I hear them now it seems very obvious, the changeover from Unicorn to like Beard of Stars which is the beginning of the electric thing, and then the T. Rex one which was kind of slow. I just hadnít gotten drums together, and then suddenly [finger snap] did Ride A White Swan. From that point, Electric Warrior I mean, it was a big jump, but some of them, it was a slow transition. Like from My People Were Fair to Prophets, Seers & Sages was a retrogression if you listen to it, because on the first album I used a lot of things, other instruments, whereas on Prophets I donít use anything at all but some finger cymbals Ö one track I used just hand-claps or something. And then I went to Unicorn which in fact has got a lot of instruments on it and then the Beard of Stars which was the electric thing. And then from Beard of Stars to the T. Rex one thereís very little change, again it was possibly a back-step, and then was the big leap forward again.
DM: What was Johnís Children like?
MB: Johnís Children was totally electric Ė it sounds just like what Iím playing now, in reality. As a group it was ahead of its time, but also I was not that involved in it and I was brought in as a Pete Townshend figure. It was on Track Records which is The Whoís thing, and The Who paid for the band actually Ė they put the money up for it so I did "Desdemona," and that was about all I did with the group. We did one tour of Germany which was with The Who.
DM: Were you well received there?
MB: Fantastic. Well, we only did 20 minutes, and the whole act was smashing everything up. So what used to happen was The Who would have to come and out and start with "My Generation," and we were only booked for 20 minutes and theyíd have to do an hour. So theyíd have to do their whole smash-up routine and then come back and do 45 minutes of playing, which is very hard to do, you know, when youíve done the end of your act. So they took us off the tour after that.
JM: What about Light of Love Ė do you like it?
MB: Very much so, yeah, Iím very pleased with that oneÖ
DM: I noticed a big change in that one, too.
MB: Thatís the first one I produced for a long time.
DM: Tony Visconti leaving probably had something to do with it.
MB: Yes and no Ė Tony and I just grew a bit stale together. I mean, after seven years Ö What happened was that the English album called, um, Zinc Alloy, I donít know if youíve heard of it, that we did over about a year-and-a-half and I was not pleased with a lot of the things on that. I loved all the songs, there are some great songs on there, but production-wise it was a little rough and that was Ďcos I was still relying on Tony. Well, not relying on him, I was just through talking about the way things should be, and I found that the tracks I like the best are "Teenage Dream," "Venus Loon," "Explosive Mouth," and that one, "Sound Pit." I produced those here in America on my own, and when I heard the album it was so like in pieces, so you know it wasnít a continuous thing. Iíve just cut a new album in Chicago Ė cut 12 tracks in four days Ė and itís like nothing Iíve ever done before at all, but itís very, um, hard rock Ö
DM: Iíve just noticed a new album Iíve never seen before, Beginning of Doves. When was that done?
MB: That is cassette tapes done on something like that [pointing to our cassette recorder] when I was like 15 years old. And donít buy it Ė itís a piece of shit. It sounds like Mickey Mouse, itís very interesting anyway Ė that was when I was 15. The public now wouldnít buy it.
JM: You did "Teenage Dream" tonight Ö
JM: It sounds like youíre really talking about yourself Ö
MB: Oh yeah, itís about myself, yeah Ö most of the songs are about me or about someone else, I donít make anything up. I never lie [smirk] - "Only the names and things will be changed to protect the innocent."
JM: And nobodyís innocent Ö
MB: Nobodyís innocent; protect the guilty, it should be.
JM: I heard thereís a single coming out?
MB: The singleís "Zip-Gun Boogie," which we did tonight. It came out yesterday. We played it before "Bang A Gong," did you like it?
MB: The record is done, we did that about four weeks ago. Um, now Iíll explain something to you so you donít get freaked out. The title of the new album in England is Bolanís Zip Gun, right? But half of it is Light of Love, because theyíre new tracks, you see, so there are three new tracks on that and the rest is Light of Love. What I excluded was "Teenage Dream" Ö
JM: Cheating Ö
MB: No, Ďcos theyíre not released here yet at all. "Teenage Dream" is off, and "Explosive Mouth" and "Venus Loon," and three new ones. But when it comes out in America, itís gonna be all the ones I just cut, and the three new tracks, dig? Itís like a turnaround Ö
DM: What about Zinc Alloy?
MB: That wonít be released, no. Iíve got four albums to come out here, really. Bits and pieces, I want to put one out of all the English singles I didnít release here, and all the B sides so that would have to be a double album, Ďcos there are so many of those.
JM: "Telegram Sam" Ö
MB: That was released here, wasnít it? That was on the flip side Ö
JM: Of "Bang A Gong."
MB: There were millions of other ones. You know, "20th Century Boy," "Children of the Revolution," "Truck On (Tyke)" Ö I mean, it goes on Ö
JM: You keep track Ö
MB: No, itís all up in my memory. Well, weíve had 16 hits now, so thereís gotta be 14 other ones not released just about, and the B sides.
BR: Howís Casablanca Records?
MB: Seems to be doing pretty good, yeah.
BR: They just went independent, I guess.
MB: Yeah, weíve got a slight problem of distribution at the moment, but itís better than Warner Brothers. Not down on them, but you know, itís just that Ö
BR: Theyíre so big Ö
MB: We kinda got lost. Well, I was lazy, I didnít feel like playing, no, I just had too much else to do, but now Iíve got some time Ö I might live in Los Angeles for a while Ö
DM: [Explains he ordered one of Warnerís sampler LPs just to get one of the T. Rex songs.]
MB: Really? You should have written to me Ė Iíd have sent you one for nothing. [Long pause] Life is strange [eerie voice]. Anything else?
JM: Yeah, well, you just teased us with "Iím coming to live in America."
MB: Well, Iíve been living here four months now.
JM: Is this tour going to revitalize the group?
MB: Well, everywhere weíve been weíve sold out, and weíve only done two gigs with other bands.
BR: Youíve been playing a lot of smaller places, havenít you?
MB: Not as small has youíd think, no, weíve played nothing less than 7,000, and weíve been sold out everywhere. Iíve been really surprised, I thought itíd be hard this tour. Not hard, but I expected to play 2,000-seaters or something, and our promoters did, but what happened was that everywhere we were advertised it sold out, which is really nice, really pleasant.
DM: [Comments that he read the last tour went poorly.]
MB: What, the one with Three Dog Night? That was an incredible tour. The one before that didnít go too well, we just played all the wrong places. We werenít very good then anyway Ė I was just breaking up with about two of the guys. [Smirking] I was pissed off. I think the bandís pretty tight now, I think youíd agree, wouldnít you say? Very true, itís much better now, much better, Iím very happy now. In fact, weíre all a bit sick, thereís some flu thing, I donít know, have you got it here? I was a bit croaky tonight. The only gig we had to cancel was Los Angeles, and that was terrible because we were playing a thing with Blue Oyster Cult, and we were headlining. It was our show, and we sold 17,000 seats, and I had such a bad sore throat that I couldnít open my mouth, which was a real drag, Ďcos itís such a good city, you know. We never thought weíd sell out, we thought weíd get about 12,000, which is enough people, and Zap, just like that [croaking sounds], you know "[croaking] Ah, the Light of Love" Ö Randy Newmanís old man is a doctor Ö he came down and said, "Donít sing for six months," so we did after two days. So then what happened is that the night before we went to San Diego, and I had a bad sore throat then, I went and I really sang too hard, you know, and the show was great, but I came off [gasping sounds] Ö Have you seen "Day of the Dolphin"? Well, I sounded like the dolphin.
JM: What is music for Ė what is your music for?
MB: For me, it gives me an artistic release initially, and I do it for pleasure, obviously, but I had to find out when I was 25 years old if there was something I could do to pay my way. Weíve all gotta do something in this world, and it bought me my freedom to do what I want to do, which is music anyway, and art. But I like doing live concerts when Iím in the States Ö I donít like travelling. But generally, it just gives me a great release, you know? Itís the only thing I know how to do, itís the only thing I want to do, really Ö
DM: You were a model for a while?
MB: That was purely for bread Ė I did it for about three weeks, made a lot of money, made about three grand a week. Iím only getting about 40 grand a week now.
JT: What do you want to be doing in 20 years?
MB: For me, listen, I want to be here in 20 years, living. If I can live through 20 years, I donít even Ö
DM: Are you putting out any movies shortly?
MB: Well, in fact, yeah, Iím doing two films next year. One Iím doing with David Ė Iím gonna direct and heís starring in it. And the other one, Iíll probably just direct it, be in it Ö I might use the band in it. But itís very hard, without talking too abstract about it, I mean, I will be doing two films next year, and Iíll be directing them.
DM: We miss a lot of things here, that film you starred in Ö
MB: "Born to Boogie," yeah, that was a huge success in Europe. I didnít put it out here because by the time it would have gotten here Ö I mean, it was two years old when it came out in England. It takes a long time to get a film out. Thereís nothing wrong with it, but itís so kind of "scream-age" Marc Bolan, itís not at all relevant to what weíre doing now. At this point in time in America, it might have been slightly detrimental. Itís an amazing film to see, I mean itís be great as a late-night film next year, Ďcos you wonít believe 40,000 kids, all of Ďem looking just like me, holding up pictures of me, I mean it was amazing. Musically itís not so hot, the soundís not so good. Elton Johnís in it, and Ringoís in it. Itís a good movie, I mean, I put a year of my life into it. Itís a very funny film, very amusing, and itís very nice, but itís not at all what weíre doing now. Iím not sure, but at the time we did it, it was kind of like the last thing for me of being a teenage idol in my mind. After that I said fuck it, Iím not gonna work for two years. I didnít play live for two years after that, which is why we were so bad when we came back here after two years.
DM: I read an article in Creem, it was a subscription thing that you could get Light of Love or the new Kiss thing, and it said that "After two years have elapsed, Marc Bolan is back."
MB: Oh, heís back, and kicking, zapping. This pictureís [reading Electric Warrior #2, p. 1] funny, thatís from "Born to Boogie" Ö this pictureís [the centerfold] from last year or something, I forget, it was a press conferenceÖ [remarking on the title of an article in Electric Warrior about his American TV appearances] "Bolan on the Tube" Ö in England, that means the underground, the subway.
JM: What do you hate about touring?
MB: Travelling, thatís all, I really donít like it, airplanes and time, and you get out of condition and you get really sick half the time Ďcos you havenít got time to sleep. Iíd rather do like a gig in the afternoon, and sit down and rap. Iím gonna have to go now, Iím really getting wet, you know, from this thing, Iím finally getting a cold, Ďcos Iíve gotta do somewhere else tomorrow. Thatís what I donít like Ė to do one gig a week would be a gas, just one, you know, come to the place two days before, talk to everyone, get into it Ö
DM: [Comments that Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention said sheíd really like to see the I.U. campus during a recent gig, but she couldnít with her type of tour schedule.]
MB: You canít get into anything, thereís no time to get into it.
All: Thanks a lot.
MB: My pleasure, itís just that Iím frightened of getting a cold again Ö
Visit the "Depth Charge!" Table of Contents for more Bolan coverage!