T. Rex - Electric Warrior

by Jeff Penczak Rating:10 Release Date:
T. Rex - Electric Warrior
T. Rex - Electric Warrior

This is it. When your friends ask you what’s all the fuss about “glam” and “glitter” rock, put this on and sit back and smile. All the signposts are here: simple melodies that stay in your head for days; misogynistic lyrics about ball-busting birds succumbing to the charms and sexual prowess of the electric warrior, Marc Bolan; introspective evaluations of our place in the universe, all delivered in a soupcon of blues, folks, rawk, and pedal-to-the-metal, foot-stomping bravado that’s rarely been equaled, certainly in the subsequent careers of fellow glitterati, Bowie, Ian Hunter, Gary Glitter, and Roy Wood’s Wizzard. Slade may have moved more product, but that was over an extended career of chart toppers.

Bolan would scale those heights again with his masterful follow-up, The Slider, but the tides turned and the quality nosedived from there.

Electric Warrior stands the test of time as THE glam rock album of all time because it was the first to condense the movement into 40 minutes of all killer – no filler. Released a week before Bolan's 24th birthday, it topped the charts before Bowie, Glitter, and Slade, despite Bolan’s staunchest supporter John Peel practically disowning him for changing horses midstream, from the hippy gumbo of Tyrannosaurus Rex to the electric boogie woogie of T. Rex. The debut was a headscratching bridge between the two worlds, but non-LP hits ‘Ride A White Swan (#2) and ‘Hot Love’ (Bolan’s first chart topper) signaled the end of tinkerbell’s fairydust.

Just listen to that chariot choogling throughout opener ‘Mambo Sun’ and swoon as Bolan and Co. synthesize Creedence Clearwater Revival’s swamp gas chortle into a funky f-beat a full five years before Costello, Lowe and their Stiff compadres. Perfectly-timed solos illustrate Bolan’s oft-overlooked guitar skills, while his prime-evil [sic] guttural utterances scream “Me, Tarzan, You Jane”. A full about-face into autobiographical navelgazing dances “right out the womb” as Bolan assumes the role of ‘Cosmic Dancer’, with Tony Visconti’s shamelessly obvious Pepper-inspired strings actually adding to the moribund vibe of the circle of life dancing out the womb and into the tomb. Bolan’s backwards solos imbue an eerie vibe, while Bill Legend’s maniacal drummer may be the best on any glitter/glam album.

‘Jeepster’ and ‘Get It On’ are blatant sex prowls, with Bolan hunting and grunting his way into anything in skirts, with iconic f-beat backing attuned to his lyrical slobbering. Listen to Bolan’s guitar fills on the former, and groove to one of rock’s most famous riffs on the latter – there must be at least a dozen rip offs floating around out there, making it one of the most copied guitar lines in rock. Bolan’s searing guitar solos permeate another of his gazes into the mouth of eternity in ‘Monolith’ and what he sees is not pretty: “Girl, it’s no joke”.

Bolan didn’t spend too much time singing the blues, but ‘Lean Woman Blues’ is a serviceable attempt at cock rock that he thankfully got out of his system and rarely returned to. There’s little that can be added to the litany of praises for ‘Get It On’ – an air guitarist’s dream riff, simple, “fuck me” lyrics (admittedly verging on the pretentious – what the hell is a “cloak full of eagles”?) This alone warrants his/their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Has any some form the 70s been played more than this? And yet it hasn’t been drowned in a swamp of “anti-classic rock” blasphemy from wags who claim it’s overplayed. There’s a reason for that and all you have to do is give it a fresh listen and be pulled in to its hypnotic spell.

Micky Finn may be the hero of ‘Planet Queen’, perhaps the closest Bolan came to airing his dirty Tyrannosaurus Rex laundry in public. Just dig those congas, man, in a groovefest that surely influenced John Kongos’ ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’, not coincidentally another release on the nascent Fly imprint! “Gimme your daughter” wail Turtles vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman in suitable leering fashion.

‘Girl’ is one of Bolan’s strongest lyrics and most poignant love songs: “Oh, yes, you are visually fine”. ‘The Motivator’ feels like Bolan ripping himself off and is essentially a rewrite of ‘Get It On’ with another Fogarty-esque swamp solo, and ‘Life’s A Gas’ is one of those eerie tunes that will always be played on the anniversary of Bolan’s fantastic “rock star”, James Dean-ish death in his beloved metal machine – “Life’s a gas/I hope it’s gonna last”. Of course it didn’t and perhaps for Bolan it couldn’t. His death, exactly two weeks before his 30th birthday is pure Hollywood, but we couldn’t expect anything else from the cosmic rocker…the “electric warrior”.

‘Rip Off’ wraps it up in suitably lecherous fashion, all sex posturing, grunting, oozing, and “dancing in the nude and feeling such a dude”, tickling “peaches” and even tossing in an avant skronk sax solo from none other than King Crimson’s Ian McDonald! How’s that for a “rip off”…a three-fingered salute to Bolan’s hippy, dippy prog fans that rivals Dylan’s “Judas” kiss off at the Manchester Free Trade Hall a mere five years earlier. Like Sir Bob, Marc, of course, had the last laugh, as his new fans accepted the new direction and he, and they, never looked back.

Overall Rating (2)

5 out of 5 stars