Thursday, 18 February 2016


The Sound of Old T. Rex

My stepsister sent me an e-mail earlier this week wondering what I thought of Lady Gaga’s Grammy David Bowie tribute. Ann and I did not tune into the broadcast but we watched the performance the next morning on her new iPhone over coffee and cigarettes. I cringed. Bowie’s glam was always lurid and a little seedy, harmless yet vaguely threatening. I keep going back to Joel Grey’s Cabaret master of ceremonies. Gaga is Rockette-Cher-Vegas glitz. I’m not with her, content to be stuck in my g-g-generation.

For anyone who ever had a rock ‘n’ roll heart or struck a star pose in a bathroom mirror Bowie’s death remains top of mind. The human mind is a remarkable entity, it leaps and scurries. My head is full of squirrels and most days I can tolerate the internal scratching and gnawing. When Ann and I play Scrabble we take turns choosing the music that will accompany our game. The other night I selected Mott the Hoople. As much as I love ‘All the Way from Memphis and ‘Foxy Foxy,’ I probably chose Mott because of Bowie’s ‘All the Young Dudes.’

The television man is crazy, says we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks/Oh! I don’t need TV
when I’ve got T. Rex. That couplet herds this lyric lemming to the Who: I’ve drunk myself blind to the sound of old T. Rex. The ensuing rhyme is problematic to me. Does Roger Daltrey sing Who’s Next referencing the group’s 1971 album or just who’s next as in the next record to be listened to which may or may not be Who’s Next. Is it a question or a statement? This stuff keeps me awake at night; I need to know.

Marc Bolan in the guise of T. Rex was one of those peculiar British acts like Slade that were massively popular on the home front yet barely caused a ripple across the pond. When Mott the Hoople released Bowie’s Ziggy outtake in 1972, T. Rex was it. Top of the pops. While it would be unfair to blame Bolan for the career of Gary Glitter, he is generally credited as one of glam rock’s founding fathers. T. Rex’s only Top Forty American hit was ‘Bang a Gong (Get It On).’ You’re built like a car; you’ve got a hubcap diamond star halo. Say, what would Chuck Berry write if he’d gobbled acid? Still, whatever it is sounds pretty cool. You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl. I got that part; at least I really wanted to get that part. It’s a minor cultural crime that ‘Bang a Gong (Get It On)’ remains the definitive (and only) T. Rex track in the ears of Canadian commercial radio. The less said about the execrable Power Station cover, the better.

‘You Better You Bet’ was the lead single and first song, side one of the Who’s 1981 Face Dances. Pete Townshend’s vague memory of a lamentable nostalgic bender reminded me that time can be short and that glam rock, whatever it was beyond the platform boots and sparkles, was gone. In just the nine years since ‘Dudes,’ Mott the Hoople had broken up, Bowie was already moving beyond his brilliant Berlin phase and Marc Bolan was dead, a 1977 car accident passenger fatality at age 29. Who’s the next T. Rex or Lady Gaga? Hype crests quickly and recedes even faster. Next!

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