We continue our more in-depth reminiscing over the great records of 1971 with a bout of nostalgia that a T.Rex oldie but goldie brings to Mike Ainscoe.
Without wanting to sound too like Alan Partridge, Electric Warrior by T.Rex has a place as a landmark in the timeline of my life. My very first album.
Top Of The Pops (usually a Thursday night as I recall) had a lot to answer for. I’d gathered a fair share of singles despite my (ahem…) very young years with the tradition of one song on each side, but I was about the enter the world of the big boys. The twelve-inch platter and a cover, with pictures, song words and packed with strange-sounding information. The portrait drawings of Marc and Mickey on the inner sleeve and there was even a poster. A new world was opening up.
Things would never be the same.
Electric Warrior was the band’s sixth album since its inception as Tyrannosaurus Rex. Not that I was aware at the time. I’d been brought up with ‘the hits’ so the experience and impact of this (literally) larger record was profound. For starters, there was the cover image. I guess it could have been more black…but it’s an image burned into the brain with Bolan in guitar hero pose with the golden Ready Brek glow. Funny what sticks with you over time and what you find out later. It’s actually edited from a live photo which is in the Remastered CD booklet. The album even has King Crimson man Ian McDonald on saxophone. The same one surely – I never knew that and in ’71 even less so.
But once you’ve removed the contents and marveled at the sepia line drawings of Bolan and Mickey Finn, what strikes is the magnificence of the label. One side a colour shot of Bolan and Mickey Finn, the other the wonderful Fly design with the scripted contents of each side. Now that’s how you do a record label. At a time when Apple had the half apple on its two sides doing a star turn and with competition coming from Poydor’s underwhelming red predominance and the CBS orange/yellow blend, the exquisite Fly design took the gold medal for style.
Of course, the contents had to live up to the packaging. And within a few seconds of the needle dropping, Mambo Sun is T.Rex cutting a rug with a chugging groove and some classic Bolan rhyming couplets. “On a mountain range, I’m Doctor Strange” / “I got stars in my beard, And I feel real weird.” The folkier side had been replaced with plugged-in, full-on electricity.
To my young ears, it was the sound of cool. Alternately crooning then gurning away on TOTP with those dangling ringlets – the universe surely was reclining in Bolan’s hair. Once you;d got over the familiar Jeepster and Get It On the uncharted territory reveals the likes of a Lean Woman Blues that sounds like one of those Dylan Judas songs. Play f***in’ loud – why not?
Under the radar came Planet Queen (“It’s alright, Love is what she want, Flying saucer take me away, Gimme your daughter“) and the nod to their earlier days that came with Girl that could easily go one way or another as a Lennon or McCartney solo number.
Oh my, even now my cheeks flush in memory of feeling a mix of guilt and embarrassment listening to Rip Off as I mouthed “dancing in the dark with the tramps in the park” and the mention of sliding in the mud and man skin pants. Who else rhymed mood with ‘dude’ and ‘nude’? I felt on the cusp of something. A peek into a grown-up world. And there always seemed to be mention of stockings as Mungo Jerry was at it too on Baby Jump. I can blame T.Rex…
Electric Warrior had been preceded by Hot Love – a standalone single that appeared in February 1971 and raced to the top of the hit parade. A single where it was all done in less than ninety seconds so why not put out a coda that rivalled Hey Jude?
Joined by Mickey Finn (credited with handclaps setting a precedent for Bez) with Steve Currie on bass and Bill Legend on drums (not forgetting Tony Visconti on production) T.Rex was really all about Bolan. Everything about him screamed “Rock Star!” The clothes, the hair, the looks, the pout, the Les Paul or Flying V slung low. No wonder the mini-skirted teenagers were swooning at his feet in the TV studios. His car cash death at a tragically young age only added to the aura.
My copy of the album and the poster is by now long gone. Regular searches on eBay often result in disappointment as the prices for a hit of the sort I got back in ’71 are too inflated for my wallet. For the moment I’ll settle for my CD version with the singles (‘A’ & ‘B’ sides) and groove to the clarity of the digital option.
Get a load of Get It On from Top Of The Pops in 1971. No wonder my mind was blown. T.Rex with Bolan sporting a satin jacket, pink flares and glitter make up; throwing shapes with a Flying V, go-go dancers and Elton John on piano!