Marc Bolan: Energy Is What It’s All About
Originally published in Record Mirror, 17 April 1971
Marc Bolan is ready to take on the world following his incredible success with two maxi singles, “Ride a White Swan” almost indecently closely followed by “Hot Love” put confirmation of his present pop philosophy that ‘energy’ is what it is all about.
“I’ve suddenly tuned into that mental channel which makes a record a hit and I feel at present as though I could go on writing number ones for ever,” said Marc confidently. “Let’s face it: The majority of pop hits that make it are a permutation on the 12-bar blues and I’ve found one that works.
“Once you’ve found that the secret ingredient is ‘energy’, some personal sense of urgency that you communicate through the music. I’m happier and freer now that I am working with Mickey Finn, and the result is that I’m projecting much more of myself.
“I’ve never felt so insecure or such pain as I do now with my music because I am so exposed—it’s straight projection and giving of my real self, but that’s really all I care about. The people I have always admired, like Hendrix or Clapton, have that ability to give something so soulful and personal that it gives their music an extra dimension.
“Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that I’m Hendrix or Clapton—I recently made a light-hearted remark about being the next Led Zeppelin because we had switched from a basically acoustic sound to electric, and some people actually took it seriously. What I am saying is that I am getting through an identity now and even some respect for myself as a musician.
“Previously I had more of an image than a musical identity—when we were an ‘underground group’—I’ve matured and progressed and suddenly found a high new influx of young people digging my music which has re-energised me even more.
“I couldn’t believe it the first time I went out on stage and saw all those new, young little white faces, and no one is going to convince me that their enthusiasm is a bad thing for Rex. If there is going to be any kind of revolution in pop, it must come from the young people, and if you ignore them, you are cutting yourself off from the life-supply of the rock music force.
“I’ve been doing interviews with all the teeny bop magazines, and I haven’t been asked a stupid question yet. People underestimate the intelligence of these young kids now anyway—they know what it’s about and even if they don’t, they feel the thing intuitively. There’s so much vitality and life to be drawn from youth!”
It has been a long time since I have interviewed anyone with the kind of mental sparks that Bolan is spilling out in all directions and a long time since I have heard such good sense.
It was something of a revelation to listen to apparently placid, cherubic looking figure in his blue romper suit, red and yellow-hooped jersey, adorned with a ‘Derek Is Eric’ button, spill over with enthusiasm for his new scene.
“I just grew apart from Steve Peregrin Took,” said Marc of his old partner. “He was into a drug-orientated and socio-political revolution of which I did not feel a part—my life is music. We realized it was just no good anymore when we tried to rehearse two days before going to America and nothing happened.
“We went to America at that time in the worst possible frame of mind having decided to split. I got to New York and got beaten up in the Village on three successive occasions and retired to my hotel room—in Seattle, I got shot at by some insane sniper and the whole trip became a nightmare.
“The current visit is going to be a whole different number with Mickey and the two Mothers of Invention vocalists, Howard Kaylan & Mark Volman, who are on the ‘Hot Love’ single. Howard used to be in the same class at college as Brian Wilson, who I’ve long admired as a producer, and we hope to get his permission to use his studio in Los Angeles and maybe he might help us.
“Last time we lost money, but not this time—we’ve got a different attitude and the will to succeed. America is really important to me because without making a go of things there you cannot hope to gain the kind of financial freedom I’m looking for. I want to have a 16-track in my home and make my own movies—that kind of thing.
“When we come back, we go straight into English tour in May, which I’m really looking forward to—we’re just taking DJs like Bob Harris and Jeff Dexter with us to play nice sounds to the audience before we go on and do an hour-and-a-half.
“I don’t think we will lose any of them because of the new young people—we intend to keep a lot of the old, more popular numbers in the programme and do the new material as well. Our audience don’t really have that kind of intolerance, but if they resent youth, then XXX ’em!” smiled Marc angelically.
After that, the conversation lapsed into ‘these we have loved,’ including the great but not late Simon Napier Bell who once managed Marc in that amazing sextet “John’s Children.”
“I used to love Simon’s record label, SNB Records,” said Marc. “On the label it would have publisher Simon Napier Bell, composer Simon Napier Bell, produced by Simon Napier Bell. The artist was frequently Simon Napier Bell under another name!”
We talked of Cream and how they recorded their best material after the split and he drew an analogy with the tracks “Blessed White Apple” and “Once Upon the Seas of Abyssinia”, which he felt were the best of the old Rex recorded after the decision to part company with Took. We talked of Salvador Dali.
“We attended a reception for him in Paris in which he turned up leading a baby white rhinoceros by a lead round its horn!”
And I looked at a beautiful illustrated book Marc has of his paintings, Creedence Clearwater, the Applejacks, his unfavourite single “Jack In a Box”, Frank Zappa, “who has never turned on,” the Beatles, “who should have split years ago instead of drifting on aimlessly,” and John Peel rang up to say he was “beginning to feel like a groupie,” and publicist B. P. Fallon said “God bless” as is his wont, and I got a cab in Little Venice and went home.