The Wizard (Riggs O’Hara)

Riggs O’Hara 

Rigg’s name has been used in many of Marc’s rumors. Was he the “Wizard”? It is riggs1known that it was Riggs that  accompanied Marc on his trip to Paris. Rigg’s remembers it as just a weekend jaunt (Marc had a whole other recollection).

Bolan claimed to have spent time with a wizard in Paris who gave him secret knowledge and could levitate. The time spent with him was often alluded to but remained “mythical”; in reality the wizard was probably U.S. actor Riggs O’Hara with whom Bolan made a trip to Paris in 1965. His song-writing took off and he began writing many of the neo-romantic songs that would appear on his first albums with Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Marc’s first record release – aptly called “The Wizard” was released in November 1965 through Decca. Despite some strong promotion it flopped. Decca’s press release for the Wizard read:

“Marc Bolan was born in September 1947. After 15 years had passed he travelled to Paris and met a black macician calles the Wizard. He lived for eighteen months at the wizard’s chateau with Achimedies, an owl and the biggest , whitest Siamese cat you ever saw. He then felt the need to spend some time alone so he made his way to the woods near Rome. For two weeks he strove to find himself and then he returned to London where he began to write. His wrings mirror his experiences with mentionings of the magicians pact with the great god Pan. In London walking down Kings Road, Chelsea in the dead of night, he chanced to meet agirl named Lo-og who gave him a magic cat. This cat, named after the girl, is now his constant companion and is a source of inspiration to him. The Wizards tale is set down for all to hear on Marc’s first recording for Decca.”

Without a doubt Rigg’s played an important part in Marc’s career in the early days. He was responsible for introducing Marc to many of the ” In ” people at the time

 

Here is Riggs story..

(This is part of the full length interview as published in Rumbling #22 for full version CLICK HERE  an abridged version of which appeared in the September 1997 issue of Record Collector magazine.)

Have you ever wondered why you haven’t been contacted about Marc Bolan before now?

I was quite shocked – I saw a biography and thought why the hell didn’t anyone get in touch with me and ask me about it?

We met at a friend’s flat. He was visiting this guy whose name I have absolutely forgotten, I turned up there and started to talk about the theatre, and we went out for a cup of tea or whatever. This was around 1964 and his name was Mark Feld, and that’s what he was calling himself. Anybody who tells you that they knew him before, this was before that! There wasn’t anyone else around. He wasn’t a loner but he wasn’t with a particular crowd of people and he didn’t know a lot of people. Anyone that he met, he met thorough me. It was a period of education for him, of going to theatres and opening his eyes. It’s not what I set out to do but it’s what he wanted. I don’t remember Mark having any friends apart from me. He would never say ‘so and so’s coming over tonight’, or ‘can so and so go with us to the theatre’, never.

We got on terribly well, he was very sweet with a very dry sense of humour. The lines would come from leftfield and you’d go ‘where the hell did you learn to say that?!’

In his notebooks he was signing himself as Marc Riggs at one time – did you know that?

Oh how sweet to think that he thought that much of me, it’s wonderful. I never knew that. We more-or-less shared a flat in Lonsdale Road, Barnes. I had an enormous – for those days – flat for something like £12.00 per week, and Jimmy Bolam was living there as well.

When Mark changed his name, I was very proud of the idea that he wanted to change his name to mine, I thought it was a terrific idea and loved it. Jimmy, though, got very offended as he had started the ‘Likely Lads’ and thought it really outrageous that Mark would take his name, and thought it would take something away from him, so Mark just changed the ‘M’ to an ‘N’, as simple as that. Nothing to do with Bob Dylan. Mark didn’t take it because he admired Jimmy, he just liked the sound of it. There was never any question that there would be any competition between them, Mark always knew that he was going to be more famous. He couldn’t understand why Jimmy was upset, he thought it was absolutely ridi-culous that Jimmy would think he was going to be as big as Mark was. He wasn’t having an identity crisis, he was too well adjusted, he was trying to figure out what would be the catchiest name to get him through the door.

A major part of the Marc Bolan Legend involves the trip you and Mark took to Paris.

It was a long weekend and we did it proud, we did everything. He’d never been to a foreign country, and we did everything, late night crazy clubs with extraordinary elaborate reviews, a boat trip on the Seine, the theatre, the museums, it was his first eye-opening experience and it was jam-packed – we did every single tourist sight as well as every cultural sight, and I’m sure for someone like him it seemed like six months – from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to a big musical show. We stayed on the Left Bank on the Rue St. Bernard at the Hotel Montana. It’s one of those things that you do for someone who has that kind of brain, and you say ‘You gotta see this, I wanna be the one to show this to you.’ At that time I was probably showing off that I’d been to Paris, that I knew it, that I had friends there…

He was always very cool – I would never have said that I could actually look at him and recognise that his eyes were out on stalks at the wonder of everything he was seeing. He recorded it, he almost didn’t experience it, he recorded, but he had the time of his life.

As for the Wizard – there was only me. The kind of stories that Mark would invent about the Wizard being somebody else was his way of protecting me. He never knew anybody but me in that time.

I remember when I had to go to New York for two weeks, and I left him behind. When I came back it was the first time that I’d ever gotten the feeling that he missed me because he was dependent on me, although it wasn’t a dependence that I was aware of. He was practically waiting at the door; he was in the flat because he had a key. It was also the time that I realised that he cared about me, because he wasn’t the kind of person who showed how he felt.

Mark didn’t pick guys up, he just didn’t. If I could say anything about Mark’s sexuality, I think that all of his sexual drive was invested in what he wanted to be and do. Second of all there was no way that he was gay, or even I would have thought bisexual. If he went to bed with a man it was because he had some kind of affinity with that person, some kind of understanding, liking, caring, whatever.

He wasn’t somebody who went out on that kind of scene. He was never sexually motivated towards men, never. If he happened to feel that way for you, then that was fine, but… I don’t know what happened when I stopped seeing him, but I just can’t believe it. He never went to gay bars, discos, he never went to anything like that, he just wasn’t interested. He had a tremendous amount of support from his family – mother, father, brother – they supported anything he wanted to do. They never said ‘where have you been’ and ‘you haven’t been home for three days’ or ‘when are you going to get a job?’ They accepted all of the changes he would go through.

I had a Triumph Herald and I used to drive him back to Tooting to his family. I met his parents and his brother, really nice caring people. His mother would have championed him whatever he did, anything that he wanted. I was never aware of any opposition from his father. And his brother treated him like he was the little brother with all of these ideas and dreams. Mark would deliberately slip into the old accent every once in a while and I would laugh…

In the ‘60s every single day was a discovery. You’d suddenly find late-night places and you would go in and hear Tamla Motown records for the first time ever, because in those days the only access you had to music being produced outside the country was Radio Caroline. I had a record player in my car – another one of those ‘60s gimmicks, where you used to slip in the 45s – and I only ever had Tamla Motown in there, and that’s where he got it from. I still am mad about them, I’ll still go for Martha and the Vandellas over the Spice Girls any day! I always loved that music, I was one of those people who was involved in Rhythm and Blues before Tamla Motown. You wouldn’t have known about Tamla Motown at that time hanging around the English scene. I would always say ‘nobody can do that’ – the way they managed to make those sounds and the openness and using the gospel sounds of their voices to make these pop records. I was mad on Aretha, Gladys Knight… Dusty was another of mine and Mark’s favourites, I thought she was the only [non-American] one who could cut it, she was spectacular, fabulous.

I paid for his first demo disc, which I am sure has disappeared. It wasn’t with a group, just a small studio, getting something on a tape and I think it cost something like £20.00. I can’t remember the song but I don’t think he wrote it, and it wasn’t ‘Blowing in the Wind’.

Could it have been ‘You’re no Good’ by Betty Everett?

It might have been. Betty Everett was fabulous – he got that from me. He didn’t have the warble in those days, quite a thin voice although he stood right in front of the microphone, and I don’t think it was him playing the guitar. It was a smallish room, on the ground floor I think, and just one of those places you rented. There was no producer there, and I didn’t know anything about that field. I was a bit snobbish about that sort of thing at that time so I was just pleasing him because that’s what he wanted to do. There was nothing in my mind that said this was important or that this was a career, although I knew that was probably the direction he would go in.

 

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4 Comments

  1. I was his girlfriend late 1964.
    I worked in Millbank
    He came there to meet me a few times.
    His brother dropped him off once
    I lived in Earls Court.
    My memory of it all has faded somwhat and bits are coming back.
    I left London and was to let him knowif I would be coming back
    I had to say no
    I never contacted nor heard from him again
    I did not realise that the young man I knew became Marc Bolan until I recently saw a photo of him when he was young.
    I have nothing to gain except my memories as I was fond if him
    He was very nice then.
    I recall he had problems recognising the bus destinations.
    He cooled our relationship once but came back to Millbank to resume it.
    Very sad he died so young but good he got his fame. We used to get a ride from one of his friends I think up the West End but don’t know if it was Riggs.
    I am sad I cannot remember .much
    Too late now too long ago. When I first met him he was so impulsive – wanted me to give uo my bedsit snd job and go with him that very night. So sweet.
    Bye Mark xx

  2. Just lost a whole bunch of stuff I had written coz my iphone died.
    Noone probably believes me anyway That is why I don’t tell any one but have written it here
    Might enter it again some day. nose jobs and promises. and buses.
    No regrets – but lots if them.
    Hindsight regrets.

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