Cosmic Dancer: Bolan lives every time we hear his music
GREETINGS fellow Bolan admirers and welcome too, to those of you who may be curious as to why the diminutive Mr Feld retains a fascination for connoisseurs of quality rock music more than three decades after his untimely death.
This site, together with the Cosmic Dancer Facebook page, is not simply a source of information and a place to post feedback on the book, unpublished photos and other items you might have unearthed, but will also serve as a place to share anything Bolan related. Maybe some of you remember reading my fanzine ‘Cosmic Dancer’ back in ’78, or going to screenings of ‘Born To Boogie’ at the Essential cinema in Soho? Care to share your memories and your thoughts on how much Marc has meant to you, or what you think of recent releases?
By the way, the pix that appear on the Facebook page include two unpublished photos of Marc taken, we think, in ’71 and could not be included in the book because we couldn’t identify or trace the photographer. Thanks to Marc Arscott for allowing us to feature them here. The two young men seen in Bolan T-Shirts recording their debut single in July 1979 are yours truly and his friend Danielz who went on to form tribute band T.Rextasy. Both of us owe an incalculable debt to Marc for inspiring us and speaking for myself, it is only with the publication of ‘Cosmic Dancer’ that I finally feel that I have repaid it.
But first, let me address the subject of why I kept myself out of the book…
First of all, anyone who enjoys my music knows where they can find all the information they need on that subject. ‘Cosmic Dancer’ is a book about Marc Bolan and I didn’t want to waste a word describing how I discovered his music or what it has meant to me. I think the latter is evident in my evaluation of his albums and the analysis of his songs. As a person he had his flaws, but then so do we all and though I felt obliged as his biographer to examine these, they don’t diminish his significance or appeal for me one jot. I only wish that he had lived to see his part in rock history recognised, to have enjoyed being with Gloria and watching his son grow up and that somehow he might have one day agreed to produce one of my own albums and tell me what he thought about my music. Marc’s approval would have been the ultimate accolade as far as I’m concerned. However, that was not to be, so the least I could do was to write what I hope is the definitive biography (or at least one in which I make a compelling case for his induction in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). In fact, I was so driven to give him his due and to demand that others do likewise that I wasn’t satisfied with having written one Bolan biography (‘Electric Warrior’ published privately in 1979 and by Omnibus Press in 1982) so I wrote another, more comprehensive and frankly more worthy book, ‘Cosmic Dancer’ having matured considerably as a writer in the interim.
Secondly, I deliberately kept my personal reminiscences out of the book because I have a dislike of biographies in which the author has the impression that they are as important as the artist they are writing about and who criticise anyone who doesn’t share their opinion (including ‘rival’ biographers). As the author of more than 30 books I know what level of dedication and hard work is required to write a comprehensive biography and so I admire anyone who succeeds in completing one. I don’t look for errors, but take what I find of interest from each and if I come across a book that is hopelessly inaccurate then I’ll leave it be. Those obsessive fans who post negative reviews of books which criticise the artists they admire invariably do so simply because they consider themselves to have a greater encyclopaedic knowledge of that artist, or can’t tolerate criticism even when it is warranted, yet they probably couldn’t write a postcard themselves. Good biographies, in my opinion, are not a mere sequence of events, but an impression of the subject’s personality and the environment in which they lived and worked. If I want a day by day description of the activities of a favourite band, what they were wearing and what they had for breakfast, then I’ll buy their diary if it’s been published and a discography. If I read a biography I want that person to live again in the pages of the book. And that necessitates a little poetic license. It’s telling a story, not compiling a museum catalogue. I wasn’t there when Marc made his first record, to name just one ‘scene’ from the book, but I pieced it together from the facts that I could glean, from photographs taken at the time and from comments made by those involved. How accurate is the film ‘Nowhere Boy’ or ‘Telstar’? I don’t know either but I enjoyed them both enormously and they gave me an impression of the larger than life personalities they were portraying. One of the strengths of ‘Cosmic Dancer’, if I may say so, is that for the first time I bring to life some of the supporting cast who played their part in the Bolan story – Joe Meek, Denny Cordell, Mickey Finn to name but three and the places which are now only a memory in the mind of those who witnessed the rise of the Bopping Elf himself such as Stoke Newington, Marc’s birthplace and home until his teens, the legendary 2Is coffee bar, Middle Earth and the luxury London penthouse apartment where Marc lived the life of a lonely recluse after the split with June.
That said, I do find it fascinating to read how the author’s obsession with their hero began and this site would seem the ideal place for me to briefly recall my own entrancement which I left out of the book for the reasons stated.
I can trace back my earliest recollection of Bolan to 1968 with a fleeting television appearance with percussionist Steve Peregrin Took as elfin folk duo Tyrannosaurus Rex. I don’t recall what they played (I’m pretty sure it was ‘Debora’) but I know it was a live-in-the-studio performance and there were only two TV channels at the time (BBC1 and ITV). Unfortunately I didn’t stay to watch the whole performance as I was disappointed that it was not a report about dinosaurs as my young mind had imagined but a mere ‘pop music duo’! Oh, how I now wish I had been a few years older!
The next time I had a chance to get wise to Bolan’s unique gifts was in 1972 when I visited a cousin in London who turned out to be one of the many thousands of screaming females at Wembley. She had pictures and posters all over her walls and raved about him the entire time I was there in the hope that she might convert me. I was only about 11 at the time so I was a bit too young to be bitten but she pressed some fan club newsletters and publicity photos on me (supporting my rather suspect theory that female fans were seduced by the look while guys went for the music). I am ashamed to say that I swapped them with a school friend but soon regretted it when I finally heard some tracks from the ‘RAWS’ sampler on MFP after having liked ‘Solid Gold Easy Action’ which was then still on the rise up the charts.
‘Child Star’, ‘Salamanda Palaganda’, ‘Cat Black’, ‘Conesuala’, ‘Lofty Skies’ and ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’. The first time I played those on the stereo in my room I thought I had been transported to an alchemist’s lair (my first inkling that intuitive artists might be capable of rending the veil between this world and the next and that the realm of the imagination is as real as the material world). How I tried in vain in my teenage naivity to convince elderly family members that I had glimpsed the greater reality of fairies and fantastic creatures through something as ‘superficial’ as mere ‘pop music’! This might explain my uncritical enthusiasm for Tyrannosaurus Rex in the book which some might find strange. But this was the truly magical aspect of Bolan’s music, that vision of a world that never existed but ought to have done and his exquisite (untutored) facility with words. And of course let’s not forget that extraordinary voice.
There’s no-one like Bolan
I’ve discovered countless great artists since those innocent days and love so many dearly but none have that elusive element that Marc Bolan conjured up before he lost his muse.
I saw T.Rex live twice, in ’75 and again the following year, but on neither occasion could I reconcile the figure on stage with the mystical figure in my mind. Perhaps that was why I didn’t grieve for him the way other fans did when he died. I was in agreement with John Peel who said that he mourned the passing of that early incarnation and so wasn’t as affected by Marc’s death as he might have been. But maybe it’s because for me Bolan – the magician/musician didn’t die. How could he be gone when he is there every time I put his music on?
“Sad to see them mourning you when you are there within the flowers and the trees” (Childe Star)
Posted on February 29, 2012, in Cosmic Dancer, Marc Bolan, Marc Bolan biography, Paul Roland, T Rex and tagged Cosmic Dancer, goth rock, Marc Bolan, Marc Bolan biography, Marc Bolan book, neo folk, Paul Roland, psychpop, steampunk, T Rex, TRex. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.