Why should we all like the same songs?

I HAD a very interesting discussion this week with a fellow Bolan fan who enjoyed ‘Cosmic Dancer’, but was “annoyed” that I didn’t share his passion for some of Marc’s later tracks. Fair enough. Why should we all like the same songs? Just because we are drawn to the same artist there is no reason why we shouldn’t have our personal preferences.

I have a particular fondness for the Tyrannosaurus Rex era which I know many fans and a previous biographer don’t share and I happen to play the early (Sixties) singles almost as often as I play ‘Electric Warrior’ or ‘The Slider’. I would like to think that I have a broader taste in Boley music than many – beginning in ’65 and taking in (almost) everything up to and including ‘Tanx’ in ’73 – but having been both a music journalist and a recording artist myself for more than 30 years I would also like to think that I have acquired an ear, or a sense, for when an artist is cruising in neutral or recycling the same old clichés until something more interesting turns up. All songwriters do it, but the best have the courage to dump a song when it doesn’t cut it.

The problem that plagued Marc was that he put himself under intolerable pressure when he should have been taking it easier and letting the inspiration flow and he indulged in substances which affected his judgement. Both were significant factors in his decline and there is nothing to be gained in pretending otherwise.

I may have been flippant (that’s what music journalists do, whereas academics keep their theses dry and, dare I say, invariably indigestible and lifeless), but I have also been fair. If ‘Dreamy Lady’, ‘Space Boss’ and ‘Light of Love’ were the only Bolan records in existence then maybe I would play them periodically, but they aren’t. And they don’t embody the qualities that I find appealing in Bolan’s ‘better’ records.

Every track deserves to be heard

Frankly nothing would please me more to discover that there are fans for each and every song Marc wrote. Every track deserves to be heard, but some deserve more attention than others because they encapsulate what we love about Marc’s music more than the recordings he made when he was not inspired. Marc set such a high standard that anything less than his best is inevitably going to be a disappointment to someone. I have my faves as you have yours and I don’t aim to impose my preferences on anyone else, but I do have the right and the obligation as an author and reviewer to give an informed opinion on those which I feel capture the essence of his unique gifts and those which appear to be lacking that special something. The book would have no value or merit if it was a fawning uncritical paean of praise. That’s what fanzines and fan sites are for, to savour every musical morsel and to relish every photo.

A book needs to keep a momentum to retain the reader’s interest and be entertaining as well as being informative. An biographer should keep himself out of the book but invest it with his personality and opinion otherwise it’s merely a succession of events. I want the reader to be inspired to pull out those older albums and play them and not simply file the book away as a reference guide to what tracks were released and when.

I’d be more than happy to see more biographies of Bolan published because everyone has their own take on the subject and I have never aspired to claim Bolan as my own, or to be an ‘expert’ (though if a reviewer likes my book and says something complimentary to that effect, then I don’t see anything wrong in quoting them). I don’t ‘own’ Marc (though sadly there are people who think they do), I just love his music (most of it anyway) and believe that he is an under-appreciated artist whose music deserves reassessment.

The reason I have never liked the word ‘fan’ when applied to people who like my own music is because it is short for ‘fanatic’ and implies an intense, uncritical and obsessive individual who cannot accept criticism of their chosen hero or heroine. As a teenager I would have been happy to hear Marc recite the telephone directory, but as the years have passed I find I’ve become more selective, though without having lost my initial sense of awe at the beauty and power of his best music. And that’s the way it should be. So, don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player.



About RealPaulRoland

PAUL ROLAND is a prolific recording artist, producer and author of more than 30 books. He has been spinning his musical tales against a backdrop of gothic rock, psych pop and, occasionally, baroque strings. He has been called 'Edgar Allen Poe of psych pop' and the 'Godfather of Steampunk'.

Posted on March 30, 2012, in Marc Bolan, Marc Bolan biography, Paul Roland, T Rex and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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