Marc Bolan

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Marc Bolan Pencil Portrait
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The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


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Last update: 5/9/15

The death of Marc Bolan in 1977 was shrouded in uncertainty for many years. Whilst fans from around the world, would converge on that tree in south-west London where the glam rock star drew his last breath, the prevailing misconception about his tragic demise had acquired a life of its own.

Finally, in 2012, an eyewitness to the devastation of the car crash that killed the rock star would tell her story to a national newspaper. Vicky Aram, 77, a former nightclub singer, had been invited back from a party by Bolan, his girlfriend Gloria Jones and Jones’s brother Richard to discuss musical projects. Following them in a separate car, Ms Aram was at the scene seconds after the impact.

By some bitter twist of irony, Bolan had commented only weeks earlier on the death of Elvis Presley, going on record to reveal how pleased he was to have avoided passing away at the same time, for fear of the rather scant press coverage he might have received. As it was, he would secure front page headlines, something at least to put a smile on the face of Pop’s Glam Prince.

Bolan for me, was the epitome of the old adage “maximise your potential.” He was a man who adored guitarists and the instrument itself, and who continually fought through limitations of technique to blend his influences into an individual and very personal style. At times, he’d flail away at solos completely unaware of what key he was playing in, but he would always take care to refine the passages that worked well and excited his audience. His journey from mere late 60’s acoustic strummer to genuine bona fide superstar – replete with a distinctive buoyant mix of gritty guitar tone and Bo Diddley-influenced rhythm skanks— was incredibly short. In that pivotal period late ’69 through to summer’70, the sound that drove so many T. Rex hits – a victory of experimentation, instinct, and pure joy – would generate a legacy more memorable than the work of more musically gifted guitarists. There’s a damn good fable in there, somewhere.

Recommended reading

State of Emergency - The way we were in Britain 1970-74 (Dominic Sandbrook) 2010

Noted – if somewhat controversial – historian, Dominic Sandbrook, writes on page 354 of his treatise on early 70’s Britain, that:

‘What really defined pop and rock music in the early 1970s, though, was its sheer fragmentation. No group dominated the charts, the medisa or the imagination of the young in the same way that The Beatles and Rolling Stones had done a few years earlier. At the end of 1971, it seemed possible that Marc Bolan’s group T.Rex, whose theatrical style epitomized the new craze for ‘glam rock’, might establish themselves as an enduring force. Their singles “Get it on,” “Ride a white Swan” and “Hot Love” accounted for almost 4% of all British record sales that year, both Paul McCartney & John Lennon annointed them as their successors, and ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, host of the BBC’s ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, announced that they had ‘got to be the next Beatles, if they’re not already.’ (Poor Bob – as much as I admire him – he must today, cringe at this celluloid clip).

By early 1972, with the band’s album “The Slider,” boasting 100,000 advance orders, the press was talking excitedly of ‘T, Rextasy’ and Bolan’s self satisfied features seemed likely to become a defining image of the decade. However, he then lost his way, partly because of his own narcissism and fondness for the bottle, but also because it was extremely difficult to combine artistic ambitions with making chart topping records for 14 year old girls.’

Sandbrook evokes the spirit of the times, and if the following blog questions his authenticity, then there’s perhaps just a hint of the “green eyed monster” at work here. He’s popular and eminently readeable, and if his works encourage younger generations to investigate post-war history in Britain, then that’s no bad thing.


Marc Bolan Music

Marc Arscott’s excellent website is testimony to his eye for detail, and a level of fastidiousness that few can match. I was particularly impressed with his diligent research into Bolan’s frequent use of different guitar keys and alternate tunings, an effect he would often achieve via the use of a capo.

I have great admiration for individuals who use the internet as a medium to produce painstakingly assembled work, whatever the subject. Bolan remains very much a cult figure, and now the subject of a long running West End musical.

He would have been equally proud of this lovingly compiled site.