Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : London, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-03-30
T. Rex were a British rock band, formed in 1967 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan. The band formed as Tyrannosaurus Rex, releasing four folk albums under the name.
Tony Visconti (their producer for several albums) claimed in a documentary on the band that he had taken to using the abbreviated term 'T.Rex' as a shorthand, something which initially irritated Bolan, who gradually came around to the idea and officially shortened the band's name to "T.Rex" at roughly the same time they started having big hits (shortly after going electric).
By 1968, Tyrannosaurus Rex had become a modest success on radio and on record, and had released three albums. While Bolan's early material was rock and roll-influenced folk music, by now he was writing dramatic and Baroque songs with lush melodies and surreal lyrics filled with Greek and Persian mythology as well as creations of his own. The band became regulars on Peel Sessions on BBC radio, and toured Britain's student union halls.
As well as progressively shorter titles, Tyrannosaurus Rex's albums began to show higher production values, more accessible songwriting from Bolan, and experimentation with electric guitars and a true rock sound. The breakthrough was "King of the Rumbling Spires" (recorded with Took), which used a full rock band. The group's next album, T. Rex, continued the process of simplification by shortening the name, and completed the move to electric guitars. Visconti supposedly got fed up with writing the name out in full on studio chits and tapes and began to abbreviate it; when Bolan first noticed he was angry but later claimed the idea was his. The new sound was more pop-oriented, and the first single, "Ride a White Swan", reached number two in the UK in late 1970. In early 1971, T. Rex reached the top 20 of the UK albums chart.
In September 1971, T. Rex released their second album Electric Warrior, which featured Currie and Legend. Often considered to be their best album, the chart-topping Electric Warrior brought much commercial success to the group; publicist BP Fallon coined the term "T. Rextasy" as a parallel to Beatlemania to describe the group's popularity. The album included T. Rex's best-known song, "Get It On", which hit number one in the UK. In January 1972 it became a top ten hit in the US, where the song was retitled "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" to distinguish it from a 1971 song by the group Chase. Along with David Bowie's early hits, "Get It On" was among the few British glam rock songs that was successful in the US.
T. Rex's third album The Slider was released in July 1972. The band's most successful album in the US, The Slider was not as successful as its predecessor in the UK, where it peaked at the fourth spot. During spring/summer 1972, Bolan's old label Fly released the chart-topping compilation album Bolan Boogie, a collection of singles, B-sides and LP tracks, which affected The Slider's sales. Two singles from The Slider, "Telegram Sam" and "Metal Guru", became number one hits in the UK. Born to Boogie premiered at the Oscar One cinema in London, in December 1972. The film received negative reviews from critics, while it was loved by fans.
Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow was released on 1 February 1974, and reached number 12 in the UK. The album harkened back to the Tyrannosaurus Rex days with long song-titles and lyrical complexity, but was not a critical success. T. Rex by now had an extended line-up which included second guitarist Jack Green and BJ Cole on pedal steel. Soon after the album's release, Bolan split with producer Tony Visconti. And then in December 1974, Mickey Finn too left T. Rex.
Bolan's Zip Gun (1975) was self-produced by Bolan who, in addition to writing the songs, gave his music a harder, more futuristic sheen. The final song recorded with Visconti, "Till Dawn", was re-recorded for Bolan's Zip Gun with Bolan at the controls. Bolan's own productions were not well received in the music press. An amalgam of Zinc Alloy and Zip Gun was released in the US as Light of Love - Rolling Stone magazine gave it one star out of five, while the British press slammed T. Rex for copying Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, even though Marc had spoken of releasing work under the pseudonym "Zinc Alloy" during the mid-1960s. Always a fantasist with an alleged Napoleon complex, during this time Bolan became increasingly isolated, while high tax rates in the UK drove him into exile in Monte Carlo and the US. No longer a vegetarian, Bolan grew heavy on a diet of hamburgers and alcohol, and was ridiculed in the music press.
T. Rex's penultimate album, Futuristic Dragon (1976), featured a schizophrenic production style that veered from wall of sound-style songs to nostalgic nods to the old T. Rex boogie machine. It only managed to reach number 50, but the album was better received by the critics and featured the singles "New York City" (number 15 in the UK) and "Dreamy Lady" (number 30). To promote the album, T. Rex toured the UK, and performed on television shows such as Top of the Pops, Supersonic and Get It Together.
In the summer of 1976, T. Rex released two more singles, "I Love to Boogie" (which charted at number 13) and "Laser Love", which made number 42. In early 1977 Dandy in the Underworld was released to critical acclaim. Bolan had slimmed down and regained his elfin looks, and the songs too had a stripped-down, streamlined sound. A spring UK tour with punk band The Damned on support garnered positive reviews. As Bolan was enjoying a new surge in popularity, he talked about performing again with Finn and Took, as well as reuniting with producer Tony Visconti.
As Tyrannosaurus Rex:
My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows (1968)
Prophets, Seers & Sages – The Angels of the Ages (1968)
A Beard of Stars (1970)
As T. Rex:
T. Rex (1970)
Electric Warrior (1971)
The Slider (1972)
Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow (1974)
Bolan's Zip Gun (1975)
Futuristic Dragon (1976)
Dandy in the Underworld (1977)
View the full website biography of T. Rex.