Mark Feld was born in 1947 in East London. As he grew up he listened to early rock and roll artists and got his first guitar, aged nine. Soon after he began a skiffle band. Rather mischievous and a bit of a tear-away, Mark was expelled from school at 14 but he did enjoy singing and appeared with Helen Shapiro in a school pop group. He worked as a catalogue model for John Temple tailors and modeled for cardboard cutouts which were displayed in shop windows. He decided to give professional singing a go in 1965 and sporting a denim cap and playing an acoustic guitar Mark imitated Bob Dylan and Donovan. He released “The Wizard”, under the name of Marc Bowland; then “The Third Degree” (1966) under the name Bolan.
Many believe the name Bolan came from the name, Bob Dylan. In 1967 now Marc Bolan, he joined John’s Children who were a dynamic live band. They released “Desdemona” which became a minor hit but failed to follow it up and eventually the band disbanded.
Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin Took (drums) formed Tyrannosaurs Rex which was an acoustic band that played psychedelic folk-rock. Tyrannosaurs Rex gained an underground following with hippies and featured in the first Hyde Park free concert in 1968. Drug-taking and free spirited Took was fired after their first American tour and replaced by Mickey Finn. “Debora” was released in 1968 and became another minor hit.
Eventually Tyrannosaurus Rex was shorted to T Rex and when the single ‘Ride a White Swan (1970) was released it became a UK hit.
This was thanks in no short measure to John Peel, disc jockey with London Radio and BBC. He championed new talent and did much to bring the London based group to greater public attention. Marc Bolan was keen to embrace the new era of androgynous Glam Rock and became the ‘Electric Warrior,” with glitter on his cheeks and outlandish stage costume including top hats and feather boas. T. Rex became a quartet with Steve Currie (bass) and Bill Legend (drums). In November 1971, the band's record label released "Jeepster" without Marc Bolan's permission.
Outraged, the singer left to join EMI, who gave him his own record label, the T. Rex Wax Co. Its bag and label featured an iconic head-and-shoulders image of Bolan. “Telegram Sam”, “Metal Guru”, "Children of the Revolution" and "Solid Gold Easy Action" were all hits in 1972 and “Hot Love” and “Bang it on (Get It On),” scored high in the charts.
Only ‘Get it on' proved a hit in the US.
In 1972 he appeared in Ringo Starr's film Born to Boogie, a documentary showing a concert at Wembley Empire Pool on 18 March 1972.
Mixed in were surreal scenes shot at John Lennon's mansion in Ascot and a super-session with T. Rex joined by Ringo Starr on second drum kit and Elton John on piano. With the change in music taste, T Rex split in 1975 by which time Marc was battling addiction to cocaine. Despite the challenges Marc continued on with his own successful television series, called “Marc”, in 1977.
Aware of new trends he heavily promoted emerging new punk bands like The Jam and The Damned on the show. Tragically Marc Bolan died in a car crash in London on September 16, 1977. He was 29 years of age.
Worth a listen:
Ride A White Song/Is It Love/Summertime Blues. (1970)
Hot Love (1971)
Get it on (1971)
Telegram Sam (1972)
Metal Guru (1972)
Children of the Revolution (1972)
Solid Gold Easy Action (1972)
Born to boogie (1972)
20th Century Boy (1973)
I love to Boogie (1976)