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[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 6 points7 points

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I expect most everyone to know T. Rex. They are a band with a handful of hits as well as a critical foothold in the development of glam rock. They are also one of my favorite bands. I expect most people own or have heard Electric Warrior (with the hit "Get It On") or The Slider which "Spaceball Ricochet" is from. That is good because they are amazing albums. I am here not only to share one of my favorite T. Rex songs but T.Rex as a whole. A few months back I wrote a primer for T.Rex and rearranged their albums into more of a narrative for newcomers or people somewhat familiar with the band.

If anyone was wondering why they should read the upcoming walls of text, I can only say that T Rex is a great balance between fun and fantasy. Caught somewhere between magic, science fiction, and a desire to dance, the band shaped the universal understanding of glam rock. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't decide what song to put for this post so I give you everything.

[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 10 points11 points

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Introduction

Tree wizard puretongue

The digger of holes

The swan king

The Elf lord

The eater of souls

Lithon the black

The rider of stars

Tyrannosaurus Rex

The eater of cars

There is no real reason why I should be writing this article. I am sure there are other things which I could be doing related to more reasonable financial endeavors. An article on T.Rex will certainly not pay my rent or gain me any traction related to my day job. While discussing and analyzing a small piece of music history may seem absurd to the majority of people, the person reading this will hopefully understand. Spending time with music and embedding oneself in the confines of obsession is somewhat comforting. It is the same reason why all of us talk about music and get excited over records. Restricted musical interests have never ceased to be enjoyable. Over the years, I have found T. Rex's music to be enigmatic and this article is the byproduct of that intense interest. It is not to commemorate any birthday, deathday, or any anniversary. It exists because I felt it needed to be written.

T.Rex, formally known as Tyrannosaurus Rex existed for little under a decade. From 1967-1977, this band, led by Marc Bolan, released 12 albums full of complexities and intriguing qualities. During the high points, T.Rex become one of the defining symbols for glam rock. At the average and somewhat lowpoints, the band still exhibited a deep charm which has been tied to magic, science fiction and an insatiable desire to boogie.

Whenever talking to someone with a deep passion for a subject, their structure for understanding becomes somewhat idiosyncratic. A linear history will not do because it more interesting when it is not. This is why you are here. My friends can attest they have heard this same thing just within oral lecutures. I have broken the work of T. Rex into five phases to be listened in order of importance. Though I feel a complete history is important in understanding. There is no real reason why you should spend the next month listening to a T. Rex discography other than the fact it would be really fun -- at least according to me.

This retrospective has little to do with biographical accounts. While certain historic factors and key figures played integral roles in the development of these albums, this article is not a biography. There are already wonderful accounts written on the subject such as Mark Paytress' Bolan: The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar. What the reader does need to know is the work of T.Rex was driven by Marc Bolan with the support of various characters. Be it Steve Peregrin Took or Gloria Jones, multiple people helped shape a cosmic ship which would steer itself through the center of 1970's, leaving diamonds and dust in its afterburn.

Some of you are asking yourself how you arrived here and why you are being given an exhaustive history with this recommendation map. Though all of these questions including the one about your rhinestone spacesuit are valid, it is best saved until the end. After listening to 12 T. Rex albums, everything will make sense or the things which were once trusted will no longer hold the same meaning. Its time to put this thing into hyperdrive and take a trip across this glittering galaxy.

[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 6 points7 points

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The Height

The throne of time

Is a kingly thing

From whence you know

We all do begin

It is fitting we begin at the top. T.Rex's top selling and most renowned albums are Electric Warrior and The Slider. Despite both being universally known, they still retain their own legacy of being the best albums by the band. Electric Warrior was the first album to fully embrace the glam rock style from the early folk period. It was also the first album to shift focus from the magic inspired beginnings to a sleek futuristic center. While this angle would later be exemplified in the Slider, Electric Warrior had a warm beginning in cosmic euphoria. Electric Warrior's biggest hit "Get It On (Bang a Gong), still survives in 70's compilations and classic rock radio. Though the song proved to be a hit, listeners miss vital importance of this song within context. Nestled between "Lean Woman Blues" and "Planet Queen," "Get It On" exemplifies a single which comfortably rests within a record which never overshadows any part.

Electric Warrior shines because of its subtlety and ability to be powerful without succumbing to loudness. Every beat and rhythm in the album is reserved yet the intensity never falters. Much like the cover, it is an album which is half obscured by darkness but its highlights glow with an unbelievable radiance. Compared to its follow up, Electric Warrior still fondly remembers its folk beginnings. Songs like "Girl" and "Life's a Gas" finds Bolan at the crossroads of nostalgia and tribute. Electric Warrior is Bolan at his best before he underwent his own transformation. It is powerful and above all else humble.

The Slider's existence and ultimate legend could only happen because of Electric Warrior's success. Between Electric Warrior and The Slider are months of massive upheavel. Bolan moved to EMI from Fly Records which released Electric Warrior and T.Rex. Bolan's concert film Born To Boogie was being filmed at the same time as The Slider's recording. Born to Boogie is important as it is outlandish and shows a star who has blown his mind on fame. Filmed by Ringo Starr with guest appearances by Elton John, Born To Boogie oscillates between concert footage, costumed studio sessions and skits involving magic midgets. The film is a visual representation of change and sets the stage for The Slider. It is an album which is a thousand times more confident and uses the momentum of success to create the most lavish and successful records of T. Rex's history.

While I discuss The Slider as the beginning of the band's unraveling, it only did so because it reached a certain height. While fully embracing science fiction as a backdrop, The Slider presented 16 songs dedicated to optimism and fantasy. The album is more aggressive than its passive predecessor with songs that confront and command direction. This was Bolan at his most lucid moment. While The Slider's fast rock songs like "Metal Guru" and "Telegram Sam" are what brought it attention, the ballads like "Spaceball Ricochet", "Main Man" and "Rabbit Fighter" bring the album to an entirely new level. With the speed set to cruise, Bolan's voice floats over chords with an authoritative yet whimsical attitude. The Slider album would serve as the highest point for T Rex before an inevitable fall.

Even if the reader has no interest in the rest of T. Rex's history, these two albums are absolutely essential and belong in your musical library. I know we got off on the wrong foot with the spacesuits and glitter but trust me on this one thing.

[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 6 points7 points

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The Rise

Light all the Fires

It's the King of the Rumbling Spires

T Rex's transition period is much like the winter thaw where the budding of spring begins its appearance through melting snow. Unicorn and Beard of Stars were the last records released under the Tyrannosaurus Rex moniker with T Rex as the eponymous debut for the new christened band. Listened together, the three albums, which span two years, is a massive transition for the band with gradated wonder. Before the band would become what they are known today they would first undergo a metamorphic journey which would end on the opposite side of the universe.

Bolan's early songs were rooted in mystic themes specifically tied to nature and the arcane. This mystic undercurrent was still very much apart of T. Rex's transition records but pools itself in Unicorn. Unicorn was the first album to gravitate towards the more accessible pop from the formative folk style. It was also the last album to feature Steve Peregrin Took, who began the Tyrannosaurs Rex project with Bolan in 1967. As a record, Unicorn is the first to be cohesive as a single unit rather than a collection of individual folk songs. The album, while geared towards pop melodies, drips with psychedelic atmosphere leading to one of the most complex albums made by the band.

Beard of Stars, released one year later, would do the same created by Unicorn only with electric instruments. Beard of Stars would be another transition as Tyrannosaurs Rex's early psych melodies went through their electric rock growing pains. Beard of Stars is a difficult album to embrace. I know few people who enjoy this album over T. Rex or Unicorn. The melodies in Beard of Stars throwback to the aggressive beats heard in the bongo driven releases. Besides "Woodland Bop," "By The Light Of The Magical Moon," and the narcotic "Great Horse," the whole of Beard of Stars is a beautiful mess which has little structure or direction. As a singular unit, the record makes little sense unless thought of as a transition to T. Rex.

T.Rex is a phenomenal album which lies on the closing side to a transaction started by Unicorn. Unlike the chaotic uncertainty heard by its predecessor, T.Rex is more confident in its direction. More importantly it has an undeniable swagger which would become a characteristic of the glam rock. Though there are many great songs on this release such as "Seagull Women" and "One Inch Rock," it would be the album's B-Side which would change the course of history. "Ride a White Swan" was a non-album single which acted as the impetus to T. Rex's fame. It is a song which is the earliest and most fully developed artifact of T. Rex glam. Whether calculated or by accident, it was this song which took T. Rex to the next stage in their evolution. Oddly enough, it would not be by train, boat or any other conventional means of transportation. Rather it would be via mystic animal.

[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 8 points9 points

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The End

Prince of Players, Pawn of none

Born with steel reins on the heart of the sun

Futuristic Dragon and Dandy in the Underworld are important records because it welcomes the T. Rex after what seems like an eternity spent in directionless releases. These two albums would also be the last records as Bolan's death in 1979. Futuristic Dragon's introduction acts an overture to the record with bombastic noise.

Deep beneath an ancient shadow

Stunned with age and too much wisdom

Reclined in glass, with eyes to steep

Relentless dimensions of quadraphonic sleep

Dwelt the wild grinning cyclopean pagan

Screaming destruction in sheer dazzling raiment

A thunderbolt master a 'lecronic' savior

A gold galactic raver, the Futuristic Dragon

While this fanfare sounds like the ravings of megalomaniacal acid prophet, it merely sets the stage. By the choral opening of "Jupiter Liar," it is apparent the same spirit which guided Bolan for so many years finally returns after a long rest.

Futuristic Dragon was a boon to T.Rex as it served as an unexpected surprise following years of declining album sales. "New York City" and "Dreamy Lady" helped the record chart for the first time since Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow in 1974. Compared to the last three records (Tanx, Zinc Alloy, Bolan's Zip Gun), Futuristic Dragon embraced the style which made T.Rex famous. But unlike bands rekindling old sounds, Futuristic Dragon works because of its dense production and overall joyous atmosphere. This is a record which is not clouded with moody egomania but celebrates and experiments the limits of production. The success of Futuristic Dragon, along with the emergence of UK punk rock would serve as second wind for Bolan during the writing of the next record -- Dandy In Underworld.

Dandy in the Underworld, along with Futuristic Dragon, is often overlooked in T.Rex's discography. The record would strip the excess gained from past years leaving a lean and vibrant act. Fueled by vintage rock and roll and punk rock's energy, Dandy In The Underworld is phenomenal and stands as one of the best in their discography. ""Jason B. Sad" and the album's self titled track are landmark tracks which shake off the dark weight of years spent in turmoil. With the rejuvenation and associations with punks acts such as The Dammed, T. Rex could have survived into the 80's. However, Marc Bolan would die in a car crash 6 months after the the album's release thus marking the end of T.Rex.

[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 6 points7 points

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The Beginning

Woven Deep Beneath the Caves of Melted Steel

Stalks a Mage, a Necromancer Heel

The early work of Tyrannosaurus Rex is sometimes difficult to embrace. Compared to the electric pop driven middle, Marc Bolan's early work with Steve Peregrin Took is a complexly different band -- though with striking similarities. Tyrannosaurus Rex began as a busking duo in the English subways. With just hand percussion and acoustic guitar, the pair presented odd yet cult like folk music. Bolan's voice and lyrics became its own entity which dipped and soared over the minimalist music. Though folk music prides itself on vocal work, Bolan's use of scat and percussive vocals made it something special. The first two records from Tyrannosaurus Rex are fascinating given the right amount of patience as it shows not a style growing but an established identity which would later be modified.

Tyrannosaurus Rex is heavily influenced by the metaphysical. Historical accounts link Bolan's lyrics to Neo Romanticism and the rejection of the modern world for the fictional accounts of the past. Symbolism as influences from Blake and Keats are more romantic than the term "magic geek." The persistence of fantasy elements within the 60's counterculture was strong yet Tyrannosaurus Rex's attachment to mysticism was charming and gave the band its small yet devoted following. Historic accounts state Bolan studied under a French wizard and eventually learned to levitate. While that is obviously not true and somewhat humorous there is some small part of me that wishes it was. Why would we not want a folk magician?

The Tyrannosaurus Rex project used their interest in the esoteric to produce some odd yet powerful folk songs. Within these two records are the strongest examples of Bolan's use singing which is woven beneath brief poetry. "Aznageel The Mage" is constructed of half improvisational vocal exultations which form rivers around a small snippet of lyrics.

Woven deep beneath the caves of melted steel

Stalks a Mage, a necromancer heel

Tortured runic clasps of Aztecetian skill

The condor flies scared skies in search of Aznageel

Below the sun is withered weasel scurries deep

The streams of doom contrive to kiss his sculptured feet.

His raven legs all churned and ruined through towers of pride

Above the sun the princely guardian condor flies.

Bolan's lyrical style would travel with him through most of his career. The world choices and imagery would eventually become T. Rex's strongest yet mot unrecognized achievements. This is perhaps why these two records are so integral for understanding. They strip everything save the two essential characters and allow the listeners to hear Bolan and Took journey through the world with wizard hats.

[–]An Oligarchkaptain_carbon[S] 5 points6 points

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The Decline

A Broken God

From a Musky World

Sweetly Mouth Touched

Him on its Spur

This final set of albums is T. Rex's least immediate albums. This of course does not mean they are without merit nor ignorable. Their understanding only comes at the end. Following the success of The Slider, Bolan moved away from the glam style and set out to create an album of equal grandeur. It, of course, failed. I dislike Tanx for many reasons but mainly because its awkward embrace of Americana elements as well as soul music. The soul influence on T. Rex would work better in the next two record but at this point it was combined with a dense production which ultimately fell flat.

Tanx saw the departure of the majority of T. Rex bandmates as well as a dark and moody period for Bolan. For the next two records, Bolan took the subtle sci-fi themes heard in Electric Warrior and The Slider and constructed two albums which read like pulp science fantasy. Usually this would be of great interest but songs like "Space Boss," "Galaxy" and "Space Loon" are but shadows of what was once created. Album titles like "Zinc Alloy and the Hidden riders of Tomorrow" and "Bolan's Zip Gun" feel forced and mined from a more successful period.

These three records are with some degree of merit. They are more interesting in retrospect as a whole rather than individual. "Children of the Revolution" and the proto heavy metal track "20th Century Boy" were b-sides from Tanx and are still included on greatest hit compilations. Zinc Alloy's "Teenage Dream" and was featured on the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack. There are moments of redemption on these three albums. I have a personal attachment to Bolan's Zip Gun because of its low quality self centered sci-fi obsession. But despite personal reasons, these are the least immediate records in a greater T. Rex study. They are, however, essential as with anything Bolan did in his ten years.

[–]wrackum 1 point2 points

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Thanks for a thorough post!

[–]bluetshirt 1 point2 points

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Rock on. Rock on, yeah yeah yeah.

I also have a soft spot for Zip Gun. Was super thrilled to find a brand new copy at one of my local stores, completely unaware it was just repressed on 180g vinyl.

[–]the top and bottom dogradd_it 0 points1 point

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Your spaces in "T - Rex" broke my title parsing algorithms. This track was getting tagged as Korean hip-hop. This last database wipe is dedicated to you, kaptain.

Have a automagical playlist for links in these comments.