Archive for May, 2016

Letting the hat out of the bag

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2016 by martinbarden

No one can wear it, of course. No one can. A crown is for the king, not his subjects.

It’s been stolen, it’s been recovered, it’s been squashed, it’s been trashed, it’s been restored and conserved, it’s been exhibited at Tate, toured to Austria and Germany, and of course shown in Hackney, birthplace of a superstar. When JK Rowling conjured up the Sorting Hat for Harry Potter, Marc was at her shoulder, guiding the nib.

When you throw a party for someone who can’t be there, they need to be there, so last night at the BFI’s screening of Born to Boogie, Marc came along in the shape of his quintessential leather hat. Harry Feld – a friend for 25 years now, Marc’s brother and custodian of the hat – generously brought it along for the evening. We had dinner before the event, and I could not resist teasing the hat out of its bag for a quick photo. A thing of such beauty demands its moments as the centre of attention, just like its erstwhile wearer.


The Children of the Revolution turned out in force; every seat in the 400+ capacity auditorium was taken. There was a celebratory air, not so much of anticipation but of affirmation. We always knew Marc was immortal, that his artistry transcended fads, fashions and fame itself, and here he was, 40 years after the fact, making a Friday night to remember.

Back in the 1990s I was a box office supervisor at the Royal Albert Hall. I always found it impossible to sit through a show there, however much I might have loved the artist. I’d sooner watch the rehearsal, or pop in and out of a box during the evening. The burden of responsibility was such that I’d be thinking of the 5,000 people in the Hall, concerned about their comfort, views, and enjoyment. Last night was a bit like that, too. Did that frame of the film just jump? Is there a weird edit there, in this restored version? Hang on, the sound just went up to 11 when perhaps it oughtn’t have. How should I get the hat to the stage without me getting on the stage with it?

It all worked out fine. The Q&A was the first time – after all these years, after so many hundreds and thousands and millions of words having been written and spoken about the man – that Marc was discussed in an institution as renowned as the British Film Institute, by a man at the heart of the T.Rex family, legendary producer Tony Visconti. Elvis Costello famously said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture (although he seemingly did not actually coin the phrase), but this forum format works in a completely different way. It’s live, it’s alive, it’s participatory and inclusive.

The maestro and the scribe found a space in which to explore, jab a bit, jive a bit, let the love in the room crystallise into carefully chosen words of reflection, of affection, if not revelation. The stories have been told, the records have been made, the film has been shot, the job was done long ago – it’s just that we don’t want to get to the end of the final page of the final chapter of the final volume. Let’s take a few steps back, try this bit once more, cock our ears that little bit to the right and test the sound.

This was a rare opportunity to let the music play loud, let the colours dazzle and sparkle brightly, to relish the sheer raw power of T.Rex.

I walked home along the banks of Old Father Thames in the early hours of Saturday morning. Yes, we did this thing; yes, Marc is still the Main Man, but he danced himself into the tomb way before his time.