Archive for Born to Boogie

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.



It’s not over until it’s over

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 26, 2016 by martinbarden

This morning I attended a test screening of Born to Boogie at the NFT on the Southbank. It’s a cold but bright day in London Town. Sitting in a 400-seat cinema with four other men of a certain age at 10am was unusual, it would have to be said. As the title sequence ran – one which I must have watched a couple of hundred times – I was transported back to the late 1970s, to a 15-year-old me, sitting in considerably less plush seats in undeniably less salubrious surroundings, to the Essential Cinema at 76 Wardour Street, Soho.

It cost 30p to be a member of the Essential, and you had to be over 18. I quite clearly was not of age when I joined, but the staff didn’t care and were familiar with a bunch of bereaved Bolan fans who rocked up once a month for the Saturday evening screening of Marc Bolan’s Ringo Starr-directed film. We’d often meet beforehand at the Intrepid Fox just across the street, or upstairs at the Ship, up towards Oxford Street. I bought copies of the original releases of ‘Debora’ and ‘One Inch Rock’ from some dodgy geezer in the foyer, for about £10 each. It was at these screenings that I go to know fellow fans, some of whom are friends to this day – and who will be attending the screening on May 20th, followed by a Q&A with producer Tony Visconti.

Born to Boogie is being re-issued on DVD by Demon Music Group on 13 June, and making its debut on Blu-Ray. Is this another re-issue, repackage, you ask? In some respects it is, but then again, there’s no point in painting a masterpiece and then keeping it in your attic, as the man once said. It will create a moment, it will reach people who were previously unaware of it, and will help to keep burning a flame that, without nurturing, could have flickered and faded many a year ago. There is a little bit of previously unseen footage which we found during the research for this issue, and the packaging reverts to the original 1972 style, rather than the more contemporary designs utilised for the release in 2005. It will also remind us what an extraordinary writer, performer and musician Marc Bolan was, and how well Ringo Starr and his crew captured that moment of T.Rextasy.

What is undeniable is that in 5.1 surround sound – mixed in 2004 by Tony Visconti, the film sounds incredible. Your ears prick up as they pick up on elements that were never apparent back in Wardour Street – the camera crew laughing as Marc & Ringo goofed their lines, the power of Bill Legend’s drumming, the little guitar noodles thrown in by Marc as he blew them away at the Empire Pool, Wembley. The film also looks stunning now, having been restored from the original 16mm negatives in 2003/04 – again, to a quality we would never have enjoyed in the 1970s. Previously yellow skin is now rosy pink, you can see the threads in Marc’s Alkasura finery, and that tiger in the Apple Studios sequence looks ready to eat you for lunch.

If you can’t be at the BFI screening, there’s another chance to recapture that moment on Born to Boogie Day, 14 June 2016, when the film will be screened at 20 Picturehouse cinemas nationwide. Go on, you know you want to. There’s nothing like hearing and seeing the film on a big screen, with big sound reverberating through you as your mind travels back to that golden, glamstastic, T.Rextatic age. You too can be 15, just for one day.