Archive for T.Rex

Party like it’s 1997

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 27, 2016 by martinbarden

The Marc Bolan Party 1992 – 1997

One of the outcomes of setting up the Marc Bolan Liberation Front in September 1991 was having to put one’s money where one’s mouth was. Sniping from the margins but offering no solutions was never the idea: we wanted wholesale change, we wanted people to connect, and we wanted to make being a Bolan fan fun again. Step one of the social side of the campaign was to set up regular Bolan pub nights in London. Step two was to re-establish London as the staging post for the major Bolan party each year.

The team that put on the parties was the core of me (I did the deals with the venues and ran the press and PR campaigns), Ros Davies (ticketing and accounting, and sourcing the DJs) and Noel Hammond (who provided essential support services). In addition, shortly before the first party, we were fortunate to be befriended by Rexpert Jörg Günther who offered us exclusive, previously unseen footage which he had discovered of Marc Bolan and T.Rex. Jörg continued to find footage year after year, and he made a huge contribution to the success of the parties.

In later years we also had Production Management support from Gary Horsman of Chat’s Palace, and often hosted a live performance by T.Rextasy, who would play for just minimal expenses. Every year we donated at least 50% of profits to charity, retaining the balance for the following year’s party, and to oil the wheels of our various activities. Mostly the party was delivered through calling in favours from designers, musicians, technicians, journalists, etc – all of whom had a little Marc in their heart. Babes, you know who you are.

In September 1992 we held the first annual Marc Bolan Party at Lacey’s Club in St Martin’s Lane, WC2. We chose the venue on the simple premise that it had previously proved a good spot for a similar party staged there five years earlier. On that occasion it had been organised by Colm Jackson and Pete Old  ̶  two Liverpudlians, which seemed a pretty poor reflection on us London-based fans. It was time to step up.

We had five guiding principles:

  • make the party big, in a proper club in Central London;
  • get press coverage, so as to make it an event;
  • invite some quality guests;
  • make the tickets cheap;
  • screen previously unseen footage and play nothing but Bolan all night. Also, the DJs never spoke.

This was the formula we used for the next six years.

I don’t remember a great deal about this first party but I know I was interviewed for London Tonight on ITV (or possibly BBC1’s equivalent) that day, 16 September 1992, that Capital Radio ran a feature, and we got advance publicity in NME, Time Out, and elsewhere. It was the day that the UK was forced out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and interest rates briefly hit 15%; Chancellor Norman Lamont looked even more vampiric than usual. While panic spread across the streets of London, we got on with the real business of the day.

Guests included Harry Feld (who was a stalwart supporter of everything we ever did), Bill Legend, Annie Nightingale and Nikki Sudden (who were great friends at the time), and several members of Primal Scream. We sold about 350 tickets. In my naivety I hadn’t realised that the club would be charging West End club prices for drinks – well they would, wouldn’t they – the effect of which was that a lot of people, understandably, decamped to the nearby Salisbury pub for refreshments.

Over the years the party moved from club to club – from Lacey’s to 69 Oxford  Street W1, then to Ormond’s in St James SW1, then to Turnmills in Farringdon EC1, and lastly to the Complex in Islington, N1. None of these places still exist, with both Turnmills and the Complex having been demolished for property developers to do their worst. I soon got the hang of negotiating with the venues for the drinks to be sold at pub prices (or lower). We built up a strong, loyal, international following of Marc’s fans who would come year in, year out, buying their tickets in advance and ensuring we could confidently plan for the future.

The big one was 1997. 20 years after Marc Bolan’s tragic death, the planets were at last starting to align and he was being granted appropriate respect by the media at large. Granada TV produced the first in-depth, hour-long documentary (Dandy in the Underworld) for screening on Channel 4, the Performing Right Society commissioned a memorial at the scene of the fatal accident in Barnes, and Demon Records were breathing new life into Bolan’s immense back catalogue. I also arranged screenings of ‘Born to Boogie’ at the Prince Charles Cinema in the West End that day, so people’s appetites were well and truly whetted for the evening ahead.

We decided to go large and hired the Complex (formerly the Paradise Club) in Islington – just across the street from where T.Rex had rehearsed in the Pied Bull over twenty years earlier. The club was on four floors with a reasonably big stage for live performances, a huge dancefloor and excellent sound system, a games zone, a VIP lounge, and even a proper little box office booth for me to sit in and flog tickets. They were all of £7.50 that year.

The guest list was pretty stellar: in no particular order, Harry & Sandy Feld, Tony Visconti & May Pang, Bill Legend, Mickey Finn, Jack Green, Jeff Dexter, Tony Howard, George Underwood, Kieron ‘Spud’ Murphy, Andy Ellison, and our guest of honour, Rolan Bolan. This was Rolan’s first appearance at a Marc Bolan party, and it was a great pleasure to welcome him to the club. It was the first time he’d been exposed to that degree of intensity about his father, and it almost didn’t happen: the over-zealous bouncers tried to refuse him entry, saying his name wasn’t on the list…I think I’d pissed them off earlier by trying to get them to wear red HIV awareness ribbons, which we were giving to everyone on their way in. I distinctly remember one of the men saying ‘I ain’t wearing no ribbon thing’.

I decided on the spur of the moment to introduce T.Rextasy before they came on stage. By the time I reached the live venue space, it was packed solid and it took me at least five minutes to fight my way to the front. It was steaming in there. They did a star turn and took the evening up to another level.

We screened a preview of the Dandy in the Underworld programme, and exclusive footage including T.Rex on the Midnight Special in 1973 – which had never been seen in the UK before. There was a film crew from Holland, a photographer from the Evening Standard, a Demon Records stall, fans from all over the world, and for the first and last time we did a raffle. Inevitably in the hubbub of the evening, when Harry drew numbers out of the hat, barely a winner could be found, but we got there in the end.

The proceeds of the raffle, about £250, went to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (she had died two weeks previously). There were over 800 people in the club that night. We knew in advance it was going to be the biggest one of all, and we had decided that this would be the last one we’d organise. There was nowhere to go from here. We donated 100% of the evening’s profits to the London Lighthouse: £3,582.73.

The one enduring image I have of the evening is this: we were running about half an hour late to open the doors. It’s not a good look when people have travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to your party. Just before we were, finally, ready, Ros and I popped up the stairs and went out onto the street to see if anyone was waiting. The queue was three and four deep, all along Liverpool Road and round the corner. I was staggered. Hundreds upon hundreds of Marc Bolan fans were there, in sheer dazzling raiment, awaiting the party. I wish I’d had a camera with me to capture the moment. The next five or six hours passed by in a flash.

The parties were always great fun to organise, and it was most rewarding to be able to create a moment which honoured the man who had brought us together in the first place. It’s never that much fun to attend your own party as there is too much going on to be able to relax and enjoy it – but still, those happy memories linger.

At the end of the night, I stuffed about £2000 in cash under my shirt, hopped into a taxi with Ros, and we returned to Notting Hill for tea and Marmite on toast. Or at least, I think we did…

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.

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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.

On being a Marc Bolan fan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 15, 2014 by martinbarden

I have been a fan of Marc Bolan since the age of seven. I became aware of Hot Love, the first T.Rex number one single, for several reasons. All these years later, here are my memories.

There was no pop music in our home. My parents did not listen to any contemporary music, not even Elvis or the Beatles. They were in their early thirties when I was born, but somehow their tastes had been set before the advent of Rock & Roll, and were stuck. My two older siblings were yet to show an interest in modern music – or if they were interested, I was unaware of it – so I had to find my own way.

We lived in a Home Counties town. Our garden boundary was no more than a single piece of limp wire, woven through occasional two-foot posts. We’d just hop over the wire to play with next door’s kids. On one such sojourn I heard music coming through the kitchen window. It was probably the Sunday evening chart run down. The music I heard was Hot Love.

Around the same time I watched Top of the Pops – quite possibly for the first time – and there, again, was Hot Love. Whether this first exposure was to one of the two March 1971 performances by T.Rex, or the BBC-created video to the song, I am unsure. I must have seen at least two of the three as I clearly remember two anonymous figures riding horse-back in an English idyll, as well as seeing Marc Bolan for the first time. He was like nothing on earth, and certainly like no-one in the three streets around me.

My third memory is from our 1950s prefab junior school. Each year’s classroom joined on to the next, both via the general corridor and the gardens outside. I was in the third year, and the oldest kids were in the first year (as it was numbered backwards; very Home Counties). The first year kids’ teacher had died tragically young, and as a special dispensation they were allowed to play records during their break times to help ease the pain, or something. One day I could hear Hot Love coming out of their open metal-framed windows, past year two’s classroom, and down to year three. In my grey short trousers and grey short-sleeved shirt, I ventured past the shrubs and herbaceous borders. I started to dance. To my horror, one or two of the girls in the classroom spotted me. I was very, very small as a boy, and these girls were huge in comparison. Their long hair made them seem even taller. They came out and grabbed me, made a circle around me and insisted that I continue to dance. Hot Love.

I asked my mother for the single for my next birthday, that July. Hot Love was the first record I ever owned. It came from Rumbelows, in a plain white bag.

43 years later I still keep more than a little Marc in my heart. Rest in peace, beautiful pixie man.

30 September 1947 to 16 September 1977

Bringing Marc Home

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 23, 2012 by martinbarden

In the winter of 2011/12 my friends Sarah, Emma and Elaine encouraged me to audition for the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. As fellow-members of the ENO Community Choir, they’d recently put themselves forward and made the trek out to deepest Bromley-by-Bow to be surveyed amongst hundreds of other hopefuls – not, apparently, to sing, but to dance. Emma was successful, selected to be part of one of the dancing ensembles. There continued to be a paucity of blokes coming through for the event, so I made a late application and was invited to audition soon thereafter.

Everything out East was exceptionally well organised, which indeed was a portent for the Games as a whole. I was particularly struck by the friendliness of the ushering staff and the use of safety pins for attaching my candidate number to my shirt. I was measured – height, head, waist, hands – for the costume I knew I would never wear.

The audition involved rushing around in groups, pairs, solo, arm waving, being required to find particular positions on a huge grid, and generally doing stuff in loose formation. Looking around, I noticed suspiciously large numbers of middle aged men with middle age spread and thinning hair. If this is what they’re after, I thought, I’m a sure winner.
The audition lasted about an hour. There was a fabulous spirit, communality, that thing you rarely get with strangers connecting freely. I caught the tube home, back to London, and was glad to have played an infinitesimally tiny part in the forthcoming monster that was London 2012.

Much to my astonishment and mirth, later that very night I received an email recalling me for a second audition. OK, I thought, they really do want hopeless men with chins and bellies. Bring it on.

Second time around was much tougher. There were far fewer candidates – which made sense – and we had to learn a routine involving extracts of Our House, Parklife, Common People and a short salsa number. This seemed depressingly clichéd and not the sort of innovative approach I’d expected of Danny Boyle. Maybe this was just to put the hounds off the scent – we’d been briefed over and over that we must not leak information about even this element of preparations for the Ceremony – but I felt my spirits sag as I prepared to mime (in ensemble) waking up, tooth brushing, getting dressed and scanning my imaginary Oyster Card. It was all over quickly and we were informed that we’d hear something within about three weeks.

Perhaps two months passed. I received one holding email, but no call for the actual Opening Ceremony which was fast approaching, so I put it out of my mind. Then late, late on I did receive a message to say I had been selected for the Opening and Closing… of the Paralympics.

In the meantime my circumstances had changed radically: no longer employed by Tate, but self-employed as a consultant with my own business. My time was my own – but I also had to pay all the bills whether I was working or not, and I needed to be working to get the business going. The other factor which led me to decline the invitation was that it was not the actual Olympics, but the second event. That is not to pass any judgement, but it just didn’t have the same appeal. So, no.

Like so many others, once it finally arrived I was completely absorbed by the Games, despite having being hugely disillusioned with many aspects in the years and months leading up to 27 July 2012. In the final run-up, it had become apparent that the Ceremony, liberally sprinkled with British pop and rock music classics, had no room for T.Rex. I took considerable umbrage, as is my wont. I launched an on-line petition to appeal to Danny’s finer judgement, but despite many hundred signatures, it seemed to be in vain.

The Ceremony was spectacular and I loved almost all of it. I could have done without Mr Bean, and the NHS segment went on far too long, and of course Macca should have pressed the auto-tune button, but these are minor gripes. It was astonishing in its ambition and delivery. But, despite being Hackney’s most famous son, there was no Marc Bolan – or so I thought.

Only in the days afterwards did I learn that there had been 10 Marc Bolan figures, alongside 10 of David Bowie and 10 of Freddie Mercury, in the Tim Berners Lee/1970s sequence. The Sunday Times magazine published a photograph snapped at the rehearsals – and there they all were. It was little surprise that in the maelstrom that was the Opening Ceremony, the cameras had missed this. Emma confirmed that she’d seen the heads, all piled up in amongst thousands of other props.

The only thing to do now was to try to procure one. I put out various feelers but made no progress. Then, more recently, my diligent partner found that three had become available for sale on the 2012 auction site – one of which I bought for about a hundred quid.

Today, just in time for seasonal festivities, Marc came home to Pimlico. You can follow his journey here. It was an unusual exercise, taking him on the Victoria Line, but now he’s happily settling in alongside Oscar Wilde, Mandeville and me. His black lips are velvet and glitter, he has snakes in his hair, and his hat sparkles with sequins and stars. He’s going to watch over me, just as I have tried to watch over him.

Happy New Year to you all.

Same Marc time, same Marc channel

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 12, 2012 by martinbarden

In June 2006 I paid a visit to Brian Berg, who at the time was Managing Director of Universal Music’s TV arm – responsible for their television-advertised releases and broadcast output. I wished to pitch various ideas to him for celebrating Marc Bolan’s 60th birthday and the 30th year since his death, both of which fell during September 2007. I wanted to be on the front foot, making a strategic approach to the management of his legacy – for the first time.

I had recently been a driving force in the teams that delivered the Born to Boogie DVD and its follow-up release, T.Rex on TV, and was confident that Brian would hear my ideas sympathetically. Moon on a stick was my approach – let’s do a whole festival! In amongst ideas for a live tribute concert, a cabaret show and an exhibition were two definite winners – a new Greatest Hits compilation, and a television documentary in which Marc would be granted the opportunity to speak for himself.

I was tired – who wasn’t? – of all the talking heads telling people’s stories on their behalves, usually with a huge lump of revisionism and score settling thrown in. There were enough television and radio interviews with the man, I argued, to give him back his voice. As one of the most visual performers, from the most televisual era of music, Marc is a natural for the screen, and always excelled in front of a camera.

Brian reached for his copy of the Book of Hit Albums to check on the chart position of the previous T.Rex compilation CD – one he’d overseen in 1995 and re-issued in 2002. Ah, he said, number 18. I assured him we could do better and he agreed that enough time had elapsed to warrant a fresh approach. I was most insistent that we should call it Greatest Hits – it’s the proper title for a hits compilation, better than Ultimate and Essential and Best Of and all the other mucking around. Greatest Hits is Greatest Hits in my book.

The agreement to release the CD was pretty much done there and then in his office in West Kensington. As for the television programme, Universal had an in-house production arm, and a follow-up meeting was arranged to discuss the idea.

The planning for the CD went very smoothly. I upped the ante and proposed a 2-CD set of hits, LP tracks and rarities, which was readily accepted. I also suggested that the first three T.Rex singles should be re-released on vinyl to support the marketing campaign; yup, let’s do that. I brought Kieron (‘Spud’) Murphy to the table to provide photographs for the CD sleeve and booklet. UMTV’s excellent marketing and production teams worked tirelessly to ensure that the CD looked fabulous and the singles were packaged and promoted as well as they could be. The only element to fall by the wayside was a digi-pack of the CDs which proved too costly to produce, although it did get to the final design stage.

As for the television programme, it got kicked around, various angles were developed, but in the end, Universal’s TV people passed on it. This left a bit of a hole, one which no-one particularly wanted to leave empty as the idea still had legs. I can’t remember how Double Jab Productions (RIP) got involved, but after another pitch from me, they readily accepted the challenge to make the programme, potentially for BBC4. Marc on the BBC at last! All previous documentaries had aired on ITV or C4. As often is the case, Double Jab’s top brass had a great love of Bolan and could see the potential in the programme.

The only problem was in raising the money for the budget. After various negotiations, funding was found from NBC in the US to match the money raised in the UK, and the project got the green light. In walked the fabulous Mark Tinkler as Director, which is when it really got started.

Up until this point it was a bit like speed dating, meeting people and presenting ideas, getting a nod or a no, moving to the next stage or sideways a bit. With Tinkles on board, we went into overdrive but had a very short time indeed to deliver – only about nine weeks, which in telly world is the blink of a small mouse’s eye.

Mark has oodles of experience and oodles of contacts and we shared a love of tracing impossibly lost footage. I knew where to find pretty much everything we wanted, and everyone on my list was known to one or other of us, so between us we worked our contacts and began scheduling interviews. Yes, this was going to be Marc’s show, in which he talked about Marc, but of course we also needed contemporary interviews and to find someone to hold the narrative together.

I was insistent that certain people should be found who had not been on record before, and that we should try to keep the interviewees to a reasonably small number. I also wanted Marc to be considered as an albums artist just as much if not more than man who made a unique series of spectacular singles.

Lots of people helped out, some unwittingly. My mate Clive had provided me with a load of lost radio interviews, which proved essential in building the story. Marc’s brother Harry was, as ever, generous in lending his time and – for the first time – revealing some of his private collection of Marc’s clothes, photographs and personal effects. I was really chuffed that we landed Lorna Luft (sister of Liza Minnelli, the other daughter of Judy Garland, big chum of Marc’s), his school-friend Richard Young – the internationally renowned photographer, Zandra Rhodes, and Marc Almond, with whom we spent a most pleasurable couple of hours when we filmed his interview at the Café de Paris. Zandra made me an excellent cup of tea at her exotic studio in Bermondsey and happily showed us Duggie Fields’ portrait of her with the equally exotic Chelita Secunda.

So far, so good – but we’d not yet found the spark elevate the programme to the show we knew it could be.  Mark had, however, traced a fragment of footage of John’s Children performing in April 1967 at the 14-hour Technicolor Dream at Alexander Palace – the earliest-known footage of Bolan yet to emerge.

In June we hopped onto flights – separately – to New York, and the project really took off. Tony Visconti had agreed to an interview, scheduled to take place at the downtown studio facility he shared with David Bowie and Philip Glass. I’d convinced Essex Music to grant access to the multi-tracks of Jeepster and Ride A White Swan, which were transferred to Pro Tools and mailed over to Tony. This – again, for the first time – gave the opportunity to film the maestro, re-united with the master tapes and able to explain the techniques with which he and Marc had created the unique T.Rex sound.  By the time we reached him he’d already spent several happy hours with the music and had isolated various elements to highlight on camera. He’d also brought along a number of his previously unseen photographs. Tony’s generosity of spirit was such that the interview stretched to something like five hours, providing ample material for Tony, in effect, to become the programme’s backbone.

We also got the money shots – Tony, mixing desk, multi-tracks. Marc was very much in the room as Tony revealed each element of these timeless, classic recordings. Bassoon on Jeepster? Yup, there it is. Marc’s double-tracked vocals on White Swan, sealed forever together on 8-track tape? Oh listen again, said Tony, I can hear a third vocal track! It was a magical afternoon.

We interviewed BP Fallon in a subterranean private hairdressing salon, as you do. Beep could not have spoken more graciously and movingly about a man he loved dearly, a man who still does little favours for him, who watches over him. It was important to me that BP should feel comfortable, that he should be included, that he should have his say and not be snipped down to just two sound-bites – or overlooked – as had happened before. He described how he’d coined the phrase T.Rextasy and, when the programme was completed and he’d seen a preview tape, how pleased he was that the word had been enlivened to illustrate his vision of it being “like typeset on fire”. (Regrettably, this effect had to be removed from the broadcast version due to its potential to trigger distress – really! – but survives in the longer DVD edit.) There was a big cat in the salon which caused anxiety to the crew as it moped around and made more noise than is ideal on a shoot.

The drama of the trip, however, centred on the arrival of Gloria Jones. She was driving up to Manhattan from Philadelphia. We’d booked her and husband Chris a suite at our mid-town hotel, while we made do with more modest accommodation. GloJo was due in on our first evening and we were planning to take the two of them to dinner. The big hand on the clock went round, the little hand on the clock followed it. No Gloria. I called her, to discover that she’d yet to begin the journey but was about to embark. She’d arrive late in the night but we’d meet for breakfast before going down to Christopher Street, where we were due to interview her in a piano bar famed for its transvestite chorus girls. Gloria liked that idea…

Mark and I found a diner nearby and drank a few beers, retiring early so as to be fresh for the morning – and to overcome the inevitable tiredness of an East-West Atlantic crossing.

Two English boys met for breakfast in the hotel. Still no Gloria. Still no Gloria?? The hotel manager confirmed that Gloria had not yet checked in, and that he’d let her reservation go. Great. Another phone call revealed that Gloria and Chris were just emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel, and would be arriving in the next 10 minutes. One very unhappy Director and I made emergency plans. He’d go ahead to the venue, get set up, keep the crew under control, I’d nab Gloria, bundle her into a yellow cab, and we’d just about make it for our two-hour slot.

Gloria arrived. Not unreasonably, she wanted to freshen up. Of course this took longer than the time we had available – and then things got a bit more nerve-wracking when she wanted to visit a salon to get her hair fixed. No, we don’t have time! OK. Gloria came down to the lobby and whispered into my ear, “I had a whore bath! That’s what we used to call it when you freshen up quickly after being up all night!” Into a cab we leapt. Next request: could we stop at a toy store and try to buy a frog, to reference Marc’s hit New York City? No darling, we’re already 12 hours late…

We reached the venue. Gloria sat at the piano and, as the crew warmed up, she looked into my eyes and played and sang the opening bars to her hit “If I Were Your Woman”. Goose-pimples… We started to film, but were troubled by a low rumbling noise. What was it? Oh, it’s the star’s stomach, not having eaten yet. I nipped out to a deli to procure some provisions.

We got underway again. Another intervention – a crew started digging up the road outside. Were we actually making a Carry On film? Some hastily-donated dollars shut them up long enough to allow filming to be completed.

Stresses now behind us, we spent a late night as guests of BP Fallon at a club where he was staging a special glam night, featuring his new protégées Semi-Precious Weapons. For two songs that night their guest on bass was none other than Tony Visconti. On another night out we were guests at a Gibson Guitars party to mark the 92nd birthday of Les Paul – and the legend himself was there. Also there was my old friend May Pang, as always great fun and full of stories.

Inevitably we had enough material for a Beatles Anthology-length programme, but the budget wouldn’t withstand any such thing and we had only an hour’s broadcast slot. We did, though, have an agreement for a DVD release, which gave the opportunity to make a Director’s cut and include bonus features.

The edit was completed in record time and, aided by expert insight from my dear friend Marquita Palaganda, by early August, it was done. We couldn’t settle on a title: I suggested Words and Music: Marc Bolan, we tried In His Own Words and in the end struck on “The Final Word” which, so far, it has proved to be.

A couple of additions were made specifically to appeal to the American market – commentary by Suzi Quatro, and a brief interview with Roger Taylor of Queen. Did we stay true to my original vision? By and large, we did. Marc got to speak, we featured the breadth of his career as well as the more obvious linear journey, and presented him a serious writer and performer. The programme aired during the anniversary weekend. Some critics focused on Marc’s darker side, finding fault not in the programme but in his music and persona, but on the whole it was well received and the ratings were good.

Tinkles had kept an ace up his sleeve until the very end – to ask interviewee to describe Marc Bolan in three words. This made for a most unusual, moving end to the programme; the final word indeed.

Greatest Hits – with a television advertising campaign, exclusive website and media onslaught, entered the charts at 15. It was the highest chart position for T.Rex for over 15 years. Get It On even cracked the top 75 for a week. And then… it all went into reverse gear. The CD slipped to 19 and never recovered. I was disappointed – I’d been sure we could reach the Top 10, but we failed. Could we have done more? I don’t know. What I do know is that years and years of multiple releases of budget CDs had probably exhausted a market which was already in considerable decline.

At the same time as all this activity, I was working on a tribute show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and a cabaret show at the Café de Paris – stories for another day.

See The Final Word (BBC edit) here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgtuUMOKJFA

 

 

 

A search that never ends

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 12, 2012 by martinbarden

On 16 June 2006 I travelled to deepest South London to meet an old man in a heavily fortified semi-detached house. I’d been met en route by a go-between who’d set up the meeting; I did not know the address of my destination.

Although I thought it unlikely that I’d end up buried in the back garden, it did cross my mind. The purpose of the trip was to view Marc Bolan’s performance of Teenage Dream, recorded in February 1974 for Top of the Pops, broadcast once and never seen again. The BBC junked the vast majority of its archive of the programme, happily wiping pretty much everything from its inception in 1964 all the way to early 1977; they were especially harsh to T.Rex, wiping 21 performances. If this had been the nation’s art collection, people would have been imprisoned… but that’s another story.

The date coincided with Argentina playing Serbia in the 2006 World Cup. I sat in a small airless room, curtains drawn, with CCTV monitors showing the back and front entrances to the house. Stacked floor to ceiling were all kinds of ancient recording equipment. The two men undertook some business. I wondered how long it would take before the prize was revealed. I waited; I waited some more. I thought about the match and whether I’d be able to get out not only alive, but in time to see at least some of it.

It was probably an hour before the old man, thick set, large-framed glasses, dodgy hip, stale smell, stood with difficulty from his crumbling office chair and reached for a chunky tape. Before you could say, ‘Whatever happened to the teenage dream?’ one of the many monitors pinged into action, and there was my beloved pixie. I remembered seeing the original transmission, prefaced by Noel Edmonds making some half-baked joke about Marc’s hydraulic star having been borrowed from Tony Blackburn’s dressing room door (or was it the other way around?). In any event, the cost of tape in the ‘70s meant that this saviour had recorded only the elements of the programme he wished to preserve, which excluded the links. Bravo.

So, there it was. There he was. I was thrilled, excited, even ecstatic; I smiled. I’d been briefed on the journey south not to mention my role as a consultant to the T.Rex catalogue and archive, just to appear to be an interested fan – which, of course, I am. But this precluded negotiating to purchase the performance. I knew that it was for sale – other clips were sold that day – but I had to keep my mouth and cheque book shut.

Argentina won 6-0. It was certainly worth missing the match, but I was left hugely frustrated at not being able to take the encounter to a satisfactory conclusion.

So, that was that. One viewing. My link with the go-between broke down, and it was over two years before I made contact again, via another third party. This time the transaction was swift, and after parting with a wad of cash, I walked away with the prize.

All this comes to mind as this week another lost T.Rex performance from TOTP – New York City – suddenly appeared on youtube, courtesy of a man in Holland. That’s six years between discoveries. At this rate it will be 2078 before we’ve tracked down the other 11 missing performances (of the 27 definitely known to have been made). By then I’ll be 115. The funny thing is that up to a point it is still the thrill of the chase that is equal to the joy of seeing the performance again, and sharing it with friends. In the past 15 years I’ve tracked down many performances from all over the world, and had the privilege of being Associate Producer on the Born to Boogie DVD remaster/redux. There is nothing quite like the moment at which the dream becomes a reality, the screen pops, the pixie pops up, and I think, “yes, he’s there, we’re home again”.

Keep a Little Marc in your Heart, 30.09.47 – 16.09.77