Metal Guru – Marc Bolan

You won’t fool the Children of the Revolution …

I’m meeting up with Lesley Ann-Jones soon, Freddie Mercury and Marc Bolan’s biographer.  This caused me to write some personal reflections on Marc Bolan, who influenced my life and music hugely.

Bolan arrived on the music scene for me at the impressionable age of 14.  In the midst of Slade, Bowie, Mud, Gary Glitter, Alice Cooper et al, he stood out as being a very gentle soul, although legend has it that he was a very determined character, having once knocked on the door of Simon Napier-Bell and said he was going to be a big star, which got him started on the road to his first big hit:

For someone with a big ego, Bolan was generous of spirit, collaborating with David Bowie, Jeff Lynne, Elton John and many others.  He also had an obsessive, relentless streak in him yet everybody he dealt with loved him.  He even turned his back on the mighty John Peel, who felt that Bolan had sold out when he went electric in order to win fame.  This is single-mindedness indeed, but Bolan was very progressive about his music, wanting to move on from the hippy sound that Tyrannosaurus Rex represented.  An object lesson in reinvention.  Sometimes you leave people behind when you change what you do.

In psychometric type terms, Marc Bolan is thought to share my own Myers Briggs type of ENTP.  Might that explain why I was so drawn to him?  Reckoned to be about 2.5% of the population (a rare breed as there are 16 types which would make the average around 6%), ENTP’s are described as clever, usually verbally as well as cerebrally quick, with a love of argument. They tend have a perverse sense of humour and tend towards innovative approaches.  ENTPs do not suffer fools gladly.  In general, however, they are genial, even charming, when not being harassed by life.  This seems to describe Bolan to a tee.  Sometime who was not trapped by the past although there are echoes of his heroes:  Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry in his music.

Bolan’s lyrics were always playful and a great source of fascination for me. Witness these taken from “Ballrooms of Mars” from the T.REX “Slider” album:

“You dance With your lizard leather boots on
And pull the strings That change the faces of men
You diamond browed hag You’re a gutter-gaunt gangster
John Lennon knows your name And I’ve seen his”

At one level of abstraction completely meaningless, yet along with the song, they establish a poetic connection with the listener.

What can we take away from Marc Bolan’s example?

  • Be focused, but gracious to those around you at the same time
  • If you want to innovate in a discipline, respect the past but do not become trapped by it
  • Play is essential if you are to be creative
  • If you change what you do, be prepared to lose some of your followers

And what would you add?  Post your thoughts on the blog.

Let’s finish with one of Marc’s great songs, Hot Love, which we gave a Country and Western makeover to last Saturday night:

Hot Glove – T.REX gets the Country and Western treatment

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

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4 responses to “Metal Guru – Marc Bolan

  1. Splendid Peter! As an ENFP I can heartily concur. First album I bought was Zep 4, and Electric warrior. I still have all the albums (including all of the Tyrannosaurus ones – 4?

    Loved Hot Love – and the gigglesome dancers in front of the stage with their crocheted bras! (Pans People?) How did we manage to get anywhere in the 70’s looking like we did?

    Phil

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  2. This from Les Potton via Linkedin:

    Not really about leadership but some thoughts on Bolan 35 years after his untimely death. Bolan was my first real musical influence buying The Slider album on the way home from earning my first wage at Romford Market !

    I agree Peter, about the lyrics, fascinating how the man’s mind worked. They were a constant fascination to my parents (at least he made them take an interest) in their apparent crazy randomness. He understood the wind and all the things that made the children cry ! . How many other rock stars understood the wind ! :)

    Never forget hearing of his sad death whilst watching the Radio Stars at the Marquee on that night in 77. The lead singer, Andy Ellison, was a friend of Bolan and was in tears giving the announcement.

    Did a crazy mime of 20th Century Boy with a little band of mates at a primary school concert (playing air tennis racquets !) and still have the same song in current covers band set for The Spirit. Bolan was a true great, before his time, and a sad loss at such a young age.

    In terms of leadership, perhaps his resilience is to be admired, he came back from drink and drugs problems, to get himself a prime time kids TV slot embracing the new punk bands in 77. Sadly it only lasted a few months.

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  3. he moved into my soul quite unannounced after his death and resided there for a brief period to continue his music for a few more years …you,ll understand this Peter x

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