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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org