1971 was the year of musical cusp in Britain. The Beatles were gone with the 60s, Jimi Hendrix was dead, and The Rolling Stones were headed towards the end of their Golden Era (although Sticky Fingers, released in the same year was a fantastic album). The British youngsters needed something fresh. Something they could call their own.
Marc Bolan in his new electric avatar, a departure from the earlier acoustic, folky stuff and with a shortened name, T-Rex (earlier it was called Tyrannosaurus Rex) delivered the right recipe for these youngsters in the form of Electric Warrior. It became the largest selling album of the UK for that year, giving birth to the genre called ‘glam-rock’ and paving the way for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, which was to come one year after. The term ‘glam’, because the musicians added glamour to their appearance by wearing heavy make-ups, fancy costumes, glitters as opposed to the rugged look of rock.
I suppose there were several reasons why the album became such a huge hit. Musically it was simple, extremely groovy and understated as opposed to the late 60’s anthem-ish loud and heavy sounds of Zeppelin and Stones. Something the next-gen perhaps found fresh. Lyrically, it was quirkily sexual alongwith philosophies thrown in, in a simplistic manner. Once again, something that young Britain would have found interesting. And then it had Bolan’s soft, throaty, seductive vocals, yet another departure from the vocals of Robert Plant and Mick Jagger. The total package was a marked shift from the earlier stuff and appealed to the new audience. Moreover it was pretty easy to dance on the material.
The album opens up with Mambo Sun which immediately sets the groovy mood with metaphorical lyrics about sexual yearning (Beneath the bebop moon, I'm howling like a loon for you, Beneath the mumbo sun, I've got to be the one for you) and Bolan’s understated, fine guitar licks. In fact, Marc Bolan was one of the finest but largely unsung guitarist of his time.
Then one by one the vinyl offered remarkable music (and hits) like Cosmic Dancer (used beautifully in the movie, Billy Elliott), Jeepster (Tarantino used it in Death Proof) and the grand hit Get It On (Bang A Gong), their only US hit.
But the song that always takes the cake for me is the penultimate song Life’s a Gas. Its duration is 2:24 seconds but its life is a lifetime. Consider these lyrics sung in laid back throaty vocals with a tiny but solid guitar solo.
I could have loved you, girl, like a planet
I could have chained your heart to a star
But it really doesn't matter at all
No it really doesn't matter at all
Life's a gas.
I hope it’s gonna last
This track is a guaranteed gooseflesh two minutes for me, every single time I listen to it.
Critics at that point in time had panned the album calling it ‘teenybopper’ but over the years it has become a cult classic for all the right reasons. Give the vinyl a listen and you will know why. The band produced other albums carrying the same kind of sound but they could never achieve the sparkle of this particular work.
Marc Bolan, the father of glam rock died a tragic death in a car accident. He was just 29. It is unfortunate that life didn’t last long for him, but the album ‘Electric Warrior’ did.
Genre: Glam rock / Rock and Roll
Producer: Tony Visconti
Label: Fly (UK), Reprise (US)
Vinyl Courtesy: Sony DADC
Reviewed by Meraj Hasan
Meraj Hasan is a Mumbai based communication professional (and an amateur poet/musician) with a passion for listening to music the vinyl way. His 25 year old Technics turntable along with a humble collection of LPs across genres like Classic rock, Classical, Blues and Jazz (amongst others) are his prized possessions.
He can be reached at +91 9833410791 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org