The Night Marc Bolan (T. Rex) Made Glam Rock The Next Big Thing
By | March 22, 2021
For his first appearance on the British music show Top of the Pops Marc Bolan of T. Rex smeared a little glitter beneath his eyes and put on a silver silk blouse, and in doing so he lit the fuse on glam rock. In the post-hippie haze of early 1970s England the kids were looking for something new, they just didn't know what it was. Marc Bolan and T. Rex offered a taste of a movement that would prove immensely appealing. Acts including The Sweet and Gary Glitter helped define glam rock, and veteran David Bowie thrived in the new fashion-conscious scene.
T. Rex was always much bigger in the UK than the United States (so was glam rock for that matter), but Americans caught on later. Songs like "Get It On," "Telegram Sam" and "Metal Guru" can be heard on classic-rock radio even if they weren't Billboard chart hits the first go-round.
But back to that March 24, 1971 performance: for young British viewers at home, Bolan's performance was the watershed moment they were looking for. The Beatles were over and flower power had bit the dust, it was time for the raw sexuality and poptastic fun of glam to take over. Marc Bolan and T. Rex became sensations following their performance of "Hot Love" on Top Of The Pops, earning them an important place in the world of rock n roll.
Before Bolan and T. Rex could give birth to glam onstage at Top Of The Pops he was doing what a lot of musicians were doing in the late '60s. His psychedelic tinged folk music was right in line with what peers like David Bowie and Ian Hunter were doing at the time, but if Bolan had any real ties to the hippie counterculture they were gossamer thin.
Performing as Tyrannosaurus Rex with percussionist Steve Peregrin-Took, the duo's music was already leaning towards Bolan's later chunky style of bombastic rock. More than just having riffs, the early songs have the same energy that T. Rex had in the early '70s. Bolan jettisoned Took after a failed U.S. tour but he wasn't done with the Rex yet. He released one more album as Tyrannosaurus Rex, but with a new decade came a shortened name and a new, electric sound.