ARTWORK CREDIT: Hipgnosis/ORIGINAL PHOTO: Kieron ‘Spud’ Murphy
T. Rex – Electric Warrior
THERE are few albums that have been part of my life...
IN THIS PHOTO: T. Rex (circa 1971)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
as long as T. Rex’s Electric Warrior. I found T. Rex from a very early age and recall hearing the big hits from the band. Led by the charismatic Marc Bolan, I was inflamed and thrilled by the swaggering Glam-Rock tracks such as Metal Guru and Get It On. I am not sure exactly when T. Rex came into my orbit but I recall playing songs from them on a cassette player me and my friends used to listen to. Before long, the tracks were being chanted gleefully by me and my pals and it was great connecting with these bold and brilliant songs. There are albums that sort of win you over through time and there are others that grab you instantly. Electric Warrior is definitely in that second camp. The second album from T. Rex, this signalled a turn from a more Folk-orientated sound to a full embrace of Glam-Rock. Many might say that they heard a lot of music from Marc Bolan before 1971; the band used to be called Tyrannosaurus Rex: T. Rex was a fairly recent incarnation but, yes, Bolan had been on the scene for a little while. One can argue who pioneered and pushed Glam-Rock to the masses. Certainly, David Bowie would make a big impact around the same sort of time as Electric Warrior with Hunky Dory but, to me, I think about Glam-Rock and T. Rex springs instantly to mind!
Not only did Electric Warrior receive a lot of critical praise but it inspired legions of musicians. Paul Weller claims it is one of his favourite records; John Parish is a big fan of the album whilst songs such as Jeepster have been used in films – Quentin Tarantino used the song in 2007’s Death Proof. The eleven tracks on Electric Warrior are fantastically evocative, fresh and colourful. There is plenty of emotion and tenderer moments but there is ample spark and dance to be discovered. The album kicks off with the terrific Mambo Sun. Bolan has rarely sounded as chilled, cool and snaking as he does on this song. One gets a little touch of The Beatles with some of the guitar work and the lyrics are evocative and trippy. Cosmic Dancer – which one might recognise from Billy Elliot – sees the Glam star describing himself as this eternal dancer; dancing from the womb and into the tomb – a series of wonderfully rich and striking images that definitely get into the bones. The sheer sway, romance and beauty of the song makes it an album highlight. Jeepster is that big hit that I recall from childhood. Whereas the opening two tracks have a relative calm and do not have a huge amount of stomp, Jeepster is a more fired and frantic affair. I am not sure what a ‘jeepster’ is but, as Bolan professes his love and adoration of the subject, you figure it must be a good thing!
The chorus is among the most memorable T. Rex ever produced and I love the guitar work throughout the track – played by Marc Bolan. With production by Tony Visconti and Mickey Finn, Steve Currie and Bill Legend supporting Bolan (alongside some additional musicians), Electric Warrior has so many different textures and flavours. Lean Woman Blues, as the title suggests, is more in the Blues key and is actually one of the most interesting tracks from the album. You might think of T. Rex and assume everything was glitter, Glam and sex. In fact, on albums like Electric Warrior, there are a lot of different twists and turns. Lean Woman Blues is a fantastic example of Bolan’s eclectic songwriting nature; a track that allows him to take his voice in different directions. The album is perfectly programmed and sequenced so, by the end of that track (and the first side) you have been treated to a couple of big hits and a few slightly smaller numbers; each making their mark and providing something unique. If you get Electric Warrior on vinyl then make sure you see what I mean regarding tracklisting. The needle comes up on the first side and, when you put the needle down for the second side, the first track off the mark is Get It On. Maybe this is the definitive and best-known T. Rex track. It is raw, passionate and tough; full of great riffs, confident vocals and memorable lines.
When I was growing up around T. Rex, this was one of the tracks that were constantly on my mind. I would discover Ride a White Swan, Hot Love and Metal Guru later but, right from the off, Get It On was bouncing around my young mind. Although Bowie was already around and shaping up to be one of the most innovative musicians of his time, it is hard to ignore the fact that he incorporated a bit of T. Rex into his work. Maybe that is just me estimating and taking swings but I can definitely hear flecks of T. Rex in Bowie. Planet Queen and Girl calm things down a bit after the explosive Get It On and then, with some similar riffs, The Motivator gets the energy levels back up. Life’s a Gas is a grooving, stunning and underrated gem that boasts some of Marc Bolan’s vocal work. Rip Off ends Electric Warrior with so much heat, yowls and energy that you sort of want it to keep going. Again, if you think of tracklisting, it is the perfect way to end the album. Reviews back in 1971 were positive and, since then, critics have been keen to have their say. Electric Warrior definitely helped bring Glam-Rock to the mainstream and inspired so many other artists. T. Rex, in 1971, were on the cusp of taking over the world.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
In a retrospective review, Pitchfork talk about the sheer fun on Electric Warrior and how rich the record is:
“For those hunting down the singles, Electric Warrior does contain the immortal "Bang a Gong (Get it On)", but that's neither the only nor the best reason to pick it up. What makes this record so enduring is its almost accidental emotional depth: When T.Rex is kicking out the jams, they sound like they're having the most gleeful, absurd good time ever committed to wax. There's nothing so glorious in rock and roll as hearing Bolan croon, "Just like a car, you're pleasing to behold/ I'll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold," over his namesake boogie.
The most significant aspect of Electric Warrior isn't its arena rock confidence; it's that Bolan allows his grinning mask to slip. With the incomparable aid of producer Tony Visconti, Bolan sketches a vast, empty room, where, after the party's over, he resides alone, wide-eyed and desperate. On ballads like "Cosmic Dancer", "Monolith" and "Girl", he speaks in the same gibberish as elsewhere, but he's clearly haunted-- by what we can't say. But the gaping, searing question mark that comes at the conclusion of the album-- guitar feedback paired with a string section, holding a shivering and very ambivalent cluster of notes-- is just one of many clues that there's more to Electric Warrior than its surface lets on. This is not simply a man who plays party songs because he wants to: This is a man who plays party songs to fend off darkness”.
MusicOMH had an interesting angle when reviewing Electric Warrior back in 2012:
“Perhaps the key to the album’s apparent lack of age-spots is Marc Bolan’s subdued, hip-shot, sex-crazed vocal delivery, or producer Tony Visconti’s sterile, carefully constructed sound field with its pristine snare drums, psychedelic guitar flourishes, and the occasional saccharine string run or choir-like background vocals. But central to the album’s greatness is the iconic nature of its imagery and the simple manifesto implied by its title: Bolan, silhouetted in yellow on the album’s cover, wields his guitar like a weapon, perched defiantly in front of an outsized guitar amp like a maniac with his twitchy finger testing the limits of the trigger’s resistance. The whole album feels like it’s ready to blow at any point, and it’s mesmerizing to lie between the speakers while Bolan and company maintain the madcap machismo of their rock ‘n’ roll high-wire act”.
I have a love for so many albums but Electric Warrior is a very special one indeed. Maybe it is the sheer confidence and raw energy that runs throughout that captures me. Of course, at such a young age, I was not too aware of all the sex and sweat that was flying from the speakers – probably just as well I guess! I listen to Electric Warrior now and it still sounds completely thrilling and new.
I pick up new aspects and certain songs reveal fresh layers. It was Electric Warrior that got me interested in Glam and artists like Mud, The Sweet and Slade. When celebrating Electric Warrior’s fortieth back in 2011, Westword highlighted its importance regarding the explosion of Glam and what defines the album:
“There were other acts that had a part in glam's birth too -- mainly David Bowie, who's Ziggy Stardust persona was being developed into an concept album and a film (not to mention his preceding 1971 release, Hunky Dory, which moved in this direction as well). Plus, Mott the Hoople's 1972 record All The Young Dudes contained the anthemic hit by the same name, but it too was the work of Bowie, who salvaged the almost broken-up group by writing the title track and producing the full-length.
But what Electric Warrior had within was something more apparent. It had sex inside of it. The whole record, all eleven tracks, were sexy. Its lusty ooze dripped from every bass tremor, every wiggly, Chuck Berry-harkening guitar riff, every gyrating drum beat, and of course, every breath Marc Bolan could produce. In America, the album (and T. Rex's) success was only seen through "Get It On" -- known stateside as "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" to avoid being confused with "Get It On" by Chase. But T. Rex's version, which only reached number ten on the American Billboard singles charts, was far from the best part of Electric Warrior”.
A year after Electric Warrior seduced the world, T. Rex introduced The Slider. With Visconti back on board as producer, hits such as Telegram Sam and Metal Guru made it a huge hit for fans and critics. It seemed, during 1971 and 1972, T. Rex could do no wrong! It would be a couple more years before there was a decline in quality but, in terms of spearheading Glam-Rock and providing this exhilarating and primal sound, T. Rex were innovators and pioneers that captured the public consciousness and inspired their peers. I love Electric Warrior because it seemed like the start of something wonderful and new. It was the album where Bolan and his band switched from acoustic sounds and turned the electricity all the way to eleven! Still completely engrossing and extraordinary almost forty-eight years after its release, Electric Warrior is a true work of genius. We do not really have Glam-Rock now so it seems sad that new generations are missing out on this album. I hope people do pick it up and discover some of the finest and most original songs of the 1970s. There is nobody quite like Marc Bolan, that is for sure! I love how he can transform from the slithering love God to someone with a tender heart and deep soul. Many people associate Bolan with sex and assume there are no other sides to him: Electric Warrior disproves that and possesses so many different emotions and wonderful stories. From the sheer majesty of Cosmic Dancer to the primitive voltage of Get It On, there is so much packed into Electric Warrior. If you have a few pennies and time spare, go order Electric Warrior and discover this colourful, wild; wonderful, striking and…
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/T. Rex