Features

Saturday Deluxe / 21 May 2016

Born to Boogie – Tony Visconti in London to remember Marc Bolan

Legendary record producer, Tony Visconti was in London last night to attend a theatrical screening of Born to Boogie, the 1972 Marc Bolan/T. Rex concert film which will be issued on blu-ray for the first time next month.

Visconti had flown in from New York to discuss working with Marc and after the screening, probably to the horror of the British Film Institute (BFI) technicians an much to the amusement of the invited audience, he stated that he thought the 5.1 surround mix “sounded awful”, adding “no, I mixed it a lot better than that. If I’d been there this afternoon I’d have helped them align the speakers – I promise you it does sound better than that!”

In a fascinating, hour long Q&A, Tony told journalist and T. Rex authority Mark Paytress that the film “looked great. It was a great time in my life, a great time in Marc Bolan’s life and it was a great time for the audience who lived through that period. It was magic. Absolutely magic.”

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Tony Visconti chats to journalist Mark Paytress

Reflecting on Marc Bolan’s success Tony said “Marc had a trick, which I analysed, having worked with him so much, and that was that in the late sixties, early seventies, people were still trying to copy The Beatles. You know, if The Beatles used a French Horn, you might try to use a Tuba. They’d do something like The Beatles, but try and get one up on The Beatles. Marc skipped a generation, he skipped a decade and went back to the fifties. He emulated – and it was as clear as day – Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly… that was his trick. It was genius to go back. In other words, The Beatles had got so sophisticated, you couldn’t take it any further. They did it. They did the job well. But Marc went backwards to that era and starting doing that up, slowly. Because in our own ways, a song like Children of the Revolution, within that style of Marc’s, it was like building from the ground up with something so basic, the three, four or five chords you’d use in rockabilly, and early rock ‘n’ roll, Marc made these incredible mini-symphonies out of those chord changes. His melodies were just unparalleled.

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SDE’s Paul Sinclair with Tony Visconti

When asked about Marc’s reaction to not maintaining the number ones and big commercial hit singles throughout his career Tony observed, “I think the only mistake made was that, that audience, those girls and the few guys that adored him, grew older. And that’s the way pop works. Just in a few short years, some of them were going over to the Bowie camp and other things and you know, kids do grow up. And it was crystallised in that film, Marc thought that this is the way it’s always going to be. After that we made some fantastic records, I love The Slider and Tanx and all that, but we clearly lost that audience… it’s ironic now that in later years, a lot of teenage kids look to that music now. But the truth is the core audience [at the time] dwindled and it did make him angry. He couldn’t figure it out and was frustrated.”

Paytress noted that the music hadn’t really dated, and Visconti agreed, “I wish Marc could’ve seen what happened to the music. It’s as fresh as the day it was made. I remember, I remastered Electric Warrior about five or six years ago and this mastering engineer said that it was fantastic music and that it sounded like we’d just recorded it, and that I was bringing him a new album.”

More from this Q&A will be covered on SDE in early June. Born to Boogie is issued on blu-ray and as a deluxe edition on 13 June. More on those releases here.

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16 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 21 May 2016

  1. Mikey Roberts says:

    Thanks for that super article Paul, and for trying to help people keep a little Marc in their lives :-)

  2. Daran says:

    I have skipped over Bolan, and I can’t think of a single reason why I have done that. There is something undeniably modern about his music that survives whatever decade we are in.

    What is the best place to start with compilations of his? Any suggestions?

  3. Auntie Sabrina says:

    Well Daren, how about the Essential Collection, 24 tracks came out a while ago so you might still be able to get it. Pity that the full TV series Marc is not available to buy, only a compilation lasting under an hour

  4. Jens Iwarson says:

    I would start with “The Slider”. That was my introduction in -77, and it was a fantastic discovery.

  5. Kevin says:

    Well, if we’re talking essentials for Bolan’s peak period, you need little more than Electric Warrior, The Slider and I would even throw in Tanx. To be fair, that’s where it begins and ends for me, though. I’ve never heard the early Tyrannosaurus Rex stuff.

  6. Ian Murphy says:

    Last year’s For All The Cats compilation is a pretty comprehensive run through the singles, so it’s not a bad place to start.

  7. Steven says:

    Thanks for sharing that interesting snapshot of the evening, Paul. I would not have known about it otherwise and I’ve loved all things Bolan from the release of A Beard of Stars onwards. I’d have gone along myself if I’d been in London, as I ‘d been last Summer (an incredible 3 1/2 months during which time I saw Visconti et al cover Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World).

  8. bob says:

    That was a great read Paul, wished I could have been there but I am away on my travels.
    For the curious, as mentioned Electric Warrior and The Slider are essential listening, and Tanx is great as well, though the slide in quality begins to show on this album.
    For the early pre T.Rex stuff I would maybe start with a good compilation as it is very different, but still some great music in those albums.
    Tony Visconti is a great guy and always speaks very well of Marc. I look forward to the upcoming feature on SDE.

  9. Adam shaw says:

    Interesting what Tony said about Marc going back to the fifties, it’s seemed a lot of the glam artist ( not in a bad way ) did the same , Glitter Rock n Roll pt 1 , Bowie Drive In Saturday , Sweet , Elton and loads more that joined the band wagon .

    • Metal Mickey says:

      There was a mini Rock & Roll revival going on in the early 70’s which, as you say Adam, many of the glam rock acts edged into… T Rex, Wizzard and Gary Glitter were probably the most overt examples, but songs like “Drive In Saturday”, Elton’s “Crocodile Rock” and 10CC’s “Donna” showed there was definitely something in the air at the time…

      It’s worth bearing in mind that Rock & Roll itself was only 15-ish years old, and after the Beatles, Stones, psychedelia etc. a revival was a natural step, enough to make the London Rock & Roll show at Wembley in 1972 a viable concern, plus major movies like “American Graffiti” and “That’ll Be The Day” also feeding the fire…

  10. Daran says:

    Thanks for all the recommendations.

  11. Brian says:

    funny how the Beatles had an this effect on other artists. the only way was back. The trouble with T-Rex was he didn’t change or develop into something else. Unlike Bowie.

    • Metal Mickey says:

      Yes, Marc was definitely circling the drain (commercially) just before his death… there are those who think he might have had a revival as a “Godfather of Punk” figure, what with the Jam, Generation X, Boomtown Rats and Eddie & The Hot Rods guesting on his TV show, and him having The Damned as support act on his final tour, but I’m more inclined to think that the early-80s New Romantic years would have been kinder to him (think Adam & the Ants), with more support coming from (say) Johnny Marr a few years later…

      All that said, he’s one of those people you just can’t imagine as an old man – I still can’t believe he was only 30 when he died…

  12. Catweazle says:

    29, to be precise – two weeks short of his 30th birthday!

  13. Bert says:

    You’ve forgotten to tag this “SaturdayDeluxe”.

  14. JR says:

    Any idea if the Blu-ray is region free or if it’ll be released in the USA?

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