Marc Feld (September 30, 1947 – September 16, 1977), better known as Marc Bolan, was a singer and songwriter for the band Tyrannosaurus Rex and later T. Rex, from 1967 until his death in a car crash in 1977. He is credited by many as having invented glam rock.
Bolan grew up in post-war Hackey in the East End of London and later in Wimbledon, South London, the son of a Jewish tailor. He fell in love with the Rock and Roll of Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry at an early age and became a Mod, hanging around coffee bars in Soho and featured in an early sixties BBC documentary about Mods. He briefly became a model, then in 1965 he joined the tough/flower children band John's Children who had some success as a live band but sold few records. When the band dissolved Bolan claimed to have spent time with a Wizard who gave him secret knowledge in the South of France. Whatever happened, his songwriting took off and he began writing many of the songs that would appear on his first albums with Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Bolan used to busk his songs on the streets of London, earning enough money for the fare home. Eventually he formed Tyrannosaurus Rex with percussionist Steve Peregrin Took and released three albums and four singles. The duo's early work received airplay and support from Radio 1 DJ John Peel though commercial acclaim eluded them.
Musical and ethical differences led to Bolan sacking Took prior to their first ever US tour. Took, however, was contractually obliged to go through with the tour. Bolan replaced him with bongos player Mickey Finn, shortening the band's name to T Rex and replacing his acoustic guitar for an electric model in the process. Bolan married girlfriend June Child (former girlfriend of one of Bolan's idols - Syd Barrett) and was writing songs at home, hoping to find that first hit.
This he did when, in 1970, he called his wife into the spare room of their London flat to demonstrate a simple high-pitched four-verse tune called Ride A White Swan. He then immediately rang producer Tony Visconti to sort out a studio session. The single was recorded and released and made slow progress in the UK Top 40, finally peaking in early 1971 at Number 2 and making Bolan a new star.
With his corkscrew hair, boyish good looks and cheekbones daubed with glitter, Bolan's emergence heralded the start of the glam rock era of British music, which also saw the rise of Bolan's long time friend David Bowie, as well as bands such as Slade and the Sweet.
Bolan's next single was a five minute song called Hot Love, complete with singalong chorus which prompted everyone to join in repetitively until it finally faded out. It was Number 1 for six weeks and was quickly followed by Get It On, a grittier, more adult tune which spent four weeks in the top spot and was renamed Bang A Gong when released in the USA.
By now T Rex had bassist Steve Currie and drummer Bill Legend completing the band, and Bolan left his deal with Fly records to join EMI. Fly released album track Jeepster as a riposte to Bolan quitting, and it got to Number 2.
In 1972, Bolan achieved two more Number 1s - Telegram Sam and Metal Guru - and two more Number 2s. But by 1973, his star was gradually beginning to wane, even though he achieved a Number 3 hit with arguably his most famous tune to the generation which followed - 20th Century Boy.
The band disintegrated and Bolan's marriage ended. He got together with singer Gloria Jones and disappeared for much of the next three years, though continued to release underwhelming singles and albums. He did manage to maintain enough of an audience to score one more UK Top 20 hit per year until 1977.
Gloria gave birth to a baby boy in 1975, whom they called Rolan Bolan (although his birth certificate lists him as 'Rolan Feld'). Bolan then re-appeared in the public eye with a TV show called Marc, in which he introduced new and established bands as well as performing his own songs. This was broadcast during the post-school hour on ITV earmarked for children and teenagers, and was a big success. The episode which turned out to be the last featured Bolan duetting with his friend Bowie.
Bolan got a new band together and set out on a comeback tour, taking along punk band the Damned as support, cleverly guaranteeing that a young audience who did not remember his heyday would come along to the gigs.
Bolan died on September 16th 1977, a fortnight before his 30th birthday. He was a passenger in a Mini driven by Gloria as they headed home from a restaurant. The car collided with a tree after spinning out of control in Barnes, London. The tree now acts as a shrine to his memory, and receives frequent visits from fans to this day. It is cared for on a charity basis by T A G (T.Rex Action Group) who installed Bronze Bust of Marc Bolan at the site to commemmorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death in 2002. The bust was unveiled by his son Rolan Bolan and the event was attended by fans from around the world as well as by friends and collegues including Mickey Finn.
At Bolan's funeral, attended by many stars, his coffin was covered in a swan-shaped floral tribute, in recognition of his breakthrough hit single.
Of Bolan's bandmates, original Tyrannosaurus Rex partner Steve Peregrin Took choked to death on a cocktail cherry in 1980 and bassist Currie was killed in a car crash in Portugal a year later. Finn, the man most associated with Bolan's success, died of natural causes in 2003. Legend remains the only living T Rex member, Bolan's wife June having died while on holiday in Turkey of a heart attack in 1995.
20th Century Boy introduced a new generation of devotees to Bolan's work in 1991 when it was featured on a jeans TV commercial and was re-released. Bolan is still cited by many guitar-centric bands as a huge influence, although he always maintained he was a poet who put lyrics to music; the tunes were never as important as the words.