Welcome to the latest exclusive post by Paul Andruss and today he explores the life and legacy of one of the 1960s music legends. Marc Bolan and T.Rex only came onto my radar with Ride a White Swan in 1970 when I was 17. As with many who die young, Marc Bolan the artist seems frozen in time, although I still listen to both this track and Hot Love regularly.
Paul as always has the inside scoop and takes us behind the scenes to Bolan’s early career and also brings us up to date with the traversty that surrounded his financial legacy.
Bolan’s Millions by Paul Andruss
I first came across Marc Bolan when I heard my best friend’s older brother playing Tyrannosaurus Rex’s third album Unicorn. I was instantly smitten by this unworldly voice, warbling incomprehensible lyrics to chords bashed out on an old acoustic, accompanied by fevered bongos and tinkling pixiephone.
The few words I understood hinted at arcane secrets. It was just the thing to fire up an awkward 10 year-old; yet to discover pop music but already a precocious reader of science fiction and fantasy, and American comics. At that moment, I knew all I wanted to be was a hippie; and Sorcerer Supreme, if Doctor Strange was anything to go by. Not entirely irreconcilable goals, I might add.
With LPs like ‘My People were Fair and had Sky in their Hair, but now they’re Content to wear Stars on their Brows’ or ‘Prophets, Seers, Sages, the Angels of the Ages’ and ‘A Beard of Stars’ what was there not to like?
3 Tyrannosaurus Rex Album Covers (amazon.co.uk)
Songs were populated with Conesuela the Lady Tailor; Aznageel the Mage; Frowning Atahuallpa; Trelawny Lawn; Catblack the Wizard’s Hat; the Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles and the King of the Rumbling Spires.
The back cover of Unicorn pictured Bolan amid the Complete Writings of William Blake, Kahil Gibran’s ‘Broken Wings’, a book on the Cottingley Fairies, and had a dedication to ‘The Three Friends of Hiawatha’.
As a duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex was the biggest small group on the UK hippie underground circuit. But Marc was not happy. As Dylan foretold: the times, they were a changin’. Hippies were no longer hip. A new generation waited in the wings; music and identity yet to be discovered.
Marc and wife June (groupieblog)
At the time Bolan was living with wife, June Child, in a one bedroom, cold water, flat in the run-down hippie paradise of Notting Hill Gate. Sick of him whining his career was going nowhere, June handed Marc a guitar, told him to go into the bedroom and not come out until he had a hit.
An hour later he played her ‘Ride a White Swan’. It was recorded within a week, with Tony Visconti on bass to give the song a beefier feel and a riff lifted straight from the doo wop days of early rock n roll. Visconti also abbreviated band’s name to the snappy T. Rex.
As the single stormed the charts, Bolan turned the band into a 4 piece by adding bass and drums. Dressed in silver lame and with glitter sprinkled on his face, he slashed the price of concert tickets to 50p, reasoning it was better to play to full halls than a handful of old hippies. The screaming schoolgirl fans came in droves; exhibiting the type of hysteria not seen since the heady days of the Beatles.
Mining the rock-n-roll legends of his youth, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly and Little Richard, Bolan was never out of the charts. His next single, the shuffle based ‘Hot Love’, was followed by two more from his breakthrough album Electric Warrior. ‘Get it on (Bang a Gong)’ had a blues riff lifted straight from Howlin’ Wolf. While the rhythm-n-blues riff of ‘Jeepster’ came straight from Chuck Berry.
Electric Warrior Cover (amazon.co.uk)
Bolan was a star. Or at least a firework, for like a rocket on Bonfire Night or the 4th of July, he climbed high and burned bright, only to fall to earth, all too soon.
In becoming a teeny-bop idol, Bolan alienated his old fan base. Accused of selling out, he defended himself. In his studied posh whisper, now laced with cockney wide-boy he declared: Its’ like they think I fell out of the sky, man, and landed on a toadstool holding an acoustic guitar; I mean, I was playing rock n’ roll right from the start man, you know, before.
His music never developed and he was left behind. As his popularity waned he battled rock’s twin demons of booze and drugs, looking old and bloated. He separated from his wife, June Child, who many believed was a significant player in his success.
Gloria Marc & son (Dezo Hoffman/Rex Features)
In a career reviving move, Bolan returned from tax exile with girlfriend Gloria Jones and young son Rolan. Punk was hitting the main stream. Quick to spot a new wave, Bolan toured with ‘The Damned. When some upcoming bands cited his disposable pop as an influence, Bolan declared himself the ‘godfather of punk’. In early 1977 Bolan signed to do a kid’s TV show ‘Marc’. Things were looking up.
Marc TV Poster (Marc shows album cover – Amazon.co.uk)
Sadly by that September, two weeks before his 30th birthday, Gloria lost control of purple mini she was driving. The car struck a steel post and crashed against a tree. Not wearing seatbelts, Gloria sustained serious injuries, and Marc was instantly killed.
It was only after Marc’s death the real horror story began.
Within hours his home was ransacked, everything was taken: guitars, memorabilia and more importantly all his receipts and legal papers.
In the process of divorcing his wife to marry Gloria, Marc died without leaving an updated will.
In the early 70s when the money was rolling in his financial advisors had set up a number of off-shore companies to avoid income tax. His rights and royalties were channelled through Wizard Bahamas. Mark owned the company but after his death, due to legal loopholes and the lack of an effective will, all of his earnings were still paid to a company now controlled by independent Trustees with unlimited expense accounts, and no legal responsibility to any of his survivors.
His band members got nothing of their share of the royalties. Neither did his parents, or his brother who carried on working all his life as a bus inspector. More importantly, neither did Gloria or his son.
Because they were not married Gloria had no legal status and no income. She was not even allowed back into the family home. Gloria struggled to bring up Rolan without any financial aid from Marc’s vast estate. She did write the song ‘Tainted Love’, a huge hit for Soft Cell, which must have helped. And it is said David Bowie paid for his old friend’s son’s education. But they were both some years in the future.
Despite being Marc’s son, a legal anomaly prevented Rolan inheriting. After some 25 years of wrangling, it is assumed Marc’s empire relented and Rolan was given a settlement from a small Jersey based trust fund.
Marc’s estranged wife and legal widow, June, fared just a badly.
After Marc’s death June received some money under the terms of the existing will. When the widow cashed the cheque, the tax man pounced. Marc had never paid tax. Despite being cut out of Marc’s legal affairs years before, June was still a director. The Inland Revenue used her as a pawn to get the £3,000,000 owed in back tax.
With no money, June was forced to fight Marc’s empire through the courts. After 6 years a deal was struck between the taxman, June and Marc’s empire. Some 4 years after that June finally received a small settlement against her share of Marc’s earnings. Within months she was dead of a heart attack, aged 51.
40 years on Marc’s fortune now stands at an estimated £50,000,000, and as far as can be determined is still in the hands of a group of unaccountable, and possibly unscrupulous trustees, enjoying unlimited expense accounts.
About Paul Andruss
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul has written four novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download
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You can find all of Paul’s posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/
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