When our teenage heroes die they cannot be replaced for as we continue to grow the wool lifts from our eyes. We see more clearly now yet pay the price with the coin of fading dreams.
16:09 21:11 11:01
“Sad to see them mourning you when you are there
Within the flowers and the trees”
When David Bowie died earlier this year the third and final corner of my holy-holy (rock) triangle became complete. His death is a deeply sad thing yet it was easier for me to accept than those of Freddie in 1991 and Marc in 1977.
Perhaps this is because I am 39 years nearer to my own demise than when Bolan died (I was 19) and that during these intervening years many other people, both personally close and public figures have died too.
I was not used to death then, but am becoming so now.
It could also be however because as each of these three musicians have passed away, what they gave me has slowly worn away too.
I was more impressionable then than I am now.
When I first saw Bolan on television in 1971 his raw rock music, male/female image and ‘crying lamb’ vibrato voice amalgamated to shock me. This shock however was both enticing and intriguing. At the time somebody told me that he was bisexual which, I was also told, meant he had both male and female genitalia (I soon learned this was not the case, but it did introduce the concept of gender being a spectrum thing). The physical sex lives of celebrities has never really interested me (really who cares?) but what ‘got’ me about Marc was that he stood out as someone or even something different.
He was short (like me) in world of the tall.
He had dark curly hair (like me) in a world dominated by those with long straight flowing hair (curls needs years of patience until they reach the shoulder) and
he displayed confidence (unlike me), yet I got the hint that I could be a bit like him if I bought into my own shortfalls and attributes alike.
I know others have written similar words about Bowie, Mercury, Lou Reed and heaven help us even The Beatles (bland is as bland does), but I remember the facts – Marc was the first to twist things around and mix up social perceptions and dare I say; values. In my life at any rate.
What I also hold close about Marc was that for me least, his qualities were something I could strive towards. When I learned rudimentary guitar it was Marc’s songs that were the easiest to play. He was possibly a lesser musician than Freddie or David but I prefer to think he loved simplicity in music and knew that even if he always wrote around the same basic chords and structures, he knew that he could add colour and variety through his lyrics, his voice, his posturing and his passion. He showed that talent can lie in the performance even if it is not ocean deep. There was certainly some substance yet it was style that really enhanced it.
Marc also demonstrated that no matter how much you pout and pose, a cheeky wink and a laugh underlined that you should not take yourself too seriously. He didn’t pretend his lyrics uncovered the mysteries of life or would change the world and he was playful when others were falsely profound.
Proportionally his output (he died at 29) was probably more efficient than many of his longer living peers. The public knows his handful of long enduring rock songs which continue to feature in today’s Media namely in film and TV advertising but what is not widely known is that if you dig deeper into Marc’s early recordings and you’ll find a fantastic array of songs that pre-date pop culture and consumerism. Simple tracks that describe nature, love and interesting people. None of it is cynical or over complex and even now it can still restore the melodic soul. Seek and you shall find.
What I also miss about Marc was his music/performance ability to exclude nobody. Sure he probably upset many parents of the day by looking effeminate whilst talking and singing ‘macho’, but when we look back, people would have been at most confused because there was nothing about him that could promote genuine anger or offence.
He carried the Hippie ethic of peace and love from the late 1960’s into the new decade. He brushed the festival mud off the bell bottoms and added sequins. He kept the long hair but got it washed and cut by a hairdresser. He had earlier hit the London scene as a stylish mod and in fact he was really rather respectable throughout.
So when, a month to the day after Elvis’s passing, Marc died too and I lost the figure who had been the gatekeeper to my new era of awareness. He ushered my mind and opinions from childhood into that grey pre-adult zone and helped me sit up and think. His music, his image and even his personal downs and ups showed me a lot and sent me the clear message that even I should try to be a creative person. It was within reach.
I doubt if any of today’s super groomed, albeit talented performers such as Bieber and Adele can influence youngsters the same way. The message that insulates them is ‘if you have talent we’ll make us both rich’. This is counterbalanced by the grotesque X-factor idea of moulding money from little or zero talent. Either way the 21st Century is creating performers that appear viable on-stage yet vacuous elsewhere. Puppets, rich temporary puppets.
Marc showed how an individual, even without being a rebel or a trouble-maker could break through and use the system with a song, a dance and smile.
As Bowie said about Ziggy “Bye-Bye, we love him”
Lyric from the Song Child Star by Marc Bolan
Part 2 will appear on 21 November
Part 3 will appear in 11 January