When Marc Bolan died 40 years ago it wrecked me.
I had just returned to London from a gap year that had been interesting and inspiring but also rather lonely and sad. Then on the night before Marc’s demise I’d been out on an abject failure of a first (and last) date and so my state of mind on the morning of 16 September 1977, even before I heard of his fatal crash, was fragile.
Overall, I was already in limbo. My ‘world tour’ was behind me and a new start in Higher Education was about to begin. On the surface you might think that optimism could kick in and I’d able to pick up my spilled heart and soul and look forward to the future but in fact I just wanted to crawl away and hide.
My father was due to take his car to be serviced in Camden Town (a half way point between our home in North London and his office in Trafalgar Square) and I was filling in my ‘between time’ by working with him in his office. He woke me up early and already crestfallen, I stumbled into his car. As we drew into the garage the 7 am news came on the radio and Marc’s death was the first item. The shock was so real that it felt like the news reader had punched her fist out of the car radio’s speaker and her corny withered witch’s hand was strangling me. For a month the media had been bleating about Elvis’s death and as if it were a punishment for me caring not-a-jot about it, my heart ached and cried like those of the Presley fans just 30 days before. This type of grief was a first for me. Although I had recently lost a close relative the fact that a celebrity with whom I had chosen to connect had been snatched away was somehow even worse.
My immediate unplanned reaction was to become silent. I was struck dumb as we left the car and took the underground further, deeper into the hell of Dandy’s underworld that was central London that day. I certainly didn’t want to share my feelings with my father who had not even noted the news item and I fell into a near-to-tears state when my mother subsequently phoned the office to tell me – like I didn’t already know- what had happened. She understood my feelings and did at least know who Marc was and why his poster brothered up to those of Bowie and Queen on my bedroom wall. My father knew of the posters too but wrote them off as a gaggle of effeminate degenerates that didn’t merit further thought.
I couldn’t concentrate on work that day (so nothing changed there huh? Ed) and the events melded into a sweaty fatberg of misery. Although my friends called me to offer commiserations my mood darkened as I started to construct a triple headed persecution complex:
- My year away bore no obvious (at the time) benefits.
- The girl of my dreams had sailed off into somebody else’s reality and
- The rock star whose chords I could manage to strum was gone.
Some weeks later I started my degree. I had to commute 2 hours each way each day by bus and many of my in-transit minutes were spent writing out my unfolding thoughts. I think now that it was during this soggy autumn period that I was visited by the trait of sarcasm. I realise that until this point I fought off life’s disappointments with a wounded shrug and a dose of self-loathing but now I was grasping the nettle of cynicism and sardonic bitterness it actually helped.
I haven’t lost this attitude, indeed I appreciate the powers of ironic comment and dry humour as they exist as a result of common human experiences of emotional pain. If life were always happy, we’d have no reason to have invented coping mechanisms.
Marc’s death punctuated the end of a very difficult year. At the time it felt like a full stop to everything I yearned for but in retrospect I can see that it gave me the pen/sword, the paper/shield and the Ellipses… to go on. And I did.
“Life’s a gas and I hope it’s going to last”
More in Marc? Click here: https://ozenzero.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/blackstar-mercury-crimson-moon-part-1-of-3/