Thursday, July 12, 2018

My People Were Fair... 50 Years On.

"One day we change from children into people."
 - Seagull Woman by Marc Bolan.

It was in the summer of 1968 that the Tyrell Corporation decanted me, aged 15 and a half, with a poorly implanted set of childhood memories. My real life memories started that summer.

It seems to me that even since then I have stumbled through life like a sleepwalker, scarcely conscious of the world around me, in it but not of it. I never had a plan, a dream, an ambition, a goal. Looking at my life and career in retrospect it may look, from the outside, like a carefully planned arc but nothing could be further from the truth. I meandered aimlessly though the next 50 years like a magpie picking up shiny things, letting serendipity guide my choices, trusting in the bounty of the universe to provide. I will never write my autobiography. I struggle to remember what I had for dinner last night let alone what happened in my early years.

I think my school report July 1963 (age 10) says it best "Mark's work is all done rather slowly and he is rather absent minded. With his intelligence he should be nearer the top of the class." The story of my life in a nutshell. Not so much "absent minded" as "in a little world of his own".

Adulthood and memories really began that summer with early morning cycle rides in the sunshine from Kenilworth to Baginton where I spent the holidays helping to excavate a Roman fort (and that is a story in its own right). And on that ride Tyrannosaurus Rex’s new single Debora was playing on infinite repeat in my mental jukebox.

And then in July the magic that was "My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows" with that wonderful cover art by George Underwood (responsible for some of the most iconic album covers ever and Bowie's mismatched eyes).


Growing up in leafy Warwickshire my only entrée into music was watching Top of the Pops. Neither I nor any of my friends read NME nor Melody Maker. I have since met contemporaries who grew up in London and had easy access to see all manner of bands before they were famous playing in local pubs and clubs. They were sneaking out to gigs aged 16 while I was goody-two-shoes doing my homework, watching telly and going to bed early.

It never occurred to me in my naivety that you could actually go and see bands live nor would I have had the confidence to do so at that age. To see anyone well known would have meant a trip to Birmingham Town Hall by public transport.

It was John Peel on Radio One’s Top Gear show that broadened my horizons beyond TotP and introduced me to Tyrannosaurus Rex and I was entranced by the sound. So when the first single was released in May that year I rushed out and bought it. That had to keep me satisfied for a couple of months until their debut album was released in June.

The record shop in Kenilworth was run by an old lady, or she seemed old to me at the time. It was a dark and gloomy store with wooden browser boxes. It was mostly given over to classical music but she did have a couple of boxes for records labelled “File under Pop for Popular”. I must have had to order in this LP as I’m sure she wouldn’t have spontaneously bought it for stock.

When I got it home I played side one several times before I turned over to play the other side. I wanted to make sure I could extract maximum enjoyment, sensation, appreciation, novelty from the first side before revealing more gems on the second side. After all you can only hear it for the first time once and I didn’t want to rush things.

As I have written elsewhere (see my review written in 1999) my copy was missing the lyrics sheet. Being unable to decipher much of the words I had to just let the sound wash over me and interpret as best I could what was going on.

Little did I know then that this was to be the start of a strand running through my life. Buying all the singles and albums for one thing. Actually going to concerts and seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex and then T.Rex live. Then some fallow years, followed by discovering the World Wide Web in 1996. One of the first things I googled in Altavista (remember Altavista?) was Marc Bolan and discovering that I was not the only fan on the planet [Note: I am amused to see that I used lower case 'google' as a verb, a lot like using 'hoover' for 'vaccuum'].

The final few years of the last century were early heady days of connecting with people worldwide and sharing knowledge and enthusiasm. Several hand crafted fan sites and the Tilldawn mailing list united scattered fans. I discovered that there was a Bolan scene that had been rumbling along under the radar all that time and I have since been to several anniversary Bops and met up with a number of fans in real life ([25/55], [Bolan Bop 2009]).

Back then though this was all in the future. The triple vintage of '68, '69, '70 - the Tyrannosaurus Rex years - were halcyon days indeed. Schoolwork was easy, O-levels were a year away, home life was fine, I had my hobbies and books. All I knew was that I was happy, carefree, cycling in the sunshine, listening to the magic that was Tyrannosaurus Rex.

"And your days of love always in a dream, you know."
 - The Time of Love is Now by Marc Bolan.