Bolanomics (5)
By: James Parker | Categories: Pop Music, Read-outs

Fifth in a series of posts — in honor of his birthday, TODAY — tracing Marc Bolan’s musical and philosophical development.

20TH CENTURY BOY

1973: the pressure’s on. Still the kids scream, still the ether crackles, but “Solid Gold Easy Action” has been supplanted at Number Two in the charts by “Jean Genie”. Damn that David Bowie! “With no disrespect to David,” bitches Marc loopily, “it’s much too soon to put him in the same class as me. I’d give Slade that credibility but, without being arrogant or unfair, I certainly wouldn’t give it to David. He’s still very much a one-hit wonder, I’m afraid.” Yes, without being arrogant or unfair. No question that Marc is feeling it, though — so what does he go and do, at this Bowie-menaced moment? He goes and writes one of the hardest-charging, most arse-involving rave-ups of his entire career, a handclap-crazy pop grand mal with a riff right out of the Tony Iommi Book of Heaviosity — close cousin, really, to Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” (released the previous year). And I defer again to Mark Paytress, author of the superb Bolan: The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar, and his description of the intro to “20th Century Boy” as “a bellicose brace of blocked E chords.” What a sound! What power! What tone! Marc produced this track himself, and my only quibble would be that farting-along saxophone — it tends to smudge the clean lines of the riff. But forget that. To pull off the boy/toy rhyme with such flair, at this stage in the rock’n’roll game, is a sacramental gesture, and Marc is here prostrate at the altar of himself. As are we all. Happy 64th birthday! (PS: As a bonus today, and an especial tribute to Marc-as-vector-of-heaviness, we additionally feature Glenn Danzig wrapping his lycanthrope’s moan around “Buick Mackane”.)

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MORE original fiction at HiLobrow; and stories by HiLobrow’s Matthew Battles

READ similar HiLobrow series: ANGUSONICS — the solos of Angus Young | KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM — 25 Jack Kirby panels | MOULDIANA — the solos of Bob Mould | SHOCKING BLOCKING — cinematic blocking | UKULELE HEROES

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James Parker is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.