So elegant, so fey (check the cover of T. Rex, his first on Reprise), Marc Bolan is a stripling, a sylph. Too old to be innocent in today’s world, though his years number 23, he plays to the post-J.F.K. set, yet with enough decadence and sarcasm for any war baby to hum along. He’s been rewarded with three No. One singles in England, where their sense of youth is less pristine (and besides, how old is the average singles consumer anyway?).
Marc is one of the eternally precocious, fated to live outside the world of adults forever. But he is an outsider in another sense, too. Back when T. Rex was known as Tyrannosaurus Rex, Marc sang of and inhabited a medieval world of wizards and unicorns. Now his subject and medium is rock ‘n’ roll, and his outsider’s stance (chronologically young because historically young) enables him to see things with a special clarity and vision. Marc’s lyrics still sound like nursery rhymes, and he sings with a puckish quaver, but he now plays a mean lead guitar.
What Marc seems to be saying on Electric Warrior is that rock is ultimately as quaint as wizards and unicorns, and finally, as defunct. It is a self-contained, completed form, with T. Rex and Black Sabbath, both parodists in their own way, its parentheses. His targets are your common rock & roll cliches, as well as your common pseudo-poetic, pseudo-philosophical rock & roll cliches. E.g. “Monolith,” or Stanley Kubrick meets the Duke of Earl: “And dressed as you are girl/In your fashions of fate/Baby it’s too late,” or “And lost like a lion/In the canyons of smoke/Girl it’s no joke.”
“Jeepster,” which sounds a lot like Carl Perkins, carries the great tradition of Chuck Berry and Beach Boys car songs one step further: “Just like a car/You’re pleasing to behold/I’ll call you Jaguar/If I may be so bold,” while several of Bolan’s specific images are Dylan-derived, like “society’s ditch,” “burning up your feet,” “Egyptian ruby,” and “Mountings of the moon/Remind me of my spoon.”
“Lean Woman Blues,” a takeoff on blues-rock, begins as Marc yells to the band, “One, two, buckle my shoe,” and then goes on to encounter wrong notes, chaotic over-dubbings, distorting guitar, and an extraneous “And I’m Blue” tagged on at the end of every stanza.
In “The Motivator,” Marc considers the aesthetics of government (“I love the velvet hat/You know the one that caused a revolution”), but saves his most profound convictions on you-know-what revolution for “Rip-Off”:
In the moonlight
Fighting with the night
It’s a rip-off
Kissing all the slain
I’m bleeding in the rain
It’s a rip-off
Such a rip-off…
etc., etc., for 16 stanzas.
Marc’s voice, appropriately, is Buddy Holly at several removes; Buddy, notwithstanding his genius, being, via Tommy Roe, the patron saint of bubblegum. At the same time, the combination of an effete vocal and an aggressive back-up is reminiscent of the early Ray Davies and the Dylan of Blonde on Blonde.
All of which goes to show that with Electric Warrior, Marc Bolan establishes himself as the heaviest rocker under 5’4″ in the world today.