50 years ago, in October 1970, T Rex released the single Ride a White Swan, which was radically different to anything else on the pop charts at the time. The song became a hit and music historians now cite it as the birth of Glam.
Marc had made his first recording in 1964 and like many other ambitious singer songwriters of the time went through several musical and image changes over the years in search of commercial success.
In late 1967 Marc met US producer Tony Visconti who recognised Marc’s potential and made plans to record an album for his duo Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Around the same time Tony was introduced to David Bowie and over the next few months Marc and David were regular visitors to Tony’s London flat and so began a friendship/rivalry that over the next few years fuelled the creative energy of Glam.
In March 1968 Tony secured £400 to produce the Tyrannosaurus Rex album titled My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair, But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars on Their Brows. David Bowie introduced Marc to his school friend George Underwood, who agreed to design the album’s artwork for a fee of £75.
Tony worked with both David and Marc over the next few years. He produced another 4 Tyrannosaurus Rex albums with Marc until the summer of 1970 when the folk/psychedelic music began to change – as did the band’s name.
Inspired by Eric Clapton Marc began playing electric guitar. His girlfriend June, introduced Eric to Marc who recalled “I sat at the feet of the master and I watched his hands the whole time”. Marc bought his own Fender Stratocaster upon which Tony Visconti’s girlfriend Liz Hartley stuck what would become the iconic multi coloured enamel tear. For their 5th album Marc dispensed with hippie pretensions and the band and album became just T. Rex.
Ride a White Swan peaked in the charts at No 2 and the follow up Hot Love went one better. For his appearances on Top of the Pops Marc wore shiny satin stage wear and glittery makeup – a crucial trigger for Glam rock.
Because Tony Visconti was committed to working on further projects with Marc, David and Defries decided it was best to part ways with Tony in late 1970. The pair didn’t work together again until 1974 when David invited Tony to mix the album Diamond Dogs.
Tony continued working with T. Rex producing their albums Electric Warrior in 1971, The Slider in 1972 and Tanx in 1973.
David’s music continued to evolve as he searched for that elusive success and he eventually eclipsed Marc. In his autobiography Tony Visconti describes how Marc ‘seethed with contempt’ when he saw the success David enjoyed with Ziggy Stardust. But David and Marc’s competitive relationship provided a stimulus to keep pushing creative boundaries and their willingness to experiment with all aspects of their sexuality was culturally and artistically revolutionary and deeply influential.