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.
Ride a White Swan was a huge hit and Marc suddenly achieved the success and notoriety he’d been craving. The follow up single Hot Love topped the charts internationally and with Marc’s rapidly evolving aesthetic the phenomenon of Glitter/Glam began to dominate the music scene, especially in the U.K. where T.Rex performed Hot Love on Top of the Pops twice in March 1971.
While Marc’s success came quickly David still worked hard at evolving a sound he was comfortable with but, as Woody Woodmansey explains in this episode, at the same time being mindful not to become too pop focussed, wary of imitating Bolan’s style.
T.Rex released the Electric Warrior album in September 1971. There were no psychedelic folk-oriented themes evident in Marc’s earlier albums – this was pure electric pop. The LP became the biggest selling album of 1971 and the single Get It On (renamed Bang a Gong(Get It On) in the US) scored T.Rex their first American No1 single.
Marc invited George Underwood to create the inner sleeve portraits of Marc and Mickey Finn.
When T.Rex performed Get It On on the Top of the Pops Christmas special in 1971 they were joined by Elton John who mimed his piano part, played on the original recording by Rick Wakeman.
That month David released Hunky Dory which had less of the hard rock focus of The Man Who Sold The World. The track Changes became David’s first single release in the US, as part of his new deal with RCA records, but failed to make the Billboard Hot 100. That chart success was still to come!
Marc’s pop star profile was built on a marketing campaign centred around teenage magazines where Marc’s Glam image evolved rapidly as he worked with editors to experiment with make up and flamboyant clothes
Meanwhile David’s promo team focussed on the music press and in the January 22 1972 edition of Melody Maker, in an article titled Oh You Pretty Thing, he made the claim that he was gay and always had been.
Busting social taboos has alway been a powerful weapon in the star makers armoury and David knew exactly how to attract media attention, especially with his androgynous looks.
But while his claim worked well for his growing fanbase, it was not so welcome in traditional media circles and at the BBC in particular David wasn’t booked on any of the leading TV shows at the time because, as one of the producers stated, ‘we don’t have perverts on our show’ – and it wasn’t until he appeared as a result of a last minute cancellation on Top of the Pops in July 1972 performing Starman that everything rapidly changed.
Iggy Pop was among the US artists who were inspired by the music scene in the UK to adopt the artifice of Glam. Here he is in his favourite T.Rex t-shirt at The Dorchester Hotel with Bowie and Defries in 1972.