DIAMOND STAR HALO
Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:24 June 2022
The warm-up single for the success of T Rex and their most acclaimed album Electric Warrior was "Hot Love". It topped the UK charts and gave Marc Bolan the formula he’d been seeking. Simple boogie rhythms, some cheeky teenage poetry and an infectious chorus you could sing along to. In fact, you were compelled to sing along to Bolan’s songs; they were that catchy. Electric Warrior delivered two such monster singles, "Get it on" and "Jeepster". Both feature on an album that remains as bright and thoroughly entertaining now as it did in 1971. And it all happened amazingly quickly.
Marc Bolan (Mark Feld to his mum) was a hippy singer-songwriter in late Sixties London who enjoyed modest success with his psychedelic folk-rock band Tyrannosaurus Rex. Bolan saw that acoustic guitars were on a descending flight path if you craved screaming teen fans who would plaster their bedroom walls with your image. He was cute and ambitious, having a hunger for stardom and a keen nose for trends. Those sensibilities led Bolan to become a pioneer of glam rock with its stomping beats, glitter and satin. This in turn brought the fame he desired. Yet the diminutive singer did not enjoy the trappings of celebrity for long. He died in a car crash at 29.
What makes Electric Warrior such a beguiling album, even half a century later? Let’s start with the iconic cover. Surrounded by an aura of radiant gold light, Marc Bolan strikes a classic guitar-slinger pose in front of a heavy duty amplifier. The image is simple yet extraordinarily potent. It’s also rather misleading. If you didn’t know the artist or the music, you’d expect some cross between Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath. But that is not what is on offer here.
When you place the record on the turntable, the first song is "Mambo Sun", a surprisingly low key opening. Over a mid-paced four-on-the-floor beat, Bolan croons,
With my hat in my hand / I’m a hungry man for you
I got stars in my beard / And I feel real weird for you
"Cosmic Dancer" is even more laid back; a gentle paisley-print song with strings underpinning the incense swathed self-mythologising of Bolan’s lyrics. It’s a pretty piece with a fine psychedelic guitar solo, but you really are ready to boogie by the time the jaunty, infectious "Jeepster" kicks in.
Side two opens with the album’s biggest single, the mighty "Get It On". Swaggering to #1 in the UK and #10 in the US (their highest chart placing there) it cemented T Rex in the vanguard of glam rock. It’s totally irresistible and super fun, despite the potty lyrics. Bolan was a published poet, but his song lyrics are generally not, I suspect, considered timeless literature by anyone over the age of fourteen.
You’re built like a car
You got a hubcap / diamond star halo
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl
Get it on / Bang a gong / Get it on
The rest of the album is filled with quality T Rex boogie-based groove, though not without variation. "Girl" is an acoustic balled, a classic blues template is applied cleanly on "Lean Woman Blues" and "Rip off" is a speedy pre-punk rant which closes out the LP.
All that remains is to mention the great sound and excellent overall quality of the 2022 Abbey Road Studios Half Speed Master. The reproduction of the original inner sleeve with the pencil portraits of Bolan and Mickey Finn is welcome, though including the poster as well would have been nice. I mean, what are we going to pin to our bedroom walls?
© Bruce Jenkins, June 2022