For those who thought the glam era began with Ziggy Stardust, think again. Electric Warrior was originally released in September of 1971, almost a full year before Bowie’s masterpiece. Now, 40 years later, we have an expanded version featuring the original album remastered by Tony Visconti and a second disc full of previously unreleased demos and out-takes.
As the extensive liner notes explain, by 1971 Marc Bolan, the creative force behind T. Rex, was poised to become a pop star in England. He and Tyrannosaurus Rex had been flower power hippies at the end of the sixties and scored with their biggest hit to date, Ride A White Swan, in 1970. But the times were changing and so was Marc. He dabbed a bit of glitter under his eyes, shortened his band’s name and “borrowed” a few licks from Chuck Berry. The result was a clutch of hit singles (Hot Love, Jeepster and Get It On) and Electric Warrior.
Curiously, Electric Warrior, a very English-sounding record, got its genesis in the U.S. The basic tracks were recorded by Visconti in LA and New York which is how the distinctive backing vocals of Flo & Eddie (Turtles Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) were added. Finishing touches were added in London, including Rick Wakeman’s piano…gotta love his playing on Get It On.
The music stands up well after 40 years. Most of the tunes are variations on the same groove…but what a groove. Bolan does a wonderful job of incorporating the raw energy of 50s rock & roll with something uniquely modern. Again, Get It On is a perfect example. Bolan invokes the words of Chuck Berry during the fadeout but the song’s production and Bolan’s lyrics (you’re a hubcap diamond star halo) could only have been written in the 70s.
The 21 bonus tracks include a “full length version” of Get It On, that lets the listener hear what happened after the fadeout…more great rock & roll. A previously unheard cover of Carl Perkins’ Honey Don’t is another highlight, giving us insight into where Bolan’s head was at at the time.
As is usually the case, many of the extras are forgettable demos or remixes. And the album is far from perfect as well. The closing song, Rip Off, leaves a bad taste in the mouth (or ears)…its dissonance and bad attitude clash with the rest of the album. It would have been better if Bolan had included Raw Ramp or Woodland Rock, one of the subsequent “B” sides, instead. Fortunately those tracks along with the non-LP single Hot Love are here, so there’s plenty to enjoy.
Marc Bolan and T. Rex went on to have more success, but they never quite got everything to come together as well as they did on Electric Warrior. And Get It On…aka Bang A Gong…is one of the best singles…ever.
Click here to listen to the previously unreleased “full length” version of Bang A Gong (Get It On) from Deluxe Edition of Electric Warrior: