Saturday, January 13, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (12) Conclusion

Just for the record, there were also some T. Rex video compilations released on VHS and Laser Disc that contained some material that has yet to surface on DVD. Among these I can recommend "Solid Gold T. Rex" and "Marc Bolan & T. Rex: 20th Century Boy." By now these are out of print, but if they are given a DVD release they too would be worthwhile investments.

So let me know what you think. If you agree with me or disagree with me, if you have something to add, or if you're aware of other releases that I haven't covered I'd welcome hearing from you. Rock on!

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MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (11) The Essential Collection

This British single-disc CD compilation of T. Rex hits was also issued with a bonus DVD (in PAL format). All the material on the DVD comes from the "Marc" TV show.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (10) Stamping Ground

This is a documentary of a Dutch outdoor rock festival held in 1970. Tyrannosaurus Rex appear for one song, "By the Light of the Magical Moon." This footage is included on the DVD that comes with the "Whole Zinc of Finches" box set and is discussed in further detail above. I mention the film only because it also includes performances from a number of other interesting bands of the time. These include: Santana, Al Stewart, Soft Machine, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Family, The Byrds, Dr. John, Canned Heat, It's A Beautiful Day, and Country Joe. This is a "Woodstock"-style documentary however, so just as much time is spent on audience footage as on performance footage.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (9) Marc Bolan - Ride On

This is a 55 minute British documentary, again mainly talking heads. To my knowledge it is only available in PAL format. What reviews I've found have been mixed.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (8) Inside T. Rex: A Critical Review


This is apparently a very low-budget documentary-style look at T. Rex. In the U.S. it is available as two separate discs: "1970-73" and "1974-77." Performance material consists of clips only - no complete performances are included. This is mostly just talking heads discussing T. Rex. From what I understand the opinions espoused are mostly critical (i.e. negative).

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (7) Marc

In the summer of1977, Marc Bolan hosted his own show on British television. Each show featured performances by T. Rex as well as another band appearing as a guest of the show. Among the guests featured on various episodes of the show were The Jam, Hawkwind, The Boomtown Rats, Generation X, and David Bowie. The DVD (& earlier VHS) release contains the T. Rex performances only, which are mimed to playback. Among the songs performed are "Ride A White Swan," "Get It On," "Telegram Sam," "Endless Sleep," "Sing Me A Song," "Dandy in the Underworld," and "The Soul of My Suit."

This is a worthwhile release, as the footage was exclusive to this show. I have chosen not to invest in the DVD simply because it contains nothing that isn't on the VHS release which I already own. With so many DVDs being released and then later re-released as special editions, I continue to hold out hope (no doubt ill-founded) that the "Marc" series will someday be released in its entirety - including the guest performances. A number of U.S. talk shows ("The Dick Cavett Show" & "The Tomorrow Show," for example) have had entire episodes released rather than simply releasing the musical excerpts and I find the material much more interesting when presented in context. So I won't be buying this particular DVD until someone releases a Special Edition. Hope springs eternal...

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Monday, January 08, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (6) A Whole Zinc of Finches

I have always loved the early acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex - Marc on guitar and Steve Took (later replaced by Mickey Finn) on percussion, perhaps even more so than the electric T. Rex, so I was very excited by this box set. It does not disappoint. This disc collects all known footage of Tyrannosaurus Rex (excepting the clip featured as a bonus on the "Born to Boogie Special Edition") onto one DVD. There isn't much (the entire disc runs no more than 20 minutes in total), but what is here was really worthwhile to me.

The first segment consists of 3 minutes of excerpts from "Debora" and "Mustang Ford" performed in the UK in 1968 at an outdoor concert held at Kempton Race Course. This is followed by live versions of "Stacey Grove" and "Salamanda Palaganda" from French television in 1968, running 4 minutes in total. "Stacey Grove" is performed on a flatbed truck without an audience & "Salamanda Palaganda" was apparently done for some televised concert. All the above features Marc with Steve Took. The 3 minute "By the Light of the Magical Moon" features Marc with Mickey Finn at an outdoor Dutch concert in 1970. This footage is excerpted from the film "Stamping Ground" (see below). It is interesting but inessential, since as much time is spent of the audience as on the band. Next is a 3 minute mini-profile of Marc at home in 1970 working on "The Children of Rarn" and "Suneye," with his wife June hanging around in the background. The songs aren't complete, but it is nice to see Marc in this environment. This footage is apparently excerpted from a film called "London Rock" which I am unfamiliar with. The DVD closes with 5 minutes of silent footage from the Kempton Race Course concert. The audio used is crowd noises and Tyrannosaurus Rex songs, but the sound is not synched up with the picture.

As mentioned above, there are a few other T. Rex-related DVDs available. I haven't reviewed these because, with one exception, they contain no exclusive footage of Marc Bolan or T. Rex. The exception is the DVD release of T. Rex performances from "Marc," Marc Bolan's 1977 television show. I haven't watched any of these DVDs, so I will deal with each of them very briefly.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (5) Total T. Rex: 1971-1972

This disc contains three live televised performances. The first runs 24 minutes and was broadcast in France in 1971. It consists of four songs performed live: "Jewel," "Ride a White Swan," "Elemental Child" and "Summertime Blues," as well as an interview. The interview interrupts the performance of "Jewel" and employs simultaneous voice-over translation to French, but it remains comprehensible. The set is really quite nice and as far as I know this is the only performance of the great "Elemental Child" ever available on video in any format. The second performance is also from French TV, but from 1972 and in b/w. Four songs are performed live: "Jeepster," "Hot Love," "Cadilac," & "Telegram Sam." There are also interview segments between the songs. The disc finishes up with the 4 minute 1971 performance of "Spaceball Ricochet" from "Music in the Round" which was also included on the "T. Rex on TV" DVD.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (4) Live: Roxy Music/T. Rex

This release contains five T. Rex performances from the German shows "Musikladen" & "Beat Club." "Jeepster," "Life's a Gas," "Ride a White Swan," & "Jewel" are all performed live in the studio in 1971. "20th Century Boy" is a mimed performance from 1973 (which also appears on the "T. Rex on TV" disc). The performance of "Ride a White Swan" is marred by distracting video effects, but otherwise the '71 material is quite good. An electric freak-out version of "Jewel" is the standout here.

These German TV clips have been released a number of different times. I couldn't say whether there is any significant variation between the quality of the discs, suffice it to say that if the clips are from "Musikladen" you will be getting these same performances. I recommended this particular release only because it also includes a good set from early (Eno era) Roxy Music.

There are a few more stand-alone T. Rex-related DVD releases available, and I'll get to those presently, but prior to that I want to draw your attention to some important, rare material that has been released on DVD in the form of bonus discs included with 2 T. Rex archival CD box sets: "Total T. Rex: 1971-1972" & "A Whole Zinc of Finches." Each of these contains 5 CDs of rare radio sessions, live material, and demos as well as a DVD of live performances. "A Whole Zinc of Finches" focuses exclusively on the pre-T. Rex acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex. They are both expensive, but very worthwhile releases. Interesting for the casual fan, essential for the fanatic.


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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (3) T. Rex on TV

To the best of my knowledge this DVD has only been released in the UK on Region 2 PAL. If you're a fan of T. Rex and don't have a region-free DVD player, this release is reason enough to go out and buy one. This is easily the best collection of T. Rex material currently available on DVD, consisting as it does of TV performances ranging from 1971-77. It is, along with the "Born to Boogie: Special Edition," essential viewing for any fan of the band.

The disc (which comes with an informative booklet) is divided into 4 main sections, the first of which is "10 Greatest Hits," which is a pretty self-explanatory title. The performances are from a variety of French, British, and German sources, and all feature the classic T. Rex line-up (or some variation thereof) and all performances feature the band miming the song to playback. First up is "Ride a White Swan" from a rare 1971 French broadcast. The footage is in b/w and features Marc with Mickey Finn on bass. Next is the classic performance of "Hot Love" from "Top of the Pops" in which, by applying some glitter makeup to his eyes, Marc Bolan essentially invented glam rock. Mickey plays drums this time. Following that is the performance of "Get It On" from German TV that seems to appear on every compilation of T. Rex or Glam Rock video (the one with the mod girls riding motorcycles keyed in behind the band). The classic line-up, with Mickey Finn on congas, Steve Currie on bass and Bill Legend on drums, is present for this number and the remaining songs in this section, which are: "Jeepster," "Telegram Sam," "Metal Guru," "Children of the Revolution," "Solid Gold Easy Action," "20th Century Boy," and "Teenage Dream." These are all uniformly entertaining performances by a band that was a hit-making machine at the time.

The next section features performances from two British shows, "Supersonic" (which goes to show that it wasn't necessary to stay up until 3 AM if I was willing to wait 30 years to see this show - proving that patience is sometimes rewarded) and "Get It Together," a kids' show. The "Supersonic" material is a mixed bag to be sure. All of it dates from 1975-1977, some of it is mimed to playback while some is live. There are two live specials and a miscellany of isolated songs. The quality of the performances ranges from superb to poor (had I stayed up late and tuned in to the wrong episode way back when, I might never have listened to T. Rex again) and production values on the studio material are very low. The section opens with two different mimed performances of "Dreamy Lady" from 1975, the first has Marc performing amidst a sea of bubbles, the second has Marc lying on a star which elevates from a horizontal to a vertical position (he has scary hair in this one!). These are followed by a lackluster, almost disinterested, performance of "Telegram Sam" from 1976 in which he emerges from a rocket ship, and a '76 performance of "London Boys" using an elevated stage.

Next up is one of the live specials, "Rollin' Bolan," from 1976. I can't say enough to praise this segment. I was truly impressed by how tight the band is and how good the performances are. Glam rock was essentially over by this point, and for those who assumed that Bolan had nowhere to go after glam, this segment gives the lie to that assumption. His hair is cut shorter, his wardrobe much more subdued, and he is just as vibrant and possessed of just as much star power as ever. He could have clearly held his own against any of the punk and new-wave acts then emerging. The songs performed are: "I Love to Boogie," "Funky London Childhood," "The Soul of My Suit," "New York City," and "Laser Love." I've long thought that "The Soul of My Suit" was one of his strongest songs of this period, and he turns in a good version here, but the standouts are "I Love to Boogie" & "Laser Love," both of which had always seemed to be Bolan-by-numbers to me prior to seeing this show. From here on I'll think of them as among his best. The only negative I can come up with about this show is the stupid pantomime frog prancing about the stage during "New York City." A pointless concession to showmanship, I suppose.

Back to the studio for two '76 performances, "Ride a White Swan" is very cheesy with Marc delivering a live vocal while riding around in a swan-shaped vehicle, while "Laser Love" is a mimed, but enthusiastic, performance on a multi-level stage. This last number contains some video deterioration that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the clip. Another live special from 1976, a Christmas Show, follows. Marc dons a flashier wardrobe this time around and runs through three songs: "I Love to Boogie," "The Soul of My Suit," & "New York City" (again with the panto frog). The "Supersonic" performances conclude with three songs performed in the studio in 1977. "To Know You is To Love You," a duet with the very sexy Gloria Jones amidst a dry-ice fog. There isn't much eye contact between them, which seems odd given that they were lovers at the time. Marc appears to be directing his performance to his fans in TV-Land, rather than to his partner. A good clip nevertheless. "Crimson Moon" has Marc miming his performance while sitting on a cutout crescent moon and "The Soul of My Suit" is performed live, but marred by a weird split screen effect throughout. The 2 songs performed live on "Get It Together," "The Soul of My Suit" & "Dandy in the Underworld," are quite good.

The next section of this release features three televised interviews with Marc. First up is an episode of "Music in the Round" from 1971 that lasts about 25 minutes. This segment also features good performances of three songs by the band: "Jeepster," "Cadilac" & "Telegram Sam." The band mimes to playback, but the vocals are live. Marc also turns in a live solo acoustic performance of "Spaceball Ricochet." This is really prime T. Rex on the way up. The interview segments with Marc are somewhat awkward, but fun. Fans in the audience are given an opportunity to ask some questions too. This is followed by an 8 minute interview from a 1972 show called "Eleven Plus." Marc is at the height of his stardom here and though the interview again seems awkward and Bolan is quite evasive, it is nevertheless interesting. Finally there is a 3 minute segment from a 1975 kids' quiz show called "Pop Quest" in which the kids get to ask Marc some questions.

The final section consists of a 50 minute documentary made in 1997 for British TV called "Dandy in the Underworld." Although not the definitive word on the subject it is a good show and fairly comprehensive for its type. Participants include Gloria Jones (the first interview I've seen with her), Mickey Finn, Bill Legend, Rolan Bolan, Marc's brother Harry Feld, Tony Visconti, Simon Napier Bell, former members of John's Children (the band Marc played with prior to forming Tyrannosaurus Rex), Morrissey, Billy Idol, Bolan biographer Mark Paytress, Siouxsie Sue, Steve Harley, and various others including assorted journalists, DJs, technicians, publicists, etc.

I cannot recommend this release highly enough.

(日本語訳は後日加わる予定です)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (2) Born to Boogie: Special Edition

Marc Bolan and T. Rex were at the height of their popularity in 1972, riding the crest of what the British press dubbed T.Rextasy. On March 18th of that year, T. Rex played 2 shows at Wembley's Empire Pool which were filmed by Ringo Starr and later released as the film "Born to Boogie." This film has been released on DVD in 2 versions. The first is a single disc edition containing only the film itself, while the 2-disc Special Edition contains a wealth of worthwhile extras.

First of all it must be said that the DVD is a vast improvement over the VHS release of the film. Both the picture and the sound elements have been cleaned up and surely haven't looked this good since the original theatrical release of the film. One of the extras provides both audio and video comparisons between the new and old editions of the film, which make clear just how much work went into the restoration of the elements. There is also a short (approx. 15 min.) documentary in which Bolan's son, Rolan, visits with and interviews technicians who worked on the restoration.

The film itself consists of live footage from the two filmed concerts interspersed with off-stage "fantasy" sequences, including a mad tea party and Marc and Ringo larking about in a convertible on a runway, as well as a fun jam session that includes Elton John on keyboards (as well as the stuffed tiger used in the photo session for the "Great Hits" LP). The fantasy sequences are of little consequence and are little more than mildly amusing diversions, although everyone involved seemed to be having a good time making them. The live performances are consistently good throughout and the audience is comprised of adoring fans. It is overall a fun and entertaining document of the band in its prime.

In addition to the film, the DVD also includes both concerts in their entirety. One was filmed in the afternoon and one in the evening, and it is quite interesting to see the band perform a full show all the way through to two different audiences on the same day. There is also a 47 min. documentary on the making of the film in which Rolan Bolan talks with various people involved with the production.

Additional extras include the theatrical trailer for the film, outtakes, deleted scenes, and interviews with (among others) Tony Visconti and T. Rex drummer Bill Legend (who is now a born again Christian). The live performance of "Cadilac" from the film is also included with a multi-camera option, allowing you to see what each camera shot during the performance. "Jeepster" is also given a separate audio option, allowing you to listen to the various tracks (drums, guitar, vocal, audience, etc.) singly. My personal favorite extra on this release is an acoustic b/w live performance of "Sara Crazy Child" by Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967, when Marc and Steve Took performed as a duo. Prior to this I wasn't even aware that any footage existed of the pre-electric line-up. An essay on the film is also contained within the booklet that comes with the DVD.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

MARC BOLAN & T. REX ON DVD (1)Preface

The first time I ever heard of T. Rex was when I was kid in the mid-70s and I saw a photograph of Marc Bolan with Elton John and Ringo Starr. He cut a striking figure with his feather boa and his big mop of corkscrew curls. I wore my hair the same way back then, so that may have been part of the appeal to me. I had no idea who he was at the time, though I had to wonder since he was in the company of such big stars, but he certainly did look every inch the Rock Star.

T. Rex was a major band in the UK, but in the states they were not big at all. Throughout the band's career they only had one big hit on U.S. radio. Several T. Rex albums were never even released in the states and a number of those that were released were relegated to the bargain bin. In other words the records didn't sell here. It was lonely being an American T. Rex fan then and it was hard work tracking down some of those records. When I saw the "Great Hits" album in the import section of the record department of a local department store I was really taken with the cover - Marc Bolan astride a tiger, with the image repeated numerous times in yellow and red. Imports were expensive but I wanted to hear the record and saved my pennies until I could buy it. I'm still buying T. Rex records today, almost 30 years after Bolan's death.

I never got a chance to see the band live. I was still quite young and T. Rex never had much success touring America. In any case they'd never play a gig in the nowhereland where I grew up. Opportunities to see good rock bands on television were very few. There were only two shows that I was aware of on TV that were devoted to contemporary rock music: "The Midnight Special" & "Don Kirschner's Rock Concert" (please, somebody release these shows on DVD!). T. Rex may have appeared on these shows, but I never saw them. The only show I was aware of that sometimes had T. Rex on was something called "Supersonic," which aired on an independent station at something like 3 in the morning on a Friday or Saturday night. I don't think I was ever able to stay up late enough to watch it though. So I never was able to see T. Rex perform, either live or on TV, during Bolan's lifetime.

Eventually, after home video became a reality, I was able to see the "Born to Boogie" movie, a collection of Bolan's performances from his TV show "Marc," and a couple of video collections on VHS. It wasn't until recently, however, that Marc Bolan and T. Rex performance material was finally made available in high quality transfers for home viewing. Last year "Born to Boogie" was released as a Special Edition on DVD, and I recently bought "T. Rex on TV," a British collection that is full of great material. I was so enthusiastic about this release that I got to wondering how much other T. Rex material was currently available on DVD. Chances are I'm not the only T. Rex fan who would be interested in knowing what's out there, so I figured I'd report on what I learned and review what I'd seen.

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