on 17 April 2012
I would highly recommend this book to Bolan fans old and new. It tells the fascinating story, in depth, of one of the great icons of British popular music. The author expands on and goes deeper into many stories that have only been touched on in the past. His detail is supported by an impressive array of first-hand interviews with the people who were there with Bolan through good times and bad. This `turning of every stone' will leave some reader's feeling a little uncomfortable as sides of Bolan are revealed that are not very attractive. However, what shines through is Roland's great love and admiration for his subject and the inspiration Bolan has brought to his life and so many others. The magic spell Bolan cast over this nation during 1970-72 is well documented and every line here helps you live those heady times again. Each chapter is illustrated with relevant, rare and unseen, photos from the period covered. There is an extensive discography and a beautiful cover portrait by George Underwood. This volume has been many years in the writing and Paul didn't want it published until he felt he had the experience and skill necessary to do it justice. He has produced a book of which he should be very proud. Anybody interested in Bolan should give this book a read and remember: "Keep a little Marc in your heart".
on 3 April 2012
I've been looking forward to the arrival of this book for a while now, as I know the author has a fine Bolan pedigree both as a fan & musician in his own right.
I'm pleased to say, he hasn't disappointed, this is an excellent addition to the many Bolan related books already out there, with some interesting interviews & angles on the Bolan story that should interest long term fans & newcomers alike. I was initially a little sceptical about the dramatisation of some of the scenes from Bolan's life, but doubts were soon dispelled as I became wrapped up in the dialogue & the stories.
Included are lots of interviews the author has gathered over the years, including an old friend of Bolan's from the early sixties which are of particular interest.
The balance is very good too, with equal care being given to the Tyrannosaurus Rex period (my personal favorite) and the more familiar T.Rexstasy of the early seventies.
Not afraid to pull any punches, the darker side of Bolan's (all too brief ) career is also explored.
Readers may find themselves disagreeing with some of Paul's personal opinions on a few of the songs, but I guess I'd rather hear an honest opinion than an 'everything Marc did was genius' type approach (although everything Marc did was genius!)
Well written, with an obvious passion and respect for its subject and well illustrated with some excellent photos & memorabilia. As a long time Bolan fan myself I thoroughly enjoyed it, a few minor gripes aside, I'd give it "A Beard of (5) Stars".
on 29 April 2012
This book captures Marc Bolan as a fully-rounded person, giving the most detailed picture of his personality yet produced and is extremely factually accurate. It is the most true to life portrait of the great man's life yet written. I really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Marc's childhood and his early years in the record business, where the author seems to have the greatest insight into his art, and is probably at his most sympathetic in his assessment of Bolan's abilities and music.
Where the book most comes into it's own though is when describing the events during the height of Marc's fame, where Paul Roland truly excels in describing those heady times with a very well-chosen selection of quotes from all the people who knew the bopping elf the best. Unfortunately, some of the testimony from people who knew Marc can be quite damning, in particular the well-known account of roadie Mick O'Halloran, who recounts the tale of Marc lambasting him whilst drunk and coked up, causing a huge row. There are other indications that Marc could be violent and certainly could throw tantrums! The oddest thing of all though, is that in most cases however bad Marc behaves the interviewee inevitably tells us that they still loved him, whatever his failings!
The only problem with the book is that it possibly relies too heavily on journalistic responses to Marc. Indeed, it is Roland's background in journalism that most informs the book, giving it a hefty weight of factual data which brooks no dissension. The only trouble is that Marc's music is really the most unique & wonderful body of work ever to come out of England, and that even his worst songs (Zip Gun Boogie, for instance) are still quite marvellous, magical & completely timeless. The carping of critics, endlessly recounted, throughout his later years becomes tiresome, and cannot help us to understand what is by now quite obvious: that Bolan was a one-off, a true genius. The value of Marc's work is beyond any reference to his life, for although he was surely terribly flawed as a person, he produced the most extraordinary, futuristic sounds, his lyrics always filled with the most exorbitant word-play. It is hardly edifying to hear him denounced by journalists and critics as a narcissist, as that particular personality trait is a feature of a never-ending list of previous blues, rock and pop songwriters!
on 12 September 2012
Cosmic Dancer: The Life & Music of Marc Bolan
Down the years I've read most every book written on Marc Bolan and sadly most of them seem to be cynical cash in cut'n'paste jobs written by people who hated Marc and his music at the time but know that any book about Marc will sell to his huge fan base. From the first page it's obvious though that book is DIFFERENT. First up the author is writing as a fan - This book is written from the heart - and it shows!
Sure I'm biased too - Jeepster was the first record I bought when I was 11,I met Marc once in 1975 when he gave me a T Rex song book and changed my life forever. Over the years I thought I knew most of the facts of the T.Rex story - but here Paul Roland digs deeper than anything I've read before and casts refreshing new light on often overlooked parts of Marc's life and career. Better still he's not afraid to call it exactly as he sees it throughout the book - which seems to have irked some Bolanites who think Marc walked on water. In contrast, for me it provides a more realistic and rounded portrait of Marc Bolan the man - with, like all of us, both strengths and weaknesses. The fact that Roland is also a longtime musician of no little acclaim means that he's able to incorporate his knowledge of just how the music(k) business works - providing fresh insights on Marc throughout his career... He's also not afraid to confront the (self) destructive pressures that came along with the success Bolan worked so hard for nor to criticise as and when he sees fit. (And yes, he's not the only one who doesn't rate the plinky plonk keyboards, soulless sessioneers and vapid production on some of the later T.Rex albums...!! It broke my heart too!)
But enough rambling..the bottom line is I loved this book and sat and read it in one go from cover to cover. Whilst provocative at times it's a wholly positive and uplifting read which reminded me just why I got into Marc and his music all those years ago. His music changed my life and the authors too...and this comes across loud and clear in print. And I guarantee that, as with all great music books, you'll race off and dig out all those old records, videos and cassettes and blast Bolan out all night long.
In fairness, I doubt if any written words can ever capture the power, panache and sheer sexy joi de vivre of Marc Bolan's music at it's best - but this book comes damn close! So, stop reading this and just go out and buy the damn thing NOW!
easy greasy! Brian Young (Belfast)
on 8 August 2014
Paul Roland has written a brilliant book about the life and music of Marc Bolan and his group T.Rex! Although many things have been written about Marc's short life and extraordinary career in music, after reading Cosmic Dancer I finally felt that I had the whole story. By taking great care to convey the events of Marc's life within the context of the music industry at that time and the cultural influences of the society of the day a much clearer picture was made in which to understand and appreciate Marc's motivations,thinking,creativity and behavior. This is just what I was looking for as the person born Mark Feld was such a unique character that I could never get a grasp on who he was. He appeared not to be real but more like a mythical character from a fairy tale.
In this book Marc is not so much an enigma but a human being. His character traits and life circumstances are depicted straightforwardly and honestly, without sensationalism or judgement. I learned more than ever before about the people in his life who played a significant role in events and the influence they had on him, both personally and musically. People like, his producer Tony Visconti, Ringo Starr, and his wife, June Child.
I especially enjoyed reading the accounts and details surrounding the production and recording of each of his studio albums beginning with the first Tyrannosaurus Rex album ,'My People were Fair...', through 1977's 'Dandy in the Underworld'. There is plenty of interesting information about the music industry at that time and the condition of the studios that artists had to work with. Adding to this are enlightening facts and stories about Marc's individual approach to crafting his songs and some of the inspiration and meaning behind the lyrics. All combined I got a much better understanding of how Marc transformed himself from a shy British boy with no musical training and no means to get him started; to a Rock and Roll icon who is still loved 35 years later!
Having his story updated at this time has answered many questions I have had all these years. As a teen in the US I truly loved Marc and T.Rex and felt his music was much more exciting and interesting than many of the bands around at that time. It's sad to know he felt he had failed for not having more "success" here since he was really appreciated by many of us. The accounts in the book of his US tours gave me a much better understanding what went so terribly wrong.
If you like to read about British Rock and Roll of the 60's and 70's and how the music industry operated in those days, ( a real eye opener) you will enjoy this book. You will also learn more about one of the most incomparable characters in Rock history, Marc Bolan.
on 26 July 2012
Strange, strange, strange!!! I really enjoyed the book, as I do every book about Marc Bolan and T.Rex (a huge part of my life growing up in 70s England). I can take little bits of everything the author says but his dislike of Marc cica 1974 onwards it a little too much to swallow. Bolans Zip Gun, in my opinion, is an excellent album, with Marc attempting to meld both soul and rock into something quite unique - and Futuristic Dragon is, without doubt, a classic!!! Jupiter Liar (F C F) brings us back to where we needed to be at that time (I actually had a fist fight with an Eagles fan who was nasty to say the least about Bolan circa 74-75). Drugs, drink etc. - good grief - he was in his mid 20s - what would you have done!!! Marc Bolan taught me to play guitar - taught me to think a little further than I might have done otherwise. Back to the book - the fantasy conversations made me smile - but I am left thinking the book has not yet been written regarding what Marc really meant to kids (like me) growing up in the 70s.
I have been looking forward to this publication for several months now. As a longstanding Bolan fan I welcome any product with potential to rightly promote the man's significance and contribution to contemporary popular music.
Maybe my expectations were too high but I found this book to be a fairly pedestrian account of the life. It's not badly written but it's not particularly well written either.
There was very little information within the narrative that I was actually unfamiliar with but thankfully it is at least not a `fan boy's biography which I seem to recall Roland's first book on Bolan was. In actual fact I kind of agreed with a lot of Roland's critique and analysis of the work. It's just a great shame that there was so little of it!
There is a good contemporary discography in the conclusion of the book and some interesting information relating to the posthumous releases but little else I can recommend with any passion. Annoyingly, also in the conclusion, Roland makes some effort to address Bolan covers by other artists yet fails to note the big league players: Morrissey, Martin L Gore, and Lloyd Cole etc who have tackled the Bolan songbook!
I was massively disappointed in the promised `rare' photographs. True, the book is heavily punctuated with illustrations throughout but the majority are covers of record sleeves, magazines, tour flyers etc. I was really hoping to see some unpublished images by the likes of Sukita and Keith Morris. Oh, and the less said about the book cover the better! Accepted, Underwood has a significant position in the Bolan history but his art was a little dodgy at best. The image on the cover coupled with the cartoon like font gives the impression of a cheap fanzine in my view. Not at all good.
So, I for one still await a biography truly worthy of the great man. How I wish someone like Paul Morley would have a stab at this! I'm pretty sure Morley could nail the `meaning' of Bolan in that complexly rewarding and rather beautiful prose of his.
In the meantime I would direct you the autobiography by Sebastian Horsley `Dandy in the underworld'. A well written and highly entertaining book in its own right but worth it if only for the 3 pages or so in which he describes Bolan and his importance upon his life. Spot on and really quite beautiful!
on 29 March 2012
My name is Danielz and I'm writing on my wife's account as I don't have one one here! I'm not a reviewer. I'm just someone who is giving a point of view from a fan's perspective.
I've read what some people have been saying about Paul's book and although I have not yet completed it yet, I feel that the reviews have been somewhat harsh in certain areas. What must be remembered is that Paul has been a long time fan and a genuine admirer of Marc's since the early 1970s. His writing has been a labour of love and even though it may differ from that of other biographers, it has been written with an affection that surely must be admired. The layout itself is reader friendly and the quality of the print and photos are, I feel, very good indeed. Although I have seen most of the photos, it must be said that many fans would not have seen a great deal of them, especially the younger generation of fans who have come on board in the last few years. It must be remembered that fans of a certain age know the Bolan story, but many under a certain age do not and still wish to see as many photos of Marc as possible (as like it or not, photographs are a very important aspect of the Bolan image). Paul has taken upon himself to almost 'narrate' the book in places as a kind of play with supposed conversations that may have taken place to colour the book with a texture of his own.
When one think's of books on Bolan, there is not that many that have been officially written - I myself co-wrote one called 'Wilderness of the Mind' with Caron Thomas (now Caron Willans)of which I am extremely proud of - so when a new book about Marc arrives, it is with eagerness and enjoyment. Many people associated with Marc have passed away, and so many have already told their story time and again. People such as Marc's school friend is interviewed in this book for the first time, and whether or not one believes everything he has stated, it is none-the-less another aspect of thought.
A critisism was why there was no rare photos from Sukita (Marc's Japanese photographer)- Sukita practically emptied out his best photos of Marc in his two books entitled 'Photos by Sukita', and '1972'. As for new information. Just about everyone has been interviewed that is willing to talk,and if they aren't willing then they have their reasons.
For me, I'm not really into books that disect lyrics or purposefully think indepth about what Marc's poetry may or may not mean, except for my own amusement. Marc isn't here to be able clarify any of that, except that of which we can dig out in various interviews and writings of his own. Not every book has to be intellectually superior to the last. That is why sometimes a book that has been written for pure enjoyment can be a breath of fresh air - read it for what it is - a book celebrating Marc's life and his music. All I can say is 300 pages of Marc written by a genuine fan cannot be bad.
No one really needs to comment on what I have said as I have only written my thoughts down instantly from one fan's point of view - there is no need for a discussion.
Keep a little Marc in your heart - and let's try to keep genuine fans under one umbrella.
on 18 March 2013
Having loved Paytress's book i was keen to see what other new tales and info would be brought to light ..this has both without taking the easy path into sensationalist red top expose style . Roland has done a great job and i thoroughly enjoyed reading this
on 29 March 2012
This hefty work is a welcome addition to the small number of biographies there are on Marc Bolan, and follows the last major exploration into the life and times of Bolan by Mark Paytress. While that volume was far more academic, this is probably an easier read for the majority of fans and because of the nature of many of the new (or newly published) interviews, more revealing about some aspects of Marc's working and social practises when in the studio and his relationships with his work colleagues.
Of particular interest was information from Stephen Gold about his time with Mark and the post Shapiro period which was all very touching and humourous and the fascinating passage about Mark and Joe Meek. For me the most interesting part of the book was the material from Freddy Hansson who engineered 'The Slider' and 'Tanx' (which I'll not detail here as you'll want to read it when you get the book) - but this is the kind of thing I've been waiting to read, his words enabling me to visualise Marc even clearer in the studio, strumming his guitar, directing the band, grinning at Visconti. Continuing in the same vein, drummer Paul Fenton's recollections are articulate and perceptive.
It's not yet the best book on Bolan, as with Paytress's it relies too heavily on the Marc Bolan drug-addict-and-alcoholic angle in order to give it an edge, and far too many personal viewpoints from the author on Marc's creative output... I don't want someone to tell me that my opinion about tracks I love is wrong.
These annoying things aside, it is a good read, there are enough new facts revealed and new stories told to warrant ordering a copy, then sitting yourself down with some blueberry juice and mushrooms on toast, putting on a copy of 'bump'n'grind' and absorbing yourself in more of the life and music of Marc Bolan.