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This review is from: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows [Expanded Edition] (Audio CD)
Where on Earth (or anywhere in the known multiverse for that matter) did this strangely mellifluous cacophony come from? It seemed unlike anything heard before and arrived fully formed onto the Peelian airwaves in the summer of 1968, hot on the heels of the astonishing single Debora (backed by Child Star, which was included on the album). And it was everywhere. You'd go to an outdoor free concert, or to a concert headlined by Fairport Convention, or Roy Harper, or the Edgar Broughton Band, or just about anyone, and there would be these pixies in support, sitting cross-legged on a colourful rug and declaiming a world of doors in oak trees, strange orchestras, Beethoven hair, wizards and weilders of words. Marc would be throwing back his mane and uttering throaty cries and bleats into the air, whilst confidently marshalling an army of sonic colours from his guitar, as Steve Peregrine-Took battled merrily on an array of Eastern-looking percussion instruments and added deft harmonies to Marc's lyrics as appropriate.
It is almost as mysterious now as it was then, although their influence can be heard in contemporary performers such as Devendra Banhart, and there were few clues to be had from Marc Bolan's previous work. This consisted of the two Decca singles The Wizard and The Third Degree and a single for Parlophone called Hippy Gumbo, all of which were relatively conventional moddish beat group ventures; followed by a four month stint in early 1967 with proto punk extremist mod-art band John's Children, for whom he provided lyrics and regularly beat up his highly amplified Gibson guitar with a heavy metal chain onstage, in a stage act which featured mock fights with fake blood - a far cry from Kingsley Mole.
When speaking of Tyrannosaurus Rex, Marc claimed to have been inspired by Ravi Shankar, which explains a little of the eastern influence though Ravi Shankar recordings seldom had the histrionic vocalise which featured on My People Were Fair...
As booklet note writer Mark Paytress observes, rock and roll was nearer the surface, especially on side openers Hot Rod Mama and Mustang Ford, both borrowing from the American surf and hot rod crazes of the early sixties, and The Wizard of course became re-invented as a live Tyrannosaurus Rex staple before being recorded in a third incarnation for the album T Rex.
This edition presents the album in both mono and stereo full versions. Marc Bolan was said to prefer the mono version because of mixing problems which had resulted in a thinness in the stereo version, but these problems seem to have largely overcome on this remaster so I find myself preferring the stereo half, presented as bonus tracks. These seem to be mixes of the same takes, although Dwarfish Trumpet Blues has an extra section, but the notes mention that four of the bonus tracks date from demo sessions recorded for Joe Boyd at Sound Techniques in late 1967.
The other bonus tracks consist of the single Debora (mono), which unlike the album was recorded at Advision, along with an alternate mono take; and early versions of Child Star (mono) and Chateau In Virginia Waters (stereo).
Marc Bolan went on to refine and improve the style he had introduced on this album, but no future albums could have the freshness and impact of this fearsome debut