Wednesday, January 8, 2020

T. Rex: Dirty and Sweet, Oh, Yeah

Ah, T. Rex. T. Rex was one of the first and most influential of the glam-rock bands of the early 1970s. In 1972, "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" went to Number Ten in the U.S. and was arguably the first glam hit on this side of the ocean.

They were huge in the U.K., with ten Top Five hits from 1970 to 1974, but they never again hit in America. Head honcho Marc Bolan was killed in a car accident in 1977, and T. Rex was done. I don't mean to plant spoilers up here, but this is the Thin Lizzy story all over again. The T. Rex saga is not appreciably different from that of Badfinger, who actually had four hits before the band started dying off, and nobody's nominating Badfinger for anything. 

What Makes Them Different T. Rex's influence was substantial. The Smiths, R.E.M., Joy Division, the New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Pixies, all cited T. Rex as an influence. They were name-checked in songs by the Who, David Bowie/Mott the Hoople, and My Chemical Romance. Slash's top hat seemed to be lifted straight from the cover of The Slider.

They were originally called Tyrannosaurus Rex, releasing four albums under that name. But their producer, Tony Visconti (who was also David Bowie's longtime producer), shortened it to T. Rex whenever he had to write it out, and the abbreviated version stuck.

Although they weren't together very long, T. Rex released eight albums in eight years. I admire that work ethic.

"Bang a Gong (Get It On)" was their only U.S. chart hit, but "Jeepster" also got some FM radio play, and "Debora" was heard in Baby Driver. They were a lot more than one song, despite what classic rock radio would tell you.

By the Numbers Four Number one singles in the U.K. In the U.S., they had two albums reach the Top Forty, Electric Warrior and The Slider, plus "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" in the Top Ten.

Will They Get In? As I said, T. Rex has a lot in common with Thin Lizzy, although my sense is that their cultural impact was more meaningful than that of the boys from Ireland. Another good comp for T. Rex is Nick Drake, who also put out some gorgeous, influential albums before dying way too young. Nick Drake never had a hit song, but his music still pops up on commercials and movies these days, and people LOVE him. Does that make him a Hall of Famer? Maybe, but the Hall hasn't seemed too kind to those types lately. Leonard Cohen, sure, but Leonard had a loo-o-o-o-ong career, and by the end of it, he was filling arenas. Does a rock band with a single hit and a short career but a noticeable footprint in the culture deserve to be inducted? I guess we'll find out.

Should They Get In? The Hall has seen fit to entrust me with a vote, so I guess I am the one who has to answer those questions. For now, I'm going to vote NO for T. Rex, but I could probably be persuaded otherwise. 

No comments:

Post a Comment