Rex 1967- 1970
British Psychedelia / eclectic, acid folk, acoustic duo
Notable following by the flower-power subspecies of hippies
in the UK underground, Ladbroke Grove/Notting Hill scene
Personnel: Marc Bolan (guitar, vocals) Steve Took (percussion, vocals)
Tyrannosaurus Rex was an extremely interesting band from the late 1960s, in terms of the musical personalities (both harboring loyal contemporary followings), the 'different,' one-of-a-kind songs and musicianships, and the history of the band relating to the scope of the 60s London underground.
After quitting rock band John's Children, in 1967 Marc Bolan (Mark Feld) formed a five-piece electric band recruiting 17 year old Steve Porter as drummer. They played one disasterous show, resulting in the band's equipment being repossessed, Steve having to sell off his drums, and the other members' exiting. Marc and Steve remained, forming a duo with a shabby set of acoustic guitar and bongos, and playing Marc's rock-style songs, such as Hot Rod Mama and Sara Crazy Child, in an underpass near Hyde Park. Early demos of these songs (recorded with a session bassist) can be heard on The Beginning of Doves compilation. With the help of DJ John Peel, they soon migrated to the club scene, adapting their sound and dress to the underground flower-power scene, and evolving into the band Tyrannosaurus Rex. At this time, Steve adopted the name 'Peregrin Took' from the hobbit in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. They began to perform eccentric, mystical, and mythical songs (often Tolkienesque and 'Narnian' in nature and generally 3 minutes in length), employing Marc's rhythmical and nonsensical lyrics, warbly voice and Took's arsenal of toy instruments and unique vocal stylings.
"Tookie was Bolan’s translator, turning his words into audio signals to trigger off mental pictures in a tripped-out audience. It was Took’s arrangements which were instrumental in transforming Bolan’s music from the straightforward rock ‘n roll it had once been (and would again be one day) into an 'exotic' brew of musical eccentricity." (1)
By 1968 Tyrannosaurus Rex gained a loyal following with the underground flower-power hippie scene, with Took also gaining credibility and friendships in Ladbroke Grove freak community. In the first half of 1968, the duo charted two Top 40 hits: 'Debora' and 'One Inch Rock', plus a top 20 LP - My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows. In October, the next LP, Prophets, Seers and Sages, the Angels of the Ages, was released. But the rift between Bolan and Took had begun:
"[In truth] Tyrannosaurus Rex's 'authentic' hippy image bore no resemblance to either of its two members in real life. Bolan, tucked away at home with June, was a trainee Pop Star slumming it in the Underground. As for Took, he was, in [Mick] Farren's words, "kicking over the gossamer traces and determinedly hanging out with the bad boys." Or as Steve himself cynically put it "I was a 'Flower Child', and there's **Things that a 'Flower Child' Can't Do**. Being a natural born rebel, I wanted to do all the **Things I was Not Meant to Do**!. That caused a lot of raps with the management - and a lot of raps with Marc!" (1)
The year 1969 produced the last Tyrannosaurus Rex LP with Took, Unicorn---their most produced and highest charting effort. The duo then started work on a fourth album, and a single, 'King of the Rumbling Spires,' was released in July which showcased Bolan on electric guitar and Took on full drum kit, with some background electronics. An interesting record that offers a glimpse of what might of been next---a much heavier sound. But mounting musical differences, including Took's own ambition as songwriter proved too much for the two, and they split. A couple notable incidences helped push Bolan and Took to the breaking point:
- "Recalled by Mick Farren, was at the conclusion of the band's April 1969 concert at the Lyceum, where members of the Pretty Things and the Deviants all piled up on to the stage during the finale of "The Wizard" and proceeded to jam in much the same fashion as at Pretties/Deviants double bills. Unfortunately, Marc was not in the mood for these kinds of games, and stormed angrily offstage! How much of this is audible on the "Midnight Court" CD release of the gig is anyone's guess." (1)
-Took's insistence on playing his own songs (which Bolan refused) and contributing his talents and song, "The Sparrow Is A Sign" to the psychedelic classic Twink LP, Think Pink.
In the end, as Mantell describes, Tyrannosaurus Rex -"a pair of superhumanly elfin musical pixies embodying the deepest dream of the flower-child ideal – was failing to match the reality of the sum of the parts – one half ambitious potential future pin-up star, the other a screaming Wild Man Of Rock with a penchant for debauched chaos."
Beard of Stars
Steve 'Peregrine' Took, on the other hand, is still largely thrown into obscurity, due to extremely limited post-Tyrannosaurus Rex recordings. He has recorded on a couple great 60s David Bowie songs, and with notable friends and musical associations including: Mick Farren & the Deviants, Twink (John Alder), Hawkwind, Syd Barrett, Larry Wallis, and others. Took was one of the seminal, and definitely one of the most interesting, characters and musicians from the UK underground. After his time with Tyrannosaurus Rex, 'Tookie' went the opposite direction of Bolan and immersed himself within the local anti-commercial freak community and the original proto-punk/rock world. His band as leader, Shagrat, is highly recommended to seek out... ('Steve Peregrine Took's Lone Star' CD (the legendary Shagrat album `Nothing Exceeds Like Excess` + bonus))
The quote/reference to (2),
is from the Wikipedia entry, and can be confirmed through numerous sources.
1967 early demos (13 tracks) - The Beginning
of Doves (issued under artist: Marc Bolan)
1967-1970 A Whole Zinc of Finches [BOX SET] : home demos, work in progress and live shows (2005 release)