Friday, 11 September 2015

No.63. Music on Film: BORN TO BOOGIE (1972)

In 1971 Marc Bolan was enjoying the height of fan worship of his music, dubbed ‘T-Rexstacy’, the early ‘70s version of Beatlemania. At that time, T-Rex was selling 60,000 singles a day. Even the Beatles themselves acknowledged Bolan was more popular then than they ever were in the UK at his high-point.

So it was a fitting kind of of anointment or passing of the mantle by Ringo Starr that he made a documentary celebrating his friend, composed of live film from T-Rex’s first British concert in six months at the Wembley Empire Pool and intercut with studio sessions and playful home-movie style footage.

Beginning with ‘Jeepster’, the live set is excellent quality, the sound reproduction mixed prominently to overshadow the crazed teenage rampage of the fans, although you can hear the occasional girly squeals of delight. There is a great, infectiously loose studio version of ‘Tutti Frutti’ with Ringo on drums and Elton John’s ferocious boogie-woogie keyboards. Fans of Bolan’s acoustic guitar-playing will love his sit-down rendition of ‘Spaceball Ricochet’. I’d never heard this song before, not being familiar with ‘the Slider’ album and found it very touching, preferring it to the slower original album recording I compared it to later.

The supplementary scenes for the most part are a mish-mash. The first one is a surreal nonsense at an airfield beginning with an interminable long-shot of Bolan eventually arriving in a convertible in Mad Hatter guise, accompanied by someone dressed as a giant rat. He recites some of his poetry, conversing it into the ‘phone as if in a conversation, then magically produces a dwarf who scoffs his wing-wirror. Your guess is as good as mine. Later, there is a series of indulgent out-takes in the same location where he and Ringo keep corpsing while trying to deliver lines to camera starting with : “Some people like to rock/Some people like to roll…” before abandoning it in laughter.

The one extra scene that may be of interest to fans is a sort of country Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, where Bolan does a nice acoustic medley backed by a string quartet  - including ‘Jeepster’, ‘Hot Love’ and ‘Get It On’, while nuns devour the sandwiches and Geoffrey ‘CATWEAZLE’ Bayldon performs.
The other highlight from the concert is the final eleven-minute ‘Get It On’ which goes from electric into an extended free-form jam session with Mickey Finn on bongos and Bolan imitating Jimi Hendrix by playing his guitar with a tambourine.

Despite Ringo’s unnecessary padding-out of the running time, BORN TO BOOGIE is a valuable time capsule of T-Rex’s stage performance and the fan hysteria of the time before Bolan entered his ‘Fat Elvis’ temporary spell of implosion  - as well as showing that Bolan had entered the Rock world establishment of impressive musical friends.

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