Friday, January 25, 2013

Thoughts Of A King: T. Rex: "Solid Gold Easy Action"

With this, Marc Bolan enters his kingly phase; there is no other way of putting it.  I can see him on his throne, clapping and stomping and demanding that something that is "solid gold"; a demand that comes from him just not being satisfied with what else is going on. 

Now, when I say kingly I don't so much mean noble but the notion of being on top; and that is where T. Rex are at this point - top of the Glam Slam heap, all shiny silver and feather boas and glittery makeup.  By this time Born To Boogie was in the film theatres and "TRextacy" was afflicting hundreds of thousands of people, but with this frenetic stop-start song there is the plea from the new king that even this isn't enough; he isn't happy to share his "wondrous walk and my telephone dialing" with anyone, not even the "woman from the east" who "eased my pain."  He wants "easy action" (whatever that means) and he wants it now; the song is basically a kind of strolling tantrum, a refusal of what is available, of the people who are around him.  "I know you're shrewd and she's a dude" Bolan sings, but that isn't what he wants. (I'm not sure if this woman dressed like a dude is the Jane Slade were singing about, or what.  Did women think of themselves as dudes back then?)

If rock 'n' roll is about dissatisfaction, about demanding more - even if that more isn't (especially if it isn't) explainable or reachable or even possible, then this is right up there with the great two-minute anthems of wanting, yearning, protesting for more; but how odd to have Bolan sing this now, as opposed to when he started.  And in speeding his boogie up, he sounds both desperate and proto-punk; as if he knows what goes up must come down ("Life is the same and it always will be" is how the song starts, and he must know he is at his peak now*).  But rock 'n' roll is about more than being perpetually dissatisfied; it is about democracy at its heart, about how anyone can get onstage and do it, and that goes against any idea of any band or musician being kingly at all.  Thus there's no reason (in that sense) to hear this as anything other than Bolan being a whiny royal, again clapping his hands and demanding to be entertained, with wild cats on golden leashes or apes or peacocks or whatever pleasures take his fancy.  For those who identify with such a haute mien, well, this is their song.  To the stomping hordes who find their pleasures more easily - in the pub, the football grounds, or elsewhere - this is another T.Rex song that means about as much to them as Prince Charles' next polo match.  In this year of complexities and difficulties, the public starts to slowly grow disinterested in T.Rex (this is the last #2 on the 'official' chart they have) just as others who are goofier or cheerier - less demanding - come along to take their place.  1973 is a whirlwind year, a year when just stomping, wearing boas and singing about how unsatisfied you are is not going to last.  Glam is rock 'n' roll in a British sense; Bolan brought that aristocratic edge to it, but there is more to the UK than aristocracy, as we shall see. 

Next up:  he may look like that but really, he's a Mod.            

*He also mentions "picking foxes from a tree" which may be Bolan slang for something (or nothing) but in my brief experiences with foxes I have yet to see them in any trees whatsoever.  If folks were turning against T.Rex, or tiring of them, it was due to lines like this one.


Mark G said...


It's another run-together sentence split over two lines: "Life is the same and it always will be as easy as picking foxes from a tree" i.e. a bit difficult.

The other one is "Well you can terraplane In the fallin' rain, I drive a Rolls Royce Cause it's good for my voice but you won't fool the children of the revolution", i.e. they won't be convinced of your need for a RR...

"Terraplane for you, Rolls Royce for me" ? Was it a Robert Johnson reference?

MikeMCSG said...

This confused me at the time because Radio One were always running a jingle declaiming "Solid Gold !" and the Top 20 chart rundown came at the end of a programme called "Solid Gold Sixty" (for no discernible reason) and I thought it must tie in with that.
Otherwise you're right this definitely marked the end of Bolan's imperial phase.

Mark G said...

Can help you with the 'reason'..

Tom Browne would play 40 tracks that would feature that week, basically the 'playlist' in all but name, and then do the top twenty in descending order.

MikeMCSG said...

Thanks for that Mark though I don't think he always did squeeze 40 tracks in those two hours as this zealous 8-year old listmaker could testify !

Robin Carmody said...

Seemed odd to me when I first found out that there had been a new-chart show using 'Solid Gold' in its title, but then it was the 1990s by then, and by then 'Gold' meant old songs, never new ones.

Never occurred to me before that the ever-growing strength of the working class in the run-up to Heath's dying fall might have been a factor in T. Rex's slide from favour, but put like that, it makes sense!