‘Cosmic Dwellings’ welcomes the chance to share alternative reviews of some of the ‘retro’ rock that we ‘crave’, therefore we thought we’d give a little promo to this review of a Marc Bolan rarity…
“Hard On Love” – Marc Bolan
Review by Dave Thompson [-]
This is the original, and impossibly rare, version of the album eventually released as Beginning Of Doves in 1974, and in a multitude of guises since that time. Initially scheduled to appear in 1972, at the height of T. Rex-tacy, it was slapped down with an immediate injunction by Marc Bolan himself, for fear of flooding the market with archive product — six other albums were reissued that year, all recycling his pre-fame material . By 1974, even his current output had slowed to a trickle. Comprising 20 demos recorded by Bolan on either side of his time with John’s Children in 1967, it is a fascinating document. The earliest material, 11 tracks produced by then-manager Simon Napier Bell during 1966, is frequently described as being heavily indebted to Donovan. In fact, the only real parallel is that both were solo singer/guitarists, operating in what might loosely be termed the folk idiom, with a dodgy taste in headwear, and one could as accurately compare it to early Motown, on the basis that “Black and White Incident” lifts its opening bars from “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” Even this early, Bolan‘s approach was utterly unique, a full-bodied but erratically quavering voice spinning odd legends and anecdotes out over the sparsest acoustic backing. Donovan would never have dared sound so bizarre.
The addition of Steve Peregrin Took‘s bongos and harmonies in early 1968 did much to flesh out that early sound, without ever disturbing its innate peculiarity. Nine further tracks represent Tyrannosaurus Rex‘s first-ever demos, including raw prototypes for a handful which the duo would revisit later in their career — the Chuck Berry-ish “Mustang Ford,” the sleek “Cat Black,” and, incredibly, “One Inch Rock,” a song better associated with the defiantly electric rendition included on 1970’s T. Rex album. Several of the tracks here were also utilized by the Bolan-era John’s Children, and it is indeed entertaining to compare Bolan‘s original vision of “Hippy Gumbo,” “Sara Crazy Child,” and “Hot Rod Momma” with the high-energy electric soup which was that band’s specialty. John’s Children, meanwhile, make one uncredited appearance on the album, with a 50-second fragment of “Sally Was an Angel,” grafted onto the end of an almost equally brief Tyrannosaurus Rex demo of the same song. (Add Elvis Presley to the role call of formative influences — “Sally”‘s chorus is a direct steal from “Heartbreak Hotel.”) ThoughHard On Love remains much sought after in its original form, the subsequent proliferation of the material has done a great deal to devalue its contents. Aside from innumerable reissues for the songs themselves, much of the album was also subjected to a 1981 revamp, Napier Bell recruiting sundry well-meaning sessionmen to add modern accompaniment to Bolan‘s original performances for theYou Scare Me To Death album. Don’t let such misadventures put you off. Whatever title the album is available under, the formative years of a rock legend have rarely been so clearly documented. Or turned out to be so enjoyable.