Not Forgotten: T.Rex – Electric Warrior

The gap between being a ‘serious’ album act and being a ‘disposable’ pop act was still relatively wide back in the early 70s. The more album-orientated acts had a couple of hit singles at most (if indeed they even released singles), whereas the acts that appeared on Top of the pops had hit albums, but rarely enjoyed the eye-watering global sales figures of the more ‘serious’ acts. Of course, there were a few acts that managed to bridge that chasm, such as David Bowie and Elton John, but they were very much in the minority. Joining them briefly were T.Rex, Marc Bolan’s band that had morphed from a duo of acoustic mystical hippies, into the biggest pop act in the land by truncating their name, expanding the line up and going electric.

Electric Warrior found Bolan and Co. riding a wave of success with some considerable confidence and finesse. Their previous album had established their T.Rex identity as distinct from their previous incarnation as Tyrannosaurus Rex and “Ride a White Swan” had been a huge hit single for them, establishing Bolan as a pop sensation at the exact moment his great friend / rival David Bowie was still trying to shake off his reputation as a one-hit wonder. Electric Warrior was an album that had to confirm that T.Rex were the hottest band in the land, so Bolan and producer Tony Visconti pulled out all the stops to ensure that it was as close to a perfect electric pop album as it was possible to get, while achieving the gravitas of an album by a ‘serious’ album act.

“Jeepster” and “Get it On” were the singles, both taking a spot on each side of the original vinyl, so not front or back load it. As vibrant a slice of glitter-pop as “Jeepster” was, it had no chance in hell of competing with “Get it On”, one of Bolan’s greatest numbers and an immortal slice of perfect pop, with it’s Stonesy riff and it’s irresistible chorus. A lot of credit should go to both Bolan and Visconti for being able to prevent “Get it On” from completely dominating Electric Warrior, resulting in a consistent album that successfully balances Bolan’s pop sensibilities with his yearning to compete with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and The Rolling Stones in terms of their album-long statements. Sure, not every album cut is pure gold, but the fact that Electric Warrior was treat as something significantly more than a collection of B-sides for two sizeable hit singles is laudable. That said, one of the strongest songs on the album, “Life’s a Gas” was actually the B-side of “Jeepster”, so I suppose that demonstrates that at this point in his career, choosing his B-sides was not something that Bolan took lightly.

From beginning to end, Electric Warrior lives up to its name as a thrilling electric pop album. While doubtless Bolan would have liked to have been taken a little more seriously by the more mature rock fan of the time, he still pitched this album perfectly as a loud and proud rock and roll release, with just enough pop nous not to alienate his teenybopper audience.

While Bolan would continue to enjoy hit singles for the next few years, and his next few albums sold well enough, Electric Warrior continues to be viewed as the definitive T.Rex album and stands out from the rest for its sheer consistency and clarity of vision.

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