Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » October 2004 » Having grown up in the Seventies....

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10/13/2004: Having grown up in the Seventies....

or, more accurately, having endured the Seventies, I wonder about the occasional outbursts of Seventies nostalgia that I seem to see from time to time (Fox's That '70s Show, the recent Starsky and Hutch movie and the planned Dukes of Hazzard movie (though DoH is really '79, so that might be considered early '80s nostalgia), and CD compilations under the imprint of "The Seventies Preservation Society" (as seen on TV). Offhand, I can't recall much in the Seventies that I'd really like to relive.

Then every so often I run into something which may change my mind about that. Today on XM Radio's "Top Tracks" channel (ok, so I was having a classic rock jones), they were playing the classic T.Rex teen anthem, "Bang a Gong (Get It On)", and I was actually moved to hit the web to try to find the lyrics to that legendary song. Haven't found them yet, but the first Google hit was this website's page devoted to T.Rex's immortal classic. Seems to me the authors have a good handle on this particular genre:

Here's a good example of how things began to get really weird in the '70s. No sooner had a series of new trends begun to remove rock and roll from its original intention (spontaneous anarchy and fun) and toward a more cranial approach (the singer/songwriter trend, the progressive rock trend) than a series of backlashes took things thoroughly too far in the opposite direction. Marc Bolan, the mastermind of T. Rex, gave new meaning to the word "dumb." If you were a hyperactive teenager who needed to rebel against all these sensitive singers with sad eyes and acoustic guitars, or bands whose only goal was to get thoroughly lost while jamming, then Bolan was your cup of tea. Just try to recite any of his lyrics aloud without breaking into hysterics: "I got stars in my beard, and I feel real weird, for you," or "Rocking in the nude, I'm feeling such a dude, it's a rip-off," or "Just like a car, you're pleasing to behold. I'll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold." Need I extract more? If truth be told, though, his lyrics are so phenomenally dumb that they transcend themselves and manage to be quite entertaining (in a dumb sort of way). The thing is, his riffs are so mind-suckingly good (and simple) that it is easy to convince yourself that he really was heavy after all.

In 1971, more than a few fans thought Bolan's ideas could hold up not just for a few hits, but for an entire career. Times have changed. Judging from the sobering distance of twenty-odd years, I'd say that his albums sound painfully dated and that his material lacks any sense of variety. Over the years, his musical ideas (all three of them) have become transparently threadbare. His songs all share similar rhythmic ideas and lyrical thrust, while his singing never varies from the double-tracked, whispering frenzy technique that he developed.

"Bang a Gong (Get It On)" was his only American Top 40 hit. As on most T. Rex material from this period, including Bolan's endless series of English hits, that's Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (a.k.a. Flo and Eddie) from the Turtles who are moaning delightedly in the background. With a heavily pedaled bass line and strutting guitar riff, "Bang a Gong" represents Bolan's most powerfully driving rhythm.

Did I say driving? That reminds me, what exactly was it with this guy and his
auto-erotic imagery? "You're built like a car, you got a hubcap diamond-star halo. You're built like a car, oh yeah" is only a sample lyric from his catalog of songs that use the automobile as a metaphor for sex.
Definitely gotta check this site out.

Len on 10.13.04 @ 11:19 AM CST


Replies: 1 comment

on Wednesday, October 13th, 2004 at 9:55 PM CST, mike hollihan said

Bolan practiced a variant of bubblegum pop that was becoming glam rock. Most glam lyrics were pretty silly. It was part of the turf.

Worth looking for is the original studio recording of "Gong" before all the production gloss, backing vocals, sax, etc., were added. Just Bolan and his guitar, bass and drums. By being so basic, it's also more sensual and purely rocking somehow. Well worth tracking down.

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