‘AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs Of Marc Bolan and T.Rex’, set for release on September 4 on BMG, is an extraordinary tribute album to one of the great British artists of all time, Marc Bolan. The latest preview track is Kesha’s stirring interpretation of T.Rex classic ‘Children Of The Revolution’.
If the last preview song ‘Scenescof’ spoke to Devendra Banhart’s mystic folk style and his debt to Bolan’s folk days with Tyrannosaurus Rex, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ seems ready made for Kesha – electric, barnstorming, glam pop. Kesha’s version dials it up – layering the famous, killer guitar riff, horns and orchestra blazing, banks of backing vocals. It’s expansive and passionate and Kesha sings as if she’s exorcising demons while still capturing that cool, breathy Bolan swagger.
Recorded in 1972, the original featured Elton John on piano, Ringo Starr on drums and was first recorded for the Starr directed film ‘Born To Boogie’, all about Marc. The song was then recorded as a longer 12 minute version for classic T.Rex album ‘The Slider’.
It’s definitive T.Rexstacy, heavy but irresistibly pop, punctuated by lush orchestrations, steeped in rock n roll tradition but totally timeless.
The video blends footage of Bolan’s original recording (featuring Elton and Ringo) with Kesha working with producer Hal Willner and band in studio today, plus footage of Marc’s raucous 1970s fans arriving for a concert, perhaps capturing the song’s subjects.
The song also features MC5’s Wayne Kramer on guitar, Pete Thomas of The Attractions on drums, Marc’s son Rolan Bolan on backing vocals and many others, cooking up a joyous storm under Hal’s direction. It all sounds like the most fun anyone can have in 2 and a half minutes.
“Through a stroke of luck, I met the incredibly talented and kind, Hal Willner, says Kesha, “We were in the same studio and he said he liked my red nudie suit, and then when he mentioned that he was working on a project that involved honouring Marc Bolan, I excitedly started rambling about how much T. Rex has influenced my music and my style. Right there we decided to record our own incarnation of ‘Children of the Revolution’, a motherfucker of a song! I’m excited for the world to finally hear it! This project was so exciting and important to the late great Hal, and I’m humbled to be a part of this project honouring one of the most magical artists of the 20th century.”
Kesha’s version of ‘Children Of The Revolution’ follows the release of her latest album ‘High Road’ this past January via Kemosabe/RCA Records, which was called a body of work “wise and wild in equal measure” (Billboard), that “electrifies from the inside out” (American Songwriter) and “strikes a believable balance between vulnerability and the bluster she made her name on” (Stereogum).
Marc has been famously cited as a major influence by some of the biggest names in music from David Bowie to Johnny Marr.
Bolan’s golden era was in the late sixties and seventies when he was the biggest selling singles artist since the Beatles, movie star and the electric spark behind Glam Rock. He died in 1977 aged just 29, after a car crash in Barnes, London but his reputation has only grown.
In the year that Marc will be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame and 50 years since the first T.Rex single and album, illustrious fans have gathered to pay tribute and argue for his place amongst the music greats.
For ‘AngelHeaded Hipster’, a collection of major stars including Elton John, U2, Joan Jett, Nick Cave, Peaches and Marc Almond have reinterpreted and reimagined some of his greatest tracks including ‘Jeepster’, ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’, and ‘Ride A White Swan’.
Marc Bolan was many things – a folk pop troubadour, Glam Rock’s metal guru, a pop star who burned as bright as any, a brilliant guitarist, the 20th Century Boy, style icon, poet. For some, his glittering persona overshadowed his musical legacy, but with ‘AngelHeaded Hipster’, he is now being rightly celebrated as a songwriter and composer for the ages.
The album was made under the direction of Hal Willner, a veteran with a reputation for creating alchemy with diverse artists who sadly died on April 7th from COVID-19, leaving behind an endless series of affectionate tributes from all those who have worked with and knew him.
He was the sketch music producer on Saturday Night Live for several decades and produced albums for artists Marianne Faithfull, Lou Reed, Bill Frisell, Lucinda Williams, Allen Ginsberg, William S Burroughs and more.
He also produced celebrated tribute albums to great composers, bringing together diverse talent and teasing out incredible interpretations of the music of Nino Rota, Thelonious Monk, Kurt Weill, Charles Mingus. Before his death, he explained why he placed Bolan in that company:
“I became immersed in this artist by listening to everything, talking to Bolan experts & fans, researching his reviews and interviews. And I found that Bolan was hardly ever talked about as a “composer”. It was all about what a great rocker he was, how innovative he was, how David Bowie took his essence and Bolan was in his shadow… But I put him in the same pantheon as other composers that I’ve explored before. So, the concept for the album became to show Bolan as a composer with our typical cast of artists from different worlds that one rarely sees in the same place.”
Album highlights come thick and fast with each performer exploring their favourite Marc – whether mining his incendiary, imperial pop star albums ‘Electric Warrior’ and ‘The Slider’, or harking back to his days with Steve Peregrin Took in Tyrannosaurus Rex (the band that bridged his acoustic folk period and the electric awakening of T.Rex), or reflecting on his later records and even comeback hit ‘I Love To Boogie’ from 1976’s final album ‘Dandy In The Underworld’.
There is Peaches’ electronica rework of ‘Solid Gold, Easy Action’, (recorded in Berlin) which somehow still retains the rockabilly cool of the original. In New Orleans, U2 celebrate their teenage idol with a faithful ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’, accompanied on piano by Elton John, almost 50 years after he joined Marc on Top Of The Pops back in 1971. It also features Trombone Shorty for good measure.
Father John Misty’s soaring ‘Main Man’ is a lush, tender take on the spacey, self-referencing track from ‘The Slider’ album.
Willner worked on AngelHeaded Hipster for several years, with sessions spanning continents, from New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, to London, Paris and Berlin. The album features special guests Donald Fagen, Mike Garson, Bill Frisell, Wayne Kramer, Van Dyke Parks and Marc Ribot, with arrangements by Thomas Bartlett, Steven Bernstein, Eli Brueggemann, J.G. Thirlwell and Steve Weisberg.
Every track reveals a different Marc and offers a unique appreciation of a multifaceted musician, writer, poet and composer.
The project was conceived and executive produced by Bill Curbishley and Ethan Silverman. Kate Hyman had the creative vision to ask Hal to produce it.
‘AngelHeaded Hipster’ is a line from Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl – “angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night….” It described the coming rock n roll revolution in the wake of Elvis Presley, an essence that Marc embraced and ran with.
Ultimately of course, Marc Bolan died too young, but his music lives on, his place in the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame is secure and ‘AngelHeaded Hipster’ proves that his extraordinary legacy flows through the musicians that followed him.
Pre-order ‘AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs Of Marc Bolan And T.Rex’ here.
‘AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs Of Marc Bolan and T.Rex’ Tracklist:
- Children Of The Revolution – Kesha
- Cosmic Dancer – Nick Cave
- Jeepster – Joan Jett
- Scenescof – Devendra Banhart
- Life’s A Gas – Lucinda Williams
- Solid Gold, Easy Action – Peaches
- Dawn Storm – Børns
- Hippy Gumbo – Beth Orton
- I Love To Boogie – King Khan
- Beltane Walk – Gaby Moreno
- Bang A Gong (Get It On) – U2 feat. Elton John
- Diamond Meadows – John Cameron Mitchell
- Ballrooms Of Mars – Emily Haines
- Main Man – Father John Misty
- Rock On – Perry Farrell
- The Street and Babe Shadow – Elysian Fields
- The Leopards – Gavin Friday
- Metal Guru – Nena
- Teenage Dream – Marc Almond
- Organ Blues – Helga Davis
- Planet Queen – Todd Rundgren
- Great Horse – Jessie Harris
- Mambo Sun – Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl
- Pilgrim’s Tale – Victoria Williams with Julian Lennon
- Bang A Gong (Get It On) Reprise – David Johansen
- She Was Born To Be My Unicorn / Ride A White Swan – Maria McKee