Before David Bowie was Ziggy Stardust, Marc Bolan was the Electric Warrior. A major turning point in the glam-rock revolution of the U.K., the Electric Warrior album (1971) effectively buried the psychedelic folk rock of Tyrannosaurus Rex and immortalized the trashy hard rock of T. Rex. True, one successful single (“Ride a White Swan”) and eponymous album had already introduced the T. Rex name in 1970, and the single “Hot Love” first boasted the expanded band line-up of Bolan, Mickey Finn, Steve Currie and Bill Legend. But Electric Warrior (preceded by its first single, “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”) crystallized the sleazy bubblegum and rock-and-roll spirit of Bolan’s band, capturing what was simultaneously a ferocious attack on and celebration of the three-minute pop single. Although rights rest with Warner Music Group in the U.S., Universal controls the T. Rex catalogue in the U.K., and so on
May 1 April 23, Polydor will reissue Electric Warrior as a 2-CD/1-DVD deluxe box set. The box’s various contents (more below) might qualify for the “Super Deluxe “appellation, but the price it currently bears is somewhat less than the norm for such packages, at £30.47 or $48.52 in American currency as of this writing. In addition, a 2-CD Deluxe Edition, 1-CD remaster and vinyl LP will also be available.
Formed by elfin guitarist Marc Bolan and percussionist Steve Peregrine Took in 1968, Tyrannosaurus Rex’s brand of acoustic hippie folk met with moderate success on the British charts. But following a less than well-received American tour in 1969, Took became disillusioned and departed the band. Took was replaced by Mickey Finn, and 1970’s A Beard of Stars again met with fair success, hitting No. 21 in the United Kingdom. Then Bolan hit on the idea of shortening the band name to T. Rex. When “Ride a White Swan,” a Bolan song produced by Tony Visconti, climbed to No. 2 with its harder fuzz guitar-infused sound, the chameleonic Bolan knew which direction to take the newly-christened duo. Some consider “White Swan” the birth of glam, with its theatrically mannered vocals married to a crunchy Chuck Berry riff. The simply titled T. Rex album went to No. 13, and what was once a duo became a full band, with Steve Currie on bass and Bill Legend on drums. That group recorded “Hot Love,” and with its six weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., glam rock was in full swing.
For Electric Warrior, the Bolan/Finn/Legend/Currie team was joined once again by Tony Visconti and crucially by vocalists Flo and Eddie, a.k.a. Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, former Turtles as well as Mothers of Invention. Visconti adorned the debauched rock-and-roll with strings and Ian McDonald and Burt Collins were brought in on saxophone and flugelhorn, respectively. Sessions took place internationally, in London, Los Angeles and New York. Despite its title, Electric Warrior actually has a diversified palette of sound, from earth-shattering rock to the modernized R&B and the pop perfection of “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” The subdued orchestrations of Visconti, combined with the ethereal backing vocals of Flo and Eddie, added a pivotally posh touch to the album.
Electric Warrior hit No. 1 on the U.K. albums chart and eventually became one of the year’s best sellers. The band had a more difficult time cracking America, though “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” (originally titled just “Get It On” in the U.K.) did make the Top 10 singles chart, and remains popular on oldies/classic rock radio today. The album itself squeaked into the Top 40 at a respectable No. 32. Marc Bolan would go on to more phenomenal success in his native England – T. Rextacy, as it were – before his untimely death in a car accident in 1977.
Hit the jump to find out just what’s on the multiple new editions of Electric Warrior!
Unsurprisingly for what’s generally considered Bolan’s masterwork, Electric Warrior has seen multiple reissues over the years. The Electric Warrior Sessions (Pilot CD 4, 1999), a two-CD set, offered an insight into the album’s making with three versions of “Get It On” and other tasty nuggets such as a cover of the Carl Perkins tune (and Ringo Starr specialty) “Honey, Don’t.” A 2002 Japanese reissue (Universal Japan 9133) offered eight bonus tracks, all “work-in-progress” versions of album cuts. Tony Visconti remixed the album for 5.1 surround sound, now commanding high prices on both SACD and DVD-Audio. A 2003 Rhino reissue in the U.S. (R2 76111) appended seven bonus tracks, including four tracks from two U.K. maxi-singles, the U.S. single version of “Hot Love,” an interview excerpt from a Reprise Records promotional LP, and a previously-unissued acoustic version of “Planet Queen.”
The box set includes the four maxi-single B-sides included on the Rhino edition: “There Was a Time,” “Raw Ramp,” “Woodland Rock” and “King of the Mountain Cometh.” Those tracks, plus non-LP single “Hot Love,” are included on the first disc after the proper album sequence. Visconti has overseen the remastering of the album. Disc 2 is devoted to “Demos and Out-Takes,” and 20 out of its 21 tracks are indicated as previously unreleased. (Some tracks do seem to resemble, at least at first glance, the material on both the Japanese reissue and the Sessions.) Disc 3 is a DVD, and while it unfortunately doesn’t include the much-coveted surround mix, it does include ten rare performances and promo videos. Elton John joins the band for “Get It On” from a 1971 Top of the Pops episode, and “Hot Love” from that same series is included. Other performances originated from Germany’s Beat Club and the Empire Pool Wembley; the Wembley performances are outtakes from the T. Rex film Born to Boogie. The official promo videos of “Get It On” and “Jeepster” are also featured. The set is housed in a lavish box containing a 32-page hardcover book containing new liner notes by Mark Paytress, as well as photos, memorabilia, a poster, a press release replica and a coaster (!). (Shades of Pink Floyd?) The 2-CD Deluxe Edition will offer the complete contents of the audio portion of the box set, dropping only the DVD and the swag. A 1-CD edition will contain just the 15 tracks on Disc 1 (the original album plus singles). Finally, a 2-LP vinyl edition will present the newly remastered album on audiophile vinyl.
All versions of Electric Warrior will be available in the U.K. on April 23. They will appear shortly thereafter at Amazon U.S., but an American pressing is unlikely as Polydor does not control American rights to the album. Get it on with the pre-order link, just below!
CD 1: Original Album plus Single A & B Sides
- Mambo Sun
- Cosmic Dancer
- Lean Woman Blues
- Get It On
- Planet Queen
- The Motivator
- Life’s A Gas
- Rip Off
- There Was A Time / Raw Ramp (from Bug single BUG 10, 1971)
- Hot Love (from Bug single BUG 6, 1971)
- King Of The Mountain Cometh (from Bug single BUG 6, 1971)
- Woodland Rock (from Bug single BUG 6, 1971)
CD 2: Demos and Outtakes
- Electric Warrior Poem – Rare US Radio promo *
- Mambo Sun – Instrumental edit *
- Cosmic Dancer – single-vocal version *
- Jeepster – single-vocal version *
- Monolith – no backing vocals version *
- Lean Woman Blues – single-guitar track – Work in Progress *
- Get It On – Full Length version *
- Planet Queen – acoustic version *
- Girl – New York demo *
- The Motivator – Work in Progress *
- Life’s A Gas – Studio out-take *
- Rip Off – Instrumental *
- Raw Ramp – London demo version
- Electric Boogie – London demo version *
- Honey Don’t – Studio out-take / Work in Progress *
- Planet Queen – Acoustic solo / London demo version *
- Girl – Acoustic solo / London demo version *
- Jeepster – Electric home demo version *
- Get It On – Acoustic home demo version *
- Untitled instrumental – studio out-take *
- Electric Warrior Poem and radio advert. US Radio promo *
All tracks denoted with (*) are previously unreleased
- Hot Love from Top of the Pops, 24th March 1971. First time on DVD
- Get It On from Top of the Pops, 20th December 1971 featuring Elton John
- Jeepster from Beat Club, Germany. Previously Unseen Blue Screen Version
- Life’s A Gas from Beat Club, Germany. Previously Unseen Blue Screen Version
- Girl, Live at the Empire Pool Wembley, 18th March 1972
- Cosmic Dancer, Live at the Empire Pool Wembley, 18th March 1972
- Get It On, Official Promo
- Jeepster, Official Promo
- Jeepster from Beat Club, Germany. Broadcast version
- Life’s A Gas from Beat Club, Germany. Broadcast version