It’s T. Rextasy at the Cherry Red Group, with two recent titles exploring the music of T. Rex’s Marc Bolan. The Grapefruit imprint has collected two discs’ worth of material from Bolan’s early band John’s Children, while RPM has reissued two albums from Gloria Jones on one CD including the Bolan-produced Vixen.
By the time Marc Bolan joined the ranks of John’s Children in 1967, the British band had already established quite a reputation. Encouraged by manager Simon Napier-Bell to engage in outrageous antics, Andy Ellison (vocals), Geoff McClelland (guitar), John Hewlett (bass) and Chris Townson (drums) were known for their high-octane live shows. The band might trash their instruments, spill fake blood or engage in fisticuffs. But record buyers cottoned to the group’s music, too. First single “Smashed Blocked” cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.; it was retitled “The Love I Thought I’d Found” in the U.K. due to the drug connotation of “blocked,” or high on amphetamines. Their second single “Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get,” with a guitar solo from guest Jeff Beck, hit the British Top 40. “Not the Sort of Girl (You’d Like to Take to Bed)” was intended as the group’s third single, but the U.K. Columbia label rejected it for rather obvious reasons. The band moved to Track Records, home of The Who, and carried on, but still more controversy was to come. In March 1967, McClelland was replaced by Marc Bolan, who penned John’s Children’s next 45: “Desdemona.” The BBC banned that one, unhappy with the “lift up your skirt and fly” lyric. Marc and co. couldn’t get a break; their U.S. label, White Whale, rejected their album, too. The reason why? It was entitled Orgasm.
The mod-psych rockers went on to further fame (infamy?) when they were booted off a Who tour for being “too loud and violent.” (That said, drummer Chris Townson subbed for Keith Moon for a few days at the end of The Who’s 1967 tour.) A long life wasn’t in the cards for John’s Children, however. Bolan departed the group after a mere four months, unhappy with Napier-Bell’s production of his song “Midsummer Night’s Scene,” a June 1967 single. Bolan went on to form Tyrannosaurus Rex. The remaining members briefly soldiered on, with Chris Townson switching to guitar and Chris Colville handling drums. A couple more singles were issued including a version of Bolan’s “Mustang Ford” (as “Go-Go Girl”) recorded after he left the line-up, but John’s Children broke up in 1968, not reuniting until the mid-1990s.
Grapefruit’s A Strange Affair: The Sixties Recordings features 52 tracks on two CDs. The first disc, Singles and Rarities, includes a number of Andy Ellison solo tracks along with all of the band’s U.K. 45s. The second disc is built around Orgasm (which was finally released in 1970, after the split) plus bonus tracks such as alternate versions, mixes and instrumentals. (Most of these have been previously released on various hard-to-find compilations over the years.) The new liner notes in the 24-page booklet have been written by Ellison, including track-by-track annotations. Nick Watson has remastered, and a note indicates that as the original master tapes have been “mislaid or lost,” Watson has “for the most part gone back to the original records rather than using existing CD source[s].” As this is the most comprehensive John’s Children-related anthology yet, it’s the perfect chance to discover the band that was “louder than The Who.” It’s available now from Grapefruit!
After the jump, we flash-forward to 1976, and Gloria Jones’ Vixen!
Gloria Jones might be best-known as the singer of the original 1964 recording of “Tainted Love” or perhaps as one of the songwriters of the modern soul standard “If I Were Your Woman.” For a time, though, the talented singer and songwriter was known, too, as Marc Bolan’s girlfriend and mother of his son Rolan Bolan. Tragedy struck when she was behind the wheel of the car that killed Bolan in 1977, but prior to that fateful evening, Bolan and Jones were not only romantic partners but collaborators.
When Bolan decided to add horns and backing vocals to the glam T. Rex sound, Gloria Jones joined the band as a singer. Her first show was in 1972 at San Francisco’s famed Winterland, and by 1973 and the release of the hit single “Truck On (Tyke),” she was a full-fledged member of the band. By year’s end, she was romantically linked with Bolan, as well. By the time of 1975’s release of T. Rex’s “Dock of the Bay” cover with Gloria on lead vocals, she was on maternity leave. Rather than return to T. Rex, though, she forged ahead with a solo album to be co-produced with Marc. Vixen featured four Bolan solo compositions (“Tell Me Now,” “Sailors of the Highway,” “Drive Me Crazy (Disco Lady)” and a remake of T. Rex’s “Get It On”), two co-writes with Jones (“High” and “Cry Baby”), updates of “Tainted Love,” the Jones/Pam Sawyer song “I Ain’t Going Nowhere” and Bessie Banks’ “Go Now” plus one song written by Gloria and her brother Richard (“Would You Like to Know”). RPM’s expanded Vixen adds the non-LP B-side “Simplicity Blues,” as well.
Jones followed Vixen with another non-LP single featuring Bolan (Phil Spector’s “To Know Him is to Love Him” b/w Bolan’s “City Port”), which is not included in this new package. RPM’s CD picks up with 1978’s Windstorm LP, built around the single “Bring On the Love.” Jones released the song just a month before the car crash that took Bolan’s life, and while still on crutches following the accident, she undertook a tour to support it. “Bring On the Love” opened Windstorm, which embraced disco rather than glam rock. Motown vet Paul Riser contributed some arrangements to the album; he had done the same for Jones’ 1973 Motown LP Share My Love. Guest musicians included Ray Parker, Jr., Joe Sample, Funk Brother Jack Ashford, and Wah Wah Watson. Brother Richard produced the album, and every cut was co-written by Richard, Gloria or both except for a cover of the classic “Vaya Con Dios.” Windstorm was dedicated to Marc Bolan’s memory.
Following the release of a couple more records, Gloria Jones retreated from the spotlight. She participated in the 2007 Marc Bolan Celebration Concert in Shepherd’s Bush, London, and is currently establishing the Marc Bolan School of Music and Film in her adopted home of Sierra Leone, West Africa. RPM’s Vixen: Expanded Edition bests See for Miles’ 1996 release of Vixen/Windstorm thanks to the inclusion of “Simplicity Blues.” It also includes new liner notes, and has been remastered (like John’s Children’s The Sixties Recordings) by Nick Watson.
Marc Bolan devotees, take note: both titles from Cherry Red are available now and can be ordered at the links below!
CD 1: Singles and Rarities
- The Love I Thought I’d Found (Columbia DB 8030, 1966)
- Strange Affair (Columbia DB 8030, 1966)
- Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get (Columbia DB 8124, 1967)
- But She’s Mine (Columbia DB 8124, 1967)
- Desdemona (Track 604003, 1967)
- Remember Thomas A Becket (Track 604003, 1967)
- Midsummer Night’s Scene (Track 604005, 1967)
- Sara, Crazy Child (Track 604005, 1967)
- Come and Play with Me in the Garden (Track 604005, 1967)
- Go-Go Girl (Track 604010, 1967)
- Jagged Time Lapse (Track 604010, 1967)
- Arthur Green – Andy Ellison (Track 604018, 1967)
- It’s Been a Long Time – Andy Ellison (Track 604018, 1967)
- Fool from Upper Eden – Andy Ellison (CBS 3357, 1968)
- Another Lucky Lie – Andy Ellison (CBS 3357, 1968)
- You Can’t Do That – Andy Ellison (SNB 55-3508, 1968)
- Cornflake Zoo – Andy Ellison (SNB 55-3508, 1968)
- Help! – Andy Ellison
- Casbah Candy – Andy Ellison
- Hippy Gumbo – Andy Ellison
- Down Down – The Silence
- Cold on Me – The Silence
- Forgive Me If I’m Wrong – The Silence
- Mustang Ford
- Not the Sort of Girl You’d Take to Bed
- Sally Was an Angel (Vocal) (previously unreleased)
CD 2: Orgasm (White Whale LP WWS-7128, 1970) and Bonus Tracks
- Killer Bee
- Jagged Time Lapse
- Smashed! Blocked!
- You’re a Nothing
- Not the Sort of Girl
- Cold on Me
- Leave Me Alone
- Let Me Know
- Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get
- Why Do You Lie
- Strange Affair (Alternative Mix)
- But She’s Mine (Alternative Mix)
- The Love I Thought I’d Found (First Version)
- Desdemona (“Why Do You Have to Lie” Version)
- Remember Thomas A Becket (Alternative Version)
- Midsummer Night’s Scene (Alternative Version)
- Sara, Crazy Child (German Single Version)
- Jagged Time Lapse (Alternative Version)
- It’s Been a Long Time – Andy Ellison (Stereo Mix)
- You Can’t Do That – Andy Ellison (Acetate Version) (previously unreleased)
- Hippy Gumbo (Marc Bolan Vocal)
- Not the Sort of Girl You’d Take to Bed (Alternative Version)
- Sally Was an Angel (Instrumental)
- Come and Play with Me in the Garden (Instrumental)
- The Perfumed Garden of Gulliver Smith (Instrumental)
- Midsummer Night’s Scene (Alternative Mix)
- I Ain’t Going Nowhere
- Tell Me Now
- Tainted Love
- Cry Baby
- Get It On (Part 1)
- Go Now
- Would You Like to Know
- Get It On (Part 2)
- Drive Me Crazy (Disco Lady)
- Sailors of the Highway
- Stage Coach
- Simplicity Blues (Single B-side)
- Bring On the Love (Why Can’t We Be Friends Again)
- If the Roses Don’t Come (In Spring This Year)
- Blue Light Microphone
- Hooked on You Baby
- Vaya Con Dios
- Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (Don’t Say Goodbye)
- Woman is a Woman
Tracks 1-12 from Vixen, EMI LP EMC 3159, 1976
Track 13 from EMI single 2522-B, 1976
Tracks 14-21 from Windstorm, Sidewalk LP SWK 2002, 1978