T.Rex: Top 10 Songs
In 1967, vocalist and guitar player Mark Bolan formed a psychedelic folk band named Tyrannosaurus Rex. Their first three albums had them on the brink of major success, and by 1970, they had a shorter name and were pioneering the glam rock movement. Bolan was joined by drummer Bill Legend, bassist Steve Currie and percussionist Mickey Finn during the height of their fame in the early 1970s.
Their popularity in the UK rivaled that of the Beatles. From 1970 to 1973, they produced eleven singles that made their way into the top ten on the UK charts. They charted four number-one hits, “Hot Love,” “Get It On,” “Telegram Sam,” and “Metal Guru.” Their ‘Electric Warrior’ album, released in 1971, reached number one in the UK and became a landmark glam rock album. 1972s “The Slider” reached the top twenty on the US charts, and the “Tanx” album climbed into the top five in several countries.
Marc Bolan’s life was cut short. He died in a car crash months after the group's album “Dandy in the Underworld,” was released. That marked the end of the band, but their influence lives on, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.
Here are the Top 10 songs by T. Rex:
10: “Visions of Domino” - ‘Dandy In The Underworld’
1977’s ‘Dandy In The Underworld’ album continued the band's trend toward a more polished and disco-influenced electronica sound and funk-infused bass lines. Fans will tell you it’s their most underrated work and that it’s their most lazy. Either way, “Visions Of Domino” is arguably the best track on the album and perfectly encapsulates the vision of the album as a whole. It’s very catchy and upbeat and feels almost ZZ Top-esque.
9: “Metal Guru” - ‘The Slider’
This is a fan favorite from the “Slider” album and was T. Rex’s fourth and final number-one hit on the UK charts. It enjoyed the top spot for four weeks - May to June - in 1972.
The overdriven guitar tones are the highlight of the song, even though Marc Bolan preferred to believe his lyrics were always to be the focus.
In a 1972 interview, he admitted: “My lyrics always come before the music. Repetition comes into my songs a lot because I think my lyrics are so obscure that they need to be hammered home. You need to hear them eight or nine times before they start to make sense.”
The lyrics are about cars, as many of his songs were. Producer Tony Visconti claimed, “there are so many damn cars in his stuff, he could have been a car salesman.”
Ironically, Bolan never learned to drive; his girlfriend was driving the car the night of the fatal accident.
8: “Ride A White Swan” - ‘Ride A White Swan’
Though included on the US version of their 1970 album, ‘T. Rex,’ “Ride a White Swan” was released as a single in the UK and was their first hit. It was also the first song released under their new, shorter name.
Bolan claims that he wrote the song after taking LSD at a Rolling Stone magazine launch party in Hanover Square, Westminster. It was originally less than two minutes long, forcing producer Tony Visconti to loop Marc’s vocal - da da dee dee dah - six times at the end of the song. Marc had layered four guitar tracks and played Visconti’s bass guitar.
This track made Bolan a star and supercharged T.Rex's fame and reputation in the glam rock scene.Rex Ride A White Swan with Lyrics in Description
7: “Telegram Sam” - ‘The Slider’
This was the last T. Rex song to make the US charts, peaking at number sixty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100. It was their third number-one single in the UK, topping the charts for two weeks. The lyrics tell the interesting story of a poet named Bobby, Golden Nose Slim, Jungle Faced Jake, and Purple Pie Pete, and Telegram Sam.
6: “Teenage Dream” - ‘Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow’
“Teenage Dream” has been hailed as "a virtual mini-opera” with “soaring strings, wailing guitars, towering chorales, and a genuinely foreboding sense of drama.” It has also been criticized harshly. Rolling Stone said it "suffers from pointless, jumbled lyrics and self-conscious Dylan-styled intonations and drags on for far too long.”
Marc Bolan, and people close to him, believed it was the best lyric he’d ever written. He wrote and recorded the song while on tour in the US in the fall of 1973. It was one of the last tracks written for the ‘Zinc Alloy’ album and the sessions marked the end of Bolan and Visconti recording together.
5: “Monolith” - ‘Electric Warrior’
Steve Huey of AllMusic called ‘Electric Warrior’ “the album that essentially kick-started the U.K. glam rock craze” and wrote that "the real reason Electric Warrior stands the test of time so well, despite its intended disposability, is that it revels so freely in its own absurdity and wilful lack of substance…Bolan's lack of pomposity, back-to-basics songwriting, and elaborate theatrics went on to influence everything from hard rock to punk to new wave.”
“Monolith,” the fourth track, is my favorite. The slow, melodic guitars give it the ultimate sex appeal.
4: “20th Century Boy” - ‘20th Century Boy’
Released as a single in 1973, it wasn’t on their ‘Tanx’ album, released at the same time in early March. It was included as a bonus track on ‘Tanx’ reissues since 1985.
Even those unfamiliar with T. Rex know this song. It’s unmistakable. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020, and rightfully so. They deserve to be there for writing this one song. It’s one of the greatest riffs ever.
3: “Jeepster” - ‘Electric Warrior’
The music to "Jeepster" is taken from a Howlin' Wolf blues song called "You'll Be Mine.” Marc Bolan made the many sexual references in the lyrics into car metaphors. In interviews, he fully acknowledges that he “lifted it (the music) from a Howlin' Wolf song.”
The single peaked at No. 2 in the UK Singles chart.
2: “Children of the Revolution” - ‘Children of the Revolution’
"Children of the Revolution" was recorded at Ascot Sound Studios for the film Born to Boogie, and featured Elton John on piano and Ringo Starr on drums. This one is heavy, simple and to the point. It sacrifices verse to get to the next chorus, and no one complains. Another all-time classic.
1: “Bang A Gong (Get it On)” - ‘Electric Warrior’
Rex drummer Bill Legend claims he and Marc Bolan worked out the rhythm section of the song one day in a hotel room. After rejoining the crew in Los Angeles, they worked on their first album. The entire production team joined the band, and they spent all night working up the song, and the next day, they recorded it at Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles. When they got to the studio, the chorus and rhythm sections were done, but Marc only had the "you're dirty and sweet" line. With the assistance of cocaine, he came up with the rest of the lyrics on the spot and the timeless classic was born.