Is it worth a listen? Electric Warrior

This week we take a look at glam rock band T.Rex’s 1971 album Electric Warrior

The very distinctive album cover for Electric Warrior depicts guitarist Marc Bolan getting it on with his guitar.

Fly Records

The very distinctive album cover for Electric Warrior depicts guitarist Marc Bolan getting it on with his guitar.

T.Rex is a band that most simply know the name, not due to the connection of it being a name of the iconic dinosaur. Most don’t relate the band name to any music. Maybe you’ll get the occasion response of, “Oh didn’t they do ‘Bang A Gong,’ ‘Jeepster,’ or ‘20th Century Boy?’” 

What’s up with that? Well, it’s a fairly simple answer, the band’s legacy has exceeded their own music. The relevance in our day and age is with their influence rather than their musical substance. 

T.Rex was a British Glam Rock band that was one of the first of the scene. T.Rex had a huge influence on a board amount of genres, groups ranging from punk bands such as The Ramones  (“Blitzkrieg Bop,” “I Wanna Be Sedated”), to the post-punk Joy Division (“Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Shadowplay”), to britpop bands such as The Smiths (“This Charming Man,” “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”), and even the glam metal bands like Def Leppard (“Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me”). 

So who was T.Rex? Well, on this specific album Marc Bolan was the lead guitarist as well as vocalist, Mickey Finn on the bongos as well as congas, Steve Currie on the bass, and finally Bill Legend as the drummer. 

The T.Rex we know from this album. (From left to right) drummer Bill Legend, bongoist Mickey Finn, guitarist as well as vocalist Marc Bolan, and bassist Steve Currie (Wikipedia )

Of T.Rex’s albums there is one that stands out as being their best and most influential, 1971’s Electric Warrior. This is the album that defines the band with the simplistic poppy songs at times to more somber and even darker tracks. So, let’s dive into it with this week’s discussers, senior Zachary Tyler Stephens, a local renowned guitarist, and senior Abram Tracy, who has found great success as a local drummer. 

Starting off strong, Tracy informed me that he wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the album. “It was very kind of experimental sounding. I enjoy more traditional music.” Which is something I can understand to a degree. 

This album has a very specific sound that it aims for. Tracy found that with the album as well, “it had this very bluesy sound to it.” That is one of the reasons why I have enjoyed the album. Bolan took influence from the musical landscape around him as well as the music that came before. The sounds that made him want to make his music.

Stephens, who is also a fan of David Bowie’s music, found that the album had this  “stripped back in terms of the more simple instrumentation” compared to Bowie’s 1971 album, Ziggy Stardust. To me this is what defines the band. The stripped down sound that returned to the foundations that rock n’ roll was founded on. 

Early pioneer of Glam Rock Marc Bolan playing on his Gibson. Tragically, Bolan would die in 1977 from a car crash. (ABC Television )

As Stephens pointed out during our discussion this led to the focus being more centered on “the writing a bit more.” That content of course being this unrelenting sexual energy coming from Bolan. He makes it clear what he wants in songs such as “Jeepster”, “I’m just a vampire for your love / And I’m gonna suck ya.” The sexual energy present in Bolan’s inflections of his voice. The stripped down guitar that cries and moans through the tracks on the song all leads to this “very bluesy sound” as Tracy says. 

As Tracy pointed out earlier, Tracy did not really like the album. Stephens on the other hand found himself enjoying the album, he called it a “good vibe.” It also helped that he has listened to other artists similar to T.Rex in sound. Despite that, the two of them both enjoyed the track “Lean Woman Blues.”

For Tracy it was his favorite song on the album. Honestly, “Lean Woman Blues” never really stood out all that much to me before. Songs like the somber “Cosmic Dreamer” or the pensive “Monolith” I was more attracted to. I went back and I revisited the song independently, looking to see what they talked of.

“Lean Woman Blues” is a very stripped back track on this album, it really emulates the sound of blues. The moaning guitar as it expresses the emotions of the man behind it. The lyrics are exactly what you would think of a blues song, all about how he gets is lean love from his girl. I can see what drew them to the song, as Tracy put it, the song “was very kind of 50s early rock sounding, but it also kind of fused the new [of 1971].”

“Bang a Gong (Get it on)” is not only the defining track of the album but also the defining track of T.Rex’s career. Tracy and Stephens really didn’t know who T.Rex was before I came along and threw it their way. While they listened to the album and they came to this track, they were surprised. “I had no idea T.Rex did that song” Tracy told me of his revelation.

I wonder what this kind gentleman’s favorite T.Rex song is? ( Inc. )

Stephens let me in on his surprise, “I didn’t realize I knew it. But I’ve heard that song on the radio a lot.” Ultimately this was the biggest song of T.Rex over here in the states, they found much more success back in their homeland of England and influenced so many more. Tracy mentioned during a discussion that the song was “a really big song like the grand scheme of things when it comes to 70s rock but I mean, me personally, I didn’t know the artists and I feel like a lot of people wouldn’t know the artists.”

To many this is the T.Rex song, the simplistic nature of the riff, the raw and stripped down production present on the song. The vocals coming from Bolan that clearly inform you what he is feeling and quite honestly this is the song that people “get it on” for when it comes to T.Rex

In the end, I enjoy listening to this album, it’s a fun encapsulation of the time period, almost like a time capsule. Stephens just one track in with the acoustic “Mambo Sun” found himself getting excited for what this album would deliver. Tracy gave credit when credit was due to this album but in the end it wasn’t his thing really. And that’s what you will find in music.

There are some things that just won’t be your thing and that is not a bad thing. It’s just natural, so what if you didn’t enjoy this album as much as me and Stephens? That means nothing. Don’t get me wrong I like this album, it’s a fun, mellow listen but I don’t think this is a perfect album by any means.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to everyone it’s something that for those who are serious about music history should definitely check out or if they enjoy music like this. Stephens described the sound of the album best, “almost like heavy folk rock.”

If that doesn’t interest you then don’t listen to it but if it does then go ahead and check it out. In the end I would have to give this album a solid banged a gong/10.

As always I’m looking for new music to try out, so if you think I’ll like something then recommend it to me. And if you disagree with my thoughts on this album or just want to talk about it then talk about it with me or at the very least someone else. Art survives through discussions like this one.