Friday, April 08, 2005

Telegram Sam

b/w "I Like to Boogie"
T. Rex (Marc Bolan), 1972
Old Gold Recordings, UK (1985)

Here's a great old song for the Friday evening buzz, guys and gals. I found this in the bargain bin for about 50 cents back in the '80s which was pretty good considering that the album it came off, The Slider, was only available at the time at stratospheric prices. Since then, the Italian Get Back Records has reissued this and you can snag the album (T. Rex's 2nd best record) off Forced Exposure.

"Telegram Sam" shamelessly recycles the guitar riff from Bolan's biggest US hit - "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" off his more popular album, Electric Warrior (also released in 1972). Do you think that A&M was trying to encourage them to repeat the formula? The Slider was a follow-up to Electric Warrior but the singles from it never captured the same buzz that "Bang a Gong" received in the US (did well in the UK, however), making him somewhat of a one-hit wonder (although "Jeepster" did okay).

So if you can forgive the riff recycling, the real hook here is the chorus (replete with strings): "Telegram Sam/ yer my main man." The silly lyrics about all his wild friends (and himself) are kinda cute ("I ain't no square with my corkscrew hair") but not too much so as to give up the trashy glam personna he was cultivating at the time.

The flip-side alas is from his later period (1976) and is not nearly as good or original, a sort of predictable, embarassingly self-referential song about how Bolan likes to boogie, perhaps a play to the burgeoning disco scene.

The Song:

Listen to "Telegram Sam" (recorded from vinyl and for "fair use" purposes only)

  • Peruse the T. Rex catalog at Forced Exposure. Some other options for buying The Slider.
  • A great T. Rex fan page from Brian Shunk
  • Per Shunk's fan site, May 16th sees the release of Ringo Starr's Rex film, Born to Boogie
  • Bolan died in 1977, the victim of a drunk driver. Here's the original BBC report.
  • Bolan's son, Rolan, is rumored to be in consideration for INXS's new singer, which would be fitting since it always seemed obvious to me that Michael Hutchence had stolen some of Marc's moves
  • iTunes has Electric Warrior available. "Bang a Gong" always seems to liven up this mix for me if you want to download it ...
Final Jerry Springer Thoughts: T. Rex brings back memories of of clandestinely listening to "Bang a Gong" on the radio because Bolan and a host of other performers -- including Neil Diamond and Cher -- had been banned in my Catholic household. Bolan with his orgasmic chirping at the end of the song probably deserved the banning - Neil Diamond's only sin was singing "Hot damn, hot damn" on his Song Sung Blue LP and my Mom's problem with Cher had to do with her Time Magazine cover (the nipples, the nipples!). Well, I still had my Elton John and BTO (so long as I didn't play the songs about trashy girls too loud). And if I sweared, I could always look forward to getting my mouth washed out with soap. Mom, I know you meant well, and I turned out, sorta kinda okay, didn't I, despite having to hide my National Lampoons and listen to my radio through a pillow? But there's a difference between banning speech in a private home and a government criminalizing speech. In an age in which we have political leaders talking about criminal prosecution for talking naughty on cable TV, its amazing how little we have changed in 30 years. First they'll come for Howard Stern (who incidentally once considered covering T. Rex's "Jeepster") and then they'll come for the musicians and artists. Oh sure, it wouldn't happen next year but maybe in 20 or 30 years. We keep on focusing on the wrong things -- trying to make people hew to some version of morality at the expense of art and free speech. Marc Bolan died in an auto accident due to a drunk driver. Drunk driving continues to this day to be a major cause of death in these United States. When I think of all the energy and money being put into squashing speech -- speech that doesn't lead to people dying, well, the Jerry Springer in me just wants to puke. The only positive thing to think about is that maybe people will finally realize they made a bad choice in giving one party so much power and change the makeup of Congress in 2006.

Lots of vinyl minage coming this weekend - so check back often! Or put me in your RSS Reader. I promise I won't touch anything.


Rusty Hillside said...

It's such a monster groovin' riff that it deserves two songs.

claren44 said...

Telegram Sam is there with Ride a White Swan as my fave TRex tracks. He was so great!

sleepybomb said...

very nice! i saw t.rex at a warehouse in new orleans in 1974 doin' this song, (actually one of my alltime faves). that concert was one of the loudest, silliest shows i have ever seen. he was so pompus, but it was real fun.
love yer site. i too collect alot of vinyl, ('bout 10,000 lps last count and moving across country again!).

matt said...

Great song..Boy did you have a strict upbringing..They must have let you watch the brady show.

Anonymous said...

Marc's friend, "Purple-Pie Pete" was the best. Gotta love the Bauhaus version of the song too! -B. Shunk PS Thanks for the website plug!

Anonymous said...

Quote "Marc's friend, "Purple-Pie Pete" was the best."

Marc's publisist BP Fallon whose nickname was "Beep" will tell ya it's "Purple Browed-Beep".

Anonymous said...

Gloria Jones was driviing the car that killed Marc Bolan. The coroners court returned the verdict of accidental death.

Anonymous said...

I can't hear Get It On at all, though Bolan did admit to using the same riff in a different key.