First: Apologies to the PR agent who sent this film to GLONO HQ a few years ago. It’s been peeking out at us from the cluttered bookshelf all these days and nights and we just never got the mustard up to watch it. I don’t exactly know why. We like T.Rex plenty and who doesn’t love a jacked up Ringo Starr from the early 70s? For whatever reason, we just weren’t inspired to watch it…until Saturday night.
In an effort to blow through the brittle cold of a Chicago winter and the recently imposed smoking ban in every public building (including bars and live music venues), we decided to host a Rock and Roll Movie Night for Losers; a sort of viewing party to review our backlog of DVDs and an excuse to drink with Ringo. Born to Boogie seemed a natural for the inaugural night.
If you know anything at all about T.Rex you know that it’s really two guys: Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and chief “Boogie Bopper” Marc Bolan; and percussionist Micky Finn. The rest is a rotating cast of players who supported the variations of T.Rex and Bolan’s fluid musical aspiration until his death at age 29 in 1977. In the few years he reigned the British charts, Bolan aspired to Beatledom heights but inevitably launched the parade of British phenoms whose acts never translated to American audiences. Britain seems fine with that.
Bolan was a fucking weirdo. It’s great. Born to Boogie is a patchwork of concert clips and bizarre vignettes. Ringo is credited with producing and directing the film—released by Apple Films, of which Ringo was “Managing Director”—and provides a fair portion of weirdness in his own right. First, there’s his Hall of Fame worthy mullet, which mysteriously vanishes in the second half of the film. One can guess he woke up during dailies and was aghast, like the rest of us, and promptly had it shorn. But ringo’s got nothing on Marc Bolan.
There are scenes of Bolan and company eating lunch in an English garden. The highlight is a little impromptu acoustic show in that garden where Bolan is accompanied by a classical quintet. How very…British!
It’s all about the music though, isn’t it? And the clips of T.Rex at Empire Pool, Wembley are gems. Bolan struts the relatively small stage and plays to the teenage girls in the crowd like a freaked out clown with a penchant for shiny pants. After 30 seconds you forget that he’s competing with a 15 foot tall cardboard of himself, which is the only stage andornment.
“I don’t need props. I’m Marc Bolan. I have this guitar, I have these clothes, and I have chutzpah.” Indeed.
Also appearing is a young pianoman who clearly learned a thing or two during his handful of appearances with Bolan. Marvel at the site of Elton John wailing away on the keys. Like so many of his generation, it’s hard to think that the dude who sang “Circle of Life” did loads of blow and got as wiggy as anyone touring with the Flaming Lips today, but here’s photographic proof.
Take a cold Saturday and dig out those ludes you found hidden in your folks’ dresser. It’s time to boogie.
YouTube: Marc Bolan and T.Rex – “Jeepster”