T. Rex undoubtedly had their time under the sun in the early 1970s following the release of ‘Ride A White Swan’ in 1970. The single became Marc Bolan’s first hit and importantly jumpstarted the career of Tony Visconti, who produced the single. Visconti would go on to collaborate with Bolan on many more of his cherished hits and later, more famously, became David Bowie’s prominent collaborator working with him on ten of his albums from Diamond Dogs in 1974 to Blackstar in 2016, shortly before his death. Alongside Bowie, T. Rex sculpted the popular movement of the early ’70s known as glam-rock.
Reflecting on the band and their leader, Visconti once said of Bolan: “What I saw in Marc Bolan had nothing to do with strings or very high standards of artistry; what I saw in him was raw talent. I saw genius. I saw a potential rock star in Marc – right from the minute, the hour I met him.”
Bolan’s career peaked between 1971 and 1972 with the respective releases of Electric Warrior and Slider. The albums contain most of T. Rex’s biggest hits as well as the most artful and interesting lesser-known compositions. By 1973, Bolan had regressed into a quieter and increasingly unhealthy lifestyle following the breakdown of his marriage to June Child, who had been the manager – and former lover – of Syd Barrett.
After a few years living in the US in the mid-1970s, a period where his musical activity was limited to a handful of collaborations and less successful releases, Bolan returned to commercial form with a new T. Rex album, Dandy In The Underworld. The album marked the twelfth and final studio album for T. Rex and was released on March 11th, 1977, just six months before Bolan’s untimely death.
Bolan died instantly in a high-speed car crash in Barnes, London, on September 16th. The final notch on the bedpost of his musical legacy was Dandy In The Underworld, an uneven album that garnered a number of hits including the singles ‘I Love to Boogie’ and ‘The Soul of My Suit’. The album, on the whole, maintained T. Rex’s earlier form but appeared a little dated as a late 1970s glam-hangover album with flecks of punk influence.
The record opens with the doo-wop ballad ‘Dandy In The Underworld’, which sets the cheesy pop precedent for side one. The side contains ‘I Love To Boogie’, which is sadly one of the group’s most recognisable songs to this day. That said, the track is a harmless slice of fun that, to this day, reminds me of childhood parties watching grandparents dancing a jig after one too many sherries. The highlight of the first side is ‘I’m A Fool For You Girl’, a track that shows the group maintaining dignity while offering something funky and intriguing.
The album is definitely more attractive going than coming with side two featuring the more innovative and interesting material. The more classy of the album’s jaunty songs comes with ‘Jason B. Sad’ and ‘The Soul Of My Suit’ – the latter was released as the second most successful single on the album after ‘I Love To Boogie’.
Dandy In The Underworld closes with the two most interesting songs on the album. ‘Pain and Love’ comes as a dark and atmospheric track that deviates intriguingly from the T. Rex most will recognise. The final track, ‘Teen Riot Structure’, poses fittingly as a final sign of where we might have seen T. Rex head, had Bolan not left us so early. The track seems to show the influence of the burgeoning London punk scene on an otherwise classic T. Rex sound.