Saturday Deluxe / 21 May 2016

Born to Boogie – Tony Visconti in London to remember Marc Bolan

Legendary record producer, Tony Visconti was in London last night to attend a theatrical screening of Born to Boogie, the 1972 Marc Bolan/T. Rex concert film which will be issued on blu-ray for the first time next month.

Visconti had flown in from New York to discuss working with Marc and after the screening, probably to the horror of the British Film Institute (BFI) technicians an much to the amusement of the invited audience, he stated that he thought the 5.1 surround mix “sounded awful”, adding “no, I mixed it a lot better than that. If I’d been there this afternoon I’d have helped them align the speakers – I promise you it does sound better than that!”

In a fascinating, hour long Q&A, Tony told journalist and T. Rex authority Mark Paytress that the film “looked great. It was a great time in my life, a great time in Marc Bolan’s life and it was a great time for the audience who lived through that period. It was magic. Absolutely magic.”

Tony Visconti chats to journalist Mark Paytress

Reflecting on Marc Bolan’s success Tony said “Marc had a trick, which I analysed, having worked with him so much, and that was that in the late sixties, early seventies, people were still trying to copy The Beatles. You know, if The Beatles used a French Horn, you might try to use a Tuba. They’d do something like The Beatles, but try and get one up on The Beatles. Marc skipped a generation, he skipped a decade and went back to the fifties. He emulated – and it was as clear as day – Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly… that was his trick. It was genius to go back. In other words, The Beatles had got so sophisticated, you couldn’t take it any further. They did it. They did the job well. But Marc went backwards to that era and starting doing that up, slowly. Because in our own ways, a song like Children of the Revolution, within that style of Marc’s, it was like building from the ground up with something so basic, the three, four or five chords you’d use in rockabilly, and early rock ‘n’ roll, Marc made these incredible mini-symphonies out of those chord changes. His melodies were just unparalleled.

SDE’s Paul Sinclair with Tony Visconti

When asked about Marc’s reaction to not maintaining the number ones and big commercial hit singles throughout his career Tony observed, “I think the only mistake made was that, that audience, those girls and the few guys that adored him, grew older. And that’s the way pop works. Just in a few short years, some of them were going over to the Bowie camp and other things and you know, kids do grow up. And it was crystallised in that film, Marc thought that this is the way it’s always going to be. After that we made some fantastic records, I love The Slider and Tanx and all that, but we clearly lost that audience… it’s ironic now that in later years, a lot of teenage kids look to that music now. But the truth is the core audience [at the time] dwindled and it did make him angry. He couldn’t figure it out and was frustrated.”

Paytress noted that the music hadn’t really dated, and Visconti agreed, “I wish Marc could’ve seen what happened to the music. It’s as fresh as the day it was made. I remember, I remastered Electric Warrior about five or six years ago and this mastering engineer said that it was fantastic music and that it sounded like we’d just recorded it, and that I was bringing him a new album.”

More from this Q&A will be covered on SDE in early June. Born to Boogie is issued on blu-ray and as a deluxe edition on 13 June. More on those releases here.

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