Marc Bolan, from London’s Stoke Newington to Music Legend and Fashion Guru
Marc Bolan still has a fan base all over the world, and made his mark in rock history, but what was his secret how did this London born Lad with mild dyslexia, break into the music business and become associated as someone who gave Glam Rock its punch poetry and above all Masculine and Feminine Power.
What is Glam Rock?
This Genre of music, can not be justified by a quick click two or three line summary.
Bolan, a pioneer of Glam Rock, that stamped the identity of the 1970s.
The Glam Rock Movement involved outrageous costumes, colours, flamboyant outfits that men normally would not have been seen wearing. Feminine clothes and make up, regardless of what sexual orientation a person was. Many of the Glam rock artists were straight males who were glamming up camp style because rules, perceptions artistic experimentation were open to change. The end of the 60s had bought less censoring for theatre performance and being gay had only just been decriminalised 1967. Free spirits of the 60s opened a kaleidoscope of creativity and pushing boundaries.
What made Bolan stand out?
Maintaining masculine energy whilst somehow being able to pull off the look of wearing clothes normally found in a woman’s wardrobe. Doing this without alienating anyone and still maintain dignity, kudos and appeal to both women and men whilst getting them into your songs is no mean feat. He had sensitivity, sensuality, poetic mystic, photogenic aura, exhibitionist traits, a trendsetter, flirted with sexual ambiguity, but then also able to come across as a straight dressing lad of the times in jeans and t-shirt down the pub. Being able to reach high and low notes. Maintaining some power behind the music, whilst resurrecting Rock and Roll.
Bolan and Glitter
It is not clear if it was an assistant or Bolan who thought of using glitter. Either way he seems one of the first to have dabbed glitter on his face. He used feathers, seen wearing mary jane ladies shoes, or platforms, metallic glitter fabrics. He wore a big vintage looking top hat. Iconic in many photos of him. Slash from Guns and roses has similar hair and iconic hat. Boland wore vivid colours such as electric peacock blues, and greens, rich mauves pinks. Textures such as velvet satin, fitted 70s style jackets, with flared trousers. Males wore eye make up too, smudgy sort of shadow, or black eyeliner.
The Melange of his predecessors
Having idols such as 50s Rock and Roll Stars, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, going through the mod and teddy boy and hippy experiments enabled his sound to blend that eerie nostalgia with something of the new frontiers that the 1970’s bought. Perhaps the song lyrics “But you won’t fool the children of the revolution.” Sums up the fact that people were looking for something deeper more spiritual but with a vibrant punchiness, and laid back coolness. A culmination of the sounds of the decades before and yet still being able to call it their unique time. The 1970’s no matter what part of it you look at definitely was a magical revolving door that transformed the 60s to the 80s.
“Children of the Revolution”
Revolutionaries often conjure up the idea of being outsiders, rebels uncared for, neglected, tough upbringing. Somewhat a different story with Bolan, which makes one wonder, how he went on to become a revolutionary music fashion God, of Glam Rock era of the 1970s. To understand what inspired and shaped people often one only has to go back to where they came from and to explore and get an insight into influences as they grew up.
The House where Mark Boland grew up, Stoke Newington, London
Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld 30/9/1947 grew up in London’s Stoke Newington and lived in this house 25 Stoke Newington Common.
Bolan as a Child
As young children Bolan and his brother were not allowed to be street urchins when younger. Supportive hard-working parents. Bolan had a traditional time playing around the home, small yard, making plasticine dinosaurs, and enjoyed family trips to local parks swans and deer and places like Margate seaside.
Where did Bolan go to School?
Marc Bolan went to a local school that is still there in the here and now. Northwold Primary school is just a short walk from his childhood home.
Was Bolan Dyslexic? Mark Bolan another famous Dyslexic
As Bolan grew up more demands were being made by the school of the education system, and the school of Life. Learning differences were not well understood or even spotted back then, let alone catered for. Even in modern times, this is still somewhat of a challenge for anyone to cope with.
Perhaps being someone with dyslexia was where the outsider comes from, many people with learning differences learn to adapt, fit in, observe others, mimic find other ways to do things, overcome. At the age of 9, he was interested in learning to play the guitar and through his mother’s tenacity received his very own instrument.
Bolan and the 11 Plus Exam
Then came the school of life, the social hopscotch we all go through. Finding our identity, interests, role models, friends hobbies. Bolan did not pass the 11 plus exam, and so did not attend the strict grammar school world.
Musicians that inspired Bolan
Eddie Cochran, Elvis, Cliff Richard, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Arthur Crudup. He also met Eddie Cochran when he performed in London briefly because he had the nerve to ask him if he could carry his guitar from the venue of the Hackney Empire to his waiting limo car when he was around 13. Bolan and his friends also went to the Empire on a regular basis because of it where the TV show OH Boy! was filmed.
Bolan’s Family roots and cultural influences
The cosmopolitan influences he was exposed to also came because his family heritage came from diverse backgrounds Fathers connections being Jewish Rusian and Polish. His mother was of a different cultural background but they formed a modern integrated adaptation. Bolan went to Jewish Youth clubs in the Stamford Hill area. At School formed a band and one of the young local girl singers was Helen Shapiro!
Bolan Expelled from Schools
He was expelled from school, by his mid-teens for bad behaviour. But Bolan educated himself, as he did go to the library on Church Street. It is known he was read to by others too. Books such as Tolkien, Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings. He also read about poets and captivated by a historic character Beau Brummel who he took on as a role model.
Bolan’s fashion and Dressing to Impress
Fashions were changing and stars of the day dressed the part. Bolan became more aware of having to look and dress the part to gain social mobility, he had frequented the west end on the bus 73 route that went door to door from the home where he grew up, facing Stoke Newington Common. His mother worked in Soho at Berwick Market. His obsession with fashion being seen.
Bolan joined a model agency John Temple clothing catalogue who also displayed cardboard cutouts of models in shops. Bolan was photogenic.
Near Soho, Old Compton Street was the famous 2i’s coffee shop which was a launch pad for new artists of the day, where they could be talent spotted. Cliff Richard and many other household names went through this place. Bolan visited it, it is now called Poppies fish and chips. Soho was a hive of activity.
There is more to this story and character, just like there are more songs to be sung and places in London to do with Bolan that we will return to. On the anniversary of his passing, here is a rose from the yards in front of the house area where he grew up.
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