In addition to being America’s only rock ’n’ roll magazine, CREEM happens to be the world’s best rock ’n’ roll magazine—and, it could be argued, the world’s most masturbatory. Because we like ourselves a little too much, every now and again, we’re going to review past CREEM pieces in a series called CREEMAINS. Expect the most deliciously spoiled CREEM, like our take on Lester Bangs’ 1972 review of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., or here, in our reevaluation of Marc Bolan’s legacy on what would’ve been his 75th birthday. Lap it up! And check out more from the CREEM archive, here.
In the July 1973 issue of CREEM, Cameron Crowe talked with T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan during a U.S. tour. There was a sense, at the time, that the bright star of T. Rex was growing dim. The glam rock band had failed to have a charting U.S. single in the 18 months since “Bang A Gong”, some dates on the tour had been canceled due to underselling tickets, and, in England, the kids were getting hooked on something else: Ziggy Stardust.
Yes, the T.Rextasy was wearing off, and Bowie was soon to break in America. Bolan was keenly aware of a looming shift of the spotlight, though he appeared relatively unfazed in the interview with Crowe. “I don’t consider David [Bowie] to be even remotely near big enough to give me any competition,” he told CREEM.
Throughout the interview, the frontman oscillates between a faux-modesty and an unfiltered cockiness that’s signature Bolan. (If you’ve read as many interviews with the guy as I have, you get it.) He makes things up, fudges some numbers, and says things like, “I don’t consider myself to be successful,” and, “I’m the biggest selling poet in England,” in the same thought. Then, at the very end, he gives a bone-chilling remark to conclude the interview—something totally piercing, if you read the article in the context of today. “When I’m 75,” he starts, “I’ll be able to tell you whether I’ve been truly successful or not.”
Bolan would’ve turned 75 on September 30, 2022, had he not tragically died in a car accident just two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, on September 16, 1977.
With the luxury and wisdom of time on our side, I think we can all answer with a resounding “yes,” that Bolan did become truly successful. Just maybe not in the conventional sense.
Hear me out: Does “Jeepster” come on your Spotify “radio” after listening to any 1970s rock ‘n’ roll? Does “Mambo Sun” play at every bar you walk into? Is an algorithm-derived playlist called “This Is T. Rex” something that is “suggested for you?” (Another good reason to get off Spotify.) If you’re like me, you might’ve found that the music you love is being overplayed. But that wasn’t really the case while Marc Bolan was alive, particularly in the U.S. That didn’t stop him from shit-talking Bowie’s rising fame.
“‘Starman’ only got to about 12 on the charts,” he told CREEM. “Which is not good. And the other single didn't happen at all—‘John I'm Only Dancing’—it was very bad, actually.” This is all pretty laughable, because we know how the story plays out: Bowie becomes a mega star, Bolan a faded light. But we know, too, that Bolan’s influence was still astronomical on the glitter movement, on artists like Suzi Quatro, Slade, the Sweet, Elton John, Hello, Kiss, the Ramones, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and definitely.