My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brow

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Regal Zonophone, 1968

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


Tyrannosaurus Rex, in case you haven't already figured it out, is T. Rex, the same folks who later gave us glam rock hits like “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”. Their first four records were released under their much longer unabbreviated name, and the lengthy monikers don't stop there. Their debut album's full title is – take a deep breath – My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair... But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows. These names alone should be a clue that this is a very different Marc Bolan than you might be used to if you're only familiar with his work in the ‘70s. And if that wasn't enough for you, the trippy cover illustrations should drive the point home.

Tyrannosaurus Rex albums are very nearly solo projects, since the band at this early stage consisted of merely two members. Marc Bolan writes all the songs, performs all the songs, sings all the songs, and (deservedly) receives most of the credit for the band during these early years. However, the other member, Steve Peregrin Took, is no slouch either and shouldn't be overlooked. He takes a more auxiliary role, accompanying Bolan's songs with various kinds of percussion and backing vocals. But he isn't merely the bongo-playing window dressing you might expect to hear in an acoustic act. His contributions to the songs are highly distinctive, matching Bolan's oddness beat for beat. His unconventional percussion choices highlight the most out-there elements of the tracks pushing them even further into crazy hippie territory. It's no surprise that the guy was apparently a good friend of Syd Barrett.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As for the music these records consist of? Well, it's kind of hard to put into words exactly what kind of sound Bolan and Took managed to put together. “Hippie-fantasy music” seems like a somewhat derogatory way of describing it, but it's not inaccurate. Tyrannosaurus Rex makes the kind of music that sounds like what stoned ‘60s hippies on an English commune would make if they pretended that they were all elves. They sound like they're about to break into Hare Krishna chants at any moment (and near the end of the record that's exactly what they do). It's pretty loopy stuff. If the band came out today they would be labeled “freak folk,” but at the time, their sound didn't have many contemporaries.

All that being said, if you start at the beginning, they ease you in somewhat gently since “Hot Rod Mama” kicks of the band's career with some upbeat 12 bar blues. It's the only song on any of the band's early records that I could see being performed by their future glam rock incarnation. Not that this track isn't twisted in its own way. Took's frantic bongos make their first appearance here, chugging away at a tempo and rhythm that occasionally only poses a resemblance to the one Bolan's guitar is strumming.

“Strange Orchestras” is a total blast; it's upbeat as it gets and bounces between goofy chanting and catchy tunes before it's all over in less than two minutes. The briefness is not uncommon for Tyrannosaurus Rex; they have a lot of songs that hover around the 1:30-minute mark, just long enough to leave you satisfied without wearing out their welcome. But the album's primary strengths lie in the odd but appealing harmonies, which tend to highlight Bolan's highly unconventional vocal style in striking ways. These mostly show up on the slower tunes like “Child Star” and “Scenescof.”

The album closes out with a silly but brief bit of narration from the late John Peel, and while I'm not a fan of nonsense spoken word, it's pretty short and is just out there enough to not be a detriment to the experience.

The 2015 releases of Tyrannosaurus Rex's early records are packed to the brim with bonus tracks. For this record, you get the album in both mono and stereo versions (I prefer the mono), plus everything from live cuts and short interviews to alternate takes, singles, B-sides, and even home demos. It's a ton to take in at once, but any longtime fans of the band will find a ton to love on these two discs. “Highways” and the single version of “Deborah” are my favorites among these.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2015 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Regal Zonophone, and is used for informational purposes only.