Ballrooms of Mars

I’ve been admiring my old vinyl records for a while and really should play them more. One of these is the 1972 album The Slider by the English rock band, T. Rex.

The band, initially called Tyrannosaurus Rex, was formed in 1969 by band leader, lead singer and sole songwriter Marc Bolan (1947-1977). After making four albums as a psychedelic folk act, Bolan transitioned the band to electric rock music. In 1970 he shorted the band name to T. Rex (and they’d later be known as Marc Bolan & T. Rex). Bolan died in a car crash in 1977, and the group disbanded after losing their only steady member and songwriter.

In their eight years of activity, the group produced an impressive discography: 12 studio records, seven live and 29 compilation albums, two EPs, 29 singles, and six boxed sets. (Of the many compilations, several were different song sets of The Slider.)

I remember hearing The Slider often in my childhood home. One of my older brothers had discovered the band in the same phase where he brought home David Bowie’s music; the two musicians shared a common producer in Tony Visconti. They both also occupied the glam rock scene, which was highly popular in the early 1970s. This was a music scene I had a first-hand view of in 1973 when, in England with my parents on holiday, we saw David Bowie perform a concert toward the end of his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars persona and tour. I’ve written before how mesmerized I was by the avant-garde look of the musicians and fans at the Liverpool Empire Theatre.

Not long after they transitioned to electric rock, T. Rex declined in popularity though they rose again in 1977. Even after disbanding they remained influential in glam rock and then the punk movement, then post-punk, and its derivatives indie and alternative rock.

Today’s selection, “Ballrooms of Mars,” is, I believe, the quintessential T. Rex song with its slow, strong beat, wailing and distorted electric guitar, and Bolan’s steady vocal. Interestingly, it was not released as a single; the two singles released to promote the album were “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru.” “Ballrooms of Mars” was likely too “FM” for the largely AM-radio-focused pop charts at the time. I can still remember hearing it, cranked up very loud, on my brother’s stereo, with Bolan singing:

You gonna look fine
Be primed for dancing
You’re gonna trip and glide
All on the trembling plane
Your diamond hands
Will be stacked with roses
And wind and cars
And people of the past

I’ll call you thing
Just when the moon sings
And place your face in stone
Upon the hill of stars
And gripped in the arms
Of the changeless madman
We’ll dance our lives away
In the Ballrooms of Mars

You talk about day
I’m talking ’bout night time
When the monsters call out
The names of men
Bob Dylan knows
And I bet Alan Freed did
There are things in night
That are better not to behold

You dance
With your lizard leather boots on
And pull the strings
That change the faces of men
You diamond browed hag
You’re a glitter-gaunt gangster
John Lennon knows your name
And I’ve seen his

(“Ballrooms of Mars,” by Marc Bolan.
Unofficial lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com.)

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio for the song from the official T. Rex YouTube channel:

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