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Marc Bolan Remembered: T. Rextasy Sweeps Cherry Red With John’s Children, Gloria Jones

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John's ChildrenIt’s T. Rextasy at the Cherry Red Group, with two recent titles exploring the music of T. Rex’s Marc Bolan.  The Grapefruit imprint has collected two discs’ worth of material from Bolan’s early band John’s Children, while RPM has reissued two albums from Gloria Jones on one CD including the Bolan-produced Vixen.

By the time Marc Bolan joined the ranks of John’s Children in 1967, the British band had already established quite a reputation.  Encouraged by manager Simon Napier-Bell to engage in outrageous antics, Andy Ellison (vocals), Geoff McClelland (guitar), John Hewlett (bass) and Chris Townson (drums) were known for their high-octane live shows.  The band might trash their instruments, spill fake blood or engage in fisticuffs.  But record buyers cottoned to the group’s music, too.  First single “Smashed Blocked” cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.; it was retitled “The Love I Thought I’d Found” in the U.K. due to the drug connotation of “blocked,” or high on amphetamines.  Their second single “Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get,” with a guitar solo from guest Jeff Beck, hit the British Top 40.  “Not the Sort of Girl (You’d Like to Take to Bed)” was intended as the group’s third single, but the U.K. Columbia label rejected it for rather obvious reasons.  The band moved to Track Records, home of The Who, and carried on, but still more controversy was to come.  In March 1967, McClelland was replaced by Marc Bolan, who penned John’s Children’s next 45: “Desdemona.”  The BBC banned that one, unhappy with the “lift up your skirt and fly” lyric.  Marc and co. couldn’t get a break; their U.S. label, White Whale, rejected their album, too.  The reason why?  It was entitled Orgasm.

The mod-psych rockers went on to further fame (infamy?) when they were booted off a Who tour for being “too loud and violent.”  (That said, drummer Chris Townson subbed for Keith Moon for a few days at the end of The Who’s 1967 tour.)   A long life wasn’t in the cards for John’s Children, however.  Bolan departed the group after a mere four months, unhappy with Napier-Bell’s production of his song “Midsummer Night’s Scene,” a June 1967 single.  Bolan went on to form Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The remaining members briefly soldiered on, with Chris Townson switching to guitar and Chris Colville handling drums.  A couple more singles were issued including a version of Bolan’s “Mustang Ford” (as “Go-Go Girl”) recorded after he left the line-up, but John’s Children broke up in 1968, not reuniting until the mid-1990s.

Grapefruit’s A Strange Affair: The Sixties Recordings features 52 tracks on two CDs.  The first disc, Singles and Rarities, includes a number of Andy Ellison solo tracks along with all of the band’s U.K. 45s.  The second disc is built around Orgasm (which was finally released in 1970, after the split) plus bonus tracks such as alternate versions, mixes and instrumentals.  (Most of these have been previously released on various hard-to-find compilations over the years.)  The new liner notes in the 24-page booklet have been written by Ellison, including track-by-track annotations.  Nick Watson has remastered, and a note indicates that as the original master tapes have been “mislaid or lost,” Watson has “for the most part gone back to the original records rather than using existing CD source[s].”  As this is the most comprehensive John’s Children-related anthology yet, it’s the perfect chance to discover the band that was “louder than The Who.”  It’s available now from Grapefruit!

After the jump, we flash-forward to 1976, and Gloria Jones’ Vixen! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 11, 2013 at 11:29