Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Ride A White Swan, The Lives and Death Of Marc Bolan: Book Review

Ride A White Swan, The Lives and Death Of Marc Bolan
Lesley Ann Jones
In this the thirty fifth anniversary year of the death of Marc Bolan we have this book by Lesley Ann Jones. If I am honest I thought there may have been more books concerning Marc this year but as it is it seems Lesley’s book will be the only one.
I have been a Bolan fan since the first time I heard Ride A White Swan and so my life with Marc goes back some considerable time and I have read many accounts in magazines newspapers and also books on the life of Marc Bolan.
What I can say is that this particular book is possibly the best. Why? I hear you ask.
Well for a number of reasons not least that within a few pages you can tell that this is not merely some convenient cash in. Lesley Ann as well as being a fan, (Well I presume she is as she speaks like a fan in the book) has spoken to an amazing array of people and not only that many have come up with new anecdotes or greater detail than they have in previous books. The main reason for me however in recommending this book is that this particular book personalises everything so you really do get to know what it was that drove Marc to become the star he always believed he would become.
People like Simon Napier Bell and Jeff Dexter have really opened up to Lesley Ann as has Marc’s brother Harry who has provided many personal views on Marc which really give this book the edge over many previous books on Marc which were happy to just relay the facts of his life rather than get behind the PR or even the eminently printable sound bites Marc himself was want to give the press and public. More importantly we have some insight from T.Rex drummer Bill Legend which is important as he is now the only surviving member of the Classic T.Rex line up. I have never previously read anything from Bill, who is incredibly honest in what he says and after all he was actually there.
Another new contact is Marc’s personal Road Manager/Tour Manager Mick O’ Halloran. Mick came to Marc during the Tyrannosaurus Rex days and stayed right up until the end. His observations about Marc particularly the mid period of Marc’s fame during 1972-1973 are invaluable and insightful and some of the comments whilst not painting Marc in the nicest of lights are painfully honest, although said without any axe to grind. It would seem that Marc like many before him and many since just became caught up in the “Star” moment and acted accordingly. It must be said however that there have been worse instances of people “Playing the Star” and Marc in actual fact wasn’t quite as bad as many others. In truth he could be both incredibly cavalier but to those he cared about he could be incredibly generous.
Another fascinating part of the Marc Bolan story is the connection with David Bowie. It would seem that Marc and David were way friendlier than many previous publications have suggested. It is fitting however that at the end of Marc’s life and this story that we are still left to speculate what might have happened had the pair collaborated on an album or project. I say that because it never happened and of course we can all speculate how wonderful it may have been and not have the reality of a failure which of course it may well have been. Personally speaking I think it much nicer to speculate in the positive end of the spectrum. One thing however I am convinced of is that Marc Bolan was definitely on his way back. What form that success would have taken is again open to speculation but there are enough pointers in this book to say that it would have happened.
I won’t spoil the book by going into detail about the new facts that have since emerged in the last thirty five years but Lesley Ann Jones has done a fine job of writing a very readable book on a subject that has already been covered many times. The research is painstakingly thoroughand Marc really could not have wanted a better more thorough account of his life. That this particular book has made that life story fresh and interesting is a testimony to her skill as a writer and she has gone out of her way to make sure that this is “THE” Marc Bolan biography and make it balanced rather than sensationalist something the Bolan fan base will appreciate.
You can see for yourself a small part of just how much work and research has gone into this book as Lesley writes notes for all the chapters and you can find this at the end of the book. For those who want to dig deeper into Marc’s career and maybe go off road for want of a better expression. Then here would be a good place to start your research. The notes contextualise the book perfectly.
So here it is, a Marc Bolan book full of new interesting facts and a far more personable and objective account of someone who remains for me and many others a British music star of immense proportion. Bolan’s star is now right where it belongs still in the ascendant. Reading this book and going back and listening to the T.Rex catalogue will go some way to explaining why that is.


  1. I have read that she has stated Marc was killed by a fence bolt, is that correct?

    I know exactly what killed Marc Bolan and the exact injuries he sustained, no fence bolt.

    1. Interesting Carl. What was it then that killed Marc and what were his actual injuries I originally thought that he went through the windscreen and hit the tree all those years ago and then I heard that it was blunt head trauma which does tie in with the fence bolt theory but would definitely be interested to hear what you say on this subject


      Jon Kirkman

    2. Yes, we'd still love to hear your answer, Carl Batson. Please open up about that; it would be appreciated.

  2. In the 1970's I remember T-Rex and the sweet and talented Marc Bolan so very well. They were the biggest group on the planet. Marc was an incredibly talented musician , producer and poet I have heard he died of blunt trauma injuries from the accident. He certainly is an old soul I dont think he was meant to grow old he made a fantastic impact on fashion and music. Still have a crush after all these years. Much love to Gloria and Rolan too.