Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Tyrannosaurus Rex—
King Of The Rumbling Spires/Do You Remember


Released 1969 on Regal Zonophone
The Seth Man, September 2004ce
As far as the recorded canon of Tyrannosaurus Rex is concerned, their fourth single “King Of The Rumbling Spires”/“Do You Remember” was their first heavy track as well as the final recorded issuance of the original lineup that comprised the otherwise acoustic duo of Marc Bolan (vocals and acoustic guitars) and Steve Peregrine Took (various percussion sundries.) Additionally, Tony Visconti fulfilled many roles in Tyrannosaurus Rex as producer, bassist and keyboardist as he set about with additional instruments and arrangements to enliven and enhance Bolan’s bounty of fantastic bagatelle.

Their fourth single was Tyrannosaurus Rex’s weirdest anomaly. For unlike all previous efforts and despite the fact Bolan’s vocals remained the same stuttery, gossamer lily sprouting upon the surface of the vast lake of his own personal mythologies borrowed from antiquities past, present and imagined in pronouncements as florid as the ornate titles of the band’s past three albums (“My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair...But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows,” “Prophets Seers & Sages-The Angels Of The Ages” and “Unicorn”1) here for the first time was not only the entrance of electric guitar but a whole gang-bang of them as they busted down the door distorted, overdubbed and jacked up through fuzztones then set upon a stomping beat over a nearly full band backup. Introductory double floor toms fanfare resound as though a cymbal-less kiddie’s drum kit has been commandeered by Steve Peregrine Took, now looming over it in a methedrine haze and pounding it into the floor while even that rarest of instrumentation in Tyrannosaurus Rex’s musical lexicon, snare drums, appear.

I suppose it was deemed high time to chart a different course once John Peel had been enlisted for a second time to recite another of Bolan’s children narratives on their recent “Unicorn” album for now all previous Tolkien’n’Maxfield Parish art nouveau stylings were temporarily replaced by a straight ahead production enmeshed with an army of simple and aggressively placed fuzz-drenched guitar riffing that BRAAAAANG-ed out throughout the entire A-side in what was to be Bolan’s first significant axe attack on record since John’s Children. It also predated his solo electric guitar freak-out of “Elemental Child” on the next and final Tyrannosaurus Rex album “A Beard of Stars” as well as the immaculately perfect and rough cut “Jewel” offa T-Rex’s debut for “King Of The Rumbling Spires” is a squadron of overdubbed electric riffs fastened together by Bolan’s husky and airy vocals into a purple-heart powder dusted proto-glam stomper supreme -- and not just because everything else Tyrannosaurus Rex did was so very diaphanous and dippy to extremes because the sheer density of it weighs in as a bizarre late-period garage punk thicket about as aggressive as Bolan’s warm and double-tracked vocals weren’t. Constantly reinforcing the verses with a memorably gushing gasp of “Whoa!” this triumphant epic spreads the word to set off torches one by one across a nighttime landscape of gathering throngs as though by the wave of a wand all at once. Bolan’s descending fuzz riffs gnash and gnarl for the final time and are accompanied by an overdriven electric organ whose notes fluttering electronically like pennants in the sky to dwarf everything but the wavering vocals coming forth from this proto-metal guru whose fuzz guitar consecrates the whole shebang into a most singular rave up that spills off into echoey oblivion about as quick as it entered: the spell shattered only by the ensuing silence, like a pebble cast upon the surface of a still morning lake breaking the hold of nighttime in your hair as the dream fades with the first rays of a new day.

“Do You Remember” is more sedate in tone but equally strange territory despite the familiarity of the Tyrannosaurus Rexsian convention of Took’s backing bongos and Visconti’s dutiful bass because they scatter to the back of the mix once Bolan’s rhythm guitar more discharges an equal amount of fuzz to match the A-side to gunk up this one. An additional grinding fuzz rhythm operates more as a vigourous cello line sawing away on the first ELO album as Visconti’s bass plonks it up during the drumless chorus. Bolan constantly returns with the line “It throws/Me in-/to song...” accenting every measure with washes of downstroked distorted fuzz guitar blasts for good measure. The final one gets hit startling hard and just soars over and out as a snotty finale to this fuzzed-out frenzy.

This track was credited on a European picture sleeve of the time as “Do You Remember (Cult),” in reference to the opening line of “Her face was like a cult to me” and possibly to avoid problems with anyone mishearing Bolan’s jagged enunciation of ‘cult’ as ‘cunt’ -- as I did for years.

Pointing the way to Tyrannosaurus Rex’s imminent overhaul from acoustic folk duo to electric duo and then superstar quartet, “King Of The Rumbling Spires” would ascend for only one week to the inglorious position of #44 in the UK charts before promptly disappearing. Within months of its July 1969 release, errant percussionist and performer of pixiephone Steve Peregrine Took met with a similar fate: pink-slipped by an exasperated Bolan not only for conduct unbecoming on Tyrannosaurus’ Rex’s only and unsuccessful American tour but for contributing two of his own tracks to ex-Pretty Things drummer Twink’s “Think Pink” album. In a Machiavellian huff, Bolan abandoned Took to his own devices in the USA, flew back to Britain alone with June Child and the new year of 1970 would see a newly reconstituted Tyrannosaurus Rex with Micky Finn filling the vacant percussion slot and after a soon-to-be readjusted image and shortened name, would come to far greater successes.



FOOTNOTES:
  1. These previous Tyrannosaurus Rex LPs were all loaded up with anywhere from 12-16 tracks apiece and were entirely wispy, zephyr-like affairs of whimsy akin to Donovan’s “Wear Your Love like Heaven” period minus the session players but for all their inordinate poetic ornamentation to rival a Maharajah’s jewel-encrusted ceremonial elephant as mythic embellishment upon embellishment were heaped into the lyrics, they maintained a simultaneous lightness rendered in Bolan’s characteristically lamb-like intonations and quavering vocal style. I don’t love or hate them but dammit they were fucking unique enough for me to spend nearly all of my remaining finances on them during the summer of 1987 when I visited England alone for three weeks. I subsided on early morning loaves of bread courtesy of an Earl’s Court bakery and spent loads of time vibing on the Regal Zonophone sleeves in my tiny hotel room counting the days until I could play them. When I finally did, I was disappointed that they didn’t live up to the sleeves and outrageous song titles like “Salamanda Palaganda,” “Juniper Suction” and “O Harley (The Saltimbanques)” but still: a vibe is a vibe and to this day I can’t discount the staggering depth of belief Marc Bolan had in himself. Because for his inadequacies as a musician, his sheer will power to be a rock’n’roller and write prodigious quantities of songs still frightens me to death when I really think about it AND “Celebrate Summer” still moves me, “Raw Ramp” still sends me into shiverland AND “Teen Riot Structure” is still one of the best rock’n’roll song titles of all time.