Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8: T. Rex, "Bang A Gong (Get It On)"

Artist: T. Rex
Song: "Bang A Gong (Get It On)"
Album: Electric Warrior
Year: 1971

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Though there are many movements in the history of music that are clear and well documented, it is often difficult to accurately trace exactly how the style called "glam rock" came into existence.  Occupying the odd space between the psychedelic movement and the explosion of punk rock, the "glam rock" sound was short lived, but yielded some of the most memorable moments in music history.  From David Bowie to The New York Dolls, there is no question that this style played a massive role in nearly all of the music made for nearly two decades, and yet one can make the case that it is in the originators of the style that the finest example lives.  Having in many ways completed their transition from a hippie-folk band into something completely new, it was fitting that the band Tyrannosaurus Rex shortened their name to T. Rex, and in 1971, released one of the most pivotal records of all time.  Electric Warrior remains an absolutely flawless document of the early signs of "glam rock," and one can easily make the case that this record not only set the standard for the style, but remains the greatest in the genres' history.  Powered by eleven brilliant musical works, T. Rex fond their way onto the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and four decades later, the songs are still as fresh and exciting as they were upon first release.  Though the entire record is superb, there is no other song in history that packs a similar groove and punch that one can find in T. Rex's unforgettable 1971 single, "Bang A Gong (Get It On)."

The moment that "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" begins, the mood is instantly set, as the hard, funky groove is put forth, giving the song a sway that leaves very little to the imagination.  Within this progression, set by guitarist Marc Bolan and bassist Steve Currie, one can hear a clear influence from The Rolling Stones, and yet as soon as the rest of the band joins in, the song becomes something entirely new.  The drumming from Bill Legend is absolutely perfect, as it enables "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" to gain a unique bounce, and yet there remains something classic within the feel of the song.  Keyboardist Rick Wakeman joins the band for this track, and it his is subtle stings that push the song to another level, and the addition of horns and strings make the arrangement here absolutely unmatched.  Yet one can easily argue that even with all of these musicians in place, "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" would not be the song it is without the attitude that each player brings to their work.  It is in fact this attitude that separates T. Rex from other "hard rock" acts, and this difference is what in many ways defines the shift to the "glam" sound.  The band makes to attempt to cover or tone down the sexual tension, and due to the deep groove, it is almost impossible not to get caught up in the musical perfection found on "Bang A Gong (Get It On)."

Along with playing a flawless guitar, the voice of Marc Boland fits perfectly on the track, and it his voice that has made "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" such an unforgettable classic.  Finding a space between speaking and singing that is completely unique, the allure within Boland's voice is in a class all its own, and the seductive, almost sinister way with which he delivers the vocals is absolutely mesmerizing. While other bands attempted to be more subtle in their displays of testosterone, Boland leaves nothing to the imagination here, and yet it is this approach that would serve as the blueprint for bands ranging from AC/DC to the entire "hair metal" movement, and one cannot overstate the impact of his vocal performance.  Furthermore, one can hear a clear connection to the early days of rock music within Boland's vocals, and as the song closes he even lifts the line "...meanwhile, I'm still thinking..." from Chuck Berry's, "Little Queenie."  Boland also references the great Eddie Cochran, dropping the words, "untamed youth," which was a movie featuring Cochran, and there are send-ups to other rock pioneers throughout the song.  This reality adds further support to what an important musical bridge one can find within "Bang A Gong (Get It On)," and the fact that even without these references, it is still one of the finest rock songs ever is a testament to the unique brilliance that can be experienced on the song.

Without question, both the musical and lyrical hook on"Bang A Gong (Get It On)" have become absolutely iconic, and they stand amongst the most recognized riffs in the history of recorded music.  Even four decades later, the somewhat sleazy, yet irresistibly boogie to the song remain fresh and exciting, and it remains one of the few songs that can be heard over and over again without ever losing its edge or allure.  Furthermore, over the years everyone from Blondie to Ministry to Carlos Santana have recorded cover versions of the song, and this wide range of tributes is a testament to just how wide-reaching the impact of the song was, and there is no question that it was the beginning of the "glam rock" movement.  Within the voice of Boland, one can hear where Bowie took parts of his "Ziggy Stardust" character, and it is due to this massive influence that it becomes puzzling that T. Rex rarely receive all the credit they so clearly deserve.  Overall, Electric Warrior stands as one of the most impressive albums in a decade of music that had its fair share of amazing records, and yet it is often relegated to a "second tier" status.  Everything from the production to the music to the vocals are absolutely perfect on the album, and after hearing the record, one cannot deny its overall significance.  Though every track is fantastic in its own right, there is perhaps no song in the bands' catalog that remains as pivotal or outright fun in every sense of the word than one can experience within T. Rex's unforgettable 1971 single, "Bang A Gong (Get It On)."

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