June 24, 2024 | J. Clarke

Otherworldly Facts About Marc Bolan, The Prince Of Glam

Even though Marc Bolan is known for bringing androgyny and glitter to the dark, edgy world of rock, his own personal life was far from glamorous—filled with struggle, scandal, and a sudden end that’s so tragic, it’s impossible to forget.

1. He Was A Weird Kid

Born Mark Feld in East London in 1947, Bolan grew up with his parents and brother in a stable home. Maybe the security let his imagination run wild, as he became a pro at getting lost in his own world. According to his brother, he made up and inhabited different characters as a child. And judging by what else he got up to, he dreamt fantastically large dreams.

Photo of T. RexMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

2. He Started Young

Marc Bolan got his first guitar when he was just nine years old. Not only did he learn to play right away, but he also started a little band, performing for the other kids at recess. His growing love for music evolved innocently enough, but in other areas of his life, he showed more rogue behavior. In one instance, it changed the course of his life.

Photo of Marc BolanFiona Adams, Getty Images

3. They Got Rid of Him

One day, Bolan found himself in enough trouble at school that the headmaster called him to the office. When he got there, the headmaster tried to punish him physically. Bolan’s reaction left everyone stunned. Instead of simply submitting to the punishment, Bolan headbutted him. They promptly kicked him out of school. And his next move was even more surprising.

Marc BolanEvening Standard, Getty Images

4. He Used His Look

At that point, Marc Bolan seemed interested in a completely different career path, one that focused more on his look than his talent. He landed extra work on a television show. He then took some modeling jobs, appearing in catalogs and magazines.

By the mid 1960s, though, he decided to return to his first love. Unfortunately for him, she didn’t seem ready to take him back.

Photo of Marc BolanFiona Adams, Getty Images


5. He Had (Many) False Starts

In 1965, Marc Bolan landed his first manager and recorded a track titled “All at Once”. But as luck would have it, not only did success not happen “all at once”, it in fact didn’t happen at all. Nothing came of this partnership, and no one even cared the songs until decades later. With his second manager, he took a much different—albeit unusual—approach.

Marc Bolan with his managerEvening Standard, Getty Images

6. He Switched It Up

You might recall that Marc Bolan actually entered the world as “Mark Feld”. Well, his first name change came right around this time, and to something nowhere near the name we know him by today. He selected “Toby Tyler” as his new stage name, and set about to the work of starting his career over, making a pretty drastic move.

Photo of Marc BolanFiona Adams, Getty Images

7. He Moved In

Quite literally. Bolan moved in with his new manager, an actor named Allan Warren. Warren seemed to see something in Bolan. He arranged for Bolan to create more records, and even hired a photographer to take photos of him. Much like before, though, this ultimately came to nothing. In fact, things got even worse.

Allan WarrenAllan warren, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

8. He Was Sold

Not too long into their work together, Warren found himself in deep waters. Three months behind on rent, he betrayed his friend. In order to make rent, he sold Bolan’s contract to his landlord, David Kirch. Kirch seemed to fancy himself a knowledgeable businessman, which I’m guessing is why he found value in Bolan’s still nonexistent career. But things didn’t go well with him either.

David KirchAllan Warren, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

9. He Went Crying To His Mommy

After about a year of literally no progress with Kirch, Bolan’s mother burst in on the mogul at his office. She angrily insisted Kirch terminate the contract. She must’ve been pretty scary, because he complied. Now free to try (again), Bolan moved forward with another major revamp.

Pop singer Marc BolanEvening Standard, Getty Images


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10. He Tried Something Else

Marc Bolan landed on the name we all know him by in 1965 when he signed to Decca Records. Considering his prior failures, it’s not too hard to imagine that he wanted to start fresh. There are mixed reports on where the name came from, but he settled on Marc Bolan and laid down more tracks. His personal life saw some remarkable changes too…

A view of the offices and studios of Decca RecordsMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images


11. He Fell Hard

In 1965, Bolan began dating Theresa Whipman. This is on record as his first serious relationship, and he reportedly fell totally and completely in love with her. He probably needed the support, though, considering what happened with his career next.

image of Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

12. He Flopped

Under Decca Records, Bolan recorded several singles, including his debut “The Wizards”. At this point, his style leaned more toward the folk genre, and sounded more acoustic. He even managed to secure some notable features, but nothing really seemed to catch listeners’ attention. With no charting music, he made another desperate move.

Marc Bolan singingApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

13. He Threw A Hail Mary

In 1966, Marc Bolan finally took things into his own hands. He made his way to producer Simon Napier-Bell’s house and pitched himself as the next big thing in music. It turned out to be just the right move. Once Napier-Bell listened to him sing, he took him on as a client and got him back in the recording studio. Finally, things started to look up, if only a little.

Simon Napier-BellFin Costello, Getty Images

14. He Changed Things Up

Bolan finally saw some movement in his music, though likely not the way he imagined. One of his songs got placed in a toothpaste commercial, which brought in some revenue. But his other singles didn’t do too well. That’s when Napier-Bell came up with his next bright idea—to put Bolan in a band. It didn’t quite go like he hoped.

Marc Bolan singingApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

15. They Got Too Frisky

In 1967, Bolan joined the band John’s Children as a singer-songwriter. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for his writing to embroil him in scandal. The BBC banned a song he wrote for the band, “Desdemona” thanks to the line “lift up your skirt and fly”. Bolan said he wrote the line about witches on their broomsticks. Either way, he finally decided to take a major pause.

Marc Bolan singingApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

16. He Took A Break

John’s Children never amounted to anything much. So after this long string of failures, and a sorry attempt at a tour in Germany with the group, Bolan finally put an end to the whole thing. He left the band and took a break from music altogether. That didn’t mean he stayed idle, though. In fact, it seems his mind became more weirdly active than ever.

image of Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)


17. He Lived In His Daydreams

During this break, Marc Bolan dived deep into the intricate and sometimes bizarre depths of his own mind. He created prolifically, coming out of the period with new original songs, poems, and even full-on fantasy novels. And while that all sounds innocuous enough, one particular story of this time brings his mental state into serious question.

image of Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

18. He Believed In Magic

Allegedly, Bolan insisted that he also bonded with a wizard during this time—and that’s not all. Not only did he insist the wizard levitated, but he said the wizard imparted his secret wisdom to him. Whether or not you believe that story, clearly something happened. His return to music turned out to be quite magical.

image of Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

19. He Came Back Fresh

Bolan returned to music with new resolve and inspiration. He put together his own rock band, dubbing it Tyrannosaurus Rex. With Napier-Bell still on board as his manager, perhaps he felt much more optimistic about his potential. Unfortunately for him, though, he experienced one more embarrassing fiasco before he really got his chance to shine.

T-Rex At The Weeley FestivalMichael Putland, Getty Images

20. He Moved Too Fast

Early in the band’s career, Bolan secured a chance to perform at a hippie club in London. Now when I say early in their career, I mean they had just started to play together. According to Napier-Bell, Bolan put the band together just hours before they actually performed. Take one not-so-wild guess at how that went down…

image of Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

21. His Band Tanked

The band really didn’t know what they were doing—and the audience was brutal. The crowd actually booed them off the stage. With his idea of an electric band ripped to shreds from the embarrassment, Bolan took a 180-degree turn on the band. He went the folk route, focusing on a more acoustic sound. And with that, attempt number 1,000 or so at his music career, Bolan finally hit the gold mine.

T.Rextasypoppy, Flickr

22. He Found His Groove

Audiences loved the acoustic version of Tyrannosaurus Rex. They came out the gate swinging, with one of their early singles “Debora” charting in the top 40 in the UK. They went on to release two chart-ranking albums, building out their fanbase. And as it turned out, Bolan managed to hit the gold mine in his love life too.

An old 7inch vinyl record by the band T-RexGo My Media, Shutterstock


23. He Fell Hard(er)

Bolan dated his first girlfriend right up until the first time he laid eyes on his manager’s secretary—a smart, intellectual, older woman—June Child. According to several reports, he fell in love right away. And by several other reports, Child fell right along with him. That seems like the only reasonable explanation for their next pretty rash decision.

Photo of Marc BOLAN and June CHILDEstate Of Keith Morris, Getty Images

24. They Made It Official

The two moved in together shortly after their initial meeting, and officially tied the knot in 1970. They enjoyed many blissful days together, and Child would read to Bolan out loud to entertain his wild imagination. Even more than that, she brought a wealth of music business knowledge into the relationship. And with that, Bolan’s rise became almost unstoppable.

Crop bride and groom holding hands in dancePhotography Maghradze PH, Pexels

25. He Did It Again

The king of reinvention by this point, Bolan began to revamp his style in the early 1970s, to even more success and fanfare. It began with a move back to electric guitar, and the release of his original song “Ride a White Swan”. The stellar success of the song officially made Bolan a superstar. And with his newfound stardom, he created a whole new image.

Marc Bolan maskedApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

26. He Kept It Pretty

This is when Bolan’s signature and unusual style really started pushing the boundaries of what audiences expected from rock musicians. It started with the way he dressed. Taking inspiration from his new wife, Bolan began wearing clothing considered more feminine at the time. He didn’t really go over the top, though, until one unforgettable performance.

portrait of Marc bolanBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

27. He Did It In Public

In 1971, Bolan landed an opportunity to perform on BBC’s famed Top of the Pops showHe emerged on stage with an embellishment that shocked everyone—glitter teardrops painted under his eyes. With that, he basically birthed the concept of “glam rock”. The audience ate it up. But things with his career didn’t always sparkle quite so brightly behind the scenes…

portrait of Marc bolan playing guitarBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

28. They Tricked Him

Marc Bolan fell out with his record label that very same year. Reportedly, his label released one of his songs without his permission. Granted, it does seem like it's ultimately up to labels when to release songs, but Bolan refused to take it lying down. In fact, he took it on his feet, signing with another company. Luckily for him, his starpower led the way out the door.

portrait of Marc BolanBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

29. He Did His Thing

And quite literally so. The next music publisher let him create his own record label, which he dubbed T Rex Wax Co. With that, he went on to create another two number one hits, “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru”. When he realized the fans dug his new style, he seemed to push his outlandish fashions as far as he could get away with.

Marc Bolan maskedApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

30. He Dialed It Up

With his creativity fully given the space to unleash, Marc Bolan added a feather boa and a top hat to his outfits. The origin stories for his fabulous outfits vary, but regardless, he bore the credit for taking glam to a whole other level. But, of course, his androgynous styling brought on a whole host of gossip. And his response to it all was surprising.

portrait of Marc bolan playing guitarBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

31. He Liked It All

Bolan’s unique style brought on frequent questions about his romantic preferences. Bolan answered these questions so frankly, it left people shocked. He didn’t shy away from things, eventually outright saying in an interview that he liked both men and women. By now, you’re probably wondering how that affected the love of his life. Well, the honeymoon period slowly but surely came to a halt.

portrait of Marc bolan playing guitarBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

32. He Stepped Out

Allegedly, Bolan engaged in multiple extramarital affairs during his marriage to Childs. In several cases, these affairs included celebrities, as was the case in his relationships with Marsha Hunt and Barbara Nessim. While Bolan’s cheating tore away at the foundations of his marriage, other serious factors started to work at demolishing his career.

Newspapers about Marc BolanBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

33. He Couldn’t Make It

Hitting it big over in the United States became one of Bolan’s obsessions. He made several attempts at crossover hits, but never really got any notable recognition. Those close to him say this turned out to be one of the major disappointments of his career. Watching one of his good friends get exactly what he wanted didn’t help either.

Marc bolan and david bowieBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

34. He Had A Famous Frenemy

David Bowie and Bolan met quite early in both their careers. Bolan saw his own star rise before Bowie hit his stride, and even let Bowie open for him. But Bowie ultimately surpassed his friend, earning the stateside success Bolan never did. They fell out of favor with each other more than once. But in the end, Bolan had much more serious issues to handle.

English singer and musician David BowieMichael Putland, Getty Images

35. He Fell Too Hard

In 1973, Bolan’s wife June Child finally came to the end of her rope. She’d lived through several of Bolan’s affairs (with men and women) by then, and even purposely ended pregnancies for fear of having a family with him. Still, she stayed with him for three long years, until one shocking discovery seemingly hit all too close to home.

Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

36. She Gave Up

Child called it quits when she found out about Bolan’s romantic relationship with one of his backup singers, Gloria Jones. But either way, Bolan added insult to injury by taking his relationship with Jones public. By the following year, though, things took a tragic turn.

image of Marc BolanBMG Rights Management, Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex (2022)

37. He Had His Vices

Like many musicians and rockers of his time, Marc Bolan found himself caught up in a world of partying—which included overindulging. It seems his new lover, Jones, also engaged in drinking and substance abuse, making them a dangerous match. Surprisingly, none of these scandalous details made a huge dent on his public persona. Or perhaps, his talent for reinvention kept audiences distracted.

Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

38. He Kept Evolving

In the mid to late 1970s, Marc Bolan experienced another shift in his music. He still did a bit of touring, but he found his new spotlight on television, appearing regularly on the pop show Supersonic. Audiences loved him so much that he got his own TV show in 1977—but not before his relationship troubles served up their own bit of drama.

Image of Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

39. She Wanted Her Due

Though Bolan and Child separated back in 1973, they remained technically married, even though Bolan lived with and already had a child with his lover, Jones. To finally make things official, Child sued for divorce in 1976. The court granted the divorce, meant to take effect by the next year. And Bolan? He shrugged it off with a stunning revelation.

Marc Bolan, Gloria Jones, and their son Rolan BolanJohn Downing, Getty Images

40. She Wasn’t His Type

According to interviews post this court decision, Bolan made lengthy statements to the press. He said that he and his soon-to-be ex-wife just grew apart. But then he added even more detail. He finished his statement by saying, “Anyway, I’m gay”. Not sure how that squares up with the fact that he was with Jones at the time, but, in the end, it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Marc BolanApple Corps, Born to Boogie (1972)

41. He Couldn’t Do It

Of all the outrageous and groundbreaking moves Marc Bolan made during his career, there’s one seemingly simple thing he refused to do. Bolan never learned to drive, and never wanted to. He actually seemed to have a fear of driving, which meant Child and eventually Jones became his official drivers. Perhaps he had good reason to be afraid, considering his devastating end.

Singers Gloria Jones and Marc BolanHulton Deutsch, Getty Images

42. She Lost Control

It all happened on the evening of September 16, 1977. Marc Bolan and Gloria Jones stayed out late at a club in London, drinking heavily. When they finally decided to head home, with Jones in the driver seat, tragedy struck. Their vehicle spun out of control and crashed into a fence. Jones got away with some broken bones, but for Bolan, things were much more dire.

Marc Bolan car deathPA Images, Getty Images

43. They Said Goodbye

Just a few years short of his 30th birthday, Bolan’s stint of stardom came to the most unexpected end. Several stars attended his funeral, including Bowie, who’d recently made amends with Bolan over an appearance on his show. And though Bolan himself laid to rest, the consequences of his life still came to haunt those he claimed to love.

Rock star Rod StewartPA Images, Getty Images

44. She Got Nothing

Even though the court ordered Bolan’s divorce from Child, the decree didn’t go into effect before he died. That meant that his new partner, Jones, got absolutely none of his fortune after his passing. Luckily, Bolan did make sure to leave some money for their son in a trust for when he became an adult. Until then, though, Jones found herself desperate.

A white swan at hte funeral of Marc BolanPA Images, Getty Images

45. His Frenemy Came To The Rescue

Enter Bowie, who took it upon himself to care for Jones and Bolan’s son after his passing. According to Bolan’s son, “David’s generosity helped us survive”. It certainly seems that, despite his failures, Bolan meant enough to Bowie to inspire his generosity. Unfortunately, neither Bolan’s reputation nor Bowie’s money could save Jones..

David Bowie performs his final concert as Ziggy StardustExpress, Getty Images

46. She Ran Away

After spending time in the hospital for her injuries, Jones found herself up against court charges for her role in Bolan’s passing. Likely terrified, she fled the UK with their son, never to return. The authorities eventually ruled the situation an accident, which definitely seems most likely. But there is at least one other theory a little too juicy not to mention.

Gloria JonesHarald Bischoff, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

47. Things Could Have Been Different

Some reports claim that, prior to the crash, Bolan actually tried to reconcile things with his wife. Thus, some fans think Jones got into the car accident on purpose, supposedly angry that Bolan wanted to leave her. There’s no real evidence for that theory, but it’s certainly not impossible, all things considered. Luckily for Bolan, his artistry speaks louder than any surviving gossip.

Photo of Gloria JONES and Marc BOLANEstate Of Keith Morris, Getty Images

48. His Style Lived On

Long past his few years on earth, Bolan’s original style continued to permeate the genre he basically created. He inspired the fashion of several icons, including British superstar Freddie Mercury. His mix of feminine and masculine likely also inspired many of the luxury brands we laud today. And if you think you’ve never actually listened to his music, you’re probably wrong.

Rock star Freddie MercuryGraham Wiltshire, Flickr

49. His Music Went Everywhere

Bolan’s music inspired a whole new wave of artists, including Johnny Marr and Boy George. Even more than that, though, his music permeated pop culture with its placements in now-classic movies like 2000’s Almost Famous and 2003’s School of Rock. Perhaps, when talent is as great and groundbreaking as Bolan, its influence truly never dies.

Boy GeorgeEva Rinaldi, Flickr

50. They Didn’t Forget Him

A shrine to Bolan’s memory remains at the notorious site of his passing. Even today, fans continue to leave their notes of tribute at the site, taking a moment to acknowledge his contribution to rock. He didn’t get many years on earth, or even to enjoy his own wealth and success. But Marc Bolan certainly made the very most of every second he got, and did it in style.

Marc Bolan's rock Shrine Memorial in BarnesMirrorpix, Getty Images

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