Nov 06

T REX – “Hot Love”

FT + Popular172 comments • 23,952 views

#298, 20th March 1971

I long ago read a piece by Jonathan King, an attack on 70s pop as opposed to the 60s version. King’s argument was that the big stars who emerged in the early seventies – Bolan, Bowie, Elton – were all failed sixties wannabes who had only managed to become famous because the real stars had cleared the pitch. (“JK” himself was exempt from this, naturally, because of “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon”).

Obviously this argument is bogglingly unfair (you might as well say that the Beatles were failed skiffle stars) but for Bolan and Bowie he is touching on something important. Both men had been around the scene since the mid-60s, trying on and shaking off styles, hunting for the look and sound that would give them their breakthrough. Bowie turned that restlessness into a schtick in itself; Bolan’s winning style was so monolithically perfect he stuck with it until he died. (There’s a lot more pleasure and depth in the Bowie catalogue, but none of his singles – and few of anybody’s – are as magnificently formed as “Hot Love”, “Metal Guru”, “Children Of The Revolution”, et al.)

These prehistories of relative failure make pop more interesting. They seem less common now than they did when I was a kid, though. Take the Stone Roses, a band who won’t be bothering Popular but who have muscled into the canon on the strength of their debut album. At the time the NME let us know soon enough that the Roses had spent half a decade clattering round the Manchester Goth scene, casting about for a style, thinking very hard about how to craft a sound and image. I didn’t love them any less for it. When the word “manufactured” has such common currency in pop, it’s worth being reminded that almost every great act involves at least a degree of self-manufacture.

Self-manufacture was the front-and-centre principle of glam rock. Though Marc Bolan looked terrific, I’ll save comments on the imagery of glam for later: in any case, “Hot Love” is all about a band excited by sonic possibilities, possibilities opened up by the simple addition of drums and bass to T Rex’s nursery-rhyme pop-folk. The name for the possibilities is “groove”, and “Hot Love”‘s is wickedly playful – those staccato drum flourishes are like chorus-line high kicks, and though the song starts as a blues pastiche a la “Baby Jump”, this is a teasing, confident re-imagining of the blues, not a cack-handed sardonic plod through them. (The “Hot Love” groove is also highly enduring – I first fell in love with the song in Justus Kohnke’s version, by which time the rhythm had been brushed up, digitised, and called schaffel)

The band in fact get so excited that they never want to stop. We’ve had massive codas in pop before, of course, in fact we’ve had a big “na-na-na” singalong finale feature on this blog quite recently. So why does “Hot Love” work and “Hey Jude” not? It’s faster, which never hurts. And partly it’s that sense of possibility – “Hey Jude” is the biggest band in the world throwing its weight around, whereas “Hot Love” is a new-ish kid on the block, giddy with the excitement of having found his very own philosophers stone. Also the build-up to the coda is different – with “Hey Jude” the song has been getting bigger and heavier for several minutes anyway, so the coda is like a cumbersome supertanker gradually braking. “Hot Love” doesn’t have much build-up, so the coda feels much cheekier. Every time Bolan starts another round of “la la la”s he sounds like he’s getting away with something, rewriting more of the world in his newborn glitter image, and then inviting us to join in for as long as we dare make it last.




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  1. 151
    admin on 15 Dec 2013 #

    I’ve resorted to trying out a plugin that allows me to set specific posts to accept comments from logged in users only. So far this is the only post I’ve activated that option for. the rest of the site is unaffected

  2. 152
    Philomena on 20 May 2014 #

    T REX – Hot Loѵe | FreakyTrіǥger

  3. 153
    hectorthebat on 17 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 6
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  4. 154
    Harryo on 1 Sep 2014 #

    If you check this tune on Youtube not once does one have to sit through a commercial to view any version of this song. Perhaps the internet has given it less than a 10.

  5. 155
    mark g on 30 Sep 2014 #

    Blog blogger?

  6. 156
    Obvious Spam website.. on 2 Oct 2014 #

    I’m not doing my homework in a babydoll, sorry.

  7. 157
    Mark G on 22 Oct 2014 #

    Not me for a kickoff!

  8. 158
    Nixon on 20 Nov 2014 #

    For anyone who doesn’t read Arabic, the spam post at #159 just says “Download films! Download films! Download films!” over and over again.

    Anyway, I was just listening to this – I love it so much, and I’m endlessly amused that for all the various times people have said “(Record X) is a 2-minute song stretched out to five”, this one actually IS a two minute song with three glorious minutes of ascent padding tacked on the end, and I remembered Tom’s comment about it feeling like Marc was giddily getting away with something each time the record doesn’t fade out (especially on the version I’m listening to where the band finally collapse into fits of silly giggles and yet more na-na-na’s) so I wanted to read the review again.

  9. 159
    Mark G on 20 Nov 2014 #

    Yeah, and Mickey’s harmony na-na-na’s like they thought of another way to add something more before the fade

  10. 160
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  14. 164
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  15. 165
    Tom on 21 May 2015 #

    Its piqued ffs.

  16. 166
    Steve Mannion on 21 May 2015 #

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  17. 167
    Mark G on 21 May 2015 #

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  18. 168
    Mark G on 3 Dec 2015 #

    That’s very interesting. But inappropriate.

  19. 169
    Phil on 3 Oct 2016 #

    I remember this coming out; it was utterly, utterly wonderful, but so was every other T Rex single right from (consults Wikipedia)… right from 1971 to early 1973. A 10? Maybe. Hard to judge. Hard to refuse, put it that way – although I thought at the time that “Metal Guru” was the most ecstatic blast of music ever recorded ever anywhere by anyone ever, so I might have held back the 10 for that great sf glam landslide.

    On the song structure, I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Teenage Fanclub’s “Norman 3”, or the Homosexuals’ “Divorce (Proceedings) From Reality”*. They’re both exemplars of the “minimal song with huge fade”, and probably neither would have been possible without this song. I agree that this song (as well as those two) is light-years away from the superficially similar “Hey Jude” – that’s lumbering and smug** (“how can we end this brilliant song? let’s just not end it at all!”) where this is light-footed and oddly punky in its nihilistic self-assurance (“how about this for something different? fooled you, it’s the same thing again!”).

    *OK, not very surprised about the second one.
    **I’d give it a few more than 4, though. The movement you need is on your shoulder!

  20. 170
    lonepilgrim on 21 Jul 2018 #

    as a kid I experienced pop as part of a general flow of entertainment that i just eavesdropped on – it said nothing to me about my life, nor did I expect it to. As I moved into my second decade friends and classmates began to talk about records and argue about what was good or not.’Hot Love’ met with approval. My best friend got a copy of ‘Electric Warrior’ and suddenly the idea of buying and owning records myself became a possibility. There’s something delightfully airy and open about this and is Bolan at his most charming for me

  21. 171
    Chad Wedeven on 28 Nov 2020 #

    The third ever 10 for a song I’ve never heard of: being American is strange here.

  22. 172
    Gareth Parker on 27 May 2021 #

    I’m afraid Hot Love rather outstays its welcome in my opinion. 5/10.

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