Nov 06

T REX – “Hot Love”

FT + Popular172 comments • 19,105 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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  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.

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    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.

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

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