Mar 07

T REX – “Metal Guru”

FT + Popular19 comments • 5,002 views

#313, 20th May 1972

“Metal Guru” finds the T Rex sound reaching critical mass: it’s all hook and muscle, a thick platinum noise that brings the band right into line with the emergent glam mainstream: Gary Glitter’s “Rock And Roll Parts 1 and 2”, which just missed number one, uses the same iconic beat, and the rollercoaster backing “whoooooooaaaa”s anticipate the Sweet’s klaxon rush on “Blockbuster”. After this, it was plateau for Bolan – “Children Of The Revolution” and “20th Century Boy” have the same wallop as “Metal Guru” but don’t move the sound forward – and then decline, the density coming to sound clumsy and forced as the hits ran out.

A great deal was lost on the journey from “Hot Love” to here – most obviously a nimbleness Bolan had carried over from the woodland boogie years, but also a giddy way with a groove, a spry sexiness – only the Pied Piper voice and the compacted lyrics really link that record to this. But the simple wham of “Metal Guru” almost makes the sacrifice worth it: like the best glam it has an incredible immediacy, a commitment to style, texture and joy over subtlety, a puppyish eagerness to show itself off that I can’t help falling for.




  1. 1
    Tom on 27 Mar 2007 #

    Looking at that sleeve his sound wasn’t the only thing that was thickening.

  2. 2
    Rosie on 27 Mar 2007 #

    The mixture as before, only more tediously repetitive still. I can’t see myself giving it more than a workmanlike 5, and that would be pushing it. 4 would be nearer the mark for me.

    Mind you, I’m a bit down on Bolan at the moment. I don’t know what it’s like down in the nesh south, but up here in Granada-land Children of the Revolution is being used ad nauseam to sell sofas!

  3. 3
    Lena on 27 Mar 2007 #

    Whenever I think of this I always hear The Smiths’ “Panic” in my head at the same time…

  4. 4
    Erithian on 27 Mar 2007 #

    My favourite T Rex number one, principally because of the primal scream of “WaaaaaaaaaAAAAAaaaaaaah yeahhhhhhh” in the intro. Let’s face it, what pop song wouldn’t benefit from a quick “WaaaaaaaaaAAAAAaaaaaaah yeahhhhhhh” two bars in? Think what it would do for your average Westlife track.

    Number 2 Watch – Marc held off David Cassidy’s “Could It Be Forever?” and Elton John’s first Number 2 “Rocket Man”.

  5. 5
    Tom on 27 Mar 2007 #

    ! What an obvious connection Lena – and one I’d never spotted despite “Panic” being an absolute touchstone song for teenage me.

    That may be why I liked it so instantly, actually.

  6. 6
    jeff w on 27 Mar 2007 #

    Was it Chris Roberts or one of the other MM writers of the late 80s / early 90s who wrote so vividly of hearing the news that this had got to #1 and feeling as if part of his identity had fallen into place, that he belonged to something finally?

    That bit of prose struck a chord, although I was too young really to be a part of T-Rexstasy. I made do with getting a sense of the phenomenon via my sister (3 yrs older than me at nearly 10), who suddenly made clear her love for Marc at this point. This was the first moment I became aware of fandom, that people who made pop records could be idols, objects of lust.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 27 Mar 2007 #

    Along with “WaaaaaaaaaAAAAAaaaaaaah yeahhhhhhh”, the other moment of heartlifting audacity on this single – that always makes me glad that I’m hearing it – is Bolan’s coining of the phrase “just like a silver-studded sabre-toothed dream”, which is more like Ben Jonson than Gary Glitter in its opulence.

  8. 8
    Marcello Carlin on 28 Mar 2007 #

    Of course Glitter was all about the minimalist avoidance of words; at the time he was apt to compare himself to Brando in Last Tango in terms of the grunts being all that are needed.

    Looking forward to Tom’s view on the double G very eagerly indeed…

  9. 9
    intothefireuk on 29 Mar 2007 #

    ‘Jeepster’ was the first Bolan record that really caught my attention and ‘Metal Guru’ was the icing on the cake. Visconti & Bolan conjure up a ‘Spector-ish’ wall of sound and Marc is still on form and at the top of his game. The opening scream and wailing guitar, killer riff and sheer density of sound clinch the deal for me. A perfect pop 10.

  10. 10
    Doctor Casino on 25 May 2007 #

    Funnily enough, of all these T-Rex songs Popular has made me aware of, this is the one that I find popping into my head. Maybe that’s because it’s become so blunt and walloping, but the hook does its job and I admire that. I also like how the verses, with all their layering and the way the distorted guitar sound picks up the role of a brass ensemble, sound like they’re actually codas from a psychedelic band, cut loose from their original context and made to serve another purpose entirely. I’m not sure I can quite put this into words – but the meat of this song sounds like it’s supposed to be the big singalong finale to something like, I dunno, “Sub Rosa Subway” by Klaatu – or “All Around The World” by Oasis for that matter.

    So from the moment the song begins, you’re being cued to signifiers of group identity and belonging – no wonder the unknown individual cited by Jeff could feel like he was on the cusp of a movement! The only probably is, where can a song possibly go when it starts with the repeated chant climax?

  11. 11
    Doctor Casino on 25 May 2007 #

    Comparing the beat to “Rock And Roll 1 & 2” is a bit generous though. Glitter’s beat pounds this one into the dust.

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 2 Jul 2008 #

    I’m joining this discussion late in the day – but wanted to add that this was the first single I ever bought, after seeing it performed on TOTP. It cost a weeks pocket money and I carried it home like a radioactive isotope which in some sense it was. I remember raving at Bolan’s ability to throw his guitar up in the air catch it and carry on playing not being familiar with the whole miming thing. I also remember being impressed that there were two tracks on the B-side – bargain!

  13. 13
    andsayyoutried on 1 Apr 2011 #

    Lightning Bolt could have done one helluva cover of this. I’m serious and all!

    As if it needs to be said: 10

  14. 14
    lonepilgrim on 16 Sep 2012 #

    35 years ago today

  15. 15
    Lena on 21 Oct 2012 #

    David is the word: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-importance-of-being-earnest-david.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  16. 16
    Lena on 23 Oct 2012 #

    A long long time indeed: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-grounding-emotion-elton-john-rocket.html Ta for reading everyone!

  17. 17
    Adam on 22 Mar 2015 #

    Yes I’ve been going through this project from the first post and it’s becoming apparent that glam rock is where Tom and I diverge in taste… that pesky Atlantic Ocean.

  18. 18
    Gareth Parker on 18 May 2021 #

    I’m with Rosie (#2). 4/10 would be my mark. Sorry, can’t see much in this myself. Preferred some of Bolan’s singles that didn’t make to #1, 20th Century Boy etc.

  19. 19
    Mark M on 18 May 2021 #

    Mostly associated in my head in latter years with the question of: has this been turned into a chant for a former Arsenal now Chelsea target man? And, if not, why not?

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