What is pop sensibility? How does someone come up with something that can roar in and shag the zeitgeist into submission?
Marc Bolan did it for four years straight in the early 1970s. He was a rock and roll fan who loved Eddie Cochran, hung out at the 2i's coffee bar with all the early sixties greats and generally absorbed every hook ever written. The greatest hit he had was Get It On, which ends with him crooning over the rideout, "But meanwhile, I'm still thinking," a Chuck Berry line from Little Queenie. (Well, Chuck actually sings "Meanwhile, I's still thinking" - but that would be a stretch for a boy from Hackney.)
One record that he did not approve of as a single was released by his old record company just as he jumped to form his own T. Rex Wax Co. He thought the timing was wrong for the release, and he may have been right, but the single flew up the charts. It was Jeepster, a cars'n'girls singalong that walked the knife edge between being breathily up-close sexual and wide-angle laddishness - a combination that very few lads can pull off.
Apart from the obvious Chuck Berryism of singing about a car while singing about sex, what else went on in Jeepster?
It owes its origins to something darker and swampier than Chuck, Gene and Eddie. The rhythm is from Howlin' Wolf's You'll Be Mine. It's hard to imagine the 5' 4" skinny white Londoner Boppin' Elf listening to the six foot big black southern voodoo man, rewriting it and pulling it off, but hey, everyone digs the blues one way or another. All roads point to the delta eventually.
Here's Mr. Wolf.
And here's the Boppin' Elf.
At that huge Wembley gig, Marc Bolan is wearing a t shirt with his own face on it. That may be the ultimate clue to understanding Marc Bolan. I just totally love it.