T.Rex only had one major hit that got any significant amount of radio airplay in America, and it wasn’t on The Slider. The majority of T.Rex songs you’ve heard in movies, TV, or the radio came from the ever-essential Electric Warrior— an album that defined Marc Bolan’s boogie for T.Rex descendants across musical genres. But The Slider is, in many ways, the bold and boisterous younger brother of Electric Warrior.
Electric Warrior starts out with the quiet, cool, slow groove of “Mambo Sun”. The Slider starts with a wail– “Whoah OHH oh yeaaaaahhhhh!” Opening the album with “Metal Guru” kicks it off with a party, not a Bolan smolder. Not as cool, maybe, but it spells out its terms from “go”: This album is going to be fun as hell. It keeps the same whimsical ’50s-rock-meets-Lewis-Carroll lyrics that he minted in Electric Warrior (“Metal Guru has it been,/ Just like a silver-studded sabretooth dream,/ I’ll be clean, you know, pollution machine, oh yeah!”) and he definitely held onto that boogie.
Yes, those slow, cool driving power chords are found on the title track, wherein Bolan discusses how he’s never, never kissed a car before (it’s like a door). Actually, his love of cars was a theme– interesting for a man who couldn’t drive (and, tragically, died in a car crash– a correlation that Chuck Klosterman went on to point out in Killing Yourself To Live). “The Slider” builds with a steady blues riff, until Bolan wails, “And when I’m sad,/ I slide.” It’s a song that juxtaposes strings, backup singers, and that steady blues rhythm expertly.
The album goes through a few moods, but they all follow that “fun as hell” thesis statement. With “Buick McKane”, Bolan exudes a snarling lust. He gets flirtatious (with mystique, of course) on “Baby Strange”. He name-drops John Lennon and Bob Dylan while keeping it cool for the ladies on “Ballrooms of Mars” while killing it at the alliteration game (“You a gutter-gaunt gangster”).
Aside from being a solid record through and through, The Slider is a showcase for Marc Bolan: the icon and celebrity. He’s a Poet with a capital-P, he’s a superstar, he’s the next Beatles– that’s legitimately what people thought. He was confident (read: cocky), and he hung around with superstars– Ringo Starr, Elton John, and David Bowie were all friends. And for a while there, he was on top– watch Born To Boogie, the Starr-directed T. Rex concert film, where he plays The Mad Hatter (or himself in a top hat– who knows) and is worshiped by screaming British teen girls. He was the curly haired face of a glam revolution.
And why shouldn’t he be the face of some sort of revolution? One listen to The Slider is an indication that this guy knew how to sell “cool,” and he sold it with great music. And his big rock star hair didn’t hurt, either. His vibratto-laced coo is counterbalanced by his driving rhythm guitar. There’s a blue base in these songs, but they keep a definitive T.Rex gloss.
The Slider closes with another slow, cool rocker– “Main Man”. It’s a repetitive acoustic guitar number where Bolan’s baritone is met with an absurd falsetto harmony. But with a line like “Bolan likes to rock now,/ Yes he does,” it’s a song that gives you time to think about all the album’s flavors, be it the high drama of “Rabbit Fighter”, the pretentious intimacy of “Spaceball Ricochet”, or the old-time boogie of “Baby Boomerang”. Maybe it’s not the definitive T.Rex album, but man is it a good time.