Marc Bolan’s life started to change dramatically on October 24, 1970. For all of the awareness and admiration of Tyrannosaurus Rex, two years of their singles releases had yielded just one appearance in the UK Top 30, with “One Inch Rock.” The earlier “Debora” had peaked at No.34 and 1969’s “King Of The Rumbling Spires” outside the Top 40. But the autumn of 1970 brought the feeling of a relaunch, with the new name T. Rex, a new label and a new entry on the singles chart with “Ride A White Swan.”
The single was the duo of Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn’s first under the newly-abbreviated name, and the first for the Fly label, newly-formed by David Platz with the support of Track Records’ The Who management team of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. “Ride A White Swan” itself was a step in a new direction, too. Its better-focused pop sound and strong guitar framework had a Tony Visconti production that included the addition, after the track was otherwise completed, of a string arrangement that elevated the track no end.
The ten-shilling tour
Some airplay on BBC Radio 1 led to initial sales, and once “Swan” was playlisted and the band performed it on Top Of The Pops, it was on its way. The other key factor in T.Rex’s breakthrough was the booking of a tour that started the week after the single’s release. Ticket prices were pegged to a maximum of ten shillings, or 50p as it would become a few months later when decimalization was introduced.
The tour, which ran through the rest of the year, sold out, with the group announcing its expansion to a three-piece with the addition of Steve Currie in December. “Ride A White Swan” rode the charts all the way to No.2, and Bolanmania was just around the corner.
“Ride A White Swan” is on the deluxe edition of T.Rex, which can be bought here.
Follow the 70s playlist for more of the decade’s classic pop hits.