Telegram Sam – T.Rex – 1970

Telegram-Sam -T.RixBack in the early 70s, Tyrannosaurus Rex (later renamed T. Rex), led by Marc Bolan, helped create a whole new musical genre – glam rock.

glam rock defined

Glam Rock grew out of the UK music scene in the early 70s. It’s a style of rock music performed by musicians who wore outrageous  clothes (including platform-soled boots), makeup (including glitter – hence the name Glitter Rock), and hairstyles.

Glam rock stars include, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Gary Glitter and, of course, T.Rex.  On the other side of the Atlantic Glam Rock  was promoted by acts like New York Dolls and KISS.

the wonder of music

The wonder of music is that, with just a handful of notes to play with, bands able to create new and unique sounds.  In the 1970s one of those bands was T.Rex.

T.Rex are, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most original bands of all time.  Their music was based on the simple but smooth guitar skills of Marc Bolan.  Marc had the ability to play in such a way that he slid into chords giving them the cool, distinctive T.Rex sound.


So, a few years ago a friend of one of my daughters is looking through my CD collection.  I have a rather eclectic mix of artists and so it is not surprising that there are a few musicians who are not really mainstream.  What a surprise, however, to hear this young friend ask, “Who’s T.Rex?”

I sometimes find it sad that history, albeit rock ‘n’ roll history, can so easily slip away and be forgotten.

tyrannosaurus rex reincarnated

In the ten years between 1968 and Marc Bolan’s death in 1977, T.Rex released a phenomenal 12 albums.

The first four were released under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex and were more folk-rock style.  Tyrannosaurus Rex were, in essence, a duo made up of Marc Bolan and percussionist, Steve Peregrin Took.

In 1970  the band lengthened their playing roster and shortened their name to T.Rex before reincarnating themselves as a glam rock band.

t.rex – success

In the early 70s T. Rex record sales accounted for about 6% of total British domestic record sales – that’s phenomenal!  The band was reportedly selling 100,000 records a day.

One aspect of T. Rex’s success that bugged many diehard fans is that, in addition to five number #1 hit records, the band also had four #2 records.  The frustrating thing is that three of these records were prevented from occupying the #1 slot by novelty songs; Clive Dunn’s  ‘Granddad,’ Benny Hill’s ‘Ernie,’ and Little Jimmy Osmond’s, ‘Long Haired Lover From Liverpool.’

early demise

The disbanding of T.Rex was precipitated by Marc’s premature death on September 16th 1977.

Marc Bolan - T.RexBecause he feared dying young, Marc never learned to drive.  It’s ironic then that he died when a car, driven by his girlfriend (and well known musician), Gloria Jones, struck a tree in Queens Ride, Barnes, London.

The site of the crash is now officially recognised and goes by the name, Bolan’s Rock Shrine.

David Bowie and Rod Stewart attended Marc’s funeral.  Marc had always proclaimed himself Jewish, the religion of his father.  However, because his mother was not a Jew, he was, under Orthodox Jewish Law considered a Gentile.  That meant he was not accorded a Jewish funeral.

In a strange quirk of fate, less than four years later, fellow T. Rex member Steve Currie also died in a car crash.

telegram sam fax;

  • Telegram Sam T.Rex’s third #1 single in the UK. It appears on their album The Slider.  Also on that album were Metal Guru, The Slider and Speedball Ricochet.
  • Marc Bolan wrote Telegram Sam about his accountant, Sam Alder.  Adler had sent Marc a telegram telling him that “Get It On” had reached #1 on the UK charts.  Hence, Marc’s nickname for him – Telegram Sam.
  • In Telegram Sam Marc calls Sam Alder his “main man.”  This term then entered popular culture.  The Urban Dictionary defines main man as: my homeboy or best friend; usually used when the person in question hooks you up with a sweet deal.
  • Telegram Sam’s lyric features numerous figures such as Bobby (who is a natural born poet who is just outta sight), Golden Nose Slim (who knows where you been), Jungle Faced Jake (make no mistake) and Purple Pie Pete (his lips are like lightening, girls melt in the heat).  (Some people suggest Bobby, the natural poet,  refers to Bob Dylan).
  • Marc refers to himself in the song buy singing, “Me I funk, but I don’t care, I ain’t no square with my corkscrew hair.”  This line was used by the band KMFDM in their song “Me I Funk”.
  • When T.Rex signed with EMI, they were given their own label, T.Rex Wax Co.  Telegram Sam was the first single to be issued on this label.
  • Telegram Sam’s B-side featured two songs (as did many T.Rex singles), “Cadilac”[sic] and “Baby Strange.”
  • In 1980, the gothic rock band Bauhaus covered Telegram Sam.
  • Telegram Sam lyrics  

2 Responses to Telegram Sam – T.Rex – 1970

  1. Nick Hall says:

    I was part of that T.rex madness. Yes I was a fan, getting into them in 1970 and out of them by mid 72. His best work being A Beard Of Stars, all of Electric Warrior and some of The Slider. After the single Telegram Sam it was enough for me. I got into Bowie. Bolan completely lost the magic. He pumped out too many singles in every year up to his sad death. He needed to put more effort into making great albums. I had that talent in 67 – 71 and part of 72. I must just add that the album Dandy In The Underworld in 77 was almost a return to the great. So who knows was around the corner.

    • Greg.K. says:

      You may be right – it wasn’t an either/or for me… to say Bowie was/is great is to state the obvious. But I loved and still do love Marc and T-Rex. I admire any artist who is able to take basic rock music and create a sound that is different… amazing that all these years on, people can still do that! 🙂

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