T.Rex: The stories behind The Slider and Tanx
Put a rock star under enough pressure and they’ll crumble or create diamonds. Producer Tony Visconti recalls his time in the studio with Marc Bolan and T.Rex, recording The Slider and Tanx
It’s spring 1972 and Marc Bolan, the rest of T.Rex and producer Tony Visconti – who tells this story – are in a limo travelling from Orly airport to the 18th-century Château d’Hérouville (recently kitted out as a residential studio facility) close to Paris for a crucial recording session. Bolan is swigging liberally from a bottle of Courvoisier and waywardly improvising a blues song. ‘I’m an old bulldog,’ he repeats, not getting any further with the lyrics. He tries to cajoles everybody to join in, but they’re not in the mood. They shuffle awkwardly and find something out of the window to pretend to look at. “Everybody sing ‘I’m an old bulldog!’” Bolan exhorts. “Come on, you c**ts!” Eventually percussionist Mickey Finn acquiesces. The others are too irritated and demoralised to comply.
Upon arrival at the Château, at first things don’t improve. Bolan wants “the star’s bedroom”, failing to grasp that that’s the owner’s room. At the dining table he hurries the band along, telling them he’s not paying them to eat, he’s paying them to make a record. As they’re still on £75 a week and Visconti’s royalty has recently been halved, the camp is not a happy one.
“Marc had started to drink,” Visconti recalls, talking to Classic Rock today. “He became quite intimidating towards the band. It reached the point where they were almost frightened to look into his eyes. A kind of weirdness descended upon us. I sometimes felt I was ready to leave at any moment. He didn’t turn on me… and wisely so. So I stayed. But he had a very short temper then. Electric Warrior [T.Rex’s 1971 album] had been so great – we’d been happy-go-lucky. And we were so grateful that we’d had Hot Love and Get It On both at number one for weeks on end. The spirit was absolutely great. But now it got… strange.”