Melody Maker, January 8th 1972"You live high in your apartment
See people turn to machines,
I'm scratching hard to pay my rent,
I hope to God I die naturally."
Two years ago, Christmas '69, Steve Peregrin Took decided to quit Tyrannosaurus Rex, leaving Marc Bolan to indulge in his rock and roll fantasies and himself to reflect on the little flower children duo that turned into an Electric Warrior capable of selling 12 million records in a year.
The lyric above is from one of Took's songs just after he had left Marc Bolan. It's got a bitter feel to it, but does not refer to Marc. Instead it acknowledges the pain which, he says, people connected with the band put on him, and the image he was continually being told to live up to. He had some money at the time he split, and ideas for getting an electric revolutionary band together.
Record company people offered him contracts and bread one deal included an apartment in Paris so he could get away to write but they were not interested in him being what he is, and less so in his political songs. They wanted the other half of a popstar.
But Took couldn't take that. Today, he's back on the road as a soloist not at all sore about missing the Bolan boom.
Now Took sits in a rundown Ladbroke Grove flat with a mattress on the floor to sit and sleep and think on, a few strips of carpet on the floor and the sight of a motorway staring at him as he looks out the window. Most of the possessions that Tyrannosaurus Rex must have bought him are no longer his, and following a recent bout of bronchitis he looks thinner than ever.
Although Took is working again it's not easy to get in touch with him no manager to sort things out, no hustling PR men, no record company. An advert in the MM announced a couple of his gigs, and an address where he could be reached by telegram. He has no telephone.
The house where he lives looks old, paint peels from the front, and grass has long been blowing in the wind over the wall that keeps the daylight from the basement flat. On the window ledge by his door bell a dead mouse, weather beaten and skinny lies rotting and even the cat is more interested in getting in from the snow.
Took looked pleased to see me, coughed a lot complaining about too much smoking over Christmas and made a cup of tea.
Above his head a poster of Brian Jones, another of Bob Dylan. Somewhere in the room there is a comparison between Jones and Took, a clash between what the public wants and expects and what the individual knows of himself.
Some can take the identity clash: Bolan, Jagger, Stewart live in a world where they can accept that they are never themselves in other people's minds. They are strong enough not to mind being two people in one body. Others, like Took and Jones resent the speed and hype of being stars. They want to be themselves, and that is something that they could never be. Perhaps if Took hadn't left T. Rex a similar fate would have caught him.
"I don't know, perhaps I might have ended up like Brian Jones." says Steve. "Dylan's still pretty real though. Dylan's got pretty much into the country. You can't look out of my window for more than 150 yards without having something blocking your view. If you stayed here for any length of time you'd go mad."
Took doesn't feel bitter about the way Marc has gone on to be a star. He does regret some of the business things that still hang around him. But he has a strange kind of security now that he is responsible to no one but himself.
"I found that people wanted me to be some sort of product." said Took. "I was a flower child, and there's things that a flower child can't do. Being a natural born rebel I wanted to do all the things I was not meant to do. That caused a lot of raps with the management, and a lot of raps with Marc. I couldn't get together looking at all those kids, and if I went into a heavy rap Marc would get freaked out.
"I can dig him doing this: it's quite nice having 15 and 16 year old chicks trying to pull your hair out. But I was just totally freaked out."
Following the split Steve dropped out "I went away for six months. Say somewhere exotic like Highgate, Highbury or whatever, where Twink (of the Pink Fairies) lives. I couldn't do anything then, I didn't want to do anything." Later he formed a band, Shagrat taking its name from a character in Lord Of The Rings. The band had Larry Walls in it who worked with Jack Lancaster for a while, Dave Bidwell (who now plays drums with Savoy Brown and was once one of Chicken Shack), and a whole number of bass players who joined in more profusion than their gigs.
"We had like one gig in a whole year, we had more than that but that was the number we actually made. They were all far out as musicians, but to get them all standing at any one time all together was near impossible. Before going to the States the whole trip was together in our heads. I think I knew that after the American tour with Marc I would split. I dig the people in the States, but with cops all around with guns you get paranoid."
Later he formed the Pink Fairies with Twink, and Mick Farren, one time leader of the Deviants a rock and roll band that were musically terrible, fitting their period because they were young and loud rather than talented. The Pink Fairies were rather like that as a band in the beginning; musically very limited, but again they had a lot of theatrics that brought their music up a step or two. The original Pink Fairies didn't stay together very long, because once again they were too untogether and spaced.
"The trouble was that so many strange things were happening. We just fell apart there was no one who could hold us together. That left Twink to carry on with the band." said Took.
Financially, during the period he has been out of T. Rex, times have not been easy for him, but for the first year he did have some money that he had been able to save from gigs with Marc. He also had a lot of possessions, he says.
"That has never been a terrible worry to me. In the past year I have earned enough from gigs to keep going. I've never really been short of cash, I had lots of things when I left, I was cool for money for about a year, then when I was broke I found myself accepting a gig.
"I was really terrified there I was, having never been on stage for a year, and the first solo gig. I got to realise that all kids wanted to hear was loud brash electric music, but where was that at. I said listen, imagine that behind me I have a drummer, a bass guitar and an electric guitar. It was bad, really silly. I had been acoustic for so long I really wanted to get an electric band together.
"I went to the country to get the electric thing worked out. You know when I got there I realised that I had not been there for three years, for three years. I had been digging the city and all the things that go on in it.
"I was so used to the town looks at all the rats tails, you go into the country and you can live under your steam. Do the things you want in your own time, and you can do everything for yourself. You can grow most of the things you need to eat. Like country people are so open.
On the way to a gig last week, we broke down in our van, and I decided to go onto the place by train. I had to get from Barnstaple to Penzance. Well, I went up to this little old lady to ask her how to get to the station, dressed up in all my campest gear, with a fox fur round my neck and make up on and she never like went for me because I was freaky. She just told me how to get to the station, not like the people round here who like to have a go at you.
"Then man I got on this little train and off to Penzance in a carriage full of country people and they were so open, man. They asked me what I was doing, and when I explained that it was all part of my act and that the van had broken down they were there with me. They were all talking to me, and I was asking them things about themselves."
Took has been doing his own solo act for about six months now, eking out a living from clubs that book him on the strength of his past associations with Marc Bolan. That certainly does pull people in to see him, but often they are the young fabs who go for T. Rex now and they don't understand what his act is about.
They want to rock and roll and to boogie, and Took takes them through a long rap about politics, pollution, those kinds of things, and a few songs dressed like a lady and talking like a man. An English Alice Cooper that people don't understand.
"Like I do songs, but they're not all love songs. That's partly why I split from Marc, he was telling everyone, it's good don't worry we'll pull through. Well that's shit, because if someone don't do something there isn't going to be anything left to pull through.
"It's like when Mick, Twink and I got the Fairies together there was a lot of theatrics going down. You don't see bands dancing round today like they used to, rock music is not about good long guitar solos it's something that you get hit by. You get assailed by it. Like Alice Cooper, he's got the whole scene tied up. He did the Rainbow, where he gave away money. The audience, the flower children they were fighting each other to get at it. Someone stood right over a friend of mine, ran from two rows back to get at the money and stood on his head. What do you do when someone treads on your head. You don't say love and peace."