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Staring At The Stars

Mick Farren remembers his friend Steve Peregrine Took, sidekick to Marc Bolan in Tyrannosaurus Rex and pursuer of an elusive fame...

Took in 1992BACK IN THE ‘60S, WE WERE A LITTLE OBSESSIVE IN THE matter of fame. In our innocence, we fondly believed that if we were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, sex, money and drugs would be firmly within our grasp. Andy Warhol had promised 15 minutes, but a lot of us were looking for something a little more protracted. Steve Peregrine Took was one of the latter: if any one factor was ultimately responsible for his death in 1980 at 31, it had to be the man’s fixation with fame.

Took, born Stephen Porter in July 1949, certainly had his taste of fame. As Marc Bolan’s sidekick in the original Tyrannosaurus Rex, he enjoyed two idyllic summers of second division rock stardom, parading the King’s Road in aviator shades and a pink velvet cape. Unfortunately, by the time he departed for T. Rex’s first US tour in the early autumn of 1969, Took had started hanging out with members of both The Deviants and The Pretty Things, an emulation of the Bash Street Kids on drugs which not only put considerable strain on his frail metabolism but also set him philosophically at odds with Bolan’s elfin innocence. By the time the tour reached New Orleans, he had been fired.

For the rest of his life, Took continually attempted to retrieve what he perceived as his lost fame. He wrote songs and cut tracks, but every time he was poised to lay his creation before the public, some manifestation of what could only be fear of failure would bring his efforts to a screeching halt. He’d injure himself or plunge into personality crisis; sessions would abort in a chaos of pills or vodka. To make matters considerably worse, Marc Bolan became a full-blown teen idol.

Steve Peregrin Took with the other original harlf of Tyrannosaurus RexBolan’s success also had one other effect. With the help of his business manager, the late Tony Secunda, Took began to receive regular royalty cheques from second wave sales of the original Tyrannosaurus Rex albums. This income proved a double-edged sword, however. Although it cushioned Took from actually starving in the street, it also held at bay the goading demons of bottom-line survival. The cruelest irony in the Steve Took story is that a freshly received royalty cheque paid for the cherry on which he choked to death, as well as the combo of heroin and magic mushrooms which had made such a disaster possible.

Very little of Took’s solo work ever saw the light of day during his lifetime. He managed to commandeer his own track, The Sparrow Is The Sign, on Twink’s 1969 Think Pink album, and he guested on my own 1970 effort Mona - The Carniverous Circus. After his death, three years ater that of Marc Bolan, a few odds and ends filtered out, most notably the single Amanda/Peppermint Flickstick.

In the somewhat different perspective of the ‘90s, Took actually appears to be making the comeback which so eluded him in life. Shortly before his recent death, Tony Secunda cut a deal with Cleopatra Records in Los Angeles to put out an entire CD - Steve Peregrine [sic] Took - of recordings from a series of fraught 1972 sessions at Olympic Studios with Wallis, Twink, Duncan Sanderson and the late Mick Wayne. The music clearly demonstrates Took’s anarchic approach to both vocal presentation and song structure: on most tracks the vocals are mixed so far back that they’re reduced to mumbling incoherence.

Quality of music notwithstanding, Took now has an appreciation society, a fanzine and a small but probably unerasable niche in rock history. That it should all happen when he’s been so long in the grave can only put yet another spin on Jagger’s axiom "You can’t always get what you want... but you just might find you get what you need."

Rest in peace, old mate.

Images & Text from Mojo. Thanks Guys!