TONY VISCONTI RECALLS ...
My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair...
...was the loquacious title of the first album, both for Tyrannosaurus Rex and myself. By the time we made the album, Marc and Steve had been around to my flat in Earl's Court several times. We rehearsed every song, and even the overdubs, repeatedly because we had a lot of stuff to record in four days. Marc had also written a very catchy ditty called "Debora", and played it live several times on John Peel's radio show. This song was usually the finale when they performed at gigs. It was simple, but could easily go on for 15 minutes. Marc would spontaneously break into "Debora" at my flat for guests who had never heard the song (sometimes this could be a rather tedious experience for the listener).
But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows (1968)
This first album was basically Marc and Steve playing their live set, plus the overdubs. I trusted an excellent engineer of those times, Gerald Chevin, to get the most impact possible out of a group which consisted of acoustic guitar and percussion but had no drums or bass -- prerequisites for rock! But the rock spirit was always suggested in Marc's acoustic playing on these early albums. He would've gone electric earlier, if he'd had enough money to buy a Les Paul.
The fifty pounds for artwork went a long way. David Bowie introduced me to his commercial artist friend, George Underwood. George is the guy that punched Bowie out and gave him two different colored eyes. George is a visual genius. I loved what I saw in his portfolio (mainly sci-fi book covers), and gave him a tape and a set of lyrics. He listened intently and came up with the amazing phantasmagorical work of art that became the cover.
"Debora" was a minor hit single. but the album did well on the various charts and we sold over 20,000 copies. John Peel even came to the sessions and read Marc's poetry in the middle of "Frowning Attahualpha".
My first album was a little hit, even though DJs made fun of the band's name and Marc's voice. The success mildly embarrassed Denny Cordell and he wanted to drop them.
Prophets, Seers & Sages
The group's name remained the same length, but the album title was shorter this time. I kept it from him (Bolan) that Denny wanted to drop them, and several requests from me to get them back into the studio were denied. I was told to look for something else to do. I was so proud of my work and I loved Tyrannosaurus Rex's music -- and I was teetering on disloyalty to my boss! There was only one thing to do. I booked Trident studios for Tyrannosaurus Rex without telling Denny or David Platz, his partner. My logic was that I'd finish the second Tyrannosaurus Rex album before the bills started coming in, and when they heard the results they would pay the bills gladly!
The Angels of The Ages (1969)
Oh boy, did I get into trouble! But after I was seriously reprimanded, David Platz realized that he had more "product", and one more album selling 20,000 wouldn't hurt.
We sold nearly 40,000 this time, and we had an even bigger hit single called "One Inch Rock". This album was more sophisticated than the first, and marked my debut as an engineer. Marc was unhappy with the efforts of Malcolm Toft, but Malcolm was a good, sympathetic friend of mine and admitted he was not into the group. He said that I already knew the basics of engineering, and that he'd watch over me and make sure I did everything correctly. That was a true act of kindness, because he trained me well, and a separate career as an engineer was launched on that album, thanks to his tutelage and Marc's dissatisfaction.
By now Tyrannosaurus Rex was a growing phenomenon, still very weird, but people were starting to take serious notice.
By now we had a series of singles under our belt, always peaking in the middle of the charts. Marc believed that the kids should always get their money's worth and felt that singles and the B-sides should never be repeated on albums. Why should the kids pay twice for the same song? Also, we started the maxi-single trend and put two songs on the B-side. (Actually, I can't say for sure that we started that trend, but I think we did.)
Unicorn is my favorite Tyrannosaurus Rex album. We got the sound of the group right on this one. We had more time to record and to experiment. The electric guitar made a big statement on this album and Steve played a real drum kit -- albeit one made by the toy makers, Chad Valley. I finally got to play something (until now no one had ever guested on a Tyrannosaurus Rex album) -- the piano on "Cat Black". Thankfully it was in the key of C and the chords were simple. Piano is not my instrument!
So many wonderful sounds were created on this album. I periodically play this and just smile. "She Was Born To Be My Unicorn" usually gives me my biggest smile.
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