New Cover: Marc Bolan – Ballrooms Of Mars

Considering Marc Bolan of the band T. Rex is being posthumously inducted into the R&RHoF this year (as usual, about fucking time), the opportunity seemed right for a cover of my favorite tune produced by this true “Glam Rock” pioneer, a genre that’s regrettably often overlooked.

'Electric Warrior' album cover
Marc Bolan: “The Electric Warrior”

Please scroll down to read the complete story behind this track or, if you’re impatient, jump directly to its SoundClick page and miss out on some good stuff.

As usual, I took certain liberties with it, to make it my own. I sometimes get comments such as, “Hey, that doesn’t sound like the original”. Well, you won’t get any apologies from me there…

What’s the point of recording a cover if that were my aim? You may as well break out “The Slider” album and listen to the original song. When I concentrate my efforts on producing a given cover, I always try to give it a personal touch. (or 10, or 20, or…)

The point is, I’m not a one-man tribute band, I’m a one-man cover band, and always strive to breathe new life into originals. Good, bad, or indifferent, the mileage on your ears may vary, and that’s just fine.

Craig Bolan
Hey look, it’s Craig Bolan… Wait a minute, you’re not the original!

Bolan’s work sounds deceptably simple, and in fact as far as the vocals and instruments are concerned, it actually is. However, I was surprised that recording and arranging this particular song quickly consumed 6 busses and 19 individual tracks in my DAW, along with the usual myriad of plugins. How studios accomplished all of this in the pre-digital “old days”, I haven’t a clue.

The moral is, sometimes less can indeed turn out to be a shitload more.


In the end, I hope you’ll find my version a fitting tribute to Marc…

Click to listen to “Ballrooms Of Mars” on SoundClick

Your comments and discussion are welcome there or below, as always!


A bit of interesting of Marc Bolan trivia…

My Introduction to T. Rex

I bought “The Slider” album at the tender age of 14 at Korvettes (basically the Walmart of old) which was located in Woodbridge, NJ  back in 1972, nearly 50 years ago.

E.J. Korvette
E.J. Korvette department store, a blast from the past…

I’d not even heard his music at the time, but remembered there was a very cool commercial for the album on TV with him wearing that famous top hat. Certainly intriguing, to say the least.

'The Slider' album cover
The Slider: Front and rear album cover… Er, make that rear and front.

It was one of the first true Rock albums I ever purchased, and happened to be a cut-corner (for those unfamiliar, indicating a defective record) that was on-sale for two bucks. It turned out to be a tad warped, but played perfectly fine. I was instantly hooked, and in my opinion it’s one of those rare albums that doesn’t contain a single shitty filler song in the bunch.

I listen to it frequently, to this very day.

Death of “The Electric Warrior”

An ironic shame: Bolan never learned to drive, fearing a premature death.

Yet, that’s exactly how he died, in a car driven by his girlfriend which bounced off a fence post and then into a tree in 1977. Stranger still, fellow T. Rex band member bassist Steve Currie was also killed in a car crash, some four years later.

Marc Bolan Shrine
The Marc Bolan shrine. It’s located at the site of his death, 10 Gipsy Ln, London SW15 5RG, UK, where fans often leave tribute items.

Ballrooms Of Mars: “The Mystery Chord”

For the guitarists out there, here’s a bit of a curiosity…

It’s apparent the chord pattern for this song is exactly the same throughout, including the solo sections.

When I was initially looking around for chord tab, I found there was mass disagreement as to what the 4rd chord of the first line was. Listening to the original closely, I certainly agree it’s clearly not “A-Minor”, although almost every tab I found listed it as such.

Examining the first verse lyrics along with the chords makes this a bit clearer:

C – C/B – A – Am <- NOT
You gonna look fine, be primed for dancing

C – C/B – G
You’re gonna trip and glide all on the trembling plane

C – C/B – A – D7
Your diamond hands will be stacked with roses

C – G – C
And wind and cars and people of the past

Fortunately, after viewing an excellent YouTube video play-through video I happened across, I discovered that Bolan was using a weird variation of “Am(maj7)”. Comparing it to his original song, it sounded dead-nuts on to me.

It’s an obscure chord to begin with, and I’d never seen it played the way he did. But, it too turns out to be simple, and likely originated from him just messing around on the guitar while he was writing.

Turns out it’s absolutely perfect in its context, and only serves to add to that cool “spacey” sound that’s so prevalent throughout the entire song. Not to mention, what a simple change in the chord pattern, although it does lead to some mighty weird bass guitar chops, as you can hear in my cover!

To play it, simply slide the “A-Major” chord preceeding it down from the second to the first fret, like so:

Am(maj7) variant
“The Mystery Chord”, revealed!

As far as I was concerned, this “mystery” was solved. It’s exactly how I played it on this cover, although I’m sure some guitarists out there may still disagree.


Credits:

Arrangements, all instruments and lead vocals by Craig Guerrieri.
Special background vocals guest: Rhea Pitcher
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Craig Guerrieri at Cygnus Studios, Florida, USA. ©2020.
Technical: REAPER DAW, input from Behringer UMC1820 and ADA8200 A/D interfaces.

Instruments

  • Gibson Les Paul Studio guitar
  • Fender Stratocaster guitar
  • Fender Telecaster guitar
  • Fender Jazz bass guitar
  • Guitar effects by Line 6, AZOR, and GOKKO
  • Korg MS-20 analog synthesizer
  • Yamaha MX49 digital synthesizer
  • DW Drums with Zildjian, Paiste and Wuhan cymbals
  • Additional percussion by Treeworks and RhythmTech

Artwork Credits: Header image and “Craig Bolan” created by my old friend, Doctör Ivan.


“Ballrooms Of Mars”
Music and Lyrics by Marc Bolan

You gonna look fine
Be primed for dancing
You’re gonna trip and glide
All on the trembling plane
Your diamond hands
Will be stacked with roses
And wind and cars
And people of the past

I’ll call you thing
Just when the moon sings
And place your face in stone
Upon the hill of stars
And gripped in the arms
Of the changeless madman
We’ll dance our lives away
In the Ballrooms of Mars

You talk about day
I’m talking ’bout night time
When the monsters call out
The names of men
Bob Dylan knows
And I bet Alan Freed did
There are things in night
That are better not to behold

You dance
With your lizard leather boots on
And pull the strings
That change the faces of men
You diamond browed hag
You a gutter-gaunt gangster
John Lennon knows your name
And I’ve seen his

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