Oh yes. Thrusting The New Seekers out of the way, thank God, with one flick of his corkscrew hair… Marc Bolan, ladies and gentlemen.
Telegram Sam, by T. Rex (their 3rd of four #1s)
2 weeks, from 30th January – 13th February 1972
With a chunky, crunchy riff that is part-electric guitar and part-sax, and some wonderful nonsense lyrics, T. Rex score their 3rd chart-topper in well under a year. This is a single that swaggers in to the room oozing arrogance and attitude – a band at the peak of their powers and popularity ever so slightly phoning it in. (OK, ‘Telegramming’ it in.)
Telegram Sam, Telegram Sam, You-ooh, Are my main man… The song is a list of characters, introduced one after the other. Golden Nose Slim, Golden Nose Slim, I-I-I, Knows where you’ve been… Who are these people? Are they people? Are they a band? Are they cocaine-fuelled imaginings? Who knows, who cares, when you can join Purple-Pie Pete, whose lips are like lightning making girls melt in the heat…
I did read that the line Bobby’s alright, Bobby’s alright, He’s a natural born poet, He’s just outta sight… is a reference to Bob Dylan, while the other references are people close to Bolan. His ‘main man’ was his manager, for example. And then there’s ‘Jungle-face Jake’, about whom one must make no mistake… That would be his managers assistant. Who was black. Yeah… Not the kind of lyric you would get away with writing these days. Moving swiftly on…
Because this is a song written by Marc Bolan, there is of course a verse dedicated solely to himself. And isn’t the line: Me I funk, But I don’t care, I ain’t no square with my corkscrew hair… just perfect? There’s always a gem in amongst the nonsense with T. Rex. For the mini solo we get the same electric violin from Slade’s ‘Coz I Luv You’, and there’s lots of squealing and breathing from Bolan throughout.
Maybe it’s because it’s coming hot on the heels of Benny Hill and bloody ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’, but this record sounds super-thrilling and fresh – a blast from the future. Of all the bands that have ever existed, T. Rex are the one that I wish I’d been around for in real time. Of course it would have been great to have been a teenager at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, or to have been around to hear ‘She Loves You’ for the first time in 1963, but I know that if I had been a fourteen-year-old in 1972, then I would have been sending my parents into a tizzy with my love of mascaraed Marc and his boys.
But I have to admit that, of T. Rex’s four number ones, ‘Telegram Sam’ is my least favourite. It’s a solid eight out of ten – that’s how good a band they were – but it doesn’t quite hit the heights of their other chart-toppers. Like I said at the start, it sounds like it’s been written to order. Still, as Marc Bolan can be heard breathing orgasmically just before the chorus: Sounds like the good stuff… Yes Marc, it certainly does.