Dandy in the Underworld
Marc Bolan & T Rex
French Tour, February 1977
The French tour of February is often referred to as a ‘warm up’ tour for the March UK tour. However, with seven concerts performed in France, this tour had only two less dates than the planned UK tour for the following month. Although T Rex had previously played in Paris, these dates turned out to be T Rex’s only tour of France.
Most of the French tour dates were performed at small clubs, though this did not deter a small number of Bolan fans travelling from the UK to see these concerts.
The set list appears to be an abridged version of the one used in the UK the following month which had 13 songs. At the Nantes gig on 3rd February, T Rex performed 11 songs, leaving out ‘Debora’ and ‘Teen Riot Structure’ from the set - possibly because these two songs were still at the rehearsal stage or because of a time restraint imposed by the venue. Interestingly at T Rex’s appearance at Le Nashville in Paris on the 11th February they also left out ‘Telegram Sam’ and ‘Dandy in the Underworld’. With only nine songs performed this must have been a relatively short set.
Marc and Tony Howard (his manager) flew out to Paris on the 2nd February where Marc performed on the French TV programme ‘Un sur Cinq’ miming to ‘Telegram Sam’ and ‘I Love To Boogie’. Mid-tour, on the 8th February, Marc travelled to Franfurt (West Germany) and then onto Baden-Baden to meet up with Gloria Jones for a performance on German television. Marc stayed overnight in Baden-Baden which subsequently resulted in the Lyon concert on the 9th February being cancelled (1).
The concert in Paris on the 11th February was originally scheduled to be at Le Bataclan, but was then switched to Le Nashville because of a problem with ticket prices. That afternoon Marc and Jeff Dexter went to watch a Johnny Hallyday (who is often seen as the French version of Elvis Presley) rehearsal at the Paris Olympia(1).
(1) Marc Bolan 1947-1977, A Chronology, Cliff McLenehan
Pierre Champion saw T Rex live at Nantes in 1977 and has an excellent website dedicated to Marc Bolan in relation to all things French. The website includes his account of the French tour of 1977, with text in optional English or French pierrefrenchtour77.
Bernard Pavelek also saw T Rex live in France in 1977 and has a website with text in optional English or French. The website features a small amount of footage from the Paris gig bernardfrenchtour77.
T Rex's Tour Contract
Marc's Tour Diary
Shown below are Marc's personal diary notes for the period covering the French tour. These pages illustrate how much Marc is proud of the new T Rex and how much he is obviously enjoying his music, and life, at that time.
Marc talk's very fondly of the evening spent with Steve Harley and his girlfiend Yvonne Keeley and how he played the 'Dandy in the Underworld' song to Steve, a song that Harley had sung backing vocals on. Marc saying 'It's called 'Dandy in the Underworld'' seems a little strange - almost as if he is writing for someone else to read. The same passage also reveals that Harley had asked him to perform with him at a charity concert in London but Marc could not do this due to being on tour in France at the time.
References to Charles Boyer (a famous French actor from the 1930's and 40's), Johnny Hallyday (a singer often spoke of as the French 'Elvis'), Gore Vidal (a famous American author considered by many to be a great intellectual), Auguste Rodin (French artist and sculptor), Bob Dylan's Tarantula book (an experimental novel employing streams of consciousness writing) and Hercules (a mythical Greek demigod) show the breadth of Marc's knowledge which, although maybe not conventional, covered such subjects as Greek mythology, literature, art, film and popular culture.
Note: Day three appears to be repeated in the text.
Got up at eleven, o thou lazy rock star, felt good as today is the last day of rehearsal for the French tour, a kind of out of state dress run for the British tour to follow in March. While I dress I play Bowie’s new album, he’s such a scallywag and also sly. He’s (got) a great band, only like one song though in the car on way to rehearsal hall on Southbank. I read Richard Williams piece on New York’s rock intelligentsia - Television - great name. SOS, Mink DeVille, Tom Verlaine, sounds like an interesting brain to bend notes with.
We rehearse from 2.30 to 6. I’m really proud of this band, Herbie Flowers bass, Tony Newman drums, Dino Dines keyboards, Miller Anderson 2nd guitar, vocals. We run through about 8 new songs from the forthcoming album, Visions of Domino, You Damaged the Soul of my Suit. Some old biggies like Telegram Sam, Hot Love and Get It On.
Today Gloria and I do Supersonic. I enjoy working with Mr Maestro Mansfield. It’s so unpredictable, today Mike has me 25ft up in the air on a swing, heavy insured I believe, and with Jones we sing To Know You Is To Love You in a plastic bubble, filled with what feels like washing up liquid, waist high we croon, my toes and other things feel quite numb - a hard long day but never the less fun.
The tour awaits.
Up to 6am, I’d packed last night. The car comes at 7, it’s still dark. Through force of habit I don a pair of shades and cat nap to we beach at Heathrow. Gay - o dear - Paris at 9.30 straight to the TV average telly day. Screened live at 6, I mime to Telegram and our recent French hit, I Love To Boogie.
It really motivates. I say bon voyage to the guys as I leave a day earlier to do a TV show and say I’ll see them in France. Get home at 7, slip into something chic, pick and my partner in most things. Vocalist, producer, writer supreme Ms. Gloria Jones and make my way to have dinner with one Steve Harley, poet, singer and this night food financier. Had dinner at Julie’s, a nice bistro accompanying Steve was his lady Yvonne. Altogether a magic restful evening, just what one needs before you start a tour, back at Steve’s place I played him the title track from the new album, it’s called Dandy in the Underworld. Steve sings back ups on it, he loved it, the only sad note was Cockney Rebel play a charity gig at the Rainbow on February 12 and Steve has asked me to do a number or two but unfortunately we’re in Paris. Shame it would have been sweet, home to bed.
Up at 6am, I’d forgotten what leaving was like it’s all coming back to me now. I fall out of bed, take a cold shower to the strains of New Rose by The Damned, having packed.
Miming, strange but OK. I do some Elvis wiggles and talk to the viewers in a Charles Boyer accent.
The first gig. We’re all excited. The place, a large club, is what is known as a warm up date, a gig to get sound, cues, lights and heads all in the right space for the big ones. The show feels tight. We blow for an hour and 10 and it’s magic. All 10 days of intense rehearsal have payed off and I’m 100% pleased, it’s been 2 years since I’d worked full throttle and it feels great to be expressing myself in the way I was born to do. After gig we have dinner and see Johnny Hallyday - France’s Elvis at a club. O La-La.
Day Five and Day Six
Driving through beautiful Basque countryside every view is like a French impressionist's heaven. I wish I could paint as well as pick. I just read Myron by Gore Vidal, great book it reminded me of Dylan’s Tarantula - same chaos by more organised.
Finish(ed) lyrics to several songs that seemed unfinished in the chaos of the city, but become clear complete sonnets on the motorways of France. Next stop Paris.
Paris Day In morning went to the Louvre to look up a statue I’d enjoyed when I was in Paris at the cute age of 15. Hercules looked as great as I remembered, also checked out Rodin’s house, a museum with much of his work on view, just the artistic inspiration to key the Bolan brain for boogie.