The Cosmic Sea Was Like A Bumblebee: The Slider Turns 50

Looking back on the third album and second glam slam from the mighty T. Rex

Back cover of The Slider (Image: Reprise Records)

Marc Bolan made a dramatic shift in stance once he abandoned his early incarnation as Tyrannosaurus Rex, shortened the name of his outfit and reemerged in full glam garb as the fully rocking T. Rex.

It found the onetime fair-haired folkie embracing the full flourish of Britain’s glam rock scene, sharing company with Bowie, Elton John, Slade, Sweet and the other outfits that incorporated an androgynous image into the full frenzy of unabashed rock and roll. Bolan went several steps further however, adopting celestial trappings that often found him in the guise of a warrior wizard, cloaked in a cape and clutching his guitar like a god might grasp his spear. 

T. Rex The Slider (Vinyl Reissue), Demon Records 1972

Although it was officially listed as the third album under the T. Rex banner, The Slider was actually the second album to fully incorporate the imagery and allure borne from the band’s rebranding. (The eponymous album released in 1970 bore the T. Rex handle but was, in truth, a transitional effort that had more to do with the hippie happenstance of the earlier incarnation.)

Nevertheless, following on the heels of Electric Warrior, the album that took the rechristened combo to the top of the charts — courtesy of the irrepressible hit single “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” and signature songs like “Jeepster” and “Mambo Sun” — Bolan, drummer Bill Legend, erstwhile percussionist Mickey Finn and bassist Steve Currie clearly had a high bar to attain when it came to a follow-up. Happily, they succeeded, given the fact that upon its release on July 21, 1972, it also climbed to the top of the charts, while garnering the same enthusiastic reception the critics had accorded its predecessor. With ace producer Tony Visconti again sitting behind the boards, it boasted the same mix of cosmic cool and extravagant indulgence. 

That was evident at the outset, given Bolan’s pixie-like visage that looked slightly adrift and immersed in a fuzzy haze. Ringo Starr, by now a devoted fan and follower, is credited with the photos on front and back, although Visconti disputes that assessment. The confusion could be attributed to the fact that it was allegedly taken on the same day Starr started filming his documentary about his urchin-like buddy, an aptly-named opus dubbed “Born to Boogie.”

The Slider magazine ad (Image: Reddit)

Any imagery aside, the songs proved as provocative as before, with the album’s initial single “Telegram Sam” again ascending skyward. “Metal Guru” followed next and repeated that success yet again by climbing to number one — Bolan’s final single to do so. Bolan termed the tune a “festival of life song,” and, in typical Boaln-ese fashion, described it as his version of an omnipresent god, a spectral being… someone special, a godhead, who remained aloof while still maintaining a universal presence as well. “I thought how god would be, he’d be all alone without a telephone,” Bolan reflected, somehow managing to offer a gibberish description in the midst of expressing himself articulately. 

For its part, the title track was sinewy and seductive. However, the lyrics proved a bit baffling:

 

“The cosmic sea
Was like a bumblebee
And when I’m sad
I slide…”

 

Then again, don’t we all?

The other tracks on the album offered the same aural imagery, as suggested by their titles — “Mystic Lady,” “Spaceball Ricochet,” “Rabbit Fighter,” “Baby Strange,” “Ballrooms of Mars” and “Chariot Choogle.” It’s amusing to say the least, and in retrospect, a curious cacophony of meditative musings with a full rock thrust. 

Some 50 years on, this Slider still does more than simply slide by.

 

 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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