T. Rex – Bang A Gong

This song was written by Marc Bolan and recorded when T. Rex was touring America in 1971. The group had made inroads in their native UK with their 1970 self-titled album but were little-known in the US. Marc Bolan wanted to change that by coming up with something that would strike to the heart in America. They were not able to break in America as well as they did in the UK…they had a “mania” in the UK for a while.

Some trivia… Marc Bolan took his name from Bob Dylan… BO from Bob and LAN from Dylan. It seems like any musician from that time has a link to Bob.

This song peaked at #10 in the Billboard 100 and #22 in the UK in 1972.

T. Rex was huge in the UK starting around 1970 but then started to decline in 1974. They did have a documentary made about them produced and directed by Ringo Starr called Born to Boogie. Bolan has been credited with starting Glam Rock.

Bolan went on to host a musical TV show called Marc in which he hosted a mix of new and established bands and performed his own songs. Marc’s final show was recorded on September 7, 1977, with special guest David Bowie…who was a friend of Bolan. I have a video of this appearance at the bottom of the post.

Marc Bolan would die in a car wreck 9 days later on September 16, 1977.

 

From Songfacts

Written by T. Rex lead singer Marc Bolan, this song is all about sex, but with imagery so comically vague it would be hard for even the most prudish listeners to take offense. Bolan’s delivery is feral, and he does keep calling the girl “dirty and sweet,” but you really have to stretch to find sexual connotations in a “hubcap diamond star halo” or a “cloak full of eagles.” The biggest suggestion is in the title.

According to T. Rex drummer Bill Legend, he and Bolan worked out the rhythm one day in Bolan’s hotel room, and when the tour got to Los Angeles, the group reconvened with members of the team that worked on their first album: producer Tony Visconti and backup singers Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, who were members of The Turtles and recorded as Flo & Eddie. At Kaylan’s home in Laurel Canyon, they spent all night working up the song, and the next day, they recorded it at Wally Heider Studios in LA. When they got to the studio, they had the chorus, the rhythm, and the “you’re dirty and sweet” line, but Bolan had to come up with the other lyrics on the spot, indicating he wasn’t thinking too hard about them. Everyone agrees that cocaine was involved throughout the process.

This is a great example of “glam rock,” which was characterized by outrageous, often effeminate costumes, nonsensical lyrics, driving beats and very theatrical stage shows.

In the UK, this hit #1 on July 24, 1971, giving T. Rex their second chart-topper there, following “Hot Love.” The band’s American record company, Reprise, dragged their feet on the song and didn’t release it until January 1972. It went to #10 in March, but ended up being the group’s only significant hit Stateside. In the UK, they had two more #1s – “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru” – and a total of 11 Top 10s.

This song is titled “Get It On” in the UK, but in America, there was a minor hit with that title by a group called Chase in 1971, so the title was changed to the less suggestive “Bang A Gong (Get It On).”

The last line, “Meanwhile, I’m still thinking…” is a nod to a 1959 Chuck Berry song called “Little Queenie,” where he sings, “Meanwhile, I’m thinking” with the same inflection.

The band released this a year after they shortened their name. They had been Tyrannosaurus Rex.

After falling from fame a few years after this came out, lead singer Marc Bolan developed a debilitating cocaine and alcohol habit, but that’s not what killed him: He died on September 16, 1977 when a Mini driven by his girlfriend, the singer Gloria Jones, crashed into a tree.

In 1985, the “supergroup” The Power Station, which included Robert Palmer and members of Duran Duran, released this as a single under the title “Get It On.” Their version went to #9 US and #22 UK.

The Power Station performed the song on the “Whatever Works” episode of Miami Vice, which aired October 4, 1985, just two months after it peaked in America.

Blondie recorded a live version for their 1978 Parallel Lines album. The Damned and Frankie Goes to Hollywood are some of the other artists to cover the song.

David Bowie as a guest on Marc’s show.

Bang A Gong

Well you’re dirty and sweet, clad in black
Don’t look back and I love you
You’re dirty and sweet, oh yeah
Well you’re slim and you’re weak
You’ve got the teeth of a hydra upon you
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on, bang the gong, get it on

You’re built like a car,
You’ve got a hub cap diamond star halo
You’re built like a car, oh yeah
You’re an untamed youth that’s the truth
With your cloak full of eagles
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on, bang the gong, get it on

You’re windy and wild,
You’ve got the blues in your shoes and your stockings
You’re windy and wild, oh yeah
You’re built like a car,
You’ve got a hub cap diamond star halo
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on, bang the gong, get it on

You’re dirty and sweet,
Clad in black, don’t look back and I love you
You’re dirty and sweet, oh yeah
You dance when you walk so let’s dance,
Take a chance, understand me
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on, bang the gong, get it on

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on, bang the gong, get it on

Get it on, bang the gong, get it on
Get it on, bang the gong, get it on

Take me
For a meanwhile I’m still thinking

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

10 thoughts on “T. Rex – Bang A Gong”

  1. Probably the ultimate example of bands not translating from UK to here, because of either differing tastes or bad record company promoting. This was the only song I knew by them until long after Bolan’s death; I think “20th Century Boy” is my fave by them though.

    Liked by 1 person

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