T. Rex – Telegram Sam

The first single released from The Slider, and the third No.1 U.K. hit for T. Rex, “Telegram Sam”

The song peaked at #1 in the UK, #67 in the Billboard 100, #66 in Canada, and #19 in New Zealand in 1971. It’s surprising to me he didn’t do better in Canada and America. My only guess was that glam music never was as big in America as the UK. They did tour in America in the early seventies as a supporting act for bands such as Three Dog Night, Poco, and The Doobie Brothers. Opening up for those bands in America…it’s easy to see how they could not find their target audience.

T-Rex leader Marc Bolan wrote this as an ode to his manager, Tony Secunda. “Telegram Sam” was Bolan’s nickname for his Secunda. Other people who show up in the song were Jungle-face Jake who was Sid Walker, Secunda’s assistant, and “Bobby” is Bob Dylan.

Telegram Sam was the first single to be issued by Marc Bolan’s own T.Rex Wax Co. label, and was released on 21 January 1972.

The B-side featured two songs in the UK, “Cadilac” (as printed on the EMI label of the original single) and “Baby Strange”, the latter also included in the album The Slider.

From Songfacts

When Bolan referred to Secunda as his “Main Man,” it brought the phrase into popular culture.

The goth-rock group Bauhaus covered this song In 1980.

In 1977, on the “Dandy in the Underworld” tour, Marc Bolan sang “Third vision and the David Bowie blues” instead of “3D vision and the California blues” – hinting at David Bowie’s depressive tendencies.

Telegram Sam

Telegram Sam Telegram Sam
You’re my main man

Golden Nose Slim Golden Nose Slim
I know’s where you’ve been
Purple Pie Pete Purple Pie Pete
Your lips are like lightning
Girls melt in the heat

Telegram Sam
You’re my main man
Telegram Sam
You’re my main man

Bobby’s alright Bobby’s alright
He’s a natural born poet
He’s just outta sight
Jungle faced Jake
Jungle faced Jake
I say make no mistake
About Jungle faced Jake

Automatic shoes
Automatic shoes
Give me three D vision
And the California blues
Me I funk but I don’t care
I ain’t no square with my corkscrew hair

Telegram Sam, Telegram Sam

I’m a howlin’ wolf

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

37 thoughts on “T. Rex – Telegram Sam”

  1. “Telegram Sam” is just a slack version of “Get It On” and it rocks similar. Only the violins in the background give the song something bombastic that “Get It On” didn’t have.

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  2. one of a limited number of T-Rex songs I actually know well, although I still didn’t hear it until probably the 80s when it was already “retro.”. they and roxy Music were similar in 70s in as much as they each had one big N.American hit, and nothing else but were gigantic over in Europe, Britain especially. Of course, roxy broke the curse in 80s with ‘Avalon’ long after T-Rex was gone.

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    1. I probably found them in the early 80s…except Bang A Gong…they had some really good catchy songs…when they toured over here though…they were paired up with totally different acts.

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    1. They should have…I think teaming them up with the Doobie Brothers and other bands like that….didn’t do them any favors…nothing against the Doobie Brothers but they didn’t relate much.

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      1. I agree it was not an ideal pairing with the Doobies. Not as bad as pairing Hendrix with the Monkees, but not a fruitful combination. I’m imagining an exec promoter who only knows the first few moments of Smoke on the Water, and thinks it sounds like Bang a Gong.

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      2. Oh my gosh, I just realized I confused ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Black Water’. *embarrassed* And no, Bang A Gong does not sound like Black Water. I wonder if the promoter could have made the same mistake I did? 😀

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      3. I think they did! Deep Purple would have fit them more than the Doobie Brothers.
        Oh I do it all of the time.

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  3. The USA was nor culturally ready for Glam Rock. Men in make-up and glitter just didn’t go – in the UK we’d just got colour TV’s and the multicoloured outfits were a real laugh and showed off the colour TV brilliantly. Plus they were great fun. I don’t think more than a handful of Glam tracks were big hits in the States – Get It On, Rock & Roll Part 2, and years after the event Ballroom Blitz springs to mind.

    In terms of touring, which is the way to break the USA (in the UK one jaw-dropping appearance on Top Of The Pops could set you up, ratings were around 20% of the population), the only acts that could have worked as Headliners were Alice Cooper, Alice Cooper, or Alice Cooper.

    Telegram Sam was my least-fave T.Rex single (and I loved them all) till Truck On (Tyke) really lowered the bar, but that was just relative, and by 1982 when it was re-issued and a minor hit, it duly joined the others topping my charts… 🙂

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      1. Gloria Jones was Marc Bolan’s partner, and one of those articles mentions Glen Campbell talking from beyond the grave, so it’s possible they might have an opinion about it. Or maybe not!

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  4. I love the guitar that keeps sneaking in there. It’s like it could blow the top off of that joint but is being restrained. I’ve liked T REX music for a long time. The only album I really know though is the one with Bang a Gong on it.

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  5. funny the album track guitar sounds to me like bang a gong – for a second I thought the video was wrong. I guess that was sort of their overall sound, the fuzzy guitar – love the live cut. The other thing is I would never have believed that the phrase “You’re My Main Man” comes from this song

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    1. I found that Main Man thing in other reviews about it…they were huge in the UK…funny nothing over here. I agree it has the same sound and structure as Bang A Gong.

      Liked by 1 person

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