45 Years Ago: Tyrannosaurus Rex Release ‘Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages’
After releasing their elegantly titled debut album, ‘My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair … But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows,’ in mid-1968, Tyrannosaurus Rex quickly became fixtures on the U.K. underground scene. Their engaging live performances, and support from the likes of John Peel on his radio show, helped spread their reputation.
Soon after the record’s release, Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin Took began recording material for their second LP. Released just three months after the debut, ‘Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages’ found the duo continuing along a similar sonic path, which Bolan described as “two sorts of music – loud and freaky, and soft and pastoral.”
With Bolan singing and playing guitar, and Took on bongos and assorted percussion, the group’s approach was simple but effective. Parking themselves somewhere between the Incredible String Band and Donovan, Tyrannosaurus Rex sounded like few other artists at the time, thanks to Bolan’s distinct vocal style and his ethereal but catchy songwriting. ‘Deboraarobed‘ kicks off the album with the same basic elements Bolan would employ to get to the top of the U.K. charts. (The song’s title would be shortened ‘Debora’ for a single, which made it to the U.K. Top 40.)
Bolan’s semi-mystical lyrics, washed in trippy harmonies and gentle acoustic guitars, are featured prominently in ‘Stacey Grove‘ and ‘Wind Quartets.’ In a way, they keep the hippie dream alive. “Steve was a hippie, but Marc was playing at it,” noted producer Tony Visconti in the liner notes to the album’s 2004 remaster. “Most hippies practiced free love and took a lot of drugs, especially acid. Marc abhorred drugs in those days, and he certainly wasn’t into free love. He was a mod dressed up as a hippie.”
Bolan’s quasi-fantasy lyrics in songs like ‘Salamanda Palaganda‘ and ‘Juniper Suction‘ were products of his vivid imagination rather than chemical excursions, which makes them slightly more interesting than the usual Tolkien-inspired ramblings of his contemporaries. “Marc was both prolific and dedicated,” said Visconti, “He had a school notebook full of lyrics, and I’d always notice there were more. The group was his life. He thought about nothing else.”
The album — released in October 1968 — was preceded by the single ‘One Inch Rock.’ which hints at the bubblegum-pop the group would explore after their shortened name change to T. Rex. It fared better on the charts than ‘Debora,’ but the album stalled out cold.
Unlike the debut, which hit No. 15 in the U.K., ‘Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages’ failed to chart at all. Two more Tyrannosaurus Rex albums would follow over the next 15 months. After that, Bolan would change the course of his sound and vision on his way to becoming one of the most influential artists of the ’70s.