Tyrannosaurus Rex: Unicorn

ON THIS DATE (43 YEARS AGO)
May 16, 1969 – Tyrannosaurus Rex: Unicorn is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4/5
# allmusic 3/5
Unicorn is the third album by Tyrannosaurus Rex, comprising Marc Bolan (vocals, guitar) and Steve Peregrin Took (bongos, African drums, kazoo, pixiephone, Chinese gong), released on this date in May, 1969. It reached number 12 in the UK charts. It is the last of Tyrannosaurus Rex’s albums featuring Took, because Bolan fired him after finding out that he’d been a heavy drug-addict at the time. This is also the first album by the band to be released in the US.
The the last Tyrannosaurus Rex, Unicorn – was their most produced and highest charting effort. The duo then started work on a fourth album, and a single, ‘King of the Rumbling Spires,’ was released in July which showcased Bolan on electric guitar and Took on full drum kit, with some background electronics. An interesting record that offers a glimpse of what might of been next—a much heavier sound. But mounting musical differences, including Took’s own ambition as songwriter proved too much for the two, and they split.
 A couple notable incidences helped push Bolan and Took to the breaking point:
– “Recalled by Mick Farren, was at the conclusion of the band’s April 1969 concert at the Lyceum, where members of the Pretty Things and the Deviants all piled up on to the stage during the finale of “The Wizard” and proceeded to jam in much the same fashion as at Pretties/Deviants double bills. Unfortunately, Marc was not in the mood for these kinds of games, and stormed angrily offstage! How much of this is audible on the “Midnight Court” CD release of the gig is anyone’s guess.”
-Took’s insistence on playing his own songs (which Bolan refused) and contributing his talents and song, “The Sparrow Is A Sign” to the psychedelic classic Twink LP, Think Pink.
In the end, as Mantell describes, Tyrannosaurus Rex -“a pair of superhumanly elfin musical pixies embodying the deepest dream of the flower-child ideal – was failing to match the reality of the sum of the parts – one half ambitious potential future pin-up star, the other a screaming Wild Man Of Rock with a penchant for debauched chaos.”
REVIEW
by Dave Thompson, allmusic
The third Tyrannosaurus Rex album, and their debut U.S. release, Unicorn was also the first to steadfastly state the game plan which Marc Bolan had been patiently formulating for two years — the overnight transformation from underground icon to above ground superstar. Not only does it catch him experimenting with an electric guitar for the first time on record, it also sees Steve Peregrin Took exchange his bongos for a full drum kit, minor deviations to be sure, but significant ones regardless. And listen closely: you can hear the future. The opening “Chariots of Silk” sets the ball rolling, as slight and lovely as any of Bolan’s early songs, but driven by a tumultuous drum roll, a pounding percussion which might be the sound of distant gunfire, but could as easily be a petulant four-year-old, stamping around an upstairs apartment. Either way, it must have been a rude awakening for the bliss-soaked hippy acid-heads who were the duo’s most loyal audience at the time — and, though the album settled down considerably thereafter, that initial sense of alarm never leaves. By the time one reaches the closing “Romany Soup,” a nursery jingle duet for voice and whispered secrets, you feel like you’ve just left the wildest roller coaster on earth. If the peaks are astonishing, however, the troughs are merely comparative. “Pon A Hill” is certainly more remarkable for the backing chorus of absurd twitters than for a fairly standard Bolan melody. But “Cat Black,” a song which had been around since before Bolan joined John’s Children, comes on like a lost Spector classic, with apoplectic percussion and a positively soaring, wordless chorus. “She Was Born to Be My Unicorn,” meanwhile, drifts by on piping Hammond and tympani, while “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” is no less resonant than such a title demands. Reprising his role on the duo’s first album, DJ John Peel reappears to read a brief children’s story, but that truly is the only real point of contact between Unicorn and its predecessors. Indeed, in a moment of pure prescient enthusiasm, Melody Maker’s review tagged the once painstakingly eclectic acoustic duo “electrified teenybop” and, had things not gone horribly awry between Bolan and Took during their first U.S. tour that same year, all that T Rex was to achieve in the first years of the next decade might have instead fallen into place during the final years of the ’60s. Because again, you can already hear the storm brewing.
TRACKS:
All songs composed by Marc Bolan
Side One             
1.            “Chariots of Silk” 2:26
2.            “Pon a Hill” 1:14
3.            “The Seal of Seasons” 1:49
4.            “The Throat of Winter” 1:59
5.            “Cat Black (The Wizard’s Hat)” 2:55
6.            “Stones for Avalon” 1:37
7.            “She Was Born to Be My Unicorn” 2:37
8.            “Like a White Star, Tangled and Far, Tulip That’s What You  Are” 3:49
Side Two             
1.            “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” 2:11
2.            “Evenings of Damask” 2:26
3.            “The Sea Beasts” 2:26
4.            “Iscariot” 2:53
5.            “Nijinsky Hind” 2:20
6.            “The Pilgrim’s Tale” 2:07
7.            “The Misty Coast of Albany” 1:43
8.            “Romany Soup” 5:40
2004 Expanded Edition 
1.            “Chariots of Silk” 2:28
2.            “Pon a Hill” 1:14
3.            “The Seal of Seasons” 1:47
4.            “The Throat of Winter” 1:57
5.            “Cat Black (The Wizard’s Hat)” 2:50
6.            “Stones for Avalon” 1:36
7.            “She Was Born to Be My Unicorn” 2:35
8.            “Like a White Star, Tangled and Far, Tulip That’s What You Are”  3:45
9.            “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” 2:09
10.          “Evenings of Damask” 2:24
11.          “The Sea Beasts” 2:24
12.          “Iscariot” 2:50
13.          “Nijinsky Hind” 2:17
14.          “The Pilgrim’s Tale” 2:04
15.          “The Misty Coast of Albany” 1:41
16.          “Romany Soup” 5:39
17.          “Pewter Suitor (Single A-Side)” 3:10
18.          “King of The Rumbling Spires (Single A-Side)” 2:08
19.          “Do You Remember (Single B-Side)” 2:15
20.          “‘Pon a Hill (Take 1)” 1:14
21.          “The Seal of Seasons (Take 1)” 1:40
22.          “The Throat of Winter (Take 1)” 1:46
23.          “She Was Born to Be My Unicorn (Take 1)” 2:38
24.          “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles (Take 1)” 2:11
25.          “Evenings of Damask (Take 5)” 2:16
26.          “Iscariot (Take 3)” 1:58
27.          “The Misty Coast of Albany (Take 1)” 1:40
28.          “Romany Soup (Take 2)” 1:40
29.          “Pewter Suitor (Take 1)” 3:16
30.          “King of the Rumbling Spires (Take 7)” 2:45
31.          “Do You Remember (Take 3)” 2:17
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Filed under Marc Bolan, Steve Peregrin Took, T. Rex, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Unicorn

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