In the early hours of Friday 16th September 1977 Marc Bolan and his entourage left Morton’s dining club in Berkeley Square, Central London for the half-hour drive back to his home in the Upper Richmond Road, East Sheen. Two cars set off from Morton’s – the purple Mini Clubman of Marc’s fiancée (and mother of his son), Gloria Jones (in which Marc was the passenger) and another car driven by Gloria’s brother, Richard and his passenger – a blonde Morton’s singer called Victoria whom Richard had persuaded to accompany him home. Tragically, before the sun rose, Marc Bolan would be dead.
Things had been going well for Marc prior to the fateful night. He’d shed the drugs, booze, egomania and unsightly pounds that had seen his career sliding towards ignominious oblivion between 1972-74. On September 26th 1975 his son, Rolan, was born – bringing a new sense of joy and purpose to Marc’s life. He enjoyed a stint as a TV interviewer on Thames TV’s ‘Today’ show, became involved in (and inspired by) Punk (encouraging and praising both The Damned and Generation X) and successfully presented his own TV show (called ‘Marc’) that showcased (among others) The Jam, Generation X and The Boomtown Rats. Siouxsie Sioux (of The Banshees) said: “With that programme it seemed like he’d really started again. And he really did identify with all that was going on.” Had Marc lived, there were plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline – a second series of ‘Marc’, a Punk ‘rock opera’ and a T Rex tour of Germany.
The fateful night at Morton’s had been a happy one. Those present included Marc, Gloria, Richard, Marc’s manager (Tony Howard) and legendary EMI promotions man Eric (‘Monster Monster’) Hall. As Gloria said: “Before the tragedy it was a wonderful, intimate evening with everyone who was involved in our lives. We were all together for Marc for that last night not realising…” As the journey home was expected to be short – and the roads clear – the decision was made to drive rather than call a driver from Marc’s regular cab firm. (Marc had never learned to drive. As his brother Harry once said: “He was scared of most mechanical things…”)
The Mini Clubman crested the humpback bridge on Queen’s Ride, Barnes (a notorious accident blackspot to this day) ahead of Richard and Victoria in their pursuing car. The tree-lined road was dark and as Richard approached the apex of the bridge he could see steam rising. The Mini had left the road and flown through the air straight into a tree. There was no possibility of taking avoiding action. The passenger side of the small car took the brunt of the impact. Such was the force of the collision that Marc had been spun 180 degrees in his seat and his lifeless body was wedged grotesquely in the rear of the vehicle. Gloria, who was taken to hospital, was not informed of Marc’s death until days after she had been taken off the critical list.
I drive past the site of (what I call ‘the Bolan Tree’) two or three times each month when I visit a friend who lives in Fulham. It is a poignant spot – and the shrine to Marc is never without tributes. These days, the entire stretch of road has speed bumps along its length. As stated, Bolan (and his unfortunate death) casts a significant shadow within my novel, LITTLE BASTARD. Publication will be my own small tribute to the unique musical talent that was Mark Feld (1947-1977).
In my third and final Bolan-related post (to follow shortly) I will examine the mysteries and legends that surround Marc’s unfortunate car crash death – in a bizarre echo of that of one of Marc’s own heroes, Jimmy Dean.