As promised, in this, my final Bolan-related post, 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, James Dean.
Marc had a lifelong fear of cars and motor vehicles (even, as his brother Harry noted, to the extent of avoiding scooters back in his Mod days). Marc’s one-time manager, Tony Secunda, remarked: “He would never drive a car, he was always scared – Marc never had a driving licence, he refused to learn.” Although he technically owned cars (a Jag and a Rolls) he employed drivers – and kept a regular minicab account.
After Marc’s tragic car crash a similar urban legend regarding a ‘curse’ grew up around Bolan’s fate as that which overshadows the legend of James Dean to this day. In Bolan’s case the mythology is less overt – but the key elements include the following: James Dean was one of Marc’s own idols (Marc frequently name-dropped Dean and at one point in his early career he affected a Transatlantic drawl based on Dean); James Dean died on Marc’s eighth birthday; Marc had a lifelong fear and suspicion of vehicles; Marc believed strongly in destiny and pre-determined fate; in 1973 Marc told a reporter from the NME: “I don’t know if I’m going to be around as a human being much longer. We had four near plane crashes on our last tour”; the decision to drive on the night of the crash was a last minute one; Steve Currie (T Rex bassist) also died in a car crash. Such are the elements that combine to form the notion of a ‘curse’ when a public figure dies tragically and suddenly in such a manner.
Perhaps more of a genuine mystery are the (still officially unanswered) questions surrounding the state of Gloria’s Mini Clubman shortly before the crash. The Mini had reportedly been serviced at a local garage in Sheen only a few days before the fatal crash. During the service the car’s wheels were rebalanced and a tyre replaced. When the car was examined after the crash, the pressure in the passenger-side tyre was found to be only 16lbs (some 12lbs lower than it should have been) and two wheel nuts were not even finger tight. Evidence of a shoddy service? Or damage caused in the crash? No formal conclusion was (or has ever been) reached.
In addition, an urban legend quickly grew up – supposedly based on music industry insider gossip – alleging that shortly before the crash the Mini had been borrowed and the engine retuned and the tyres deliberately let down by Pink Floyd’s management team in preparation for some clandestine high speed racing by the band’s members. The truth of Pink Floyd’s involvement is unknown to this blogger – perhaps some Floyd fans (or even Floyd band members!) would care to post a response? Wikipedia perhaps sheds some light on this particular urban legend. It reports that, on the night of Marc’s death, Bolan’s white Rolls Royce had been loaned to the band Hawkwind – who, at that time, were also managed by Marc’s manager, Tony Howard. Could this fact have somehow become distorted into the urban myth concerning Pink Floyd and the Mini? Or were two cars coincidentally loaned out to two different rock bands at the same time?
And so this brings to an end my series of posts on the iconic figures (Bolan and Dean) who inspire the characters (Robin and Jason) in my work-in-progress novel, LITTLE BASTARD. Next time, a change of direction, as I look more broadly at the topic of writing, publishing and books.