Song of the Week: “20th Century Boy” by T Rex

Because I am so uptight, I NEED songs like this…drink a bunch of coffee and dance around my son’s Thomas the Train toys like Marc Bolan while my wife is on the couch working on her lesson plans. It turns a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon into an epic rock show. “You can’t be real,” Bolan says of rock n roll, “on that stage I’m in a realm of fantasy. I can do whatever I want. And get away with it.” He’s right. That’s exactly what he’s doing—getting away with it. That ecstatic scream and immense guitar hook immediately disarm my smug sense of “artistic integrity,” so much so that even the lyrics, which are pretty replaceable, seem to enhance the indulgence. But it’s the gospel-inspired back-up singing that is the real genius of the composition, transforming Bolan into an evangelist and the song into a sermon. The mischievous resonance that results when the gravitas of that form delivers such a flippant, irreverent message—“20th century toy…I wanna be your boy”—charms me into letting myself “get away with” feeling like a rock god. Thank you, T Rex, for helping me get over myself. At least for an afternoon.

-Chris Tonelli

Chris Tonelli is one of the founding editors of Birds, LLC, an independent poetry press.  He also founded and curates the So and So Series and edits the So and So Magazine.  He is the author of The Trees Around (Birds, LLC.), No Theater (Brave Men Press), For People Who Like Gravity and Other People (Rope-A-Dope Press), A Mule-Shaped Cloud (horseless press), and Wide Tree (Kitchen Press), and he teaches at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he lives with his wife Allison and their son Miles.


Questions, compliments, (hopefully not) complaints? Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.

See all Songs of the Week here.