T. Rex Makes Some Noise on ‘Bang a Gong (Get It On)’

‘200 Greatest 70s Rock Songs’ Book Excerpt

Frank Mastropolo
The Riff

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Cleopatra Records

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“Bang a Gong (Get It On)” was written by T. Rex vocalist Marc Bolan, a №10 hit. The song was released on the band’s 1971 album Electric Warrior. When “Bang a Gong” was released in the UK in 1971, it was titled “Get It On.” To avoid confusion with a song with the same title by Chase, it was renamed for its US release.

In his autobiography, producer Tony Visconti explains that the song was rehearsed at the Los Angeles home of Flo & Eddie’s Howard Kaylan.

“When I first heard it, only the day before we recorded it, it sounded like a hit to me. The next day we drove what seemed like miles and miles to Wally Heider Studios and recorded ‘Get It On’ — the sunshine seemed unbearable to us, with our maggot-like complexions from grey London. We did it in one evening, complete with overdubbed backing vocals from Flo & Eddie — we knew we had our next single.

“Bang a Gong (Get It On)” by T. Rex

“Back in London, we were adding my string arrangement to ‘Cosmic Dancer’ in Trident Studios when a thought occurred to me. ‘Marc, you do realize that both the last two singles have strings on them and there are none on “Get It On?”’

“He went pale on the spot. ‘Tony, we must have them, can you write something?’ With the string players patiently sitting in their seats I quickly dictated the three notes the strings were to play on the chorus. Without a score to read from I simply pointed to them when they were meant to play the three notes and repeat them when necessary. They had to watch me carefully to stop playing the three notes because the repetition was different each chorus.”

“I don’t contrive my success in the sense of going into a studio to make hit singles,” Bolan told The Guardian. “I’ve no idea what makes a hit single anyway. I go in and do what I like — just the funkiest thing I have goes into a single. I get a few people in the business come up and give me a nudge and say, ‘Go on, Bole, you’ve got it made — you’re a sly one,’ but I really don’t have any kind of secret formula. I just don’t think like that.

“I honestly believe ‘Get It On’ was one of the best things I’ve ever done and the only kind of criticism I’m going to accept about it is that if someone can say, ‘Well, that’s out of tune or the guitar work is crap.’ OK, but I know it isn’t.”

Frank Mastropolo is the author of the 200 Greatest Rock Songs series.

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Frank Mastropolo
The Riff

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