Throwback Thursday: T. Rex’s “Mambo Sun”

I’ll start off by saying two things:
1. I have no idea what a “mambo sun” is
2. I know very little about Glam Rock that is not David Bowie.

However, I know that T. Rex’s song off of their critically-acclaimed 1971 album Electric Warrior, “Mambo Sun”, is glam rock, and I know that I like it a lot. Like, it’s been on repeat since I happened to hear it on KXT 91.7 in Dallas in August.

Prior to discovering this song, I had a very limited knowledge about T. Rex: I knew their two biggest songs, “Bang a Gong (Get it On),” and “Jeepster” (and you probably do too, even if you don’t know it), and I knew that they’re referenced in “You Better You Bet” by The Who. Those first two aforementioned songs are included on Electric Warrior, which is considered a glam rock essential and one of the defining albums of the genre. I’ll admit I tended to lump T. Rex into the “classic rock that doesn’t include The Beatles, The Who, Zeppelin, The Doors, etc.” category, but this track made me revisit them.

The steady, hypnotic mix of the palm-muted guitar with the drum beat (think “Everlasting Light” by the Black Keys. No, really. It’s literally the same.) sets up Marc Bolan’s lyrics perfectly. In addition to this, while less obvious, I think that the backing vocal harmonies really add a depth that greatly improves the overall quality of the song.

The lyrics, however, are what really grabbed me from the beginning. It’s got a simple message, a classic love song, we’ve heard it thousands of times. However, this one is set apart with the imagery that Bolan uses. It’s all so out there and bizarre, it just works.

One of the less weird and more straightforward lines is:

“beneath the Mambo Sun,
I got to be the one- with you”

How sweet. What’s next?

“on a mountain range,
I’m Doctor Strange- for you”

Oh. Still, I guess that’s still sweet? I just know it’s easily my favorite line. Now I don’t know who Doctor Strange is, but apparently he looks like this, so he’s got that going for him.

Doctor Strange.

So, if you’re looking for the next song to get stuck in your head:

-Mark Austin


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