Steve Kilbey is best known as the frontman of Australian legends the Church, whose “Under The Milky Way” was one of the defining alt-rock singles of the late ’80s. He has also released records with the likes of Grant McLennan, Martin Kennedy and Donnette Thayer, as well as a number of solo albums. Aside from being a member of the Australian Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Kilbey pens poetry and is an accomplished painter. His latest CD is Life Somewhere Else (Communicating Vessels) by Isidore, a collaboration with Jeffrey Cain (Remy Zero). Kilbey will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.
Kilbey: Things in transition always excite me. Here we find Marc Bolan morphing before our eyes from hippy-minstrel changeling to the bopping elf, as he would later come to be known. But two very interesting records separated these two extremely different Bolans as he moved from one thing to another, and the first transition album is A Beard Of Stars. It features the result of a few guitar lessons from Eric Clapton himself. Bolan must have learned something because he suddenly knew how to make his Fender Strat talk and sing. The wah-wah solo in “Lofty Skies” is achingly and unbearably poignant. It is the very voice of love. “Oh this time of love moves me,” sings Bolan softly at the end of it.
Elsewhere there is some true weirdness that has been fueling my imagination for a long time. We don’t know really what Phoenician or Babylonian music sounded like, but I reckon it might have sounded like “Wind Cheetah,” a bizarre song that is like nothing you’ve ever heard … even I can’t handle listening to it every time! There’s “Great Horse,” a strange song as if from Old European tradition or something. Although these songs are played on guitar, bass and percussion instruments, almost all of them are strikingly medieval or Biblical or Eastern Orthodox or a strange mixture of all of that. But at the same time Bolan has finally figured out how he may rock, and on “Elemental Child” he delivers a big noisy and dumbly wonderful guitar solo, one that even Neil Young might have been proud of. (I guess?!)
His words are part Middle Earth, part hipster-romantic-poet jive. All sung in that strange accent, which was becoming more understandable. You see, on the first three Tyrannosaurus Rex albums, Bolan had warbled and bleated almost unintelligently, but now for the first time you could understand large chunks of the lyrics. (No lyric sheet with my copy, good!)
On the next record he would abbreviate the name to T.Rex. (The first time anyone anywhere used that term by the way, now everyone calls the dinosaur T. Rex, but they didn’t before Bolan.) A friend of mine upon hearing this record in 1970 for the first time exclaimed, “He’s singing in old English!”
A Beard Of Stars: I think you might grow to adore this record after a few plays; it’s quite special!
Video after the jump.