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10 T. Rex Covers You Might Not Have Heard

Were he still walking among us, today would've been the 69th birthday of Marc Bolan, the singer/songwriter best known as frontman and guitarist for the band T. Rex. Alas, Bolan was killed in a car wreck on September 16, 1977 when he was only 29 years old, which places him among the ranks of all too many musicians whose early deaths have left their fans wondering about what music we might have heard if things had gone another way. If there's any solace to be had in Bolan's premature demise, it's that he left behind a remarkably sizable discography for someone who hadn't even hit 30 yet, which - given that his fanbase is still massive over four decades later - has resulted in more than a few individuals paying tribute to Bolan by performing covers of his songs. While most everyone who came of age in the '80s knows The Power Station's take on "Get It On (Bang a Gong)," here are 10 additional T. Rex covers that may have flown under your radar.

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1. Big Star, “Baby Strange” (1973)

You might not necessarily pick out Alex Chilton as a T. Rex fan, but in A Man Called Destruction, Holly George-Warren’s biography of Chilton, the band’s name comes up on a couple of occasions, including once by Robert Johnson, a guitarist who was touring with Isaac Hayes at the time, who recalled how “we’d get stoned in Alex’s bedroom and listen to some T. Rex records I’d brought back from London.” More notably, however, Big Star covered “Baby Strange,” the B-side of “Telegram Sam,” when they performed at the First Annual National Association of Rock Writers Convention, and it sporadically appeared in their sets thereafter.

2. Gloria Jones, “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” (1976)

If you know much at all about T. Rex history, then you shouldn't be too surprised that Jones covered one of Bolan's songs: the two of them had a romantic relationship. While their coupling led to the end of Bolan's marriage, it resulted in a son, Rolan. Insofar as their more music-oriented collaborations go, Jones sang on many a T. Rex song, and when she released her solo album, Vixen, she opted to tackle a couple of Bolan's composition, with this one certainly being the most famous of the bunch.

3. Johnny Thunders, “The Wizard” (1978)

Once upon a time, there was a rumor that Thunders and Bolan had actually sung a version of "Is It Love" together, but in an interview for the unfortunately-named website trakMARX, Thunders debunked the claim. He did, however, confirm that he met Bolan once, describing him as "a cute little guy.. like Prince!"

4. The Polecats, “Jeepster” (1983)

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Given that Bolan once went on record as saying that he ripped off Howlin' Wolf when he wrote "Jeepster," it makes perfect sense that rockabilly revivalists The Polecats would've had a go at the song. The end result is almost as groovy as the T. Rex version...but not quite.

5. The Replacements, “20th Century Boy” (1985)

In their glorious, debauchery-filled heyday, the Replacements could generally be counted on to play at least a handful of incredibly unlikely covers at any given performance, but T. Rex wasn't nearly as out there as some of Paul Westerberg's choices. "The first music I truly claimed as my own was ‘70s glam: T. Rex and Slade," he told the website BeerMelodies in 1999.

6. Violent Femmes, “Children of the Revolution” (1986)

Given that Gordon Gano once covered Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" without really knowing any of the words, you'd be well within your rights to figure that his take on "Children of the Revolution" might have gone the same way. It didn't, though. In fact, Rolling Stone noted of the cover that it's "actually less ironic than the glittery T. Rex original."

7. Morrissey, “Cosmic Dancer” (1991)

Like Thunders, Morrissey actually had a close encounter with Bolan as well, although it didn’t go nearly as well as the future Smiths frontman might have liked. According to Morrissey’s recollection of the event in his autobiography, the two met in the lobby of the Midland Hotel in Manchester, and when Morrissey asked Bolan for his autograph, Bolan declined and walked away. Morrissey’s reaction: “I nod with all the shyness of adolescent modesty, as if understanding the catastrophic trouble I had brought upon him by asking.” Clearly, the encounter caused no ill will, based not only on Morrissey's decision to cover "Cosmic Dancer" live but, indeed, to offer up a full-fledged homage to T. Rex on the sleeve of his "Certain People I Know" single.

8. The Flaming Lips, “Ballrooms of Mars” (1992)

For years, this cover languished on a promo-only single called "Soil X Samples 6 ," where it resided with Mr. Bungle's "Sudden Death" on the flip, but it finally found its way to a more official release last year when the Lips released a compilation entitled Heady Nuggs: Clouds Taste Metallic 20 Years Later.

9. Dim Stars, “Rip Off” (1992)

In the glory days of the New York punk scene, the band Richard Hell was most associated with was the Voidoids, but a few decades later Hell ventured forth with a new band, this one called Dim Stars, featuring Thurston Moore, Don Fleming, and Steve Shelley. The T. Rex cover was an unexpected one, to be sure, but it's no less great for that.

10. Martin Gore, “Life is Strange” (2003):

Buried as a B-side on the single of his cover of David Essex's "Stardust," Gore's cover of "Life is Strange" is a sweet, spare take on the song, featuring little more instrumentation than acoustic guitar. One of the members of Depeche Mode covering T. Rex? Truly, life is strange...

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