The estimable Paul Roland, himself a songwriter of distinction, is surely the biographer Marc Bolan would have wished for. This isn’t to say that Cosmic Dancer is an exercise in sycophancy – far from it – but more that Roland’s consummate understanding of the process of songwriting, recording and performing affords him an insight beyond the ken of journeymen hacks. Furthermore, Roland is a terrier for the truth: unstinting in his praise where praise is merited, but unsparing when discussing the “fat Elvis” period cocaine-and-champers binges which led Bolan to go through the motions in the studio or treat friends and loved ones abysmally.
A comprehensive phalanx of interviewees sheds light on every stage of Bolan’s life and career, ranging from youth club confederate Helen Shapiro and John’s Children manager Simon Napier-Bell, to bandmates Steve Peregrin Took and Mickey Finn, not to mention last-tour companions Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies of The Damned. The only caveat is an uncharacteristic carelessness when contextualising Bolan. Jim Lea of Slade has his surname misspelled, for example, and the date given for Eddie Cochran’s death is erroneous by three years and seven months, while Pilot, Abba and ELO are surely too unimpeachable to be included among Roland’s roll-call of pop’s mid-70s doldrums.