‘He got expelled for nutting the teacher’: Friends of glam rock icon Marc Bolan look back on 40th anniversary of his death
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“I was always a star, even if it was only being the star of three streets in Hackney,” Marc Bolan reportedly used to quip.
The sequined glam rock god sold millions of records with T. Rex thanks to his innovative take on rock ‘n’ roll and legendary Top of the Pops performances that captured the hearts and ears of teenagers everywhere.
But before all that he was Mark Feld, of Stoke Newington Common – number 25, if you want to see the plaque – a smartly-dressed mod who could often be seen at Stamford Hill’s bowling alley and the arcade known as “the schtip” (a Yiddish word meaning “taking money”).
Born at Hackney General Hospital on September 30, 1947, Mark – and his brother Harry – attended nearby Northwold Primary School, where he formed his first skiffle band aged nine.
Then his dad brought him home Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock, rather than the Bill Hayes record he had asked for, and everything changed.
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On Saturday the world of music celebrated the life and music of Marc Bolan on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death in a car crash in Barnes, south west London.
To mark the occasion, the Gazette spoke to some of his old friends from the area to find out if he really was the “star of three streets”.
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Peter Willis was one of Marc’s best friends at William Wordsworth secondary and sat next to him in class.
“He was a nice guy but he was a bit of a hard nut, and he’d nut you,” Peter told the Gazette. “He was always a mod. Even when he was 13 he used to shop in Cecil Gee’s.
“I’ve got a friend who went out with him for a few weeks and he used to send her poems. The teacher caught him one day and turned round to Mark and said: ‘You’re never gonna make anything of yourself.’”
He added: “You either liked him or you didn’t. He wasn’t flash, but he was always smart.
“And then he got expelled. He’d done something wrong and he went to see the headmaster, or the deputy headmaster, Mr Pearson. He said he was going to give him the cane and Mark said no. He told him to hold out his hand and Mark nutted him.”
Marc moved to Wimbledon and Peter didn’t see him again – except on TV.
“I loved his music but I never went to see him play,” he said. “When I heard on the news he’d died I was gutted. I used to work on the buses out of Tottenham. I used to go to Richmond on the weekend on the 73 and it went through Barnes. I remember seeing all the flowers and the tree. It still don’t seem like 40 years ago.”
Lyn Rennick met him at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street when she was 13.
“I was far too young to have been there and I was on my own because none of my friends were allowed to go or couldn’t afford to,” she said. “He could see I was really young and he was worried about me being ‘up west’ on my own, especially in Soho, in a club.
“This was before he was famous and was singing under the name of Toby Tyler. He was amazed when I said I was from Stokey and I went to his old school, and also that my granddad was Polish and Jewish just like his was.
“He insisted on making sure I got home safely so came with me to the 73 bus stop and made sure I got on the bus. He made me promise not to go up there again on my own. I said I wouldn’t but the next week there I was again.
“He then kind of became my personal minder, making sure I was OK. I got to meet a load of famous people, some long before they were famous, through him. I think some thought I was his little sister. He was the perfect gentleman.
“Then years later I was watching TV, and there he was with a mass of curls and glitter on his face – nothing like he was when I knew him.
“I was gobsmacked. But he was so determined to be a big star I just knew he would make it, and he did. He had a great determination. He knew what he wanted and he went out and got it.”