I didn’t hear the T-Rex version of “Life’s A Gas” for years; I knew it from an Alex Chilton cover that — maybe it was on a bootleg, or on a live recording off the radio or something? I remember that I didn’t come by it honestly, if that makes sense, and I remember to this day how lazy and scuzzy it sounded. I think Teenage Fanclub were being Chilton’s backing band, and the whole thing sounded near-shambolic, which just made it so much more compelling to listen to, over and over and over again.
I remember going to record stores and toying with the “Electric Warrior” CD over and over again, as well, wondering if it was worth the money just for that one track. (This was before my interest in Bolan set in, and back when I was poor enough that buying a CD was a commitment that I didn’t make easily.) It never seemed fully worth it, and so it was years later when I finally heard the original version of the song, with Bolan’s ethereal vocals feeling the very opposite of Chilton’s, with the pristine guitar feeling light and airy compared to the version I knew.
The original version of the song, to this day, feels almost like a ghost, or perhaps like a skeleton or structure that exists as much in its absence than what is actually present. I feel, when I listen to it, as if I am following that guitar line through a physical space, through the bones of the song. It feels spacious.
This despite the lyrics of the song, which are almost comically lackadaisical, bordering on depressed: “I could have placed our love in the sky, but it really doesn’t matter at all, no, it really doesn’t matter at all…” It’s a proto-slacker song, perhaps, made decades too early. Something that, almost fittingly, I never got around to actually properly listening to until it was easy enough for me to do so without expending any significant effort. Maybe Marc would have approved.