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The Dad who Defended Bolan
by Carl Halling
10/30/10
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In the summer of 1972, public school drop-out Anthony Saint was launched by his dad on an intensive programme of self-improvement.
Through home study and with the help of local private tutors, he set about making up for the fact that he'd left school at 16 with only two General Certificate of Education passes to his name, where a respectable amount would be no less than five.
He took Karate classes at the Judokan in Hammersmith, and among his fellow students were hard-looking young men – some of them flaunting classic ‘70s feather cuts - who may have been led to the dojo by the prevailing fashion for all things Eastern, such as the films of Bruce Lee, and the “Kung Fu” television series.
There were swimming lessons at the Walton Swimming Pool, where he fell hard for a beautiful elfin girl with a close crop hairstyle which made her look a little like a skinhead girl. She beckoned to him once to come and be with her, but he just stood there as if frozen to the spot. His heart wasn't in the swimming though, and this soon became clear to one of the teachers, who once told him with devastating frankness:
“I don’t know why you bother even turning up.”
Music did interest him though, and although he was an idle slacker, he was yet successfully initiated into the basics of the Rock guitar solo by a shy and sweet-natured guitar teacher possibly aged between about 40 and 45 by the name of Gerry Firth.
Gerry gave lessons from a tiny little abode down an alley in Walton-on-Thames, a London suburb which conjoined Anthony’s own home town where he lived with a much younger wife and golden-haired infant daughter, and his profound love for the rebel music of Rock and Roll was wholly belied by an appearance which was almost militantly square for 1972.
He wore his grey hair in a severe short back and sides style which he supplemented with shirt and tie and sleeveless sweater, and great baggy grey flannel trousers. In other words, he was every inch the ‘70s dad….on the surface of things.
On one occasion, David tried to persuade him of the superior merit of Classical music on the basis that it’s “well-played”, which Gerry countered with:
“Well, isn’t Rock Music well played?”
David was baffled by his argument, because despite his own preference for Rock, he had no great belief in its artistic merits.
Another thing that bewildered him about Gerry Firth was his admiration for British teen idol Marc Bolan, a man he had always despised as much for his girlish appearance as his simplistic three-chord Pop music.
“Don’t you find him effeminate?” David once asked him disgustedly, fully expecting Gerry to express due horror at Bolan’s startling pretty boy looks, while expressing admiration for his catchy tunes; but Gerry trumped him with an answer that caused his jaw to drop:
“Not as excitingly so as Mike Jagger!”
“Mick Jagger”, said Anthony, correcting the older man as if in a trance.
“Mick Jagger”, Gerry conceded, still with the same stubborn fixed smile on his face.
In time, Anthony came around to Gerry’s view of Marc Bolan, and by the end of the following year he was a massive fan himself, and as much for his image as his music. Sadly, he died in 1977 aged only 29 in a car accident close to his home in Barnes, West London. Yet, following his untimely death, he underwent something a transformation both in terms of his persona and his music, both attaining classic status where they remain to this day, not that Anthony Saint is any longer any kind of fan.
He became a born again Christian in 1993, and on the virtual eve of doing so, he was enjoying a near-ecstatic experience by listening to two of his musical heroes, Jim Morrison and Marc Bolan, leaders respectively of the Doors and T Rex. They were similar in many ways, and not just in terms of their looks. Both were primarily poets, with androgynous Shelleyan faces topped by a head of cherubic curls…both struggled with drug and alcohol problems…and both died while yet in their 20s while in the midst of attempting to bring some order back to their chaotic Rock and Roll lives.
After having become a Christian, Saint decided to distance himself from those darker and more intense elements within Rock Music, and to divest himself of much of his musical collection, including albums by the Doors and T. Rex. But he’d not go too far…and still allowed himself a listen to his erstwhile favourites from time to time, even if they entirely failed to produce the sense of transcendent defiance of every known law they once did within him. It was as if he was listening to them as another person altogether, which in effect he was.
But he continued to be charmed by Morrison’s beautiful voice, so crooner-like that an infuriated Frank Sinatra once accused the Florida boy of emulating him; and revisiting Bolan in 2010 thanks to the miracle of the Spotify web site, he was struck by how extraordinarily witty his lyrics were. As to his music, while simple even by Rock standards, he found it strangely infectious, perhaps even alarmingly so. After all, he must have had something to have so delighted Gerry Firth all those years ago, to the extent of making a sixteen year old look square for detesting everything he stood for. Quite a blow struck on behalf of the old hipster guard in the generation wars that were still being fought back then. But Saint forgave him, because arguably more than anyone, Gerry Firth was responsible for providing him with the building blocks of the music he once defended with such impassioned fervour.


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