Well known now for dubstep, with groups such as Skream originating from the borough, there is a strong, if overlooked, history of Croydon as an influential place for popular music and musicians. The most famous band with Croydon links spanned folk, glam and eventually punk.
The lead singer and guitarist was a young Marc Feld, later Bolan, with Mickey Finn as percussionist originating from South Norwood. The band in question, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Finn’s involvement with the group spanned from 1970 until the increasingly electronic nature of their music rendered him obsolete. While Bolan played a larger than life character both on and off stage, Finn along with the rest of the band were less at the forefront of the success of the group.
Despite only being in the band for four years, he witnessed the heydays and the first decline of the group. Arguably the greatest album he recorded was The Slider in 1972, featuring hits such as “Metal Guru” – an alternative take on religion – and “Telegram Sam” – about a notorious LA drug dealer.
“Telegram Sam” as a song really shows the rock star lifestyle to which they subscribed. Surpassing Beatle-mania with T.Rextasy it really was all sex, drugs and alcohol. For most of the band this played a part in both their downfall and, in Finn’s case, his death. He died in 2003 with the most likely cause being of alcohol and substance abuse from this era with the band.
After Mickey Finn left T.Rex, he played a part in a few minor projects before restarting T.Rex in 1997 as Mickey Finn’s T.Rex, though they never reached the heights of stardom of the band’s career in the early 70s.
Earlier this month, on June 3, the date that would have been Finn’s 65th birthday, T.Rex cover band T.Rexstasy played Fairfield Halls, playing a wide range of hits from all Bolan’s albums. Although not full, the audience – most of whom would have been in their teens when the band were still around – were really in the mood. Sadly, the seating in Fairfield dictates a different atmosphere. but it did not hamper proceedings.
The only minor drawback seemed to be the levels on some of the instruments seemed out of kilter with the size of the venue and the transition from acoustic to electric sets.
T.Rexstasy do make a fitting tribute to one of the greatest British bands of their era. Sadly, though, despite the integral role Finn played in T.Rex, there always seems to be a man missing on stage when T.Rexstasy perform, as the only percussion in their sets is a drum kit, not the bongos, tambourine or whatever else Finn decided to play.
Like other notable Croydon popular music artists such as Ralph McTell, Desmond Dekker and Kirsty MacColl, Finn was overlooked for the borough’s “walk of fame”. Yet he deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest musicians we have ever produced.
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