On Friday, June 10th, documentary feature Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T-Rex, premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film, which shares its name with the 2020 tribute album, is an ode and homage to Marc Bolan, the mop-headed T-Rex bandleader whose unique approach to pop songcraft birthed a legacy of musicians who were profoundly impacted by his work. Director Ethan Silverman, who was also involved in the making of the album, produced by the late Hall Willner, partnered with Sonic Union and Mix Engineer Michael Marinelli to create a sonically dynamic mix for the film.
As seen in the film, the list of Bolan acolytes happens to include some of the biggest names in music, and U2, Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Ringo Starr, Nick Cave, and Elton John - along with (add names) – are all on hand to celebrate his work in interviews and performance footage. These combine with archival footage to trace Bolan’s life from his teenage years digging through Carnaby Street dustbins with David Bowie to his tragic death at the age of 29.
“The film itself became a mixed-media project due to the far-flung nature of filming, archival and, ultimately the recent pandemic, during which time the film was completed,” says Ethan. “Marc Bolan’s unique spin on Rock & Roll, use of rhythm, poetic wordplay, and gender fluid fearlessness deserve a fresh look. This film is neither a biopic nor a ‘making of’ documentary, rather it is a celebration of creativity looking backward and forward at the same time.”
Mixing and interweaving audio from numerous and varied sources presented Marinelli – whose credits include longform projects for Paul McCartney, Prince, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, along with music videos for such artists as Tom Petty, Prince, Dolly Parton and Travis Tritt – with a welcome challenge to honour Bolan’s legacy with sound that delivers an authentic, engaging audio experience.
“From my first conversation with Ethan about ‘Angelheaded Hipster’ I knew this was a film I had to be a part of for so many reasons,” explains Michael. “My career was forged by a love of music and my early experiences were on longform projects with music at the forefront. Marc Bolan’s poetry and song writing have left an indelible mark, and to apply what I love to do as both a musician and engineer to a story for music lovers is an incredible honour. It was both a technically challenging and creatively joyful process from start to finish, with many poignant moments along the way.”
“Collaborating with Michael Marinelli and Sonic Union has been an incredible experience, concludes Ethan. “I presented Michael with technical challenges that would have frightened lesser humans. Our package included zoom calls with wonky wi-fi from all over the world to various levels of production sound and he turned it into a seamless aural experience. This film was made with grit and love over a period of a few years including the pandemic, and Michael responded with tenfold enthusiasm to help the editorial team bring us to the finish line.”