20th Century Boy

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"20th Century Boy"
T Rex 20th Century Boy Ariola Cover.jpg
Picture sleeve from Germany
Single by T. Rex
B-side"Free Angel"
Songwriter(s)Marc Bolan
Producer(s)Tony Visconti
T. Rex singles chronology
"Solid Gold Easy Action"
"20th Century Boy"
"The Groover"

"20th Century Boy" is a song by T. Rex, written by Marc Bolan, released as a stand-alone single. It directly entered in the UK Singles Chart at number 3 on 10 March 1973 and peaked three weeks in a row at that position.[4] It stayed a total of nine weeks in the UK Chart.[4]

"20th Century Boy" was not featured on the album Tanx, released at the same time in early March. It was later added as a bonus track in the reissues of Tanx from year 1985 and on all the following versions released since. The song returned to the UK Top 20 in 1991, peaking at No. 13,[5] after being used in a TV commercial for Levi's starring Brad Pitt.


"20th Century Boy"[edit]

"20th Century Boy" was recorded on 3 December 1972 in Toshiba Recording Studios in Tokyo, Japan at a session that ran between 3:00 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.[6][7]

Backing vocals, hand claps, acoustic guitar and saxophones were recorded in England when T. Rex returned to the country after their tour.[6]

The single version of the track fades out at three minutes and thirty-nine seconds; however, the multi-track master reveals that the song ended in nearly a full three minutes' worth of jamming.[6][7] A rough mix of the full-length version can be found on the Bump 'n' Grind compilation.[7]

"20th Century Boy"'s lyrics are, according to Marc Bolan, based on quotes taken from notable celebrities such as Muhammad Ali. This can be seen through the inclusion of the line "sting like a bee", which is taken from one of Ali's 1969 speeches.[8]

Although the lyrical content of a lot of Marc Bolan's songs is ambiguous,[citation needed] analysis of the multi-track recordings of "20th Century Boy" reveals the first line of the song to be "Friends say it's fine, friends say it's good/Everybody says it's just like Robin Hood," and not the often misquoted "...just like rock 'n' roll."[6]

"Free Angel"[edit]

"Free Angel" was recorded during the first session for the Tanx album, between 1 and 4 August 1972. The single was mixed for release at Air Studios on 16 December 1972.[7]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "20th Century Boy"
  2. "Free Angel"



Chalk Circle version[edit]

Canadian rock band Chalk Circle covered "20th Century Boy" in 1987.

Chart (1987) Peak
Canada (Cancon)[21] 9
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[22] 44

Def Leppard version[edit]

"20th Century Boy"
Single by Def Leppard
from the album Yeah!
Songwriter(s)Marc Bolan
Producer(s)Def Leppard
Def Leppard singles chronology
"Rock On"
"20th Century Boy"
"Nine Lives"

English hard rock band Def Leppard covered the song on their 2006 album, Yeah!, which features cover versions of 1970s rock hits. It was released as the third and final single from the album, on 21 August 2006.[23] The band used the song extensively as promotion for including two TV appearances and a regular rotation in the setlist of their 2006 Yeah! Tour. Def Leppard performed "20th Century Boy" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 23 May 2006[24] two days before performing the song with Queen's Brian May on VH1 Rock Honors broadcast on 31 May.


  1. ^ Savage, Jon (1 February 2013). "The 20 best glam-rock songs of all time". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 822. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. Bolan (...) started writing manic chant-along glam-rock hits such as "Metal Guru," "20th Century Boy," "Solid Gold Easy Action," and "Children of the Revolution."
  3. ^ Paytress, Mark (2009). Bolan: The Rise And Fall Of A 20th Century Superstar. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-8460-9147-6.
  4. ^ a b "20th Century Boy". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Danielz (2000). Bump 'n' Grind (Media notes). Japan: Thunderwing Productions.
  7. ^ a b c d Campbell, Irving (2007). A Guide to the Outtakes of Marc Bolan. Wellington, New Zealand: Great Horse Productions. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-0-473-12076-4.
  8. ^ Peel, John (1973). "Review of 20th Century Boy". Disc Magazine.
  9. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  10. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – 20 th century boy". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  11. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – T. Rex – 20th Century Boy". VG-lista. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  12. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  13. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – T. Rex – 20th Century Boy". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 19 July 2013. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON T. Rex"
  15. ^ "Top 10 Sales in Europe" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8 no. 37. 14 September 1991. p. 34. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Forum – General – Finnish singles chart archive". Finnishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  17. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – 20 th century boy". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  18. ^ "Charts.nz – T. Rex – 20th Century Boy". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – T. Rex – 20th Century Boy". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Swisscharts.com – T. Rex – 20th Century Boy". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  21. ^ "Top Cancon Singles". RPM. Vol. 47 no. 3. 24 October 1987. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0887." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Def Leppard – 20th Century Boy". Defleppardworld.com. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  24. ^ Def Leppard 20th Century Boy 2006 on YouTube