Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.


It's the 30th anniversary of Marc Bolans death today. Down in Barnes, just over the crest of the bridge, there's a day-long fan tribute centred around the tree his Mini crashed into.

This is an old post, that somehow got lost in the archives here at Strangeharvest, which seems appropriate to dust down today.

It's one of those incidental London landmarks ... just where you hump the bridge over the train tracks at Barnes station as you head from Putney Common to the South Circular. This is the spot where Marc Bolans mini skidded off the road and smashed into a big tree leaving a crumpled mess of glamourous rock star, hip design icon and nature. Blood, sap and oil dripping into the suburban soil like an infusion of the purest liquid glamour.

A quarter of a century later, there's a mini statue half way down the bank and what looks like a parish notice board facing the killer tree. The board and the tree are decorated with the most charming and heartfelt amateur tributes. Messages to Marc in copywrite free fonts and clip art motifs printed out of bedroom inkjet printers.

This fluttering A4 foliage is an explosion of amateur graphic design. Below this is a crash barrier that was most likely installed post crash by a guilty feeling traffic engineer to stem his teenage daughters tears.

This generic crash barrier has been painted up to make it extra safe in day-glo pink and yellow. This isn't a standard colour scheme, its a fan tribute safety system that has been hand painted on. It's dumpy, gormless, ordinary infrastructure dolled up like a seventies Top of the Pops teenager. A tribute through improved road safety that transforms the glam rock lip gloss and eyeliner look into an urban intervention. An alternative kind of monumentalism: Tragedy, beauty, make up and roadmarkings confused into a brand new kind of popular, helpful and touching urban monument.

Posted by anothersam at September 16, 2007 11:28 AM.


Bolan said:

The tree was not big
It was really very small
(As far as trees go that is)
And no statue of a mini
The Mini went with me
Sad to see them mourning
when you are in the flowers & trees
Sad to see a barrier there
There was not one for me
I was caught between a Rock & a hard place
My face you'll always see
That day I went down Common road

Hi Sam,

I'm glad you found it a "touching urban monument".

Actually the Armco Crash Barrier is that colour because the Department of Transport who fitted it, as you rightly said long after Marc died made it that colour. They'd class it as 'orange & yellow'.

It is about time they replaced it as the reflective coating has peeled off in a number of places. I must check up & find out who's responsible & see if we can talk them into putting in a new one!

The back has been painted black by TAG, who built the steps and provided somewhere safe for people to stand off the road when they are there in 2000.

I thought the 'parish notice board' description was sweet. Did you notice it reads 'Marc Bolan' in the metalwork along the bottom?

Although it isn't 'the killer tree'. Sadly, the first thing the Mini hit was the steel reinforced concrete chainlink fence posts and fence (if that sounds morbid it isn't meant to be, but I've been visiting the tree for over 28 years now and over time you seem to find out things).

The tree was a victim. Not only by the crash, but also by fans like and including me stripping pieces of bark off the tree around the 'accident gash' to take home, as I did just 8 days after Marc died as an 18 year old.

The TAG Web site has 'The History of The Tree' including newspaper photos from the time, photos of the steps project, video of Rolan Bolan unveiling the Bronze of his father in 2002, Memorial Plaques done this year & lots of info on the Main Man too.

"bolan" who posted was right though, in 1977 the tree wasn't that big.

Laser Love

Aaron said:

The New Bomb Turks do a good song about this called Bolan's Crash.

RALF said:

I`ll always remember on my MAINMAN MARC !

Bolan said:

Keep Britain Tidy

Marc Bolan Innovator, Originator, godfather of punk. The greatest of them All!!

Long Live MARC BOLAN, May Mr Bowie walk in Bolans Shadow forever more!!!!!!!!!!!!

james main said:

marc was a legend he safely negoiated me thru the seventies i will always remember his style and panache puts todays heroes into pure insignificance his music and style would still contribute today im sure we would undoubtedly would be addressing him sir marc had he lived

Barbara said:

Marc Bolan

Is verry TERRIBLE CAR CRASH! And very HORROR! What do you thin why dead marc soo??

Me said:

"My love for you is like Matt Bolan to a tree"

- Goldy Lookin' Chain, You knows I loves you baby.

paul said:

any actual crash pics?

John McBride said:

I haven't really thought much of Marc over the years, except when I hear one of his songs on the radio. Sad, but he was not so popular on my side of the Pond. But I still remember the day I bought "Electric Warrior" and found out what his music was about. It struck to my core. I was a teenaged American Bowie Freak, complete with Ziggy Stardust mane and rhinestones and silver studs. Very differant for the USA. I tried to learn his vocal style but it evaded me. I was stationed in Germany with the US Army on the day Marc died and remember the shock and horror of it. I had heard rumours he might tour in Germany and was looking forward to it. I remember drinking too much and crying on the news. I found this site tonight and was happy to see people have not forgotten him. The man behind the music. He was and is a big influence in rock and roll and he will never die. Long live "Lady Stardust"! Love live the "Electric Warrior"!

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