The Fossil Records
Does it get any better than this? Marc Bolan's glam rock band T. Rex are surely not only the most successful pop group with a palaeontological moniker, but also the best. Hugely influential on everyone from Kate Bush to The Smiths, they were the biggest band in the UK in the early 1970s. Hot Love was their second single after shortening their name from Tyrannosaurus Rex, their first number 1 record, and just one of an astonishing series of perfect pop songs released from 1970–1973 (for my money, Jeepster is the best, but they are all great).
Most of the covers for Hot Love featured images of Marc Bolan and percussionist Mickey Finn. However, the Italian release (still using the name Tyrannosaurus Rex) was unique in featuring a rather Godzilla-like creature, presumably supposed to be a dinosaur, on the front cover. It was backed by the track Woodland Rock. You can get a copy fairly cheaply on Discogs.
Perhaps surprisingly, very few of T. Rex's record sleeves have images of dinosaurs on them. In fact, I've only been able to identify two others so far in addition to Hot Love: the UK promo, Japanese and French releases of the very first single by the band back in 1968, Deborah, which all feature versions of the iconic life restoration of Tyrannosaurus rex by Neave Parker, and the inner sleeve of their first album, the bonkers folk-rock of My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair... But Now They're Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows, which features the same image. I'd like to cover the former in more detail at some point, but copies currently start at £80 on Discogs, so it probably won't be soon.
While we're on the topic of the Neave Parker Tyrannosaurus rex, check out the absolutely incredible poster (below) for the 1969 visit of Bolan's band to the Town Hall right here in Birmingham, hosted by none other than John Peel. I suspect that there may only be one copy of this in existence, but if anyone ever sees one for sale, please let me know. There are some other equally great and rare posters out there, including one to promote the 1969 album Unicorn. The poster was created by Tom Wilkes and features Marc Bolan and early band member Steve Peregrin Took nestled in the antorbital fenestra of a Tyrannosaurus skull. Another marvelous, psychedelic poster was created by George Underwood to promote 1968 album My People Were Fair...
Finally, I've not listened to all of T. Rex's albums, so I can't confirm how often dinosaurs appear in song lyrics, but there is at least one example, from 1968's Strange Orchestras:
"Saw a face in a conical of lace, it was a strange orchestra
Mannequin skin pounding on a bass-drum, strange orchestra
Lilliputian, evil in the eyes of the man with the leaf harp
He lusts for the urchin hiding under mountains of moleskin
A big cat like t-tyrannosaurus going to Lilliput
The ensemble make a tiny rumble, the celloist solos
The sky blackens and the bass string slackens and they stand statuesquely
Then they giggle and they wiggle through the door in the big dark oak tree"
Yeah. Make of that what you will...
Now almost entirely forgotten, Rote Kapelle were part of the Edinburgh indie scene of the mid 1980s, and shared members with several other bands, including the rather wonderful jangle-pop groups Jesse Garon and the Desperados, The Shop Assistants, and The Fizzbombs. Although some of Rote Kapelle's later recordings would have similarly twee leanings, the four tracks on their debut, The Big Smell Dinosaur E.P, are much harder and noisier, more post-punk than indie-pop. I quite like it.
The band took their name from the name given by the Gestapo to an anti-Nazi resistance movement (Die Rote Kapelle - the Red Orchestra) operating in Berlin during WW2. In their short career, the band released three EPs, two 7" singles, and a single album. Their first effort, The Big Smell Dinosaur E.P, was self-released (on 'Big Smell Dinosaur Records' according to the cover) and limited to 500 copies. The band designed and printed the sleeves themselves. The six band members then hand coloured all of them, with each sleeve being unique as a result.
The cover is graced by two Brontosaurus, feeding on horsetails, with an erupting volcano on the horizon, and some sauropod footprints in the foreground. A tiny Stegosaurus on the rear cover reminds us that, although it is a 7", the record should be played at 33 rpm. Although one of the tracks is titled Evolution, I must admit that the link between the music and dinosaurs isn't particularly clear to me.
The artist is not credited, and I assume that the sauropods are redrawings of some 1970s or early 1980s palaeo-art, but I can't identify them. If anyone has an idea of where they are from, please let me know in the comments.
All of the songs on this E.P., King Mob, Evolution, Fergus! The Sheep! and A Gasfire, are available on YouTube, and the original vinyl is available via Discogs.