In the summer of 1976 my family had its first - and, indeed, last - overseas holiday, in a house-swap on the outskirts of Paris. Following a visit to the Louvre I bought two postcards, one of which was of Rene Magritte's The Sixteenth of September 1956.

It depicts a young tree with a crescent moon within. Why I selected it, I have no idea. On returning home, I stuck it onto my bedroom wall, where it remained until 1979, when we moved house.

Magritte sixteen of September
The Sixteenth of September, an eerie premonition of the untimely death of Marc Bolan

In the interim, Marc Bolan - my idol, the first superstar of the 1970s, the man who invented “Glam Rock” - had been killed, on 16 September 1977. His Mini had crashed into a sycamore tree near Barnes common at about 5 o’clock that morning. As I took the card down from the wall, I turned it over and, for the first time, noticed its name: The Sixteenth of September.

Suddenly, it was about Marc. I was shocked. I stuck it in my T.Rex scrapbook. I have continued to be a fan of Marc Bolan and have mentioned the painting to numerous people down the years, including to the writer Mark Paytress, who included it in his definitive Bolan biography, The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar.

By day I am Head of Membership and Ticketing for Tate; by night, I have developed a freelance role as chief archivist, researcher and project manager for Marc’s legacy. Along the way I met the singer from the nightclub where Marc spent his final hours. She was driving the car which followed his Mini on that fateful night, and remembers that in the misty early morning, the light and the moon looked exactly as Magritte depicted.

When I learnt that Tate Liverpool was to stage its Magritte retrospective, I was keen to know whether The Sixteenth of September would be included, and am delighted that it is now on display at the gallery. Marc’s spirit lives on in many ways. His artistry is not yet fully appreciated, so I am particularly happy to have helped to make a connection between him and Magritte. Out of a tragedy, something interesting and more than a little spooky has emerged.


Paul Roland

Hi Martin You won't remember me but I interviewed you and Ros Davis for 'Uncut' re Marc many years ago. I am publishing what I believe will be the definitive biog of Marc ('Cosmic Dancer'named after the fanzine I published back in 1978!!) this autumn (www.Tomahawk and the opening chapter concerns the painting and the recurring theme that he was haunted by a presentiment of his own death. Would like to hear from you if you want to be involved while there is still time... Paul Roland

john chamberlain


I love all the obscure marc bolan/t-rex songs that find their way onto youtube...

Jennene Whiteley

Truly surreal! As a surrealist I am drawn to 'things that happen by chance' but at the same time the 'everything happens for a reason' saying, popped into my mind whilst reading your blog - thanks for sharing that.

Jayne Mountford

Great story! I was also a huge T.Rex fan growing up and agree that Marc Bolan is very under appreciated for the role he played in establishing Glam Rock music.

Liz Levine Kennedy

I turned 14 on the day Marc Bolan hit that tree and so the 16th of September now has an added dimension for me...Thank you (love both Magritte and Marc Bolan)


thank god/google for youtube, the only way i know about marc bolan .. nice post


Lovely tweet Martin, allowing a moment of reflection and reminiscence.

I Was Listening to radio one on the fateful day when a marc song was played. I was suprised as his music received little airplay in 1977 until the DJ said 'from the late, great Marc Bolan'

cried all day and night.

Jan Tozer

Marc Bolan was a beautiful person and artist and I was very into his music as a teenager - I was shocked and saddened by his premature death. My childhood - friend's birthday is on September 16 and my Father drove a Mini.I sometimes wonder if artists have the ability to portray future events. Sometimes when I peruse through my backlog of art works I can relate my paintings to past events. (painted before the event) Jan Tozer Brighton Artist - I am inspired to paint Marc Bolan having read this blog and am going to work on this work today! I will play T Rex music to inspire me.


but.....they did rule the children of the revolution didn't they.


I have always been an avid fan of Marc Bolan ever since my father first played 'Electric Warrior' to me as a child. His legend will never die, he seems to have that ethereal presence even many years after his death. He is STAR personified, and this picture immortalises him.


Thank you for this story...I had heard of the coincidence between this painting and Marc Bolan's death, and your story is a eloquent testament to this remarkable, talented man. I wish he had gained greater recognition in the United States, but I'm happy that the Internet has brought together his fans throughout the world...

Carolyn Colllins

Today is my daughter's 24th birthday.....she was born 7 minutes time it'll be the exact time of her birth which was feet-first...and without pain relief or drugs.She is incredibly beautiful and a talented artist....On this day I remember the child to whom I gave life...and who has taught me SO MUCH.


I named my son Marc after the man, cool story.

Colin Allen

Thanks, Martin, what a terrific picture. Apparently the moon was in that same position, the morning Marc died.It is kinda spooky..Marc was a wonderful musician,and I wonder if half of todays "heroes" will be held with the same esteem....I think not..To all of you to hit this site, you're all wonderful. Carolyn's story's smashing Love Y'all

Colin Allen

Hi Marsha,You're obviously a lady of Rexcellent taste. Marc was big in the US of A. He had a following, that's good enough. Marc always said he'd play to people that listened. You were in that position...Best wishes, Colin