Perhaps best known for bringing the term "main man" into popular culture, it was number one for two weeks, before being knocked off the top by "Son of My Father" by Chicory Tip (which also kept "American Pie" by Don McLean from reaching #1).
The lyrics feature numerous figures such as Bobby (who is a natural born poet who is just outta sight), Golden Nose Slim (who knows where you been), Jungle Faced Jake (make no mistake) and Purple Pie Pete. It also contains these lines Marc Bolan wrote to refer to himself: Me I funk/but I don't care/I ain't no square/with my corkscrew hair, a line which industrial rock band KMFDM would borrow for their song "Me I Funk". The riff is similar in character to their massive hit from the previous year, "Get It On". "Telegram Sam" wasn't as successful as "Get It On" worldwide, and it only peaked at #67 in the Billboard Hot 100.
"Telegram Sam" was the first single to be issued by Marc Bolan's own T.Rex Wax Co. label, and was released on 21 January 1972. The b-side featured two songs in the UK, "Cadilac" (as printed on the EMI label of the original single) and "Baby Strange", the latter also included in the album The Slider.
"Telegram Sam" was written by Bolan about the music business accountant, Sam Alder, who sent Bolan, by telegram, news that "Get It On" had reached number one in the UK. Alder also worked with King Crimson and Roxy Music (especially Bryan Ferry).