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[music, albums]

I: 1972 Roxy Music - Roxy Music


Next year in exactly eight months time is my 40th birthday. A couple of weeks ago I had the idea to prepare my inner self for this shock by reviewing my favourite albums from 1963-2002 with the restriction of choosing one album per year. It is a way of looking back at my past life in terms of the music I listened to and I still love. As I didn't listen to music in 1963 for example I will always pick my current favourite. I am not sure if I will succeed in finishing this "project" until July, 14th, I would have to make an entry every six days or so till then, but I hope with posting my first choice for 1972 I will put myself enough under pressure to reach the finish of this little music marathon.

There will be no rules concerning the order of the years I will choose. To start with 1972 turned out to be quite a challenge as it was probably one of the most exciting years in the history of pop music. Just look at Piero Scaruffi's list with 90 records of which I don't even know the top spot: Klaus Schulze's Irrlicht. I own 33 albums (CD, LP or tape) recorded in 1972. And about six of them have been favourites of mine from that year at one point of my life (the years are approximate):

  • 1976 Genesis - Foxtrot
  • 1980 Nick Drake - Pink Moon
  • 1987 Neil Young - Harvest
  • 1990 Rolling Stones - Exile in on Main Street
  • (relistening to this was a major disappointment)

  • 2002 Neu! - Neu!
But my current favourite and that is what all this is about is
Roxy Music's first self-titled album.

There are bands I've been getting into almost instantly at first listen like Velvet Underground or The Smiths and there are others which took me a long time to appreciate. Like Joy Division Roxy Music belong into this group.

My first audio encounter with their singer and main songwriter Bryan Ferry dates back to the summer of 1976. It was the first time I was in a foreign country without my parents and I was in Bournemouth in a guest family. Two songs were everywhere in that very dry & hot English summer: Let's Stick Together by Ferry and Here Comes the Sun by Cockney Rebel. I liked both of them and didn't realize for a long time that Here Comes the Sun was a Beatles cover. Ferry's sleazy crooner's voice was hard to resist and he was good looking too which could impress a thirteen year old.

But somehow for a long time I had a problem to connect the pop singer Ferry to the more experimental and challenging band Roxy Music which was lauded in music critics circles. And I didn't understand what was so special about them. I don't remember the name of the first song by them I ever listened to and it didn't mark me at all but I know that it was in my philosophy class at school around 1979 (our teacher was young). The class was about existentialism and the teacher said that this song was new wave.

Roxy Music - Roxy Music
Let's come back to my album of 1972. The cover is the first in a series of sexily dressed women covers. Mauvais goût but in an interesting way. All the women on the first five albums of Roxy Music have in common that they have a stupid artificial expression on their face and that from my point of view their faces are ugly in their false and unapproachable coolness. I suppose that is intended. This is part of the game. It is not the cover that is supposed to turn anyone on. It is just an eye-catcher. A false package if you want. Inside there is one of the most ear-catching records of the seventies. At least it turned me on but it took a long time.

There is a party going on. People talking, tinkling glasses. A seemingly average rock song starts with a kind of bar piano line. Ferry sings forgettable lyrics about the sweetest queen he has ever seen. With his staccato intonation he sounds like the blueprint for David Byrne in the Talking Heads. Phil Manzanera tries to be Jimi Hendrix and he almost succeeds. And suddenly the song takes a turn. The saxophone becomes freestyle, there is some guitar distortion, the piano becomes atonal, the song morphs into a free jazz session. It slows down at the end like as if the record player is plugged off and the speed is slowing down. A nice drum solo and a fireworks noise finish the song.

A lyrical classical oboe theme starts Ladytron. A song for romantic candle-light dinners. But beware this one speeds up. Never trust the beginning of a Roxy Music song. Eno adds some electronic spices to this.

My favourite song is no.3 If There Is Something. The first 90 seconds constitute about the most boring country rock ballad I have ever heard. But when Andy Mackay's sax and later oboe join in and play a new theme everything changes. Suddenly we are in melodramatic land. Ferry sings vibrato as if he had swallowed one gallon of his own tears:

I would do anything for you.
I would climb mountai-ai-ai-ns.
I would swim all the oceans blue.

The theme is repeated by the piano and varied upon. It is really fascinating how the guitar also merges in. All instruments seem to fuse into one. The oboe is reaching heights where no man has ever been. Ferry almost drowns in his tears now. How can a voice sound so desperate from deep inside? The last minute is a tad boring again with the over and over repeated line When you were young but the four minutes in between 1'30'' and 5'30'' are about the most exciting four minutes in any piece of rock I know.

Marginal note: I just read here in the AMG that there is a probably even superior 12 minute (!) live version of this song performed at the John Peel radio show in January 1972. I really need this now.

The next song is Virginia Plain and I think I'll finish now as everyone will know this anyway. As sparkling as rock music can get. I have to add that there is no weak song on this album. That there are two small rock mini-operas The Bob (Medley) and Sea Breeze which piss on Supper's Ready or anything released by The Who in this field. 2 H.B. and the beginning of The Bob foreshadow ambient. And there is Would You Believe? which anticipates the dreadful Rocky Horror Picture Show without its one-dimensionality. The end is Bitters End, the party is over, the girl is gone and has found another and Bryan asks

will someone find me?

This was a party as it should be. It was fun but it was a disappointment as well. A good pretext for another party, don't you think?

Maybe tomorrow Pink Moon will be my 1972 favourite again but today it is Roxy Music.


 
 

Re: 40 years, 40 albums, pt.1: 1972

wow. it's been ages since i listened to any Klaus Schulze. thanks for the (perhaps unintended) reminder !

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here: supatyp smartshitter (hier: supatyp klugscheißer)

hier stand, dass es exile on main street heißt. und dass roxy music's erste keine schlechte wahl ist.

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sorry, die zensur war ein versehen

sorry supatyp, jetzt habe ich trottel doch glatt deinen kommentar verunstaltet. kommt nicht nochmal vor, scheine heute noch nicht so ganz geistig da zu sein. also nochmal mein kommentar zu deinem:

wo er recht hat, hat er recht, der supatyp. schon korrigiert. wobei das wirklich eines der überschätzesten rockalben aller zeiten ist. sowas von retro (selbst für 72) und langweilig. nur dieser eine hypnotische song mit diesem marokkanischen orchester oder so ist nicht schlecht.

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a new artist to be discovered

Hi,

LARGO02 is a french artist whose inspirations are 80's electro pop music,some other klaus schulze, tangerine dream, massive attack, bjork, sakamoto, kraftwerk, and jazz stars like coltrane and so on.
why wouldn't you discover his work on his website?
have fun.
larg02.over-blog.com
ulric_cel@caramail.com

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The First Roxy Music Album

Good review. I, too, posted my review of this classic album over at my blog Mere Words. Enjoy.

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