I have an unnatural affinity for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. I have loved Roxy Music from minute one. Note one. I can still remember when “Love is The Drug” hit the airwaves in 1975. I was 15. “Love is The Drug” has still got to be one my all time favorite singles to this day. Top 50, Top 100…I don’t know, but I never get sick of hearing it. That is an oddity for me though. I get sick of nearly everything. There are so many great ideas in this song, but the music is the absolute crusher for me. You just feel like slinking up to the closest female and acting like the moron that you are. “Late that night I parked my car, stake my place in the singles bar.” Man I love the way that sounds. It’s great imagery, but the way Ferry delivers the words is what makes it all come together. In fact when Ferry shimmies and shakes in most of his recordings is what makes his music stands out. I can almost feel his whole journey in “Love is The Drug.” The work day is over, finally the weekend is here, he’s free to mingle, he needs to get laid, he gets in his car and finds the ladies, the courting of the dance, don’t try to play coy with me; let’s cut to the chase, you want this too…ah success! Everything about this song is sexy as far as I’m concerned. That is Roxy Music to me; some of the sexiest music ever laid down on wax…and later on in zeroes and ones. If you don’t have a copy of Flesh + Blood, Siren or Avalon just skip to the next post. You missed the boat I’m trying to describe.
Bryan Ferry was born on September 26, 1945 in a place called Washington in the County Durham in the United Kingdom. Today is his 65th birthday. As I do these posts it really hits home just how old I am. All my heroes are approaching 70! It’ll happen to you too so don’t laugh. Mabye Sookie Stackhouse can somehow save you, but I sort of doubt it. I don’t think becoming a vampire is not an option for me. Since I refuse to grow up in many ways, I hang around with folks roughly twenty years younger than me much of the time. I’m doing what I want to do regardless; they just happen to be there. The reason I say that is because I feel old among them from time to time and there are no women for me in that age group. I seem to have very little in common with women as a rule unfortunately, but it’s very pronounced when you are hanging around with younger folks. Oh and my well earned paunch isn’t helping either, but short of hitting the lottery and having my pick, I need to stick to women in my own age group. I know at least one vocation that transcends age; the Rock Star…anyway, I can’t imagine being frozen in time at age 30 or whatever and watching the humans you may come in contact with age and wither. Maybe we all start over somewhere else, but whatever happens after passing I’m good with it. I don’t want to hang around here forever, not that I have a choice in the matter…
Roxy Music came together in 1971. They were called Art Rock back in the day, but it slowly evolved into what as known as Glam Rock today. To refresh, Glam Rock, also known as Glitter Rock, was a phenomenon mostly native to England at first, characterized by outrageous colorful clothing, wigs, makeup, the occasional female impersonation, androgynous behavior, platform shoes and well, glitter. It was an intentional blurring of gender roles to draw attention to their respective acts. I don’t know for certain if there was actually a sound attached to the “movement,” but whatever it was, it morphed into a path eventually followed by acts such as Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Slade and Iggy Pop. The so-called fathers of this presentation of music were David Bowie, T.Rex, Gary Glitter (how did he get in here with his one hit?…sorry Gary) and yep, Roxy Music. In the United States we think of The New York Dolls, Lou Reed and eventually Kiss believe it or not. I don’t think I’ve posted about David Bowie yet, but his day is coming; he’s among my top 6-15 artists without question. I hate ranking them too because it gets hairy. David Bowie stands alone, wherever he stands. I’m a ravenous fan of his…but today we are talking Roxy Music!
Bryan Ferry was a ceramics teacher in 1970 when he began auditioning for bands like King Crimson, who were looking for Greg Lake’s replacement about that time. While Robert Fripp, Pete Sinfield and the gang felt he wasn’t right for King Crimson’s material, they realized he had talent and eventually helped him get a record deal with E.G. Records once Roxy Music had come together. Every time I research stuff for posts like this I am amazed at the kindness fellow musicians show each other. I suppose when you are in the presence of greatness, even if it’s not right for what you are trying to accomplish, it’s probably a good idea not to burn any bridges. Ferry found his band mates through advertisements. I guess that is the way it still gets done to a certain degree, but when you hear these things you marvel at the kismet of it all. One bad audition or missed connection and Roxy Music doesn’t happen. The band lineup most consistently recognized as classic Roxy Music was guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophone player Andy MacKay and Paul Thompson on drums along with Ferry. Brian Eno and Eddie Jobson eventually spent some time with Roxy Music on synthesizer as well. All of these folks seem to have interest in avant-garde sounding electronic music. With Bryan Ferry’s vocals layered on top, Roxy Music never really sounded like anyone else. That is the best thing you can ever say about a rock band in my opinion.
The 70′s was eons ago as most of you know, especially the folks reading this born after 1980, but it was jam packed with experimentation and evolving equipment that changed Rock forever. Roxy Music, without going over every album, lineup change and public detail was a ground breaking act that really evolved into some flat incredible music by the early 80′s. I had a vinyl copy of Roxy Music’s Greatest Hits by 1978 or so and I played the living bleep out of that thing. Naturally I went back and bought all of the prior LP’s (you may recognize Mick Jagger’s future ex-wife Jerry Hall on the cover of 1975′s Siren in all her mermaid like splendor) by the time I had fallen for “Virginia Plain, All I Want Is You, Street Life, Mother of Pearl, The Thrill of It All and Editions of You.” One last thing about Roxy Music was their album cover artwork. A lost art as previously discussed here at The Giant Panther, their risque album covers got folks interested. There can be no doubt. 1974′s Country Life in particular was actually banned in places. Now I REALLY want the record…you know? Ban it and they will come…
I could go on and on about Bryan Ferry honestly. Today he’s a crooner along the lines of Rod Stewart. He always did tons of covers during his solo career and his love of Bob Dylan rivals my own, but covers get old after the first 20. He’s released more than that. While that is unfortunate, I’m not going to completely hold that against him. Unlike Rod Stewart, as least he isn’t refusing to tour (Roxy Music reformed in 2001 after breaking up around 1983 and I saw them maybe four years ago now. That made me very happy.) and releasing sappy songbook music. I love pre-1978 Rod Stewart along with Faces, but it’s just sad to see him go out this way. Hopefully Ferry will get a hold of himself and release some new music he has written. I see a Ferry solo CD called OIympia is scheduled to be released shortly. I’ll be there with the requesite $20 in my hand ready to purchase. Happy birthday Bryan. I’m still a huge fan.
Buy or Download The Best of Bryan Ferry from Amazon here.