HAD IT. LOST IT. (Part 7)

The debut pioneering single, as featured yesterday, was August 1972. Ten years later, Roxy Music released the utterly unlistenable AOR album Avalon. It’s another great demonstration of having it and losing it, but depending on your viewpoint, the band had perhaps long passed their sell-by date sometime previously.

For all that there was a run of classic singles in the early-mid 70s, Roxy Music were always judged on the contents of their albums. The self-titled debut was followed quickly by two albums in 1973 – For Your Pleasure and Stranded, and Country Life (1974) and Siren (1975). It really is astonishing to look back and see that five full studio albums were issued in a period of just forty months, all of which went Top 10 in the UK. The other thing to factor into this achievement is that, as a consequence of him being unhappy with the media focus seemingly all being on the frontman, Brian Eno left the band shortly after the release of the sophomore album. Any concerns that Eno’s departure would see Roxy Music’s popularity plummet were soon put to be bed; indeed Stranded, the first post-Eno LP became the band’s first ever #1 LP.

It wasn’t as if the band were wedded to the studio as each release was accompanied by live tours. A little bit of research reveals that Roxy Music played the major Glasgow venue (Green’s Playhouse/Apollo) in April 1973, November 1973, October 1974 (three nights) and October 1975 (three nights) which indicates this was a band that worked incredibly hard at all aspects of their trade.

They broke up in 1976, essentially as Bryan Ferry wanted to pursue a solo career. I was only 12/13 years old at that time and to be honest, was aware of the band less from their music (outside of their singles) and more from their evocative record sleeves in which you got to look at beautiful and scantily clad women in full colour at a time when such images were found only on top-shelf magazines. But this coincided with a time when I made new friends at secondary school, one of whom, Tam, was a huge Roxy Music fan as a result of his older twin sisters liking the band and playing their music non-stop, and through visits to his house I got to know the songs beyond the hit singles.

Fast forward to 1979. It’s Tam’s last year at school as he has already decided he’s going determined to leave as early as possible to get a job while I was set on staying on to University. We hear that Roxy Music have reformed and we both rush out and buy the comeback single Trash and later on the comeback LP Manifesto. We like what we hear but are shocked at the vitriol poured on the records by his older sisters. It’s the first time I can ever recall anyone who was such a huge and devoted fan of someone really being savage about their music – at that stage I’m in my musical development I was sure that once you were a fan, that was you for life.

Maybe what myself and Tam liked most about this era Roxy Music was that the new singles were being remixed and re-recorded for the disco markets and we were weekly regulars at a few church halls where you would turn up to receive your weekly humiliation at the hands of more confident, street-wise and sassy members of the opposite sex at the end of the night when the slow songs came on. But prior to that, you spent time in their company, not necessarily talking to them, but making awkward an unusual shapes with your body to the likes of Angel Eyes and Dance Away.

To those who were in their 20s and older, Roxy Music had already lost it. To us teens, they still had it in spades and more so in 1980 when Flesh + Blood spawned not only more dance singles but allowed Tam and myself to go see them at the Glasgow Apollo in July 1980 – the tickets given to us by his twin sisters for whom the latest LP was a step too far.

Not long after, Roxy Music enjoyed their biggest selling hit in the UK when their cover of Jealous Guy, released in the wake of the murder of John Lennon, went to #1. I didn’t like the single – I thought it bland, dull and unlistenable. In April 1982, Roxy Music released More Than This, another Top 10 hit single that I thought was appalling. By now, I cared little for the band and could finally understand why Tam’s sisters had disowned them three years previous when they too had left their teenage years.

So, I won’t argue that you can date Roxy Music losing it to when they reformed in 1979 as I was a huge fan for a while thereafter. But what I will say is, that if I was to piece together an ICA all these years later, it would almost certainly be made up of music that was recorded and released in the period 72-75.

I think we can all agree these demonstrate they had it:-

mp3 : Roxy Music – Pyjamarama
mp3 : Roxy Music – Out Of The Blue

These will satisfy fans of a certain age:-

mp3 : Roxy Music – Dance Away (12” version)
mp3 : Roxy Music – Over You

These, however, are shockers:-

JC

14 thoughts on “HAD IT. LOST IT. (Part 7)

  1. Love early roxy , love later roxy . Had it and kept it .i like a bit if smooth to go with my crunchy

  2. when i was 16 my sole wish for christmas (partly in revolt to my parents i guess now when i’m older) was a champagne bubble stirer in silver. i also enjoyed the cool cocktail version of roxy music, having Bryan Ferry as a style icon.
    i’m now way pass the champagne stirer (not champagne though), but just as FORW i still enjoy Avalon in all it’s coctail-cool beauty. i won’t argue early RM are better, but their last effort is still enjoyed here.
    (and – the scene in Lost In Translation where Bill Murray karaokes More Than This is priceless! “this is hard…”)

  3. I will say this, however, the songs “Avalon” and “More Tjan This” were essential to the soundtrack of many dorm room sexual tangos of US college life in the early-mid 1980s!

  4. I’m in the camp that says Roxy were acceptable up to and including Avalon. It was after this that Ferry lost it completely, seemingly in a never ending loop of reproducing Avalon over and over again to lesser and lesser effect. The track The Main Thing on Avalon was extremely bland and a sad portent of what Ferry would later produce ad infitem for then on. Very sad.

  5. I agree with FORW! I love it all… except for “Siren.” That was the album they “lost it” on. Now after all of these years I’ll admit that the albums that are thunderclaps of art are the first two. The next two [post-Eno] show the art being hybridized with rock to a stunning effect. “Siren” was, apart from “Love Is The Drug” and “Both Ends Burning” a torpid affair. “Manifesto” was full of unexpected punk jazz grit with allusions to club music. The remixed “Angel Eyes” was actually godlike disco at its finest. “Flesh + Blood” was slicker but stunning. The arrangement on “Same Old Scene” still takes my breath away to this day. The bass overload on the title track juxtaposed with Ferry’s amateur power chords [the rare track where he played lead guitar] was simply brilliant. “Avalon” proffered a rarefied dark heart of romance as only Ferry could provide. I love almost all of it, but had Ferry been hit by a truck in 1973, his place in the history books would have still been assured by “Roxy Music” and “For Your Pleasure,” the two finest albums of forward thrusting experimental art rock to ever sell in such hugely successful amounts. That Ferry did it near the age of 30, bursting fully formed as if from the Head of Zeus will never again be repeated.

  6. I have to stay that my exposure to Roxy started with Flesh+Blood and worked backwards. Totally agree that those first couple of albums (For Your Pleasure, in particular) are stunning works of art. But I also contend that Avalon is a masterpiece of a different kind, an aural delight that is far richer and nuanced than the smooth, empty cocktail-bar record reputation it often seems to attrach. For me Roxy had it, kept it, but evolved it. That said, Ferry’s solo career since does seem to have been a constant attempt to repeat that Avalon-peak.

  7. Have to say that I’m in the pro-Avalon camp too. Many fine memories, not all directly related to the music admittedly.

  8. Had it-kept it for me too. Avalon is where it all began for me. I was 12 when it came out. Worked my way back to the classic years soon after. I read this post right before I went to bed last night and thought uh-oh. Pleasantly surprised to wake up to these comments today.

  9. I share Brian’s relief/surprise. Roxy didn’t get played on the radio in the US until Love is the Drug, so anyone that was interested worked backward from Siren. That means we missed the first 4 albums when they came out, for the most part. And, as suggested above, later Roxy had its mood-inducing purposes. I could see where someone in on the band from the start might be disappointed but that doesn’t apply to me.

  10. I love this quote from John Foxx on the development of Roxy Music, beginnings vs endings, as printed in “Classic Rock.”

    QUOTE///This trademark – elegantly doomed romanticism – is most fully and finally realised in the best tracks on Avalon, where the words are minimal, the music is spacious, spare – and always achingly beautiful.

    This is Roxy at another kind of peak – the distillation of a certain pleasurable melancholy – a dignified, restless longing.

    But this was also Roxy without danger, without angularity and seemingly without promise of new territory. Ironically, it seemed the door had been gently closed by beauty.///UNQUOTE – JOHN FOXX

  11. If we’re quoting, here’s one from Robyn Hitchcock:
    ‘The only time I met Bryan Ferry I poured him a cup of tea in a Norwegian hotel. In the presence of greatness, the instinct is to serve.’
    While I agree that the first 5 Roxy Music LPs are the only ones I ever listen to these days, I feel the need to stick up for ‘More Than This’ – it’s a really tremendous song, albeit swathed in a horribly dated sonic landscape. Back to Robyn for the proof.

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