I’ve mentioned before that not having an older sibling meant that, outside of what I heard on the radio, there was a reliance on my cousins and the older brothers of friends to assist with my musical education. I can’t actually remember anyone who fits into either the cousins/friends’ big brothers categories ever having any great love for Roxy Music and so it was something I developed myself from the radio.
And let’s face it, when you’re hearing stuff when you’re not quite a teenager, it has to contain something very special to lodge itself in your brain that it sticks with you for the rest of your life, and I’ll say here and now that it was very much the voice of Bryan Ferry that did it for me….and maybe that’s why throughout my formative and later years that I’ve always had a thing for those who crooned with a difference – and in particular why I fell for the charms of Billy Mackenzie and Paul Quinn.
As I was starting to form a few thoughts about what songs to include in the ICA, which I had intended to solely focus on Roxy Music, it came to me that much of my exposure to the songs came from hearing them played at fairgrounds. Yup, more than 40 years later and the thought has just struck me that the fairground hustlers would have been happy to blare out the songs of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry on the basis that:-
(a) they were familiar from being chart hits
(b) teenage girls liked the songs as some of the band were heartthrobs
(c) teenage boys would like the songs as some of the band were cool
(d) if you can teenagers of both sexes to come together at the fairground, you’re going to make money
To all of that can be added that while I can’t recall any mates older brothers liking them, there were a couple of older sisters of mates who adored Roxy Music as I recalled when I wrote previously about the band in the short-lived and not terribly popular ‘Had It, Lost It Series’ back in September 2017. Click here for more of the back story to my thoughts on vintage and not so vintage Roxy Music.
That particular piece concluded with the following words:-
“…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.”
Which would have been the case except I’ve decided to include some top-notch solo singles and taken in a couple of songs from the later period – it did after all coincide with the one and only time I saw the band live – Glasgow Apollo, July 1980, when they toured the Flesh and Blood album and the support was Martha & The Muffins. All in all, it makes for an unusual beast from me, and that’s a 12-song ICA. But a fitting selection for #250 in this long-running and incredibly popular series.
1. Virginia Plain (single, 1972, reached #4)
As I’ve said before, one of THE greatest of all debut 45s. There’s no better way to open up the ICA…
2. Pyjamarama (single 1973, reached #10)
Many folk who left behind a comment when I wrote about Virginia Plain, suggested that this was the band’s finest ever 45. They could well be right, but it is a hard one to call.
3. A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall (single 1973, reached #10)
The ten-year-old me had no idea who Bob Dylan was. This just sounded like a Roxy Music single with additional backing vocals. At the time, because it was even more catchy than anything I had ever heard him sing previously, this was my favourite Bryan Ferry vocal of them all, where it stayed until……………….
4. Love Is The Drug (single 1975, reached #2)
This 45 cannot, surely, be 45 years of age? The crazy intro with the car revving up is memorable…but, it is the bass line that really makes this so special – it’s a killer and it set the scene for what would be laid down on disco records in the coming years.
5. Over You (single 1980, reached #5)
ICAs don’t work on the basis of them being the best 10 (or in this case, 12) songs by a band or artist. Over You is a decent record – of its time – but it has aged in much the same way as the rest of Flesh and Blood. It is unmistakenly the sound of the early 80s, unlike the classic Roxy era which just feels timeless. It also set out the template for many other pop/synth acts whenever they were looking for a song that was a bit removed from being full tilt but wasn’t quite a ballad. The bittersweet love songs that have become the staple of smooth-listening radio stations the world over. But it fits in well at this juncture on the ICA.
6. In Every Dream Home, A Heartache (album track, 1973)
The ten-year-old me didn’t know this song when it was released on the album For Your Pleasure. In fact, as it wasn’t included on the Roxy Music Greatest Hits compilation that I got as a Christmas present in 1977, I didn’t even hear of it until the late 70s when the music chat in the school common room turned to sex dolls, on the basis of many of us liking The Police and talking about the track Sally/Be My Girl. We all thought it was daring and really funny to have a song about a sex doll on a new wave LP, till someone piped up that Roxy Music had done it years previously. A cassette was brought in the next day and the song was played. It’s fair to say it divided opinion. I thought it was stunning. Still do.
1. Manifesto (album track, 1979)
Manifesto was the first Roxy Music album that I bought at the actual time of release and while it might not be their best ever effort, there was something quite special about doing so. The opening track is the title track and it contains a really long and drawn out intro which has a feel of late 70s era Bowie and the then-emerging Simple Minds which I kept returning to again and again. In my mind, it makes perfect sense to have it open the flip side of the ICA.
2. The ‘In’ Crowd (single 1974, reached #13)
Again, I had no idea that this was a cover, nor that Ferry had his tongue firmly in his cheek by recording and releasing a track that was having a go at his detractors calling him an art school poseur. It just sounded great coming out of the radio.
3. Do The Strand (album track 1973)
I would have first heard this when I got my hands on the Greatest Hits compilation in 1977. I know now that it is one of the band’s most legendary, popular, and well-known compositions, and in subsequent years at ‘alt’ discos at uni and other locations, I’d find myself dancing to it. Hugely unusual in that it goes straight into the vocal and over the subsequent four minutes there’s a fair cacophony of noise including a decent sax solo, a sound that I’m normally immune to. Ferry’s vocal is just magnificent – all-knowing, almost arrogant, and defying critics to have a go again at his nonsensical lyric. A song about a dance that doesn’t exist…that’s post-modern before anyone ever came up with the phrase.
4. This Is Tomorrow (single 1977, reached #9)
5. Let’s Stick Together (single 1976, reached #4)
Two singles that prompted my memory recall of funfairs. Particularly the latter which must have been omnipresent in Blackpool the summer of 1976 as that was the location of the family holiday that year during which we would have spent time at the famous Pleasure Beach as well as strolling in and out of various amusement arcades. Listening to these now, it really does feel that Ferry had a great time recording his solo material and while the 13/14-year-old me thought they were no different from the Roxy songs (on account of THAT voice), I know can appreciate that is very much not the case. But, and the reason why there are four solo singles on this ICA, they have very much stood the test of time….unlike much of the 80s and later output.
6. Street Life (single 1973, reached #9)
I didn’t recall this from the time of its original release, indicating that it’s not as immediately and catchy as the other early 70s singles that I featured on Side 1 of the ICA. This would be another that I ‘discovered’ via the Greatest Hits album – it actually closed that album and so again makes perfect sense for it to close the ICA. In 1977, I didn’t know the Eno back story and wasn’t aware of how important he had been to the early sound, nor that this was the first single he hadn’t been part of. It’s a more bombastic sound than many of the other Roxy songs and it was one that took a bit of getting used to. As my tastes evolved and developed, so did my affection for Street Life.
So, there you have it. ICA #250. One that breaks a few rules and one that makes no apologies for leaning heavily on hit singles.
I do wonder if there’s life in this series for another 250 efforts…if so, it’ll take around another six years to compile as ICA #1 dates back to June 2014. There’s been a few amazing efforts in that time, particularly those offered up as guest contributions. Feel free to keep them coming…(there’s a couple currently in the pipeline)
Oh, and yes, I am of a mind to have another sports-style ICA knockout competition, probably next year…..