Monday, December 5, 2011

I'd Love To Turn You On #45 - Roxy Music – Roxy Music

 Roxy Music arrived on planet earth in an explosion of sight of sound, unlike anything ever seen before, sometime at the birth of the new decade. It was somewhere in between 1952 and 1992, and Roxy remarkably, seemed to be about both; doo-wop and electronics, Sinatra and space.
England 1972: there is a lot of music going on - earnest singer-songwriter stuff, progressive rock, hard rock. Thanks to the influence of Marc Bolan's T.Rex, there was another, more colourful scene bubbling up - glam rock. And because Roxy Music, on the surface at least, appeared to fit into this new, fun fad, they enjoyed massive exposure and chart success in Europe. However, this subversive crashing onto Top-Of-The-Pops merely allowed them to bring art-school weirdness into the British charts, just as Syd's Pink Floyd had done five years earlier. Like another glam star, David Bowie, Roxy Music immediately transcended this bubblegum trend and became something altogether cooler and more sophisticated. These two acts would, in England at least, change the course of music and influence nearly everyone there for decades to come. It's all here on Roxy's stunningly realized first LP - blueprints for punk, new romantic and new wave synth-pop can all be found in these grooves.
Roxy combines elements of the new gaudy Glam fad, European Prog, English surrealism, 50’s American Rock 'n' Roll and the old-timey songbook. On one side of the stage, there was Bryan Ferry - the impossibly cool crooner with a philosophical twinkle in his eye. On the other, there was Eno - futurist egghead and saboteur. In the middle, there was one of the great rock bands of the 70’s - Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson, guitar hero and tubthumper. They kept it real and rocking.
The album begins, like some nightclub Pepper, with light chat and clinking glasses, before kicking into the rip-roaring "Remake/Remodel," which not only is a corker of an opener but also lays out the conceptual ethos of their band; musical pastiche, post-modern quoting (Duane Eddy, Wagner, The Beatles) and esoteric lyrics (“CPL593H”). If you didn't notice any of the intellectual content, it's still killer rock 'n' roll, that still sounds cutting edge today.
Next, comes the amazing "Ladytron." A mutated love song, this track exemplifies everything Roxy were about in '72 - bizarre song structure, twisted romance, monstrous guitar and outré electronics. With Andy Mackay's exotic oboe and Eno's moogy noodling, it's the final word in Avant-garde pop music.
"Virginia Plain" was a giant hit in the UK and something of a standard on radio over there. This debut Roxy single (not on original UK copies of the LP, but on most CD versions) is another giant statement by Ferry and the boys. A fade up intro with fuzzed out bass leads into a proto-punk track filled with stops, starts, a shocking guitar solo and a surprise ending. Classic.
Side 1 ends in style with "2HB," an electro pop gem nostalgically dedicated to Bogie, highlighting Ferry's undead Bing Crosby and Eno's treated keyboards. Heady, beautiful stuff, which sounds as if the 60’s never happened.

Side 2 is another flawless batch of songs; highly experimental, highly tuneful, totally cool. "The Bob (Medley)," "Would You Believe," and "Sea Breezes" (later covered by Siouxsie and the Banshees) are all beguiling, radical tracks that you can hear the future of British music in. "Chance Meeting" is an amazing sonic picture drawn with a wash of guitar feedback. The album ends on a weird note - the 50’s vocal group charmer "Bitters End." When the backing vocals come in singing "bizarre" you know things are not as they seem. The album ends as it began, with a cocktail bar scene, bringing it full circle.
Eno's contributions to this world of sound mark the beginning of his illustrious career but he was never so brash or daring again, and Ferry's twisted nightclub persona was never again so edgy. Of course, Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry went on to conquer charts and hearts with further art rock classics, and later, the occasional AOR masterpiece, but this is where it began - on one of the most original, creative debut albums in the history of rock.
Start here and continue on.
- Ben S.

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