Many years ago, when I was in college, a friend introduced me to a band called Roxy Music. I had heard the name, but I had never heard their music. It sounded strange and arty, but I liked it. Still, that was the eighties, and Roxy Music was a seventies band so it seemed old to me. I never bought one of their albums and eventually forgot about them.
Now I have rediscovered Roxy Music, and even though 37 years have passed since the release of the first eponymously-titled album, it all sounds very fresh and modern. How can this be? Am I out of touch with the times?
Brian Eno played on their first two albums so I guess that is why I got back into Roxy Music. I’ve always liked Eno, but Bryan Ferry seemed a little pretentious for my taste. But now I am really impressed by the things he does with his voice and the songwriting. Take “If There Is Something” from their first album. This song starts out with a country twang but half-way through it seamlessly changes into a dark, moody piece in which Ferry, sounding genuinely distraught, begs his love to come back to him. And then it changes again, slowing down, becoming more thoughtful and introspective.
Their second album, “For Your Pleasure”, is probably their best and arguably deserves a spot on my top ten list. Perhaps I could kick out Joy Division who, even though they came along a bit after Roxy Music and sounded fresh at the time, now seem a bit dated. (I’m more likely to listen to Interpol than Joy Division these days). This album features “Do the Strand” which was played on the closing episode of “The L Word’s” most recent season, the only bit of taste that show has ever displayed. (Sorry, but I know bad writing when I see it.) It also has great songs like “Strictly Confidential”, “Editions of You”, “In Every Dreamhome a Heartache”, and my personal favorite “Grey Lagoons”.
But even though I think their second album is strongest overall, the best Roxy Music song ever appears on their third album, Stranded. ‘Mother of Pearl’ is the song I most remember from my college listening experiences. Like the aforementioned ‘If There is Something’, this is a song that starts out one way and then changes into something completely different. It is almost seven minutes long and the first minute and a half are a bit wild, evoking a party atmosphere. A minute and half into the composition, a piano line appears and comes to the forefront. Then Ferry sings “Well, I’ve been up all night, party time wasting is too much fun, then I step back thinking of life’s inner meaning and my latest fling”. The music fits the lyrics perfectly. When I listen to this bit, I, too, get the feeling that I’ve been up all night and now the sun is rising and I wonder what the hell I am doing with my life. What does it all mean? The song gets into a groove and goes on and on with some nonsense lyrics that I won’t bother examining too closely, but they are great to sing along with. But what I have always wondered is what is this “Mother of Pearl” that he wouldn’t trade for another girl. And, of course, the only thing that comes to mind is his guitar. I guess Ferry is trying to tell us that music will always be there for us, even after the party is over. And I guess that’s true because this stuff is still great, even after all this time.