Monday, October 3, 2011

ugEXPLODE Influences #2: Top 10 Roxy Music Songs and why


I've been into early Roxy Music since i was a teenager (pre-1st lp through "Viva!"). Their bizarre mix of glam, noise and good old rock 'n' roll has continually perplexed me in a positive way. In 1988 I went to Chicago on an art class field trip and bought a sealed copy of their first album at Wax Trax records. Back home, I soon found a used copy of the second album and the rest fell in line not long after. Through the years, I've acquired tons of bootleg audio and video of the group and I've spent way too much time scrutinizing miniscule details. While screening a video collection of the group, a co-worker of mine was befuddled about the appeal of Roxy. He essentially thought they sounded like elevator music. I had to explain that Roxy Music is a nut which has to be cracked - for my tastes, none of their albums cut it all the way through, and they certainly went on to make some atrocious music in the second half of their career, but their rewards are many if the entire body of work is gradually taken into account.

In no particular order:

1) "Re-Make/Re-Model" - A tour de force of weirdness. rocking very hard but noticeably devoid of machismo, the monolithic opening track on their debut pits crushingly repetitive guitar riffing and drum pounding against noodly bass leads, irritating yakkety sax and burbling synth noises while la Ferry croons (I think) some sort of desperate nonsense about a car as sex object.



2) "Out of the Blue" - Total, sweeping grandeur ended with an epic Eddie Jobson violin solo that might have been a bit difficult to pull off live (considering the foul clinkers on several live versions).



3) "Editions of You" - Sort of a remade/remake/remodel, a four-on-the-floor power chord monster with the killer Eno solo in the middle.



4) "Prarie Rose" - Roxy's fourth album "Country Life" seems highly underrated. It's certainly more consistent than the first three in terms of delivering the goods and it has some of their hardest rocking numbers, including this one. I laugh every single time i hear Ferry whisper "Texas!"



5) "The Bob (Medley)" - I'm not crazy about the debut album version of the song, but the pre-first album BBC sessions feature a stunning middle section that balances the composition in a perfect way and would have made King Crimson proud. I'm sure Tom Smith would agree. (Below is the album version - I was being a bit harsh when I wrote that . . . I like it.)



6) "Whirlwind" - Singer Bryan Ferry is such a pathos-ridden schlub, it's oddly amusing. He has always obsessed about broken romance to an unhealthy extent and this is another further stinging, metaphorical look into his inability to have successful relationships with women.



7) "Both Ends Burning" - "Viva! Roxy Music" version: those shrieking, shrill backup vocalists make it. Trust me. I wish those chicks had made a solo album, because it would have been something else.



8) "Sea Breezes" - The first album version is okay, but once again, the 1971 BBC versions are so much more weird, tweaked out and strange.



9) "Street Life" - Conversely, "Stranded" is the band's most overrated album from the early period. I can't say I've ever made it through the whole thing. It's all so downtempo and monotonous. However, "Street Life" is another great, quirky hard rock song that stands up to the best of them.



10) "For Your Pleasure" - The final cut of the eponymous second album features a chilling ending where the thrust of the tune is stripped down and finally melts into an LSD-drenched bad trip. I fell asleep on the couch listening to this about 10 years ago and it actually freaked me out. If music can accomplish that, I want to hear it.



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11) "Manifesto" - Not early, bonus pick. The obtuse, evocative lyrics meld with the continually rising musical ziggurat creating a haunting milieu.



-Weasel Walter - Saturday, July 25, 2009

3 comments:

el hombre invisible said...

Hi
Can't believe you left out 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache'! Ah, but such is the nature of subjectivity, eh? When Roxy Music 'happened' ('Virginia Plain') I was 13 and anyone who was hip got it immediately - it was a blast of something new, off-kilter, glam yet sophisticated. 'For Your Pleasure' remains a classic for me, and 'Heartache' the pinnacle of expressing penthouse loneliness - 'What to do there?'. Ferry, a prophet in Anthony Price suits, seemed to have charted his own immersion in the glamorous lifestyle from a very ambiguous standpoint.
Anyway, I like the look of your blog and will be reading more. I have my own, which you might want to look at.
Best Wishes
Robin

Weasel Walter said...

Well, certainly "Dream Home" is a great tune as well as a gripping psychodrama, but it didn't make the cut! They have a lot of great songs on the records up through "Siren" (extremely spotty for me after that), but these 10 are just the real core pieces for me. "Pyjamarama" is up there. "Do The Strand", "The Thrill of It All", etc. etc. Bryan Ferry's "Let's Get Together" LP really does it for me as well.

I will check yours out. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Out of the Blue: The very best song of Roxy Music.