Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Roxy Music, when they were young

Earlier today, I was considering writing an ode to Little Jack Lawrence - possibly the coolest man alive, viz:

--when I decided that it's always better to use a ready-made.

The first Roxy Music album came out in 1972. It engendered extreme shock, as I recall. It was not a normal record, bearing no resemblance whatsoever to Deep Purple, T Rex or for that matter The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards or Chicory Tip. The single, Virginia Plain, had all the Roxy Music characteristics in a nice digestible, chart friendly format - but was not on the album. I know people think it was; that's because it's on the CD. But it wasn't on the vinyl, which was an unadulterated slab of alternate-universe rockabilly lounge singing, with rhythm piano and lead saxophone and a raw, intense and unrockist mature passion. The sleeve notes, by publicist...I feel the word extraordinaire coming on...help...publicist extraordinaire Simon Puxley were fake stream-of-consciousness blurtings, possibly because there was no widely-understood language to describe this music at that time.
piccadilly 1972: taking a turn off main-street, away from the cacophony and real life relics, & into outer spaces myriad faces and sweet deafening sounds of rock ’n’ roll. And inner space…the mind loses its bearings. What’s the date again? (it’s so dark in here) 1962 or twenty years on? Is this a recording session or a cocktail party? …on the rocks, please…where’s the icebox?... oh! now! that is… so cool… (there’d been rumours, of course, nothing certain, but the suggestion of truth). musicians lie rigid-&-fluid in a mannerist canvas of hard-edged black leather glintings, red satin slashes, smokey surrounding gloom… …listening to the music re-sounding, cutting the air like it was glass, rock 'n’ roll juggernauted into demonic electronic supersonic mo-mo-momentum – by a panoplic machine-pile, hi fi or sci fi who can tell? Wailing old time sax, velvet/viscous, vibrato/vicious or ensemble jamming ( & more)...synthesised to whirls and whorls of hard rock sound...mixed/fixed/sifted/lifted to dirving, high flying chunks and vortices of pure electoring wow-gyrating, parabolic, tantalising etc (Simon Puxley)
In fact, there was too much passion for me. I ran out and bought the record as soon as it came out but spent a long time growing into it. The vulnerability and melancholy can still get to me today, even with 38 years of armor grown solidly into place around. At the time, Black Sabbath's Paranoid was about as emotionally mature as I could get in my music. (I kid of course; a Led Zeppelin fan wouldn't have been caught dead listening to Black Sabbath. Tch.)

Two tracks in particular stand out on Roxy Music for me - 2HB and the sublime If There Is Something.

Ignore the first verse and the obligatory guitar break. After that, the music drops into Big Melancholy and Bryan Ferry's vocals get ragged and charged with emotion. That's the part I'm thinking of as the ode to LJ; and then come wind instrument solos that make the standard rock band's guitar solos sound as deep as a monkey playing a banjo. And at last the long yearning call and response to the fade. Mighty stuff.

Pop groups didn't do it before this album, and they don't do it now, either. You have to buy this one to hear it.
I've forgotten why I need an ode to Jack Lawrence.
Oh, I remember. In an interview with Clash Music, the interviewer asks about albums leaking on to the internet before the release date, and LJ says,
Jack Lawrence: I just don’t... I just can’t find an answer in my head, or talk to anyone and get an answer, but why do people want to ruin the surprise? What is the big deal? Why do they need to know? A surprise is good. It’s nice to be surprised. Just let us surprise you.
Hear hear. I waited until the day Horehound was released to listen (to my downloaded mp3 copy, because it'll take three days in the mail before the CD gets here). It was tough but I made it.


Julie said...

Roxy Music.....mmmmm. "In every dream home, a heartache..." Great band.
I have to take issue with "a Led Zeppelin fan wouldn't have been caught dead listening to Black Sabbath." though - I did, and still do, listen to both (but only the Ozzie Black Sabbath).

Peromyscus said...

Where I came from, listening to Heavy Metal was held to indicate you weren't listening to Led Zeppelin for the right reasons. But I haven't seen those people for 30 years now, so it doesn't matter any more.

Bobby Lightfoot said...

It's th' "Growing potatoes by the score..." bit that kills me every time.

Peromyscus said...

He sounds so serious about it, too. Paradise reimagined as a 1/8 acre council allotment.


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