For Your Pleasure (1972-1974)

A song-by-song analysis of the lyrics and music of Roxy Music and the solo work of Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera between 1972-1974


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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, music by Jermone Kern, lyrics by Otto Harbach, (1933)
‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, Bryan Ferry, Another Time, Another Place, (1974) 

A gentle and perfect song – no matter who covered it – Bryan Ferry nonetheless contributed significantly to the canon when he recorded ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes‘ for his second solo album in the summer of 1974. Ferry himself was smitten by the track, in interviews calling the lyric “perfect” and “beautiful”: “As a person who likes to sing other people’s songs, I have come across songs which are just so perfect, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, say. How on earth could they get things to fit together so beautifully?”

For those of us who have followed Bryan Ferry’s career closely, ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is a pivotal moment – arguably the singer’s most successful synthesis of taste and sentiment applied to other people’s material since the initial 1972-3 Roxy Music madness made him a star. Indeed, ‘Smoke’ marks Ferry’s break-through to a broader audience, evidenced by Ferry’s solo appearance on the The Twiggy Show (‘BBC Show of the Week: Twiggs‘) in October 1974, singing ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ as he lounges in white tux, red waist-band, nursing an ever-lit, ever-burning cigarette (Geddit, smoke gets in your eyes… Etc). Ferry presents himself here as a continuation of the lounge-lizard persona established only months previously with the ‘These Foolish Things‘ video. Only the naff dancing seen behind Ferry’s head (in the shadowy background) gives this away as a non-sleazy, decidedly non-Roxy, presentation.

I have promoted a belief for years that this Ferry appearance was actually from Top of the Pops – our hero propped up at the piano – but either the research or the memory is failing, and I’m not willing to admit to either. Nevertheless this telecast had a profound effect on my own personal narrative as it marks the introduction of Ferry and Roxy into my life: already vaguely familiar with Virginia Plain, Street Life and The ‘In’ Crowd, it was nevertheless ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes‘ that really got its hooks in me, which is odd, don’t you think – given its classicist and old-time sentiment – for a young boy already smitten with the excess of Glam in the form of Slade, Sweet, and – of course – God himself, David Bowie.

They ask me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied

Ferry’s affection for the lyric as poetry is spot-on: a series of repeating five-line stanzas concluding on gentle end-rhymes (knew/true; replied/inside/denied), supporting a point-of-view that is situated largely off-screen (“They ask me how I knew…”).

Part of the genius of the lyric for ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is how it positions its emotions, situating sadness in the innocence of the lover, and cynicism in the heart of the crowd. ‘They ask me how I knew/My true love was true‘ is a pretty tough question to hear when you’re deep in the throes of passion. Nevertheless, the hapless lover is lectured: “They said someday you’ll find” –

All who love are blind
When your heart’s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

“So I chaffed them,” is this love-bird’s response:

…and I gaily laughed
To think they could doubt my love
Yet today my love has flown away
I am without my love

There is a terrible outcome in these lines, as the audience assertion that “All who love are blind” becomes, in a turn of dramatic irony, to be true. The lover dismisses the idea of falsehood (“And I gaily laughed”) but admits before stanza close that “my love has flown away.”

Ferry brings a considerable amount of emotional heft to these lines. The howl of pain is earnest and unforgettable: “Because I am-ah withoutmyyyyy-yy love” he sings, the impact of grief stretching just long enough to get under your skin and – I am beginning to suspect – this is the moment that one young Glam fan, at least, became hooked on Ferry and Roxy, and never let go.

For Ferry, this is a point of convergence, for as all Romantic heroes know, it is the cruel observer, the unfeeling crowd, that is both judge and jury in matters of the heart. The conclusion of ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ obliterates the hope of idealized love: 

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes

Faced with the truth, the lover is defeated (‘tears I cannot hide‘) and in order to save face, he adopts the language of the crowd, quoting their words from the first stanza:  ‘So I smile and say, “When a lovely flame dies, Smoke gets in your eyes”’.

No wonder Ferry loved the song: he’d just finished writing an album, Stranded, that grappled with the nature of love and the failures of the human heart. The greatest sadness of ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ is that sentiment and emotional vulnerability is conquered by cynicism, resulting in this, the saddest of sad songs, and one of Ferry’s most memorable solo performances.


I’m much more at home working with a craftsmanlike written song like ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes‘ which has an incredibly clever lyric. It’s a piece of poetry in a way.
Bryan Ferry

Next: Brian Eno decides to take Tiger Mountain by Strategy

Credits: Full LP cover spread, Another Time, Another Place; single cover; uncredited children, circa 1920s; The Intrigue, Painting by James Ensor

 


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Another Time, Another Place: The ‘In’ Crowd

‘The ‘In’ Crowd, written by Billy Page, arranged by Gene Page (1964)
The ‘In’ Crowd, Bryan Ferry, Another Time, Another Place, (1974)
The ‘In’ Crowd, Doby Gray (1965)
The ‘In’ Crowd, The Ramsey Lewis Trio (1965)

Voice, Harmonica & Organ – Bryan Ferry
Saxophone – Chris Mercer
Trombone – Chris Pyne
Guitar – David O’List
Guitar – John Porter
Bass – John Wetton
Drums – Paul Thompson
Saxophone – Ruan O’Lochlainn

I: If It’s Square

A song so identifiable with Bryan Ferry’s aesthetic, that if he didn’t write it, he surely would have (eventually). Not quite so obvious a selection as we might assume, the original ‘In’ Crowd was written by Billy Page and performed by the Motown-influenced Dobie Gray for his dramatically titled album Dobie Gray Sings for “In” Crowders That Go “Go-Go” released in 1965. A reasonable hit – peaking in the UK charts at number 25 – Gray’s version of the The ‘In’ Crowd was quickly picked up as a jazz instrumental by The Ramsey Lewis Trio (drinking coffee in a Washington, D.C. cafe the Trio wondered what it could add to its set that evening. ‘”You guys might like this!” said the waitress, putting Dobie Gray’s version of ‘The ‘In’ Crowd’ on the cafe jukebox). The Trio took note, recorded the track live that evening and went on to have a top 5 hit, resulting in both the vocal and instrumental versions charting in the same year of 1965.

It is hard to know which of the two earlier releases influenced Ferry more – the Motown-inspired Dobie Gray version, with is sunny disposition and soulful back-up singers crooning their ooooo-s and ahhhhh-s (Ferry was a Motown freak). Or the jazzy Ramsey Lewis instrumental version, with it’s warm feel-good emotion and effortless swing, the potency of which is recognized by the cheering audience throughout the performance (Ferry was a jazz freak).

Certainly, choosing to cover a song called The ‘In’ Crowd from the vantage point of being the ‘King of Style’ in 1974 was no great stretch for Ferry, having delivered with Roxy Music a sexy, glamorous high-profile #1 hit record with Stranded, and as a solo artist recently re-conceptualizing the American Songbook to enthusiastic response (see: These Foolish Things). Ferry was on a roll in early 1974, having changed the Roxy Music line-up to align more with his original conception of the band as art-project and popular entertainment. “I was there learning all these songs by people I’d always admired like Cole Porter, Smokey Robinson, etc…These people had in fact more influence on me than the so-called avant-garde,” Ferry told the New Musical Express, defining his ambition and strategy for his later 80s work (Roxy’s Flesh and Blood, and his solo Boys and Girls).

Describing The ‘In’ Crowd as “one for the fans” Ferry recorded his second solo album Another Time, Another Place at three different studios in mid-1974 – the early 70s Roxy tripartite of Island, Ramport and Air Studios – with many of the Roxy team once again hired to support the solo project (Antony Price “Fashion”; Nick de Ville “Design”).

In a surprising move, Ferry also invited original (pre-Phil Manzanera) Roxy guitarist David O’List to play lead on what would become the opening track and first single release from the album. O’List: “I wrote Bryan a letter to say we should join forces again and make a hit record. I got a reply to turn up at a studio.” Indeed, the invitation to join forces with his old band mate paid off, as The ‘In’ Crowd hit number 13 on the UK charts in June 1974 (vivaroxy).

Notwithstanding O’ List’s advice, Ferry’s choice to re-invent a Motown and jazz hit was as inspired as was his take on Bob Dylan‘s folk poem ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall‘. While Ferry’s cover of the Dylan classic was hailed for its audacity and innovative arrangement, selecting ‘The In Crowd’ for a modern make-over was as obvious as it was necessary: there was only one person who could pull off the required cool and obligatory distance needed to carry a message of hip, modern dissonance while singing in the language Motown and Jazz. Add any name to the list of 1974 contenders – David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed – and a cover of The ‘In’ Crowd would have been deemed too obvious, too opportunistic, and (in most cases) downright ill-advised. No, the outsider Ferry was the only contemporary popular entertainer who could deliver a song recorded and performed by the supercool, for the super-uncool. And who were we – mere mortals – to argue? Instead we gave up our valuable pocket-money and drove the song to the top of Top of the Pops, marvelling as our fantasies took shape in real-time. What’s real and make believe? No one really knew any more, or really cared. We just wanted to be a part of it.

David O’ List w Roxy (lower right); and as solo artist

The original warning shot was launched by Roxy Music‘s ‘Street Life‘ of course, Ferry’s frozen homage to the ultra cool and distant (“wish everybody would leave me alone, yeah”) as the singer stood center stage, fronting his hipster band, a bogus man in contrasting white tux and Brylcreemed black hair (Brylcreem: “Keeps you right on top!”), fingers snapping in mock exaggeration in what would become – for Bowie, for Madonna – the eternal image of striking the pose. (Or, if you prefer, the eternal image of Miles Davis’s 1950s The Birth of the Cool).

The absolute key to the success of the track – and surely The ‘In’ Crowd rates as one of the best covers Ferry has ever done – was the sheer intensity of the approach. Obliterating the previous Doby Gray/Ramsey Lewis Trio versions, Ferry and team choose to do it for real, presenting a version of mob mentality (“we breeze up and down the street”) absolutely straight, with no pandering to good taste. (Heaven forbid).

II. Touch of Evil

The opening chords to The ‘In’ Crowd serve as a manifesto, a statement of intent: eloquent in its sonic pose, Ferry’s Vox Continental organ seduces in the key of F major (“earnest, intense and delivered with conviction” mixedinkey) – the three-note introduction setting up an evening of possibility and menace. There is always to my (over-stimulated) mind a hint of the diabolical in this opening section, as presented by the depraved drug gang night-crawlers of Orson Welles Touch of Evil, with their film noir androgyny and wide-angle gaze. Certainly, Ferry’s opening is a call to the faithful, an invitation for all ‘In’ Crowders to make haste and assemble.

With this kind of tension and build-up (0:00-0:08), the next steps are crucial – and Ferry nails it: new boy John Wetton muscles in with gnarly and massively fuzzed ’61 Fender Precision bass, cutting through the crowd like a rumbling tank. The tone is magnificent, the attitude fearless. Next up is the cool-as-cucumber finger-snaps, chased by David O’ List’s power chords (the timing is perfect – courtesy of the precision of the Bryan Ferry/John Punter co-production team). A more audacious and ‘obvious’ rock intro could not be imagined: what happens next is one my favourite moments of any solo Roxy recording. (I don’t often get personal, but this is supreme): as Ferry, Wetton, and David O’List lay down their no-bullshit introductions, Eddie Jobson* comes in at 0:33 with a sustained string theme that just slaughters the soundscape – is it one note? is it one note sustained? tape delay? crescendo? – but for fifteen seconds this glorious sound hovers above the in crowders like a menacing fog. I’ve never heard anything like it before or since.

Ferry, of course, will not be left out, and as the cacophony of bongos, percussion and strings sustain their fearsome introduction – he sounds like he’s singing through melting rain. This is the Bogus Man, jaw tense with gesture and attitude, delivering the best lines of his solo career:

I’m in with the “in” crowd
I go where the “in” crowd goes
I’m in with the “in” crowd
And I know what the “in” crowd knows

III. The Roxy Machine

The prototype for Ferry’s cover of the ‘In’ Crowd wasn’t Roxy Music – as cool as they were – but Ferry’s art and design team, dubbed ‘The Roxy Machine’ by friend and fashion designer Antony Price.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 7.13.14 AM

The ‘Roxy Machine’ – from lower left, clockwise, Price, Deville, Ferry, Stoecker, Puxley, (1973).

The Machine was fashion designer’s Antony Price’s tag for what had become – by early 1974 with Roxy Music hit records and tours – big business in Europe. While the members of Roxy were the musical engine for Ferry’s concept of pop group as ‘cinema music’, it was Ferry’s friends and collaborators Antony Price (fashion), Nick De Ville (design), Karl Stoecker (photography), and Simon Puxley (PR & Scribe) who created the equally powerful visual world of Roxy and solo Ferry, creating emblematic record sleeves, sensational fashion ideas, compressing – in the words of art critic Justin Strauss – “the sentiment and mood of a culture around music, art, sex, typography and confrontation.”

The scene that Ferry had plugged into – via Antony Price – was loosely referred to as the ‘Notting Hill crowd’, artists David Hockney, Ossie Clark, and Brian Morris. Price met future Roxy Music models Kari-Ann Mueller and Amanda Lear and future Roxy Machine photographer Karl Stoecker through the Notting Hill connection and introduced them to Ferry. The scene – far removed from the traditions of rock music – was bustling and inter-connected; the mood of the designers and artists open and flamboyant.

Dressin’ fine, makin’ time, Ferry sings, biting hard on those internal rhymes (‘dressin’/’makin’; ‘fine/time’). This crowd knows the right dances, the right moves, the places to go, the places not to go (If it’s square we ain’t there):

I’m in with the “in” crowd
I know ev’ry latest dance
When you’re in with the “in” crowd
It’s easy to find romance (and we work out)
At a spot where the beat’s really hot (and we work out)
If it’s square we ain’t there

This new generation of fashion aesthetes ‘breeze up and down the street‘ soliciting ‘respect from people we meet.’ You get the feeling the spoils of glamour are hard-won (‘we make every minute count‘) and the pay-offs are the result of considerable sweat equity (‘we work out‘). Indeed, Michael Bracewell in his excellent biography on pre-Roxy London (Re-Make/Re-Model: Becoming Roxy Music), notes that the artisans and fashionistas of the Notting Hill collective were defined by the “strength of their work ethic as much as the flamboyance of their somewhat camp, almost quaintly English hedonism” (279):

At this time for us fashion and pop were all part of the same thing What you looked like was very carefully plannedBut importantly, even with all the glamour things that were going on, I always worked a 9-to-5 job as well!

Fashion designer (and Bryan Ferry manager) Juliet Mann

The idea of Glamour as a quality that you participate in even as a member of the 9-5 working crowd was punk in its aesthetic, working-class in its roots – clearly a favourite topic of Ferry’s (Street Life: ‘But the good life’s never won by degrees, no‘). This is a group drawn together through their ruddy-made and unexceptional past, cut from the same cloth and sticking together:

We got our own way of walkin
We got our own way of talkin’ (gotta have fun)

It is this idea of being self-made that provides you the credentials to become a member of The ‘In’ Crowd, not the hand-me-down corrupting wealth of the narrator of In Every Dream Home a Heartache, with his swimming pools and penthouse perfection. As Ferry has said, “Where I came from, Newcastle, is a rough part of the world with no possibility for anything but escape” (1982). And so money becomes part of the ‘In’ Crowd’s DNA: ‘Our share is always the biggest amount‘ – a share that is presented as both motive and reward. ‘Spending cash, talkin trash‘ Ferry seethes, the emphasis on trash hissing toward the line’s dramatic close.

In many respects we can see the ‘In’ Crowd as a peak – coming hot on the heels of Roxy Music‘s Stranded and the epic ‘Mother of Pearl’, the song follows the same subject matter of pleasure-seeking community (‘All the gangs here, Everyone you know, Its a crazy scene‘) and issues of destiny and merit (‘Such a bright hope‘/’Have you a future?).

If the ‘In’ Crowd, as Ferry tells us, was “one for the fans” then his shifting identities, persona playing, and hard-won evolution into a popular icon, was a sign-post and invitation for the kids and their own wish-fulfillment. If this was the subject of the first three Roxy Music albums, you can bet your bottom dollar that by the time it came to record the ‘In’ Crowd, Ferry was reaching out to his fans and summoning them to do the same thing:

Girl, I’ll show you a real good time
Come on with me and leave your troubles behind
I don’t care where you’ve been
You ain’t been nowhere till you been in with the “in” crowd
With the “in” crowd
With the “in” crowd

Next month: We’ll continue with a look at ‘In’ Crowd’s guitar-heavy conclusion as a segue to Ferry’s beautiful cover of ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes‘ – another solo career highlight.

Credits: out-take of Another Time, Another Place photo session by Eric Borman; Dobie, Ramsay and Ferry ‘In Crowd’ single sleeves; Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil; Roxy Machine self-portrait; the UK single release, Bryan Ferry The ‘In’ Crowd.

*Note: Un-credited Eddie Jobson. This is entirely a hunch. Answers on a postcard to…


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In Search of Eddie Riff

In Search of Eddie Riff, Andy Mackay (1974)

In early Fall 1973, just before the recording of The Third Roxy Music Album Stranded, the members of Roxy Music were reviewing career options following the departure of their friend and musical ally Brian Eno. Phil Manzanera voted to continue (“I hadn’t had my fill yet of being in a rock n roll band yet”). Andy Mackay, a founding member of the group, was skeptical yet pragmatic. He considered joining Mott the Hoople – playing sax on the Top 10 hit ‘All the Way to Memphis‘ – but could sense a stylistic difference and, besides, Mott was not as stable a proposition as the mighty Roxy (Mott broke up a year later). Andy decided to say with Roxy Music, though pointing out, with characteristic honesty “It wasn’t the happiest time in Roxy’s history.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Mackay wrote the music for fan favourite ‘A Song for Europe‘, in addition to receiving co-credit on Roxy hits ‘Love is the Drug‘ (1975) and ‘Angel Eyes‘ (1979), plus Country Life and Siren album highlights ‘Three and Nine’,Bitter-Sweet‘, and ‘Sentimental Fool’. A much-loved musical collaborator and session musician, Mackay had stunning success writing and producing the the music for the UK hit television series Rock Follies and Rock Follies of ’77, a project that was not only an artistic success but also – crucially – a financial one. This breakthrough provided Mackay independence from the Roxy brand and the freedom to pursue his musical and personal, spiritual interests (see: Psalm Part 1 for more background and a review of Andy’s solo 3 Psalms work).


‘In Search of Eddie Riff’, then, was a project intended to provide Mackay a break from the hectic Roxy schedule and a release from the tensions of the past year. With Eno gone and Roxy management wanting to keep the good times rolling, Andy could take advantage of the conciliatory terms (co-credits being one of them) and the lower studio recording costs offered by label bosses Island Records for their Island Recording Studio on Basing Street.

Responding to the success Bryan Ferry enjoyed with his solo album hit record These Foolish Things – and taking note of Ferry’s use of favorite tracks from the Great American Songbook – the original intention of In Search of Eddie Riff arose “from a desire to play some relatively uncomplicated saxophone with friends – a kind of musical autobiography.” So taken with the idea of creating a solo identify, Andy started calling himself ‘Eddie Riff’ in interviews and indeed announced to the music press ,that he was, in fact, “changing my name to Eddie Riff” (Rigby, 85). Never one to be left behind before the party, Andy explained the reasoning for inventing his own Ziggy Stardurst-style persona:

The actual name comes from the days of my first band at college, jazzers and R’n’B rockers, and I was amongst the latter. We never really had a good vocalist, so we’d rely on instrumentals, and every time we got towards the middle of a song, the jazzers would always want to take solos. I was never allowed one [a solo], so I used to just riff in the background all the time. So Eddie Riff (Edward is my middle-name) became my personality as a saxophone player.

Andy Mackay

Clearly, Andy was aware that he had work to do to establish his own identity as musician and personality outside of Roxy Music that would match the strong public profiles of Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry (hell, everyone was creating fluid identifies in the early 70s). Certainly Mackay looked and played the part: as one writer put it “Since Eno’s ousting, Mackay was undoubtedly the band’s most photogenic face – after Ferry – and his saxophone playing was perhaps the most distinct component of the [Roxy Music] sound” (Stump, 284).

The scene then, was set: solo career in the bag and independence to pursue non-Roxy musical interests. Only, it didn’t quite work out that way: for many, Mackay’s first solo album In Search of Eddie Riff was a uninspired effort, “lackluster” and “rarely more than pure padding” (Paul Stump). Seems “like Muzak” said the NME‘s John Ingham – “perhaps if he could persuade supermarkets and [hamburger] bars to play over their music systems” (Ingham, quoted in Rigby).

To be fair to Mackay, the original intention for the recording arose “from a desire to play some relatively uncomplicated saxophone with friends.” The critics, on the other hand, wanted Mackay to test the musical waters a little more, in the manner of Eno’s Here Comes the Warm Jets or Ferry’s deconstructing Dylan (‘A Hard Rain’s a’ Gonna Fall‘).

Introducing Guest Writer Oliver Whawell

In order to see if there is more than meets the eye regarding In Search of Eddie Riff we have invited a Roxy friend to expand on why the record might actually be a hidden gem: please welcome Oliver Whawell – guitarist, saxophonist, pianist, composer, founder member of The Strawberry Thieves. Oliver believes he is “one of a handful of people who have a legitimate and quantifiable claim to be Andy Mackay’s greatest fan”. Who better to write, then, the month’s blog entry on Andy Mackay’s first solo record – an essay Oliver decided to call “In Defense of Eddie Riff”.

I: In Defence of Eddie Riff

Written by Oliver Whawell


Full disclosure – I am one of a handful of people who have a legitimate and quantifiable claim to be Andy Mackay’s greatest fan! There are more than a few saxophonists who have started playing the instrument because of Andy (Lee Thompson from Madness being probably the most famous) but people like Lee Sullivan (who also provided the artwork for the Three Psalms album) and myself went one step further and have also played in Roxy Music tribute bands – I even went so far as to learn the oboe! I have lived and breathed Andy Mackay for over 30 years.

When I was a young teenager (around 1987) I owned the sheet music for Roxy Music’s first Greatest Hits album – my dad had all of the Roxy and Bryan Ferry records – and at the back of the book all the albums were advertised, and for the first time I became aware of “Diamond Head” and “In Search of Eddie Riff”. It is impossible to describe my feelings – I loved Roxy Music with a passion, but as much as I adored Bryan Ferry’s lyrics, the songs I was always drawn to featured Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay heavily, and the songs I liked most were the co-writes. My dad had no knowledge of these solo albums, and no real interest to be fair, so it became my personal obsession.

Very shortly afterwards I stumbled on my first Record Fair. I was in town on my own, paid my 50p entry, and entered a new world. I found most of the Roxy Music singles and discovered “b sides” I’d never heard of with magical titles like; “The Numberer”, “The Pride and the Pain”, “Hula Kula”, as well as the solo albums “Diamond Head” and “In Search of Eddie Riff” – but I didn’t have nearly enough money on me. I asked the sellers to put them by for me and checked that I would be allowed re-entry into the fair – and then with a burst of adrenalin and a long-distance feat never since equalled I ran home and pleaded with dad to come back to town with me. Bless him, he didn’t just come – he made the decision there and then that the Roxy Music collection would be “his” and he bought all the singles that we could find, and I bought the solo albums with my pocket money and started a collection that is essentially complete now.

We went home and had a glorious afternoon listening to all the singles – both A and B sides and the solo albums. I was in love. There is no better word for it. I could already play the sax parts on all the Roxy records but on “Eddie RiffAndy Mackay was able to let loose and I spent hours playing along to the album and doing my utmost to upset the neighbours; a tenor sax played by an enthusiastic teenager is not quiet.

Some time later I discovered that Andy wasn’t happy with the original release of the album, that he felt the vocal tracks didn’t work, and that there was a re-release with additional tracks on it. Tracking down a vinyl copy of the re-release took me over twenty-five years and by happy chance I found it whilst touring with Roxy Musique in a second-hand music store in Brighton, but back in the late 1980s I found a copy of it in Soho. In this particular shop (to prevent theft) only the sleeves were out for customers to browse and the vinyl itself was kept behind the counter. I was leafing through “Roxy Music plus solo” and found “Eddie Riff”. I turned it around and my heart leapt into my mouth it was the re-issue and it only cost £5! I took the sleeve to the desk and the after just a few moments the man came back with a shattered vinyl disk. I was devastated – in fact so devastated that it was only when I sitting on the train on the way home that I realised I hadn’t even had the presence of mind to ask to keep the now value-less sleeve.

II. An Die Musik

So, the record itself – and I’m listening to it as I write – is it any good? Should Roxy Music fans own it?

Well – if you like Roxy Music the chances are that you appreciate well played saxophone, and there is a lot of very fine sax playing on the album. All of the Roxy personnel are present with the exception of BF – Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson and Eddie Jobson all contribute with the panache and musicality that we would expect of them but it most emphatically ISN’T a Roxy Music record.

Bryan Ferry’s “vision”, for want of a better word, runs through the Roxy catalogue – I think using a cake as an analogy is the simplest way to explain what I’m getting at. Bryan Ferry, I believe, knows what he wants the cake to look like and his voice is the “frosting” on the cake – but the rhythm section is the “sponge” itself – and musicians like Paul Thompson and John Gustafson produced one of the finest “sponges” ever. Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and Eddie Jobson provide the tasty additional layers that make each “mouthful” worth savouring. So “Eddie Riff” then is Roxy Music without the Bryan Ferry “frosting” – in the same way that “These Foolish Things” is Roxy Music without the Eno and Andy Mackay “layers”. Listen to “In Your Mind” with critical ears and the crucial importance of the Andy Mackay “layer” in the Roxy Music “cake” is clearly evident.

In 1974 Roxy Music were massive. “Stranded” had gone to number 1 in the UK charts and Bryan Ferry had successfully embarked on a solo career. I’ve read that this caused some consternation in the Roxy camp (to put it mildly) and in a nutshell AM and PM felt they had to keep up with BF so that they weren’t just perceived as backing musicians – in effect they were positioning themselves as a super-group: successful solo artists in their own right who chose to come together to be Roxy Music.

Bryan Ferry was already the prime composer for Roxy so his solo outings were essentially a trawl through his record collection – and he applied successfully his principle that covers should either be as faithful as possible to the original, or as different as possible. Andy Mackay’s first solo outing was both an outlet for his compositions as well as a chance to cover some songs he (or his first wife Jane) loved. The original release serves as a musical biography. There are two classical melodies: “Ride of the Valkyries” (a link back to Re-Make/Re-model) which is “as different as possible” and “An Die Musik” (Andy Music of course!) which is “as faithful as possible”. Then we have the pop song covers: “The End of the World” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” are both faithful and in my opinion “work” as well as say Bryan’s versions of “Tracks of My Tears” or “I Love How You Love Me”.

The original compositions on the albums though are harder to talk about: “Walking the Whippet” is a good fun “romp” I’d guess – all the musicians are clearly having fun with it and it is perhaps the most humorous song in the entire Roxy oeuvre. Lloyd Watson (later to play on 801 Live) is the star here. I’ll be honest though – I didn’t like it much as a teenager and felt it let the album down. “The Hour Before Dawn” on the other hand I adored – it felt like Roxy – and it felt like Roxy didn’t need BF to be Roxy! It is a simple and beautiful composition and stands on its own merits. As a teenager I performed it on a sax with just a piano backing and it worked perfectly.

“Past, Present and Future” (later retitled “Pyramid of Night”) is the most ambitious work on the album  – it is an extended work in three sections and “does what is says on the tin” starting with baroque/classical allusions with some success before attempting to overcome a tautological problem – music of the present is all well and good, but by definition will quickly become dated, and finding the music of an imagined future is the pursuit of all true artists. I struggled to like it as a teenager – but now rate it very highly. It sits with the other most musically ambitious tracks of early Roxy like ‘A Song for Europe‘ and ‘Bittersweet‘ in my opinion.

Before coming to the re-issue I should talk about the vocal tracks. One original song “Summer Sun” and one cover “A Four Legged Friend” which Andy recorded for his first wife Jane who was a country music fan. “A Four Legged Friend” is fun – in the same way that Bryan Ferry’s “You are My Sunshine” isn’t! That isn’t to say that either of them is good or bad. I think you just have to be in the right mood to appreciate them. “Summer Sun” is a good, straight forward pop song – unfortunately marred by TOO MUCH REVERB on Andy’s vocal.

And so, the re-issue removed the vocal tracks and replaced them with the single “Wild Weekend”, a faithful but updated version of a “sax rave up” in Andy’s words, a Mackay/Eno co-write “Time Regained” which is musically successful and a precursor for Eno’s ambient albums, and a cover of “The Long and Winding Road” – which doesn’t work for me at all sadly. Personally, I’d have given the song the same treatment as “The Hour Before Dawn” but instead Andy goes for the “as different as possible” approach. I love the album – but it is a mess. But in the end – isn’t that what love is all about?

Thanks to Kevin for letting me “defend” Eddie Riff @roxymusicsongs.com! Perhaps he’ll give me another go for Andy’s second solo album “Resolving Contradictions” (1978)… !


Credits: With permission this month we cribbed two of Fly Garrikk‘s images from Glamazona Roxy Music – Fly does great treatments of classic Roxy photos – a highly recommended and fun site; the three column Andy Mackay by roxymusicsongs; Oliver Whawell photo and gallery; front cover LP Roxy Music’s Greatest Hits (1977); back cover LP In Search of Eddie Riff; an online tee-shirt offering of Eddie Riff.

A special thank you to Oliver for his fun celebration of ‘In Search of Eddie Riff’. Oliver was inspired to play the sax by Andy Mackay but like Andy also had a classical training having both a music degree and a diploma in classical piano. The Strawberry Thieves is Oliver Whawell’s new project focusing on his own music rather than being “Andy Mackay” in Roxy Music tribute bands.

Strawberry Thieves recommended playlist:

Master of Disguise from the first Strawberry Thieves album Interior Design. This song was composed like a BF Roxy song in that the music came before the words.

One Love from the second album, Chill Out! A track that highlights Oliver’s Roxy-influenced quirky yet melodic song writing.

Can We Do It Again This song has echoes of the True Wheel by Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno, as well as hints of Both Ends Burning.

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Here Come The Warm Jets – Part 2: Baby’s on Fire


Here Come the Warm Jets, Brian Eno (1973)

Baby’s On Fire‘ (Eno)
Bass Guitar – John Wetton, Paul Rudolph
Guitar – Paul Rudolph, Robert Fripp
Percussion – Marty Simon, Simon King
Enovocals, synthesizers, guitar treatments, keyboards, instrumental arrangements

This guy is a real sickie, bubs … sicker by far than David Bowie’s most scabrous dreams.
Lester Bangs, Creem, 1974

Well my main plan at the moment is to record as much as possible with as many different people as possible.
Brian Eno, New Musical Express, 1974

Eno’s media image at the beginning of 1974 had been sensationalized as glamorous, cerebral, extravagant, decadent, and more than a little dangerous. These qualities may well have made the former Roxy Music band member “the major visual phenomenon of ’73” (The Guardian) but the problem at hand for both artist and management was how to translate this notoriety into sales. Wary of subscribing to the cheap but effective style of shock rock as manifested by contemporary Glam idol Alice Cooper (sorry, no dead chickens here) Eno nevertheless did his best to engage and tease the press with his post-Roxy bizarro persona.

Case in point was the time Eno volunteered to a set of nude test shots for the ‘ladies only’ magazine Viva (uh huh – brought to you from the makers of Penthouse). Eno’s management team (E.G. Records and Management, who also had Roxy on the roster), were playing scatter-gun with their new solo artist, hoping something would stick. Chaperoned by Roxy Music PR man Simon Puxley (and close friend of Bryan Ferry), the ensuing modelling session reads like an Austin Powers movie out-take – with the English Lit PhD Puxley nervously in attendance, trying desperately to keep Eno from going hardcore:

The session hit a crescendo of surrealistica as Eno began twisting like a pretzel, saying, straight-faced: “Get a bun shot.” After suggesting that he be photographed spread-eagle “with all my rudeness showing,” Simon reminded Eno, who seemed a trifle hurt, that Viva didn’t care about his genitalia, just his supple Grecian bod. He ran the gamut of tease poses: Eno teething fetchingly on a sheet, Eno fingering a glass of white wine “decadently,” Eno calling some girl on the phone whilst naked. After sprawling on his tummy, Eno was in a mild state of arousal. “Forgive me if I have a hard-on; it is certainly the way of nature. I can’t sit up…”

Creem, Eno: Naked and Neurotic, 1974

One can only imagine what Puxley reported back to his pal and close confidante Bryan Ferry …

This “is where the real twisto action comes in!” proclaimed revered American rock scribe Lester Bangs: “Eno is the real bizarro warp factor for 1974″! Bang’s review of Warm Jets appeared in Creem magazine ten months after the album’s January 1974 UK release. The lag, one suspects, was due to the strangeness and mischievousness of the package: just like the early Roxy Music records and tours, the Americans were slow to embrace the high-style version of British Glam – too many ideas, too gay, or – as one British journalist pointed out – “the Americans never experienced the true liberating glory of having the shit kicked out of you by Brut-reeking Neanderthals wearing eyeliner and rouge” (The Guardian). We might recall that Clockwork Orange got banned in the UK – not America – for 25 years (too close to the truth, Kubrick decided). And there was something distinctively subversive about Here Come the Warm Jets, with its scatological imagery, cheeky double entendre for peeing in public – and shock of shockers – throwing babies in the fire.

I. Pretty Vacant

There is quite a lot of aggression in what I’m interested in.

Eno, ’74

It’s worth noting that for the man credited with creating ‘ambient’ – the most un-aggressive form of music imaginable – it’s nice to know his idea of “aggression” is an aesthetic question, not necessarily a social one. We know that critics like to “crush” artists with their reviews. Modernist T.S Eliot, author of the society-toppling poem The Waste Land, was a bank clerk who fretted about arriving to work on time (ergo, 9am). Pink Floyd‘s Roger Waters wanted to destroy his audience by Stuka dive-bombing them during live performances of The Wall (“toughen ’em up” Waters later clarified, without irony). The point is I cannot detect a bad bone in Brian Eno‘s body (I should know – I’ve been following the man for near half a century).  Vain, pedantic, egotistical – sure. But you simply cannot write Another Green World if you hate humanity. It just cannot be done.

The violence then, is in the music. Previous track ‘Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch‘ provides the lead-up to ‘Baby’s on Fire‘ as ‘Paw’ abandons its camp comedy routine and turns up the aesthetic heat. The ‘Baby on Fire‘ riff appears @ 2:55 (just after “Now you’ll have to make the choice between the Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch and meeee…”) and it’s thing of beauty: two chords pound relentlessly over an agitated voltage-charged EMS synthesizer while Eno’s sneering vocal introduces the song. We’ve had Happy Eno (‘Camel’), Weird Eno (‘Paw Paw’), and now for our listening pleasure we are presented with Dangerous Eno:

Baby’s on fire
Better throw her in the water
Look at her laughing
Like a heifer to the slaughter
Baby’s on fire
And all the laughing boys are bitching
Waiting for photos
Oh the plot is so bewitching


Eno
learned how to shift atmosphere and mood from the lessons learned on Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure, which Roxy Music in turn had absorbed from The Beatles White Album and The Velvet Underground. This was the first real test for the ‘inspired amateur’: with no band to share the burden, and with no writing credits to show for the previous two years’ work, Eno (in spite of his reputation) – was no experienced producer. “Still a relative greenhorn” notes Eno biographer David Sheppard, citing the observations of Warm Jets engineer and technical support staffer Paul Hardiman: “Brian didn’t know what he was doing  – didn’t have a clue” (Sheppard, 150).

Fortunately the quickly recorded and cheaply made Warm Jets enabled Eno to start his new career as record producer by giving him the time to learn the technical skills and requirements of 24-track recording, arrangement, and editing. What he lacked in technical experience, the young apprentice made up for with his creative talents – first off, assembling an incredible team of musicians with a deep pedigree of art-rock recordings. In addition to the Roxy Music team of Mackay, Manzanera, Thompson, Wetton, Spedding, et al, Eno brought in Simon King (Hawkwind), Paul Rudolf (Pink Fairies/Hawkwind), Bill MacCormick (later heard on early/late Phil Manzanera classics Quiet Sun and Listen Now), Busta Jones (collaborator on Eno/Talking Heads classic Remain in Light), and of course Robert Fripp, label mate, collaborator, and King Crimson band lead.

Below: ‘Warm Jets’ brought together the band that would later play in Phil Manzanera‘s 801 project; in addition to (on the left) bassist Busta Jones and Chris Spedding circa ’76.

Do you know what the difference is between pop and rock? The difference is, with rock, you might get fucked.

Robert Fripp

Fripp’s maxim describes ‘Baby’s on Fire’ to a tee: compare the version recorded for the Velvet Goldmine movie by Venus in Furs (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray Band’s Clune, Suede’s Bernard Butler, and even Andy Mackay). The Furs rendition is all soft guitars, glitter and blonde peroxide hairdos. It’s like the Bay City Rollers recorded a version intended for a B-side that was quietly shelved in the morning. In contrast, Eno decided to cut the track with maximum heat, obeying Fripp’s assertion that “with rock, you might get fucked.”

Coming off the final moments of ‘Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch‘ ‘Baby’ begins with a tense high-hat and bass line – courtesy of the late great John Wetton (Roxy, Crimson) – the hammer of notes pressing down like steady weight on your chest. (Turn it up loud – you’ll see what I mean). Eno’s vocal is strangled, snide:

Babeez on fih-ah
Better throw her in the wat-ah

Look at her laugh-ing
Like a heifer at the slaugh-ta

John Lydon may have discovered his famous Sex Pistols snarl here – ‘Anarchy in the UK‘ (righhta nowww) and ‘Pretty Vacant‘ (va-cuntta) – the stressed T’s bearing down on you like a fist or a messy spit bath.

“As striking and intense as anything by Joy Division or Wire” we are told by Retrospective magazine. Indeed, the considerable anxiety and teeth-barring presented by ‘Baby’s on Fire’ is accentuated by a gnawing calamity placed way back in the mix, like teeth gnawing on bone. The effect is subliminal, like you absorb the grievance more than actually hear it. The only relief comes from the jabbing, punchy synth, adding emphasis during key moments – “photographers snip snap” – as the drama unfolds before us. Nothing settles or is settled – the argument continues unabated, remaining front and centre while the hi-hat continues to hammer out its compulsive drive towards – remedy? release? The tension finally breaks @ 1:25, spilling into one of the greatest guitar solos of Robert Fripp’s career.


They say you were hot stuff
And that’s what baby’s been reduced to…

II. Bewildered Aggression

According to postpunkmonk, ‘Baby’s On Fire’ Robert Fripp provides “the only guitar solo you’ll ever need…” This critical overstatement feels comically accurate, like Warm Jets is the desert-island disk most people have never heard (but still want to take with them anyway). According to postpunk, Fripp’s sonic attack ranges from “face-melting” to “devastating” to “pulverising” re-creating in sound Eno’s aesthetic maxim that there’s “quite a lot of aggression in what I’m interested in”:

There’s an undertone of aggression in it. But it’s not – what I’ve the decided the final term to describe it might be is bewildered aggression. Like when a bull has been struck a few times and it’s just crazy, but not crazy in any direction – it’s just running around, shaking its horns and running at anything. It’s a completely unfocused sort of aggression. It’s bewildered aggression. Like [Eno laughs]…Why am I here and why am I so angry?

Brian Eno, 1974.

For lovers of Fripp’s work with King Crimson, the musical violence contained in recordings such as Starless and Bible Black and Vroom is made all the more immediate and strange by the image of Fripp looking like a Jesuit Monk playing the the most “face-melting” guitar solo ever committed to wax (as Hoeffner put it). And so too with ‘Baby’ as Fripp plays from 1:25 in the key of D#/Eb. In Christian Schubart’s influential text on music theory Towards An Aesthetic Of Music, the German author describes the emotional affect of D Sharp minor as “feelings of the soul’s deepest distress” (musicadvisor.com). This certainly plays into Eno’s idea of bewildered aggression as an expression of aesthetic intent: where will this lead me? is this where I am meant to go?

In due course Fripp takes a breather @ 2:20 before launching into his best Jimi Hendrix impression @ 2:27 – an excellent demonstration of machine gun trill power that lasts a full twenty seconds (to 2:45), before finally shuffling out of the bar having drunk too much and a bit shagged from all the exertion. The track enters a particularly foul mood between 2:50 – 3:21: the noise is atrocious as Eno dirties the soundscape by throwing everything he can at it – multiple-tracked guitars and all manner of keyboards square off while Fripp man-handles the light saber. This thrilling, hard-won result is the sonic “third eye” that is Eno’s core genius, showing itself here early in his solo career yet not necessarily celebrated on Here Come the Warm Jets due to the speed and cheapness of the album’s recording (Jets suffers from the same problem as Bowie’s Lodger: brittle and thin, requiring several beefed up digital remasters to address the problem).

III. Fairies Wear Boots

While the solo ripped from Fripp’s Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul is clearly the most famous and memorable musical aspect of ‘Baby’s on Fire’, Eno fattened the musical spectrum by adding additional guitar work by Pink Fairies and Hawkwind guitarist Paul Rudolph. Eno liked Rudolph‘s playing so much the Canadian guitarist was invited back to play guitar and bass on the majority of tracks on Here Come the Warm Jets, Another Green World, Before and After Science and Music for Films. (Rudolph even plays the rhythm guitar on the fantasticNo One Receiving‘, a personal all-time fave Eno funk-rock triumph).


Paul Rudolph, 1970s

Interviewer: Was it an interesting experience to play on four Brian Eno albums?

Rudolph: That was an incredible experience and an honour to work on that, the four Brian Eno albums. That was the most creative fun I ever had in the music business.

Paul Rudolph

Paul Rudolph himself is such a dedicated and major contributor to the Eno lexicon, the authorship of the ‘Baby’s on Fire’ solo has come into question over the years, as some listeners mischievously go out of their way to credit the entire solo to Rudolph (see: bcb-board.co.uk). Indeed, Rudolph himself describes the recording and mixing of the solo as an equal partnership with Fripp:

Playing with Fripp was fine. We got along well. It was complementary and creative. It was very interesting that on one of the tracks that we both played lead guitar on –I guess we have slightly different styles- in the final production Eno was sitting at the mixer and just pressing the channel on and off above Fripp’s guitar, so when you listen to it, it sounds almost like one player except the octaves and everything of the style that we all kind of envy each other’s. Rather done by a slicing tape, it was done by pressing the channel up and down in the mixer and I thought it worked really well.

Fripp himself even stirred the rumor mill by joking that he did not author the solo (“It is April the First, after all“). But any fan of King Crimson or David Bowie – or even Nick Cave’s Grinderman – know Fripp’s distinct tag-line when they hear it, and the guitarist was clear about his role on the session:

Some of the work I did with Bowie was in the same kind of category of immediacy and honesty for me as a player. Eno, again, the solo on ‘Baby’s on Fire’ was there. I’d just gotten off a plane from America. I had the flu. I was exhausted. I was wretched, and yet the solo was burning. It doesn’t matter how you feel.

Robert Fripp

Neverthess, it’s fun to identify the two guitar leads. Try it for yourself (don’t do this without adult supervision, kids): starting at the 2:56 mark, you can hear Fripp’s belligerent drunk now picking fights with someone off-screen, possibly the second lead guitarist, as the mixing levels rise and fall, thickening both lead lines with different phrasing and feedback. It’s an incredible performance from Eno, Fripp and Rudolph all contributing, serving the form and function of the music, this “bewildered aggression” that is so loved by many, and obviously still mysterious and cryptic after all these years.

Postscript: Super Heathen Child

Fripp was invited to re-visit the ‘Baby’s on Fire‘ solo for Nick Cave’s Grinderman 2 project in 2010: “We are huge fans of a song from Brian Eno’s first album, ‘Baby’s on Fire’ where Fripp plays a crazy solo section and we wanted to have something similar. Fripp did so much and he was out of that phase at the time,  but Nick encouraged him and persuaded him to do something in that kind of mood.” (Cave’s bassist Martyn Casey).

The remix of ‘Heathen Child’ (‘Super Heathen Child’ Feat. Robert Fripp) confirms the tone, phrasing and angle of attack of ‘Baby’s on Fire’ guitar mayhem in a contemporary setting (Fripp mailed Cave the solo, deeming it “the best take” of several passes). For those interested in the full story of Nick’s engagement with Fripp you might like to go to the always interesting – always emotionally honest – account of the remix in Cave’s Red Hand Files (Issue # 53).

Final words then, are appropriate from Cave himself, who surely speaks for all of us when considering the impact of this Eno classic nearly fifty years on, evaluating his own recordings while reaching into the past to speak to the teenager in his – and possibly your own – life.

Super Heathen Childcontinues to have an extraordinary hold over me, and contains within it a deep emotional pull because it is attached directly to my adolescence. Listening to it, I have that strange dizzying feeling a dream has when it suddenly becomes a reality; all that deep concentrated listening I did when I was a teenager manifesting itself over forty years later in a Fripp solo that just blows the mind. Recording with Robert Fripp remains one of the seismic events of my life.

Nick Cave, 2019

Next Month: We leave the mad world of Brian Eno temporarily and travel with Andy Mackay In Search of Eddie Riff. The Roxy Music camp were all involved in solo and session work in early 1974 and we are covering the bases before hitting Roxy’s Country Life, that major hit for the band in late 1974.

Additional credits: thanks to dangerousminds.net for the Eno photo-shoot material, here; The art of Robert Fripp courtesy emusician; Nick Cave talksmore Grinderman here; more Paul Rudolph essential reading here

Screen Shot 2019-11-11 at 7.23.54 AM

Brian Eno at Majestic Studio Fall 73, working on those Warm Jets.


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Here Come the Warm Jets – Part 1: Blowtorch and Needles

Here Come the Warm Jets, Brian Eno (1973)

‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye’ (Eno, Manzanera)
Bass Guitar – Bill MacCormick
Guitar – Chris Spedding, Phil Manzanera
Percussion – Simon King

‘The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch’ (Eno)
Bass Guitar – Busta Cherry Jones
Bass [Extra Bass] – Chris Thomas
Guitar – Chris Spedding, Phil Manzanera
Percussion – Marty Simon

Roxy Music were loved by the punks – Steve Jones, John Lydon, Siouxsie and the Banshees – but it was Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets LP that was allowed to stand proudly on record store shelves beside Never Mind the Bollocks, Spiral Scratch, The Clash. Released at the beginning of 1974 while ex-band members Roxy Music were peaking with new album Stranded, there was something subversive and slightly menacing about the Warm Jets package, with its dirty pics, dead flowers, and Captain Eno staring out of the sleeve like a demented glam drill instructor.

For the man the press were calling “the major visual phenomenon of ’73” (The Guardian), 1973-74 was a time of self-examination, off finding a way to move forward in music and the music biz. Eno‘s time with Roxy had come to its natural conclusion (see: For Your Pleasure – Part 2) and, responding to Roxy management’s advice (“We feel you’re ready for a solo career…”) Eno recognized that his options were split into two distinct categories: experimental or avante-garde activities (“I need insanity”), or rock music, that 20th century cultural phenomenon that provided the bread-and-butter of most working musicians. Having been released from his Roxy contract $30,000 in debt (Sheppard), Eno faced the harsh reality of how to make a living – good press was one thing, but how exactly did it translate into paying the bills. The truth was that by late 1973 – three months after leaving RoxyBrian Eno was not living a glamorous life – interviewers showed up at his London apartment to find a gregarious intellectual surrounded by cockroaches and hampered by poor diet (on the floor and walls were porn polaroids, letters from fans, and girlfriend Cassandra simulating S&M poses for visiting journalists).

There was pressure, then, from managers and audiences for Eno to define his post-Roxy persona and set up a musical image the record industry come to grips with (Create. Market. Sell. Repeat). The immediate result was the cheaply made but well-supported first solo recording Here Come the Warm Jets, recorded in September 1973 (made in parallel with Roxy Music’s Stranded. See: ‘Amazona’) and released January 1974. The period was a difficult one for Eno as he tried to satisfy the demands of making a hit record and touring, only to fall flat on his face – they way we all do when we try to apply ourselves to tasks or careers we don’t believe in. But more of that later: for the moment Eno had bills to pay and an album to record, so he called in Roxy associates Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Phil Thompson, John Wetton, and Chris Thomas while neglecting, presumably, to inform Bryan Ferry he was picking up the slack, creating a new ‘cinema music’ for bedrooms, airports and bondage enthusiasts.

We saw that Brian Eno could have been as big a solo star as Brian Ferry if he wanted to be, but that wasn’t what he wanted to do musically…He simply wasn’t interested in the great flog of being on the road all the time.

David Enthoven, E.G. Records and Management

Legend has it that Brian Eno started writing Here Come the Warm Jets the day he left Roxy Music.”I remember the day of the final showdown in the E.G. offices in the Kings Road” Eno recalls in David Sheppard’s biography, On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno:

I left feeling totally liberated. I was in debt, and had no sure future, and felt as free as a bird. I ran down the road, jumping for joy. I think it was good for everybody that I went my own way: the band went on to make several great records, and I went on happily to pursue my own path(s). 

Eno

I. Blastoff

For twelve days in September 1973, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Andy Mackay would complete their Roxy Music Stranded recording duties at AIR Studios, Oxford Street London, and take the twenty minute drive across town (over the Thames) to the cheapest 24-track studio in London at the time, Majestic Studios, 146 Clapham Street London, to assist with the guitar duties on Brian Eno‘s first solo album Here Come the Warm Jets, an influential and much-loved LP cut in twelve days for a reported 5,000 pounds (approx $10,000).

The opening to Warm Jets – and the first cut of Eno‘s solo rock career – is the bubbly and catchy ‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye‘ – a tune co-written with friend and ex-Roxy Music band-mate Phil Manzanera. It’s easy to hear why Manzanera got the co-credit, as the song gets its legs from an energetic run through the every guitarist’s favorite key of E major (E/A/B), with a few tweaks to D/A to resolve the verse.

Re-visiting the spirited yet amateurish first Roxy album Roxy Music, Eno has Manzenera creating riffs that sound fresh and a bit bonkers, as the guitarist cuts free from the more concise lines of Roxy Music and enjoys being a kid again. This giddy optimism is likely the reason that Todd Haynes used ‘Camel’s Eye‘ to open up his much-aligned glam film Velvet Goldmine. (A series of fun shots shows a line of teenagers trying to run in their glam boots).

This idea of ‘inspired amateur’ is certainly true of ‘Camel’s Eye‘ as the barrage of guitars are tweaked and modulated to sound de-tuned or slightly drunk – the opposite of the cool professionalism as demonstrated par excellence on Roxy’s Stranded. This approach is due no doubt to the parcity of the recording budget, but also for Eno’s liking for spontaneity and “insanity” (Melody Maker). That spontaneity is reflected in the balance between punkish immediacy and harmonic awareness. Presenting a gorgeous top-line melody against the thrash of Manzanera‘s garage rock, Eno conceives a fantastic hook and won’t let go: “And you go” he sings, like he didn’t have a care in the world, “and you go oh, oh, oh, oh!” This is joyous stuff – the first sign of Eno’s commercial potential (either as composer or producer). Example in point – I’ve been humming the damn tune all week: “Naaa-na-na-aaaa. Naaa-na-na-aaaa. Do-do-doo do do do do do doooo-oo-ooo-ooo-ohh-ohh. Naaa-na-na-aaaa“. Repeat. Repeat again. And then again. Until your loved ones disown you.

II. Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire

Wholly lacking prejudice in its intent and approach, ‘Camel’s Eye sounds like just one of the twelve possible futures Eno could now take as a solo artist – let’s call this one Happy Eno. In contrast, next cut ‘The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch‘ is an introduction to Weird Eno – a fan favorite for those that like their pop music with a liberal dose of send-up and piss-take. This is Eno out-camping even Bowie at his most over-the-top, hamming it up while telling the strange tale of a Mr. A. William Underwood, a late 19th century African American from Paw Paw, Michigan who was able to produce fire from his mouth without the aid of artificial accelerants  “He will take anybody’s handkerchief, hold it to his mouth [and] immediately it bursts into flames.” (Wiki). Unsurprisingly, this did not help Mr. Underwood on kissing dates.

Written in the same key as ‘Camel’s Eye‘ and with the same chords E-A-B swapped around (E-B-E-A) the first songs of ‘Here Come the Warm Jets’ feel like a freak show circus, with those weird bibical camel’s eyes and Paw Paw’s fire-breathing protagonists – like something Captain Beefheart might conjure up, or Frank Zappa with his Cruising with Ruben & the Jets idea: a 50s doo-wop parody-slash-concept album, constructed from an original idea called No Commercial Potential. This sounds decidedly Eno-like, ramping up the satire and entertainment while torturing his management company with little chance of making any real money. (Eno’s pre- ‘Warm Jets‘ idea for bringing in some cash – as writer David Sheppard delightfully describes – was to create “a bizarre, fetishistic fantasy” pop group called Luana and The Lizard Girls. “The Girls would consist of an assortment of musical eccentrics and dancers… Luana lifts the whip …” And so on. (“The dancers in the Lizard Girls could also be wired up to my new instrument…”).

The first minute of ‘Paw Paw’ starts as a direct offshoot of the mocking comedy of Zappa and Robert Calvert‘s Captain Lougheed and the Starfighters (a record Eno contributed synthesizer effects to in early 1974), but begins to change shape and mood as it moves along. First up is the instrumental break as delivered by Eno’s trademark burp and fart synthesizer, originally heard on Roxy Music‘s ‘Virginia Plain‘ and ‘Editions of You‘ (the break is genuinely funny, capturing the speech of two nattering robots while taking morning tea). The electronic chatter gives way to Manzanera‘s guitar rattling across the speakers @1:32, while Chris Spedding is added to the sonic mix, trading lines and fret-board effects. If you haven’t heard ‘Paw Paw‘ in a while, it is striking to hear how well arranged this song actually is. Moving towards his preferred mode of insanity, Eno increases the tempo and tension:

Send for an ambulance or an
Accident investigator
He’s breathing like a furnace …

Guitars and synths replicate the sounds of ambulances and sirens while flaming hyperboles are piled on (He’ll set the sheets on fire/Mmm, quite a burning lover/Now he’ll barbecue your kitten). Suddenly Mr. A. William Underwood’s unfortunate fire-breathing condition becomes a metaphor for failed romance or performance anxiety – most likely the latter, given Eno’s pornographic imagination.

Writing on an Eno web discussion (songmeanings.com), one fan remarks “Every time I hear this song, it always sounds to me that it starts like a Steely Dan-ish tune and then melts down and rocks out into that wonderfully noisy conclusion that segues into ‘Baby’s on Fire'”.

Indeed the agitated ‘Baby on Fire‘ synth riff appears on ‘Paw Paw‘ @ 2:55 (just after “Now you’ll have to make the choice between the Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch and meeee…”) and if you turn up the volume you hear the hammer run of notes in their unadorned state: both songs bleed effortlessly into each other, and we recognize that ‘Paw Paw‘ has been laying the sonic foundation for the best cut on the album and one of the great classics of Eno’s rock career: ‘Baby’s on Fire

Baby’s on fire
Better throw her in the water
Look at her laughing
Like a heifer to the slaughter
Baby’s on fire
And all the laughing boys are bitching
Waiting for photos
Oh the plot is so bewitching

Next: the classic ‘Baby’s on Fire’!

Credits: Here Come the Warm Jets sleeve (ILPS 9268) November 1973; Eno publicity photo (uncredited) circa early ’74; Todd Haynes used ‘Camel’s Eye‘ to open up his much-aligned glam film Velvet Goldmine; published score ‘Camel‘; Frank Zappa and Eno go 50s (separate photo shoots) Cruising with Ruben & the Jets sleeve shots; a threaded Camel (doncha know); Eno, same session uncredited publicity photo circa early 74.

 


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(No Pussyfooting)


(No Pussyfooting), Fripp & Eno, 1973

‘The Heavenly Music Corporation’
Recorded at Eno’s Studio September, 1972

‘Swastika Girls’
Recorded at Command Studios August, 1973

The parenthesis in the title are significant, as (No Pussyfooting) was the first solo (collaborative) recording by ex-Roxy Music synthesizer player Brian Eno, the music an interlude or afterthought (take your pick) before the first proper solo release Here Come the Warm Jets (1973)In typical fashion, the title is a play on words, suggesting both “get on with it” and temporary hiatus. Thanks Brian, we anticipate much fun as we review your 1970s post-Roxy solo career (As if Bryan Ferry wasn’t handfull enough). 

Record label & management companions – E.G. Records had both Roxy Music and King Crimson on their roster – Brian Eno and Robert Fripp met professionally while Fripp was producing a record by Robert Wyatt‘s post-Soft Machine band Matching Mole – a group who would would play a future role in Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera‘s stellar 801 band. Little Red Record was recorded in the Fall of 1972 while Eno was still with Roxy Music, but had been given a weekend pass due to Bryan Ferry taking ill with tonsillitis, leaving the calendar free to contribute to other recording sessions. Eno played synthesizer on the track ‘Gloria Gloom‘ – a freaky hodgepodge of early 70s musical experimentation – while striking up a friendship with band leader Robert Wyatt (“playing scrabble … It’s always fun with Brian”) and flirting with actress Julie Christie – fresh from Venice shooting Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’ – who, somehow, had been talked into providing voice-overs for the album. As all this was going on, according to Brian Eno biographer David Sheppard, Eno spent much of his time “observing Fripp at the mixing desk” (Sheppard, 103). 

Eno signed copy (No Pussyfooting)

Brian Eno’s departure from Roxy Music was as certain (and required) as a recurring sunset, a dog hankering for a bone, the Queen’s speech at Christmas. A brilliant theoretician and musical originator, Eno could never be bound by the (often tedious) set-ups and formulas of rock music, no matter how well defined and delivered by the likes of Bowie or Roxy. While Roxy managers David Enthoven and John Gaydon, critics and fans, and even Bryan Ferry himself, have since indulged in the “what if” scenario of Eno remaining a member of the band –  what glories! what masterpieces! – the thinking is simply incorrect, for it situates Brian Eno within the rock music continuum – a medium that relies on consistency, formula and repetition for success and revenue generation – and that was never going to be adequate payback for an artist who craved original experiences and outcomes. Eno enjoyed the rock n’ roll lifestyle for about a year and a-half with Roxy Music (1972 to mid 1973), quickly got bored with girls, glam, glitter (well, maybe not the girls) and started recording (No Pussyfooting) in his spare time, for fun and pleasure and no foreseeable financial return, while Roxy Music were enjoying their peak Top of the Pops moment with Virginia Plain’ climbing the UK singles charts in September 1972.

For fans of Roxy Music, Brian Eno, and Phil Manzanera‘s solo and 801 projects – and for admirers of Robert Fripp and King Crimson(No Pussyfooting) is an essential record – raw, experimental, pioneering, often beautiful, always surprising. The album was delivered incredibly cheap: the cost of recording was twelve quid ($24CDN, $19USD) and sold 100,000 copies (Burning Shed). While never selling records in the Rod Stewart or even Roxy Music category – no one has ever identified a period of “Eno-mania” in the 70s – Eno has always had the good business sense to keep costs down while providing a decent return on record label investment. The outcome has been a long and “interesting” (a favourite Eno word) career comprised of absolute freedom and unshackled artistic expression, resulting in collaborative, gorgeous music. One of the great myths of Eno’s career is that he is a “non-musician”, record producer, systems strategist, faker – but this non-musician has made some of the most beautiful music many of us have heard: tender, emotional, haunting. You can’t fake that.

(No Pussyfooting) is comprised of two tracks spread over one side each of the original LP release. The 2019 re-release split the first side ‘Heavenly Music Corporation’ into five parts and second side ‘Swastika Girls’ into two parts – and they needn’t have bothered. For many younger listeners NP sounds like it was made in the glacial age. One modern Prog fan has offered the unflattering view that “I cannot help to think of a mid-80’s hamburger fast food chain commercial campaign with little old ladies yelling: Where’s the beef?” “Yes, this album is historical,” says another – “inventive, progressive, but not very good.” (Prog Archives).

True, a record that is taped in someone’s bedroom for twelve quid may not stand the test of time – sonically at least – but (No Pussyfooting) is at least half-brilliant – ‘Heavenly Music Corporation’ is the standout –  and also extremely important to the collection of artists covered in this blog: this is the clear start of Eno‘s fabulous solo career – from ambient, Bowie, Lanois, Cluster, 801, ‘Another Green World‘, Talking Heads, Fripptronics, John Cale, (Devo!) and so much more. And that’s just the musical side..


Beginning with the beautiful tone of unspooling electronic music, ‘Heavenly Music Corporation’ is the clear winner of the two pieces – a dream-filled auditory introduction to a  ‘method’ created with very little equipment: Fripp’s Gibson Les Paul, The “Fripp Pedalboard”, and two of Eno’s modified Revox A77 tape recorders (see lead picture, above).

In a system later to be dubbed Frippertronics, Eno and Fripp set up two reel-to-reel tape decks that would allow audio elements to be added to a continuing tape loop, building up a dense layer of sound that slowly decayed as it turned around and around the deck’s playback head

Ted Mills (Allmusic)

In keeping with his original role in Roxy Music, Eno plays the sound engineer on this session, mixing the performance live, playing with tape, changing volume levels, producing delay and distortion. As early as 1968 – in the Clare Market Review (the official journal of the London School of Economics’ Student Union!) – Eno was already describing the process as “a noise made at a given time” recorded “on both tracks of the tape… to be played back at C after a delay.” The degree of delay produced the sonic tone, and the sonic tone was influenced by the distances between tape machines (“Speed of tape affects accuracy of recording”).

With as little as 0:37 seconds into the piece, you can actually hear Eno playing with the sound controls – volume levels fade in and out – and by 2:53 the effect is wide-screen, panning out beyond the speaker’s circle, until we hit the 3:09 mark and Fripp enters with his Gibson and pedal-board. ‘Heavenly Music Corporation’ is the precursor to the most pleasing moments of the more highly regarded ‘Evening Star‘ (Fripp & Eno, 1975), as the sound builds into increasingly layered and overlapping sound. By ‘Heavenly Part III’ we have Jimi Hendrix-style dive-bombing effects (in 1975 Eno called Hendrix “probably still the greatest guitar player of all time” (Tamm).  And Pink Floyd based an entire career on the close-out rumblings laid down effortlessly for  ‘Heavenly Part V’.

(No Pussyfooting) may have been cheap to record, but the cover was conceived as a top shelf package (spare no expense). Reviewing the making of the sleeve, writer and curator Paul Gorman provides detail on Eno’s vision:

All of a piece with the music it packages – prismatic, playful, calm, cerebral, oblique – the four-part composition was photographed and designed at Eno’s behest by photographer/ filmmaker Willie Christie.

At the time of the shoot in 1972, Gorman continues, “Christie was an established fashion photographer and husband of the Vogue creative editor Grace Coddington” Christie’s roster included wife Coddington, Roxy alumni Amanda Lear and Bryan Ferry, rock star Mick Jagger, and King Crimson band members Bill Bruford and Robert Fripp himself.

“We hired the mirror from Chelsea Glassware and the zinc ‘floor’ came from a session I’d just done for (fashion publication) Over 21,” says Christie, who won an award from industry magazine Music Week for the design. “I’ve always felt badly for Brian that he didn’t share the credit, since it was his idea and we worked on it together.”

Quoted in Gorman, “Photography: Willie Christie on the (No Pussyfooting) cover.”

The effect of multilayered and repeatable sound is represented on the front cover by a  hall-of-mirrors photograph of Fripp and Eno seated, looking purposely staged and pragmatic. Signifiers are placed everywhere: books, trinklets, and of course, much punning pornography – no ‘pussy foot’ refers to Eno’s position in the frame (say no more) and the whole piece reads like a next-step first take of an ambient classic – designed to take us on journeys of the mind and heart. The recording is magnificent and important, and just like those mirrors, the effects continue to reflect and influence across the ages. Eno, for one, would never look back.

Credits: Kobe Van Cauwenberghe is a German guitarist who has produced ‘No (More) Pussyfooting’ for recorded and live performances – the title shot comes from him; back cover NP’ Willie Christie; Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Rooms exhibition at Tate Modern Spring 2021; 1968 Eno paper, Clare Market Review, more Willie Christie, see http://www.williechristie.com/

Next Month: Phew – that was a change of pace – no lyrics! Let’s keep up with Eno theme next month. And why not – Here Comes The Warm Jets has 4/5ths of Roxy Music playing on it. Be kind, be good – til next time!


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Sunset


Sunset (Ferry), Stranded Roxy Music 1973

I think it’s fair to say this album ends strongly.

Roxy Fan, Online Forum

Roxy Music’s 1973 album Stranded concludes on a tranquil and highly poetic note with the Bryan Ferry composition ‘Sunset‘. Following a long line of excellent – and sometimes overlooked – closing tracks, ‘Sunset‘ is the precursor to ‘Just Another High‘ (Siren) and the excellent ‘Spin Me Round‘ (Manifesto), both book-end songs that manage in their reflective state to sum up the themes of the album or, at the very least, give final hearing to the thoughts of the narrator and lyricist.  If the history of story-telling requires a change in character in order to resolve conflict, Ferry chooses to close Stranded with the most clear-cut, unambiguous and concise poetry of his career. To that end, it’s worth quoting the song in full at the outset:

Oh look at the sun – it’s all a-glow
Slow burning star – sinking low
Heaven knows where you go
Out of sight, out of minds eye, no

Aw such a shame – you must leave
All day long you were a friend to me
Still – the moon´s company
Until morning when larks will sing

Horizon´s appointment you´ll keep
For sunswept flamingos must sleep
Scenes like these from my dreams
Cover cutting-room floors all over …..

Warm heart we spin slowly from view
Why are you sad – do you disapprove?
How we´ve wasted our time
Sunset – end of my day – my decline

Postscript you trace colours the sky
Red-letter light fades, is filed away
Sunburst fingers you raise
One last sigh of farewell – goodbye

If you took it upon yourself to teach a poetry class, you could do no better than present ‘Sunset‘ for analysis: composed in classic format – five four-line quatrains presented in even meter – Ferry and Roxy PR man and English PhD holder Simon Puxley went for clarity of expression, inclusive imagery and straight-forward sentiment. (After five years of translating Roxy Music‘s often dense postmodern verse, I mention this with considerable relief).

A beautiful evening sunset provides a number of metaphorical opportunities for writers: it can signify the end of the day, the end of the line, end of proceedings, exhaustion, terminus – or, conversely, the promise of a new day or beginning (see: Midnight Cowboy). If this was Ernest Hemingway it would mean death. (As did just about everything). If it was Emily Dickinson, then it would mean enduring and relentless poetry – “Sunset“, “The Juggler of Day”, “The Coming of Night”, “The Sea of Sunset” – and so on.

Bryan Ferry’s favourite poets include the metaphysical John Donne and the brilliant modernist T.S. Eliot (Eliot was sharp enough to keep anyone’s attention – The Waste Land is spectacular). John Donne wrote ‘The Sun Rising’, and this may well have been an influence for ‘Sunset‘ (“Busy old fool, unruly sun“). Similarly Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock‘ looms heavy in ‘Sunset’, in inspiration if not execution. Prufrock’s world view is melancholic, funny in its darkness, anxious about aging, mortality, and how best to spend our time (“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”). This is a favored Ferry trope and his narrators always invite the audience to listen in and share in the roguish melancholy:

Then I step back thinking of life´s inner meaning and my latest fling” (‘Mother of Pearl’);

Here as I sit at this empty cafe, Thinking of you” (A Song for Europe);

I hope something special will step into my life” (‘Editions of You‘)

“Valerie please believe it never could work out…” (‘Beauty Queen‘)

And so on.

What is notable about Ferry’s lyrics – in addition to their honesty and camp high Romanticism (“I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” Shelley) – is their haunting atmospheres and compelling imagery. Early Roxy Music (1972-1973) was the high water mark of early Ferry lyricism, as For Your Pleasure and Stranded presented archetypal literary symbolism to convey strong feelings of emotion, like a painter choosing chiaroscuro to highlight the contrasts between light and dark. If the energy of Stranded emanates in shades of red and gold, sun-kissed glamour and slow smouldering flames, then sister album For Your Pleasure mediates on encroaching darkness, personal guilt, worry, shyness, even embarrassment (“tongue tied, the thread of conversation“). For Ferry, darkness shifts to light as a means of working through a problem:

Until the cloak of evening shadow
Changes to mantle of the dawn
Will it be sunny then I wonder?

Strictly Confidential

In the morning
Things you worried about last night
Will seem lighter
I hope things will turn out all right

For Your Pleasure

The cyclical pattern of day/night, darkness/light is utilized by the singer-songwriter with the sensitivity of a Romantic troubadour, providing compelling contrast to the pop-art sensationalism of Roxy gems such as ‘Virginia Plain‘, ‘Do the Strand‘, ‘Re-Make/Re-Model‘ or even ‘Street Life‘. Beginning with ‘Chance Meeting‘ from first album Roxy Music, Ferry delighted in taking us into those darker interior states seen on For Your Pleasure (‘In Every Dream Home’, ‘The Bogus Man’, ‘Strictly Confidential’). And while troubled ghosts still wander the corridors of Stranded, (‘Psalm’, ‘Amazona’, ‘Mother of Pearl’), it feels like we’re getting to the end of Ferry’s obsession with existential analysis – an interrogation of modernity as it relates to spiritual and moral concerns – in favor of a more self-focused scrutiny.

Essentially, by early 1974 Ferry had cracked it, had achieved his goals in terms of celebrity, influence and art – yet couldn’t quite see where to go next. The problems of living in the world – affairs of the heart, human stupidity, physical decay – were insolvable. Suicide wasn’t an option.  The cultural revolution that he, Brian Eno and Andy Mackay had given voice to in British pop music hadn’t really changed anything, except setting a higher standard for what could be accepted as ‘Pop music’ (Roxy were a brainy group; and lyrically, Ferry had introduced pop-art and literary ideas to a very wide audience). The experience of creating art remained largely schizophrenic in nature. The bright lights no longer confused, but the highs didn’t take you beyond the Milky Way either. Love and commitment did not come any easier, in fact relationships now came with risk, agendas, the possibility of public betrayal. “Don’t ask why I’m feeling blue,” Ferry asked at the beginning of Strandedyet by the close of the record he had come to recognize the truth – that he was indeed stranded: “With every goddess a let down, every idol a bring down. It gets you down.

And so, by shifting to third-person omniscient mode for ‘Sunset’ – ergo, author-as-God, creator of worlds – Ferry raises his arms to the heavens to engage with the Big Questions – destiny, morality, fate. We’ve been here before with ‘In Every Dream Home, a Heartache (“Is there a heaven? / I’d like to think so“). Similarly, in ‘Just Like You‘ the narrator wonders if Lady Luck (“old and sage“) will continue to smile down on his secular antics (“to gamble with fate is my crime“). And so too ‘Sunset‘ is designed to address questions of Universality, of inclusiveness, closing the book on the day’s events while also metaphorically bringing the Stranded album to a close:

Oh look at the sun – it’s all a-glow
Slow burning star – sinking low
Heaven knows where you go
Out of sight, out of minds eye, no


This beautiful sunset
burns brightly in its dying moments “all a-glow” as the final rupture of light illuminates the sky before nightfall. The metaphor references both our Earthly sun – that huge celestial body of hydrogen and helium – and Ferry’s own “slow burning star” – the man, the myth – as he journeys on his ‘solo trip’ beyond the stars (“Where do we go? We’ll never know“). Carefully balancing the cosmic with the personal, Ferry assures us that the sun and the bright lights will never be forgotten as long as he (and his creativity) lives: “Out of mind’s eye, no” – he says with a wink, punning on the phrase ‘Mind’s I’ – that line of philosophical inquiry that examines the nature of the Self.

This shift to the internal is intentional as the sunset settles behind the horizon and Ferry shifts his (and our) attention towards the act of authorship and the writing process:

Horizon´s appointment you´ll keep
For sunswept flamingos must sleep
Scenes like these from my dreams
Cover cutting-room floors all over …..

Those “sunset flamingos” are an important marker for the singer-songwriter, having made their first appearance in Roxy Music’s hit single ‘Virginia Plain‘ – the song that provided the template for Ferry’s persona-shifting, celebrity-crashing manifesto (“What’s real and make believe“). “Dance the cha-cha through til sunrise,” we were told with energy and bravado, an exciting future unfolding for the band (and audience): “Just like flamingos, look the same, So me and you, just we two, Got to search for something new.”

By the time of ‘Sunset’ and Stranded‘s release 15 months later, the time to retire this idea had come – the sun is shutting down, keeping its “horizon’s appointment“, and those glamorous sunswept flamingos “must sleep.” The next lines are stunning in their statement of defiant creativity, facing down an unruly and uncaring universe, the author situates himself in the work – like Rembrandt painting himself into Raising of the Cross:

Scenes like these from my dreams
Cover cutting-room floors all over …..

The cinematic aspect of Ferry’s fever-dream, the creation of Roxy Music (literally, ‘cinema music’), is made explicit with reference to scenes that litter “cutting room floors“. This is the dramatist-behind-the curtain, turning ideas into art – or better yet – chasing down the art inspiration: those flavors of the mountain streamline, the Cha-cha and sunswept flamingos. The sentiment is delicate (“Warm heart“), but also a little paranoid, fearful. Classic Ferry:

Warm heart we spin slowly from view
Why are you sad – do you disapprove?
How we´ve wasted our time
Sunset – end of my day – my decline

Postscript:

Postscript you trace colours the sky
Red-letter light fades, is filed away
Sunburst fingers you raise
One last sigh of farewell – goodbye

The beautiful ‘Sunset’ postscript concludes Stranded with a final sigh of farewell. The serene and powerful music ebbs, the production winds to a close, the author looks to the future. 1974 would be a busy year for Roxy Music and solo band projects, and Ferry would continue to chase down his experiences and share them with his audience. In this regard ‘Sunset’ marks the culmination of a period in Roxy Music’s development and output. There is much magic to come, but from here on in Ferry’s persona-shifting would settle – for better or worse – on that white tuxedo. Subject matter increasingly focuses on the myth of the newly created Idol ‘Bryan Ferry’ as told and experienced by Bryan Ferry. (Good work if you can get it).

By the close of Stranded, the author puts down his paints (“trace colours the sky“), sets aside his lyrics (“red-letter light fades, is filed away“), and waves a personal farewell to his audience in the same fading blaze of red that has dominated the album:

Sunburst fingers you raise
One last sigh of farewell – goodbye

It’s all tremendously moving. Not a simple song by any means, ‘Sunset’ makes simplicity look easy, as all sunsets must do as their power brightens before lowering inexorably towards the horizon at the end of our days.

“We were convinced that we were in pursuit of a will-o’-the-wisp, ever receding, ever changing, ever beckoning”

– Donald Baxter MacMillan on his futile search for Crocker Island, Artic Suns, Greenland (1913-1917)

Credits:  First shot, last shot: Explorer’s stunning photographs of the Arctic Sun from 110 years ago, Flashbak; Fan comment comes from Steve Hoffman forums, here; capture from Art’s Greatest Kisses, BBC; Bryan Ferry deep in thought Bournemouth beach NME 1974 (I think photo credit is Penny Smith, will check); neon pink Flamingo for sale (I quite like it – where can I buy); montage: a really fabulous American artist, Jeff Burgess – his view of the Mind’s I, artistic process (here: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-minds-eye-jeff-burgess.html).

Special thank you for Jonathan Rigby’s excellent entry on ‘Sunset’ in his book Roxy Music: Both Ends Burning. “The lyric is one of Ferry’s best”. No argument there, Jonathan. (Though time is ripe for a reprint on your book – current price is $172 CDN!).

Next: I love Stranded even more now than when I started writing about it a year ago. The album marked the end of the high-water mark of the English literary tradition in Bryan Ferry’s lyrics, and the beginning of a harder edge glamour that fused rock spectacle with Weimar decadence. Country Life is in the mail, folks! First things first: we’ll stop by Brian Eno‘s first foray post-Roxy – the brilliant collaboration ‘No Pussyfooting’ (1973) with Robert Fripp. Let’s settle in with a little Heavenly Music Corporation for a bit. Til next time!


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Mother of Pearl – Part 3

Mother of Pearl – Part 1
Mother of Pearl – Part 2
Mother of Pearl (Ferry), Recorded September 1973
Mother of Pearl Lyric (Ferry)

Well I’ve been up all night (again?) party-time wasting is too much fun.

Mother of Pearl’ appeared as the penultimate track on Roxy Music UK #1 album Stranded (1973). Commonly recognized as one of the most assured and satisfying songs in the Roxy canon, the track concluded an LP that had already showcased some of the band’s best work including ‘Street Life‘ (UK #1 single), ‘Just Like You‘, ‘Amazona‘, ‘Serenade‘ and ‘A Song for Europe‘ before landing magnificently on ‘Mother of Pearl‘. Album closer ‘Sunset‘ would provide a stunning epilogue to Stranded, wrapping neatly Ferry’s concerns with mortality, the role of art, love and obsession, constructed identities, theatricality and camp – all designed by a newly anointed pop star ambitious to satisfy sensation-hungry audiences.

‘Mother of Pearl’ is milestone recording for Roxy Music due to its pitch perfect presentation of these ideas, delivered via a striking and original three-part structure (Party/Comedown/Epilogue) and an alternating savage/sublime arrangement composed and played by band members Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson, and guest bassist John Gustafuson, with major contributions from producer Chris Thomas and band multi-instrumentalist Andy Mackay (who largely sits this one out). These ingredients are capped by a career-high performance by lead Roxy singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry, an artist so on his game in 1973 that he co-wrote and recorded Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, Stranded and released his own hit solo album These Foolish Things – an astonishing work-rate that culminated in the peerless and lasting achievement of ‘Mother of Pearl’.

II. Comedown: Lyrics, Vocals

During last month’s ‘Mother of Pearl’ deep dive (ah hem) we explored the hard-rocking Party opening section (Part 1) and the sublime Comedown backing-track laid down by Roxy Music and producer Chris Thomas (Part 2). We now arrive at what many consider the key ingredient to ‘Mother of Pearl’s success: Bryan Ferry‘s lyrical and vocal performance, recorded, as legend has it, in a single take during the late hours of an unusually warm London September night. In his book Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, music journalist Simon Reynolds succinctly writes:

‘Mother of Pearl’ would be a fabulously beautiful and inventive piece of music on its own, but it would be empty without Ferry’s words and his vocal performance…

Simon Reynolds  (“Glam”, p 362).

I thought [Bryan Ferry] was the most exciting singer that I’d heard. His voice had limitations, but what he managed to do with it was beautiful, I mean, b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. For me it covered the whole emotional spectrum, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.

Kate Bush

For the first major iteration of Roxy Music (’72-’75), Bryan Ferry‘s vocal style and on-stage persona was, as Roxy observer Paul Stump puts it, “often over-emphatic”: “When one expects a top note from Ferry it often arrives in exaggerated vibrato or in a semi-spoken form.” Ferry agrees: “I tend to be very woo woo woo!” he once admitted (humorously). Yet, as all Roxy fans know, Ferry may have a technically limited range but his ability to convey menace, wit, longing, obsession, menace (or even joy) is one of the many pleasures of listening to Roxy Music. This impressive range covers a wide span of human experience and emotion, from the icy tenor of For Your Pleasure‘s ‘Strictly Confidential‘ to the despondent hedonism of the sex doll fiend in ‘In Every Dream Home, a Heartache‘, to ‘Bogus Man‘s multi-tracked heavy-breathing predator, or pushing further on Stranded as the baleful suitor (‘Just Like You‘), laid-back hipster (‘Amazona‘), romance ballader (‘Song for Europe‘), and onto the narrative pièce de résistance of ‘Mother of Pearl‘. A truly impressive array of characters and narrative performances, particularly for rock as distributed and digested in 1973 (true, Bowie was treading similar territory at the same time, but Bowie’s take was one character per album, not necessarily one character per song). Andy Mackay once noted, due to Ferry’s persona-adopting irony-laden narratives, Roxy Music did not necessarily communicate a wide emotional range (“such as sentimentality”) – yet the opposite could also be said: to get under somebody’s skin, to inhabit who they are, to portray an emotional point-of-view within a pop music format is a sincere attempt to capture the breadth of the human experience with the bonus for the listener being highly visceral and vastly entertaining.

The heavily-stylized vibrato changed over the years of course, from the slightly hysterical pitch used Roxy Music (“shake your head girl…“), to the richer (and better recorded) vocal performances on For Your Pleasure and Stranded, in particular the rich baritone Ferry used on ‘A Song for Europe‘ (“Here as I sit at this empty cafe..”). Performing and recording provided more experience and therefore more more options and by Stranded Ferry was increasingly committed to presentation of character through vocal and lyric, adopting personas in the same manner of presenting a play or a film:

With every song you play, … you take an aspect of yourself and either simplify it or ham it up. To some extent it’s like method acting. In an hour and half show you go through a lot of different moods, one right after the other… You say to yourself, how does this song go? Oh yeah, then you get into a role for it and leave that role when the song ends.

Bryan Ferry

The 2nd splendid part of ‘Mother of Pearl’ – the Comedown – finds Ferry’s narrator in a contemplative mood: the Party is over, the girl has gone home (presumably), and the party animal contemplates his loneliness from the vantage point of success – there is no fretting over jobs, no immediate Monday morning commitments, just a philosophical, even spiritual – perhaps comically so – review of where his life is going, where his dreams have taken him, and how he’s spending his time:

Well I´ve been up all night (Again?) party-time wasting is too much fun
Then I step back thinking of life´s inner meaning and my latest fling

It´s the same old story all love and glory it´s a pantomime

Ferry amusingly quotes from Humphrey Bogart‘s classic Casablanca as Sam sings and plays sings ‘As Time Goes By‘ (“It’s the same old story/A fight for love and glory“) and it sounds like the our hero has been at the bar a lot recently. The mock-shock of “Again?” is well-positioned and hilarious, sounding like an ex-wife or trusted friend trying to tell you something that you should already know (but won’t admit). And in a sense this is what ‘Mother of Pearl’ does throughout its 6:52 duration – bouncing as it does from thrill to comedown, from comedy to despondency as we consider the contradictions of replaying those oft-repeated stories of our lives (that “same old story“).

Again?” is also the last voice we’ll hear from the opening party scene, that multi-tracked demented high society rave-up: from here on it’s all pantomime as Ferry acts out for us in the privacy of his personal drama the disappointments, the loss of innocence, the deflated sense of self in a world that contains no more heroes and, subsequently, no more starry-eyed dreams. Against this backdrop, then, the search for love is only the first in a series of disappointments:

If you’re looking for love in a looking glass world it’s pretty hard to find

In Johnny Rogan‘s salacious (and entertaining) Roxy Music biography Style with Substance there is a finger-wagging chapter called “False Images and Lost Goddesses” where Ferry is accused of having the “unfortunate habit of associating with publicity-seeking glamour girls who hardly fit the Virgin Mary image attributed to them in his songs” (ibid). Roxy girls Kari-Ann Mueller, Amanda Lear and Playmate of the Year (1972) Marilyn Cole are presumably the publicity-seeking glamour queens in question yet it’s hard to see where any of these young Roxy models could be idealized as the Virgin Mary … Certainly none of the album covers nominate them for saint-hood as they radiate desire and attraction, from Pop Confection, to Femme Fatale, to Damsel in Distress

The Roxy aesthetic has always preferred a certain sleaziness in it presentation of sex and relationships – Roxy songs are riddled with affairs, betrayal, vanity, histrionic emotion, exaggerated posturing and breakdown. With Roxy, lovers and partners are marketable and replaceable, and once spent they become destined for the scrap heap:

Just looking through an old picture frame
Just waiting for the perfect view

I hope something special will step in to my life
Another fine edition of you
A pin-up done in shades of blue

Editions of You

Career girl cover exposed and another slips right into-view
Oh looking for love in a looking glass world is pretty hard for you

Mother of Pearl

Who in this age of Tinder, Bumble, or OKCupid would not agree that this carte du jour aspect of modern dating or match-making was identified, in part, by Ferry in the early Roxy songs. “Popular, transient, expendable, low cost” was how pop-art teacher Richard Hamilton explained the packaging of desire to the eager young art student – and the student responded in kind with music that celebrated Hollywood glamour – (“take two people, romantic/Smoky nightclub situation”); the pin-up lifestyle (“oh the way you look/make my starry eyes shiver”), and irony at a very cool distance (“she’s the sweetest queen I’ve ever seen (CPL593H)“). Clearly, Ferry also nailed the second half of Hamilton’s pop-art manifesto by producing music that was “young, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business” (Hamilton).

By the time of Stranded though there is a shift away from equating romance with consumerism, as Ferry cashes in his chips and leaves the more disposable aspects of the pop-art movement behind, moving with conviction towards something classic, even heroic: ‘Just Like You‘, ‘Psalm‘, ‘Serenade‘ and particularly ‘Song for Europe‘ show increasing maturity of social observation and narrative detail, with the sense that the writing is now being composed and applied in the manner of a Romantic painter. Ferry’s theme is still his attraction to glamour and beauty (“Serpentine sleekness was always my weakness“) but just as paint is slowly absorbed into canvas, the issues of light, colour, and how one perceives and composes those elements becomes the subject of the work. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see the first glimpse into Bryan Ferry’s future solo career, with each subsequent album vying for the status of hard-won masterpiece, a prime example being the luxuriant and densely layered Mamouna – a record that took eight full years to satisfactorily get down on tape. Seductive. Addictive. And just out of reach.

Divine intervention always my intention so I take my time
I´ve been looking for something I’ve always wanted but was never mine

Divine interventionis a good gag on a track full of good gags, but the longing of “looking for something” that was “never mine” is emotionally grounded. Here we see Ferry shifting the focus away from the lover as flesh and blood subject – the magazine pin-ups of Roxy Music and ‘Virginia Plain‘ are gone, as are the women of ‘Pyjamarama‘ and ‘Just Like You‘ with their “secret lives”, and emotional detachment (“Quicksilver baby/so hard to pin down“). Instead Ferry cannot take his eyes off the real prize:

But now I’ve seen that something just out of reach – glowing – very Holy grail

Ferry uses the Grail myth to poke fun at the worth of his own obsessions (“my own predilections“) as they remain stubbornly “out of reach.” And what might those obsessions be? If women were the only problem then this would be Roxy choice cut ‘Casanova‘ (next album, next set of problems). If proving strength and heroism was the objective, then the Grail image would suffice. But there is grit in this song, a substance that Ferry is trying to get hold of in order to make something beautiful. As cultural critic Simon Reynolds observes of 20th century art, its makers and its audience:

Sophisticates are too clever to fall for the illusion any more, but secretly wish they could be fooled. What tantalizes is the remembrance of a long-gone possibility of absolute enchantment and entrancement.

Simon Reynolds

Now too clever to ‘fall for the illusion’ anymore Ferry, the craftsman, song-writer and master illusionist (“you get into a role”) is chasing down his material for Stranded, honing his craft in order to deceive and seduce, and ultimately, produce something beautiful and long-lasting.

And so what serves ‘Mother of Pearl’ so well is this focus on the powers of attraction, the bringing attention to the illusion-building process itself. Like the substance found in the natural world that gives Stranded‘s penultimate track its title, mother-of-pearl (or nacre), is a multi-coloured iridescent substance found in the internal layer of shells and oysters. This nacre stuff is secreted when grit or sand gets inside the shell. As a result, grit and dirt are the critical base materials needed to create bright shiny attractive sheen – the glamour effect. In this light (pardon the pun) we can intuit Ferry’s true intent: ‘Mother of Pearl’ does not actually celebrate the pearl, nor the diamond, nor the jewel, nor even the pin-up girl or Beauty Queen – Ferry is mesmerized by the transformative power of glamour as process: the creativity that builds beauty from grit, the craft that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, the sweat that builds a song into masterpiece.

I don’t think there’s one spare syllable in those lyrics that Bryan wrote that he wouldn’t have been happy with

Chris Thomas

Right from the get-goMother of Pearl‘ transforms mundane reality into shimmering fantasy. We arrive at our destination having set off on the sidewalks of ‘Street Life‘ (“come with me cruising down the streets“), encountering a multitude of adventures along the way, meeting amazon beauty queens, fashion-house ladies, televangelists, even Lady Luck herself (“Who knows what you’ll see, who you might meet“), until finally we arrive at our Party destination and step into a world of physical change and thrilling action (“Turn the lights down“/”walk a tight rope“/“take a powder“). Drugs. Sex. Glamour. In an instant Ferry shifts us from dull grey to heightened effervescence – where everything is “glowing“/”lustrous“/”shimmering” – and he doesn’t stop for a breath as we move beyond ‘Virginia Plain‘s ‘Flavors of the mountain streamline’, past the stars in the sky (“higher than the milky way“) and ever upwards toward heights of luxury dreamed of by the many, yet experienced only by the few:

Fall on feather-bed quilted faced with silk softly stuffed eider down

‘Mother of Pearl’ transports us into the world of the glamorous and the very rich: Ferry’s obsession with the upwardly mobile – in particular the self-belief and posturing needed to move from working-class hero to jet-setting rock star – has been an essential Roxy trope, providing Ferry with some of his greatest insights: early cut ‘Beauty Queen‘ dazzles in its rags-to-riches story as Ferry recognizes in Valerie a mirror-image of his own dreams:

Swaying palms at your feet
You’re the pride of your street..
Gold number with neighbours
Who said that you’ll go far
Maybe someday be a star

Street Life‘ famously tells us to skip the road well travelled (“Pointless passing through Harvard or Yale/Only window shopping – it’s strictly no sale“) and throughout the Roxy canon those who scratch and claw their way to the top are given particular attention – like the dig at For Your Pleasure Roxy cover girl Amanda Lear in Pyjamarama “(They say you have a secret life/Made sacrifice your key to paradise“). Secrets around Lear’s past and sexual identity (see here) provide Ferry with-the-diamond-in-the-rough narrative so clearly influenced by his own working-class upbringing, the coal miner’s son, industrial Newcastle’s own pride of the street. (Sorry Sting, get your own fan blog).

Golden girls Valerie and Amanda aren’t the only rags-to-riches Roxy ladies Ferry draws attention to, the theme reaching somewhat of a peak on Stranded. The game is afoot for the female subject of ‘Psalm‘ as the narrator denounces the social climber for switching beliefs as easily as trying on a new pair of shoes: “Try on your love/Like a new dress/The fit and the cut/Your friends to impress“. Meanwhile the lover in ‘Just Like You‘ refashions herself – according to taskmaster Ferry – with all the skill and trickery of the seasoned alchemist:

Through alchemy iron turns gold
Quicksilver baby
So hard to pin down
Oh when are you coming around?

Amazona‘ takes the quicksilver change a step-further as Ferry assumes the role of enchanter and magician, assisting his pupil in their desire to re-make and re-model:

Hey little girl is something wrong
I know it’s hard for you to get along…
But your castles in Spain
Still maybe realised

Castles in Spainis Fool’s Gold, a trap of false illusions. Yet Ferry presses on regardless, having been there himself, his rough exterior softening, the magician behind the curtain:

Little one, take my hand
I’ll try to help you there
I’ll take you there

Ferry then takes this glittering “jungle music” (his words) and bakes the themes of change and dream fulfillment directly onto the Stranded album sleeve itself: rags-to-riches cover girl Marilyn Cole was internationally famous at the time of Stranded’s release, having been named Playboy’s magazine’s January 1972 Playmate of the Month, as well as their 1972 Playmate of the Year, the only Briton to hold that title (Wiki). Her rapid rise to fame in two short years – 1971-1973 – mimics exactly Bryan Ferry‘s own whiplash climb to stardom as cultural icon, solo artist, and Roxy Music front-man. Ferry grew up in the “gritty North”: his father tended horses as a farm plow-man – and later, during the depression, tended to coal mine ponies. “We didn’t have a car or a telephone or a fridge…” notes Ferry. “We lived in a Coronation Street-type terraced house” (Wheels). Compare this with supermodel Marilyn Cole as she echoes in a separate interview the same humble beginnings, almost verbatim: I was born in a Coronation Street house,” says Cole, “Two up, two down, outside lav” (see: ‘Just Like You’: Stranded Cover Art).

Such a bright hope, right place, right time
What´s your number? Never you mind

By placing his female doppelganger on the cover, Ferry presents along with Cole both sides of the glamour paradox – the excitement and pull of the new generation glitterati – (“me and you, just we two/Got to search for something new“) – while simultaneously showing the same superstars as ship-wrecked, beached, inviting yet vulnerable, awaiting rescue. If you look closely you’ll see Cole holding a crumpled white lily at her side – the lily a symbol, for many (at weddings and funerals at least) of lost innocence, of purity in passing.

Take refuge in pleasure just give me your future we’ll forget your past

The grit in the shell creates a picture of dazzling glamorous seduction, an ideal of beauty created by mother-of-pearl, that strange substance that shimmers and shines in its fantastic unreality.

Virtually imperishable, nacre exists right on the edge of the organic and inorganic, the mortal and the deathless. It suggests that there is something life-denying, or at least life-freezing about glamour.

Simon Reynolds

You may be stranded if you stick around
And that’s really something

Street Life

Bryan Ferry invented the fictional dance The Strand for his fictional characters and his audience to dance to, and in doing so drew attention to the constructed (and repeatable) nature of trends, music, glamour, and ideas. Yet, the more the artist became adept at pearl making, the more he recognized he was becoming trapped by it. At the 3:18s mark ‘Mother of Pearl’ picks up some considerable musical heft as the whole business of star-making and image creation comes under blistering attack:

With every goddess a let down every idol a bring down
It gets you down

There is real hurt here as the disappointment of finally meeting his artistic and musical heroes gives way to reality – these are, after all, the beautiful people that were so critical to Ferry’s conception of Roxy Music in the first place – “I’ve always been star-struck, basically” Ferry told Rock Scene magazine in 1973, “Hollywood has always been Mecca” (Ferry). A meeting between Roxy Music and art superstar Salvador Dali in 1973 was a disaster – “Dali seems to have deteriorated into someone who hangs around with bands just to get publicity. His current output is quite meagre” Ferry noted testily at the time. (Roxy manager Mike Fenwick scribbled ‘Asshole’ on the forehead of a Dali photo that appeared in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine not long after).

This business of suffering false-idols is essential in ‘Mother of Pearl’ and throughout each stanza the lyric is saturated with the visual imagery of Gods, divinities and/or Olympians as the search for perfection goes “on and on” (and on):

Divine intervention always my intention so I take my time..

But now I’ve seen that something just out of reach – glowing – very Holy Grail ..

Thus: even Zarathustra another-time-loser could believe in you ..

You’re highbrow, holy with lots of soul melancholy shimmering...

You can see that “Holy grail” glowing like a cheap effect in a Monty Python movie – but the sentiment is real, as “Zarathustra” is deemed a loser and every goddess is labelled a “let down”, every idol a “bring down”. This is the reality. Ferry dreamed a dream called Roxy Music to get away from the dirty, gritty industrial North, and when the dream became reality it not only failed to satisfy but remained, like the Holy grail, stubbornly out of reach: “It gets you dowwwn” the singer intones bitterly – the vocal emphasis on “dowwwn” bearing the weight of the disappointment. (That’s three “downs” in two sentences!).

III. Epilogue (Acapella)

But that’s how it had to be; better to seek and not find than to not seek at all. Moreover: the search for the thrill of it all was also the artist’s search for his material.

Simon Puxley (Rex Balfour), The Bryan Ferry Story

Though often seen as a song in two parts (Party/Comedown) there is actually a third section in ‘Mother of Pearl’, though short, that is striking, even chilling, and provides a final answer to the question posed at the beginning of the song. (“Have you a future?”). Recognizing that his new found skill and craftsmanship (not to mention fame and celebrity) necessitated the forfeiture of a degree of “absolute enchantment”, Ferry bears witness to his own loss of innocence and writes it into the very fabric of Stranded. Those ‘flavours of the mountain streamline’ as dreamed of in ‘Virginia Plain‘ are past him now, the bright lights no longer confuse, and the gulf between what’s real and make-believe has narrowed, leaving less artistic freedom and, worse, the unmistakable dread of having reached an aesthetic conclusion. What next? Have you a future? (No/Yes).

The language of glamour (“glowing“/”shimmering“) is reduced by the end of ‘Mother of Pearl’ into language that is cold, sunken, lifeless: his “submarine lover” no longer shines beyond the stars or the milky way, but is caught in a “shrinking” “detached” world of “lonely dreams“. By the song’s conclusion, the seductive music is stripped out. The vocal is naked, the singer alone. Sensing the game is up, the narrator goes on and on anyway, for the obsession, the work, is all he has, is all he’s ever had.

Oh mother of pearl I wouldn´t trade you for another girl

Oh mother of pearl I wouldn´t trade you for another girl

Oh mother of pearl I wouldn´t trade you for another girl

Credits: The one-of-a-kind Mata Hari, exotic dancer and accused French spy decked in jewels and attitude (re-visited); Roxy Music PR shots; Bryan pin-up from an internet fan (he dances and sings); a mother-of-pearl watch design; shots from Ferry‘s Mamouna-era video Your Painted Smile (the obsession goes on and on). And finally Ferry as seen by Mick Rock; and Candy Darling as seen by Andy Warhol. This entry also owes much credit to Simon Reynolds and his brilliant book Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy.

Sophisticates are too clever to fall for the illusion any more, but secretly wish they could be fooled. What tantalizes is the remembrance of a long-gone possibility of absolute enchantment and entrancement.

But the search for perfection
Your own predilection
Goes on and on and on and on
..

Next: The brilliant Stranded coda – ‘Sunset‘. See you soon!


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Mother of Pearl – Part 2

Mother of Pearl – Part 1
Mother of Pearl (Ferry), Recorded September 1973
Mother of Pearl Lyric (Ferry)

II. Comedown: Backing Track, Instrumentation 

In a fun (and revealing) email Question & Answer exchange with a Detroit newspaper in July 2019, Bryan Ferry reveals that he once owned a “Psychedelic Mood Adjuster” – an early model amplifier created to enhance or “adjust” your mood. (Ferry also reveals his standard dream/nightmare scenario:  “My leg is trapped and I can’t stop the car I’m driving from hurtling forward to doom” or that he’s “in a plunging elevator …”). While we all share common bad dreams, Ferry’s mood adjuster is a wry acknowledgement of the emotional contradictions the Roxy leader had exhibited throughout his early career with Roxy Music. From the giddy highs of Roxy Music, to the turbulent, darker turmoils of For Your Pleasure, Ferry had demonstrated an honest and heart-felt desire to communicate with his audience, albeit through the intricate and knotty threads of irony, pop-art, literature, musical history and what we now call postmodernism.

By the time of the release of the Third Roxy Music Album Stranded in November 1973, the artistic moods, though still varied, had leveled out, tilting towards a more sophisticated sheen – warm, slightly nervous, romantic, opulent. The self-doubt was still evident, but the maturity expressed a new reality: “no more brights lights confusing me”. Ferry had crossed over to the other side and was now living inside the image he had once constructed as fantasy. The process and experience of this change was reflected throughout Stranded and most successfully realized in the masterpiece cut ‘Mother of Pearl’ – a song that demonstrated that perhaps the “Psychedelic Mood Adjuster” had outlived its usefulness and Ferry was now willing (and able) to get down to the only thing and subject that mattered to himself and his fans: the life and times of the modern pop star.

The scene at AIR Studios, London, September 1973 during the recording of penultimate album track ‘Mother of Pearl’ would have seen a typical late night recording – the Roxy team (sans Ferry) were working on Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets during the day and recording the Stranded album at night. According to tape box pictures ‘Mother of Pearl’ would have been Song 2″ on the roster (none of the songs had titles while the backing tracks were being cut). Late at night, the studio would have the lights turned low, a thick carpet laid out on the floor, incense lit to capture the vocal with the right atmosphere (“bollocks” says producer Chris Thomas kindly, contradicting Phil Manzanera‘s recollection). What is agreed to by all however, is the unexpected and scintillating performance delivered by Roxy lyricist and singer Bryan Ferry for the track that would become ‘Mother of Pearl’ – arguably the high-water mark in the Roxy Music canon (““How did I get this so right?” Ferry asked one interviewer in 2020. “What is it?”).

Those sessions at AIR were the days of having lots of time in the studio. We’d get there in the afternoon and maybe put down some guitar and bits and pieces. Then Bryan would come. He always liked to do vocals very late at night. We’d break for dinner, go over to Charlotte Street, then come back until about four.

Andy Mackay

Originating the song on a battered bass guitar during a Greek holiday with Roxy PR man and close friend Simon Puxley, Ferry‘s initial instructions to the group would have been threadbare, at best: provide a shimmering instrumental back-drop for a post-party come-down soliloquy. The chords – text book rock n’ roll staple D-A-E (“Polythene Pam“, Eddie Cochran, and everything written by Lou Reed), form a basic progression pattern (minor subdominant – minor tonic – minor dominant) that is as varied to the ear as it is popular with music fans. Concluding the last blast of Phil Manaznera‘s guitar solo @ 1:25 (see Part 1 for review), the feedback is faded out by producer Thomas to make way for Eddie Jobson‘s sombre piano chords, Jobson applying the classic style as a hold-over from previous track ‘A Song for Europe‘. What really establishes the groove though is Paul Thompson‘s base drum, feathered with typical taste and style, assured and patient, impeccably introduced @ 1:34. If you are in the mood for more subtlety, catch the one-note guitar over-dub just before Paul’s entry (1:33) and marvel at the beauty and detail of the backing track – a key ingredient to making ‘Mother of Pearl’ peak Roxy Music.

What the music conjures in these early stages is a languid, shoulder-swaying shuffle, infinitely dream-like for those listening at home. When playing the song live though, the track produces in Roxy Music a kind of drunken swagger, Ferry in particular adopting a peculiar – though effective – posture that comes over like a mix between the demonic Bogus Man and a pregnant duck, arse and limbs at cross-purposes while moving forward in slow motion.

Ferry’s grand entrance to his best song has clearly been carefully planned for this specific occasion, reminding us of Dean Martin tripping carefully down the staircase in front of a TV audience, drink in hand, careful not spill a drop. (Or Gloria Swanson hands coiled silent movie style in Sunset Boulevard – “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”). Ferry’s exaggerated grand entrance is encouraged by the delicious swagger of the music, a fact that even the usually reliable Eddie Jobson also cannot resist in live settings, as he sets forth also with the shoulders and the heavy anticipation (see here and here).

‘Mother of Pearl’ live, 1974


‘Mother of Pearl’
would be a fabulously beautiful and inventive piece of music on its own, but it would be empty without Ferry’s words and his vocal performance… Every line is delivered with a deranged archness of emphasis, infusing the song with a kind of poisoned camp.

Simon Reynolds  (“Glam”, p 362).

The prerecorded group instrumental establishes the “fabulously beautiful” and “inventive” musical baseline for ‘Mother of Pearl’, but as Reynolds notes, the song would be empty without Ferry’s words and vocal performance. Bassist John Gustafson creates some of his most thoughtful work for Roxy Music on this track (see also: Love is the Drug), introducing Ferry’s vocal with a sly climb through root notes D-A-E before the singer hits the podium with the delicious confessional “Well I’ve been up all night” @ 1:42:

Well I´ve been up all night (Again?)
Party-time wasting is too much fun

The mock-shock comment “Again?” is like an ex-wife or trusted friend trying to tell you something that you should already know. The remark is funny, Ferry obviously willing to mock his Bad Boy image as much as promote it. “Again?” is also the last echo from the opening party scene where Ferry’s voice is over-dubbed, altered and multi-tracked to replicate the demented energy of a high society party in full swing: instead of taking the easy route and sing his song, Ferry decides to take on all the roles at once. Conversely, for the Comedown section we switch gears and are presented with a stunning single-take vocal performance, the stuff of legend:

Producer Chris Thomas was astonished – and so was everyone else in the studio – when Bryan came in and sang over a seemingly long instrumental track, the whole of the lyric of Mother Of Pearl from beginning to end. No-one until that moment had heard or even seen a single line of the song.

“Rex Belfour” (Simon Puxley), The Bryan Ferry Story.

[To be continued…]

Ah, summertime. Will dive into the MoP’s lyric before month’s end. In the meantime, be safe, get vaccinated, be good to others and yourself. Chow for now.

Credits: The one-of-a-kind Mata Hari, exotic dancer and accused French spy decked in jewels and attitudeFerry’s go-to amplifier,  the Psychedelic Mood Adjuster; New Musical Express covers, 73-74; shots of Bryan Ferry performing ‘MoP’ with Roxy Music, 1974. Check out the extraordinary pictures from the set here.


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Mother of Pearl – Part 1

Mother of Pearl (Ferry), ‘Stranded’ 1973
Mother of Pearl Lyric (Ferry), November 1973
All Tomorrow’s Parties, The Velvet Underground
All Tomorrow’s Parties, Japan

There is a Bryan Ferry interview in Another Man magazine in 2019 were Ferry and journalist Tim Blanks discuss the singer’s career and the ‘Art of Roxy Music’. The conversation is pleasant, runs along party lines mostly (Newcastle, art school, jazz, Gatsby) when suddenly the interview takes a turn. Discussing stagecraft and performance Ferry explains:

Occasionally you get it with an audience yourself, where you feel that you’re representing yourself in the best possible way by performing a song well, with the right blend of elements you’re proud of, that people appreciate. Certain songs are tough to perform because you feel so moved when you’re doing them that you can hardly get through them. You feel you’re going to break up. Mother of Pearl is one of those, when you feel: ‘How did I get this so right?’ What is it? It’s words and music, but put them together and they conjure up a mood and a feeling that affects me greatly, and when I feel it affect an audience, it chokes me up.

Interviewer Tim Blanks is moved by what happens next:

Ferry actually chokes up as he says that. I choke too. You really do want to know that one of your favourite artists feels the same way about one of your favourite songs as you do, especially when he’s the person who wrote and sang it.

“How did I get this so right?” Ferry asks. “What is it?”

I rub my eyes reading this. You should too: ‘Mother of Pearl‘ is peak Roxy Music, hell, it’s peak rock music. It’s the view from the mountain-top. It’s the roller-coaster pulling up to to the station. It’s the guy from ‘Street Life‘ arriving at his destination, having brought you along for the ride. (“Who knows what you’ll see, who you might meet?”). It’s Friday night, soon after eight. Gather around good-looking boys, Vasser girls too. Turn the lights down. Take a powder. All the gang’s here..

I’d written the songs for Stranded in a few locations: my flat in Earl’s Court, a friend’s cottage in Sussex, and even a couple of weeks on a Greek island, where I went with my friend, Simon Puxley, and where I recall bashing out the beginnings of “Mother Of Pearl” on a battered bass guitar.

Bryan Ferry

“This is it folks: Magnum Opus time” was how journalist Ian MacDonald characterized ‘Mother of Pearl’ in his glowing review of The Third Roxy Music Album Stranded.Exhilarating” said Roxy chronicler Jonathan Rigby (“scary and exhilarating in equal measure”). “Meisterwerk” wrote Nick Kent of the NME. “Ferry knows this is one of his two or three finest ever songs – possibly the finest of all”. “The definitive mid-period Roxy song” said Sam Richards (Uncut). Indeed, the high praise and critical approval for Ferry and Roxy Music reached its zenith with the release of Stranded in late 1973, and ‘Mother of Pearl’ was for many the jewel in the crown, arriving – in the nick of time – after the stylized machinations of the eight minute bible-thumping  ‘Psalm‘ and the eloquent, grand gestures of ‘A Song for Europe‘. Tilting the album back towards the promise and thrill of album opener ‘Street Life‘ ‘Mother of Pearl’ was a hot injection* of rock n’ roll delivered with intensity, control and taste. (*Apologies to Irving Welsh).

The answer to Ferry’s question “How did I get this so right?” is as interesting as it is obvious: if fortune favors the prepared, then Roxy were at this stage ready to capitalize on their increasing musical dexterity and skill. The sweet-spot of Manzanera, Mackay, Thompson, Jobson, guest bassist John Gustafson and producer Chris Thomas worked on ‘Mother of Pearl’ as an instrumental, layering and building the backing track in preparation for vocal, melody and lyrics. Producer Chris Thomas: “When we did Stranded, the way we worked mostly was first we just put down backing tracks of keyboards, bass and drums…Half the time there were no lyrics written for these songs. Then, Phil would go in and put guitar parts down, and that actually was the point for me where the songs would turn into something”.

Bryan would come in and do a sort of bravura performance of a finished lyric and top line that we hadn’t heard at all, ‘Mother of Pearl’ is the one that particularly stands out. Bryan came in and did the whole thing and we just sort of sat back and thought, “well that’s amazing”.

Andy Mackay

Working nose-to-nose with friend and Roxy Machine PR man Simon Puxley, Ferry carefully arranged the dramatic structure for ‘Mother of Pearl’ into three sections (not just two, as is usually reported): there is the Event (hard rock); the Comedown (funky chill); and Epilogue (acappella). The lone singing voice in the epilogue (“mother-of-pearl, I wouldn’t trade you for the whole world”) is often over-looked, but does provide a short, icy conclusion to the narrative. This pop-triptych enables Ferry to present a magnificent sample of moods and postures told by characters that are obsessed – as we all are – with glamour, sex, drugs and drink, of getting out your head, of escaping boredom. Thus, the song’s brilliance was in part due to its simple conceit: the thrill of new experience, the early morning blow-back, the chilly what-now conclusion.. 

Writing in his collection of essays on visual art The Space Between (2012), Roxy observer and (and Ferry uber-fan) Michael Bracewell notes that at the time of Stranded  Ferry appeared “to have passed through the looking glass of stardom and become the mythic version of himself.” Attuned to the obsessive level his audience was now identifying with him – his success, his fame, his lifestyle, girls, glamour, parties – the Roxy Music front-man decided that it was time to bring the fans in even closer and answer the question that was at the top of listener’s minds in late 1973 – what’s it like to be ‘Bryan Ferry’?


I. The Event

The first part of it’s this very physical thing
Bryan Ferry

The In-Crowd make their first appearance here (“we breeze up and down the street”) as the promise contained in ‘Street Life‘ (“Who knows what you’ll see, who you might meet”) is brilliantly realized by the closing tracks of the Stranded album. With ‘Mother of Pearl’, Roxy were primed to deliver the equivalent of a musical head-rush: Paul Thompson launches into the assault with a kick-drum punch that propels Phil Manzanera’s shredding repeated 7-note guitar riff. There are no tricks or gimmicks used here – no slow fade-in a la ‘Virginia Plain‘, no grand openings as per ‘Pyjamarama‘ – just the fulfillment of a promise, that Roxy Music indeed are rock n roll. The atmosphere is charged, electric, the vocal demented:

Turn the lights down / way down low
Turn up the music / hi as fi can go
All the gang’s here / everyone you know
It’s a crazy scene (hey there just look over your shoulder..)
Get the picture?  No, no, no, no …  (YES)
Walk a tightrope / your life-sign-line
Such a bright hope / right place, right time
What’s your number? / never you mind
Take a powder (but hang on a minute what’s coming round the corner?)
Have you a future? No, no, no, no …  (YES)

Ferry mirrors the viciousness of Thompson and Manzanera‘s attack with a carefully planned pandora’s box of vocal effects that pulls the listener deeper into the experience, the production team extravagantly layering on percussion (maracas, tambourines) and a sustaining feedback guitar (a delight to follow in the mix) that re-creates the schizophrenic, coked up, sweaty energy of a well-attended party in full swing – this party that you’ve been invited to. Bouncing between Ferry’s Good Boy/Bad Boy personal commentary (“Turn the lights down / way down low/Turn up the music / hi as fi can go”) the audience is bombarded by music, lights, chatter – our confusion and paranoia comically captured as part of the party dialog – “Hey there just look over your shoulder” – “Hang on a minute what coming round the corner?” – not quite knowing what to expect next in this extraordinary unrestrained wall-of-sound, where the needle is constantly pushed into red without actually drawing blood (at least not that we can remember).


The overall effect of the ‘Mother of Pearl’ hard rock introduction is akin to a wall-of-mirrors madness – a wonderfully unique aspect of the Roxy Music aesthetic – as Roxy successfully deliver on the premise of, if you’re gonna promise a party you had better sound like you know how to host one. In doing so Ferry takes his hedonistic cue from The Velvet Underground – updating the spook and chill of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties‘ and re-branding it for the glam rock crowd. (Eno: “Bryan liked VU as well and we both knew about their connection with Andy Warhol, which gave them a sort of cultural position”).

There are further similarities with The Velvet Underground as Ferry returns to a theme that has preoccupied him since second single ‘Pyjamarama‘ and For Your Pleasure  (‘Editions of You‘): the strategies and affectations of the wannabe socialite and social climber (read: himself). In VU’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ the girl doesn’t belong at the party (“what costume shall the poor girl wear”) but strives to attain the part of social acceptability:

In what costume shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow’s parties
A hand-me-down dress from who knows where
To all tomorrow’s parties
And where will she go, and what shall she do
When midnight comes around
She’ll turn once more to Sunday’s clown and cry behind the door

Lou Reed/Velvet Underground

This is social observation of a high order, a Cinderella story for the modern ages, where the working class kid dreams of being wealthy and fashionable, carefully creating a persona that steps into the brave new world, but is forced back into the shadows when Sunday morning comes around, bereft of money and social standing. VU’s ‘Parties’ sequence plays like a template for ‘Mother of Pearl’ (Party/Comedown/Isolation) notably recalling Ferry’s obsession with the upwardly mobile and the elite, in particular the work, self-belief, and posturing needed to move from working-class hero to jet-setting rock star.

“Fashion houses ladies” we are told in ‘Just Like You’, “Need plenty loose change/When the latest creation/Is last year’s fab-rave”. And so it goes. ‘Stranded’ is obsessed with social status, as ‘Street Life‘ kicks off with the advice that  “Education is an important key, yes/But the good life’s never won by degrees, no.” We’d been told before that “Old money’s better than new” (‘Editions of You‘) and that upward mobility was a legitimate goal for those with the backbone to go for it (‘Beauty Queen‘: “Our soul-ships pass by/solo trips to the stars in the sky”). 

Ever since ‘Virginia Plain posited the pop-star manifesto of self-creation (“what’s real and make believe?”) we were knew that for Ferry stardom was the goal and transformation the process, and thus ‘Stranded’ reads as a text book of change and metamorphosis, baked into nearly every line, cover shot, and exaggerated pose. The ‘Stranded’ album cover introduces the idea: built on the idea of cast-at sea and loss of innocence, the sleeve was modeled by Playboy Playmate of the Year (1973) Marilyn Cole, who like Ferry, was born into the unglamorous hardships of the Northern middle class (“I was born in a Coronation Street house,” Cole told one interviewer “Two up, two down, outside lav”). Ferry neglected to include himself on the ‘Stranded’ cover (having previously made an appearance on For Your Pleasure), even though a photo was taken (see: ‘Just Like You’ Stranded Cover art) because he intuitively knew he was already there: desirable, urbane, harassed, stranded.

Modern pop culture gives the impression that by simply being wealthy and fashionable, beautiful and connected, an individual has the opportunity to become famous. Throughout his work, Ferry enjoys taking aim at those who strive to rise above their station, people who try to re-create themselves in their own image – gold tinged, transformed, but leaving the dirty little secret of birthright and social standing well behind, even buried (Pyjamarama: “They say you have a secret life/Made sacrifice your key to paradise/Never mind, take the world by storm/Just boogaloo a rhapsody divine”). For ‘Mother of Pearl’ Ferry presents the bold and the beautiful in full swing, on the make.  The Party is jam-packed with scandal, wealth, pop culture, public relations, models, celebrities, photographers, media types, and deals. The hard-rock introduction serves to re-create the energy and la vitalité of a great party, yet Ferry is careful to present the beautiful people as on the make, preoccupied by their image, deal-making, paranoid, intrusive, even deadly:

Turn the lights down / way down low
Turn up the music / hi as fi can go

The language of punning fun, frivolity, commercial consumerism: Electronics giant Phillips had created a Bryan Ferry inspired record player called “The Shooting Star…”

All the gang’s here / everyone you know

The London scene is reminiscent of Warhol’s Factory, where the studio, laboratory and party room became a mecca for the late 60s counterculture, attracting “every walk of life, from the most beautiful people to other artists, celebrities, musicians.”

It’s a crazy scene (hey there just look over your shoulder..)

Crazy. Paranoid. Dangerous. Factory film-maker Valerie Solanas shot mentor Andy Warhol in the chest “carrying two guns and a massive, paranoid grudge”. Warhol was declared dead for several minutes by first responders. Solanas shot Warhol because she thought he was stealing her film ideas and had been ignoring her repeated phone calls for arts and film funding (“wish everybody would leave me alone, yeh”).

Get the picture?  No, no, no, no …  (YES)

Fame and its downfalls. Get the picture? Or, “get the picture”? asks one party-goer to a press photographer.

Walk a tightrope / your life-sign-line
Such a bright hope / right place, right time

Fame as manifest destiny. Or merely a touch of Lady Luck before the inevitable decent into obscurity. (“Thought patterns hazy/This auto-style age/Will lady luck smile old and sage”).

What’s your number? / never you mind
Take a powder (but hang on a minute what’s coming round the corner?)

What’s your fate? (None of your business). Taking some cocaine sounds like a good idea, but what of tomorrow? (“What’s that coming round the corner…”?).

Have you a future? No, no, no, no …  (YES)

Public scrutiny (have you a future?). Internal anxiety (no, no). The powder kicks in (YES).

All things considered this is a pretty accurate summary of the conditions Ferry found himself in the Fall of 1973, as his projections for Roxy Music materialized, the band had hit records, and Ferry became a celebrated member of the London ‘In Crowd’. The modern version of this scene would include such self-made celebs as  Olivia Palermo, Lauren Santo Domingo, Derek Blasberg, and Jean Shafiroff. In contrast, the British scene of the early 70s would have comprised of the cream of the British Entertainment industry, Cilla Black, Lulu, Bruce Forsyth, certainly Gilbert and George, members of the inner circle The Roxy Machine ( Antony Price, Karl Stoecker, Nicolas De Ville, Simon Puxley, and Bryan Ferry), artists David Hockney, Francis Bacon, Roxy cover girls Amanda Lear, Kari-Ann Muller, Marilyn Cole, and lots of gay friends, fashion designers, and maybe even the occasional radio DJ, Kenny Everett or Paul Gambaccini.

Ferry and Roxy Music management acknowledged (and heavily promoted) the singer’s personal dalliance with the Roxy cover girl models and the glamorous jet-set scene, providing the largely working class audience with the illusion of vicarious accessibility and, most importantly, of being invited along for the ride (“Come with me cruising down the streets..”).  Indeed the answer to the question of “How did I get this so right?” is that ‘Mother of Pearl’ injects the listener directly into the party scene, allowing us to experience the high life, to adopt a pose, to set our tastes and sense of style well above the average crowd. (“Over the years,” Ferry bragged to Melody Maker, in 1974, “I’ve developed an appreciation of excellence in all things and therefore I have fairly expensive tastes”).

Conversely, the chase and thrill of glamour is tempered by down-to-earth pragmatism – a reality these self-made stars knew all too well: the transitory and fickle nature of fame; the spiritual hollowness at the root of the pursuit of money; the burden of media, the loss of innocence that comes with working in the entertainment business. Stranded bears the weight of this tension, as Ferry maps the experience of change and metamorphosis through ‘Street Life‘ (“now I’m blinded, I can really see”), ‘Just Like You‘ (“Everything changes/Through alchemy iron turns gold”), ‘Amazona (“Why don’t you step through the mirror and see?”) and though side one closer ‘Psalm‘ (“Try on your love like a new dress/The fit and the cut your friends to impress”). Indeed ‘Psalm’ is pivotal, closing one door while opening another. Pressing towards artistic transcendence, Ferry applies the same kind of creative intensity to religious conversion (“a paradise/a mountain so high”), yet by the time we get to ‘Mother of Pearl’ the ambition is dialed back, the “bright lights” dimmed. 

“How did I get this so right?” Ferry asks. “What is it?”

The answer is ‘Mother of Pearl’ was the song Bryan Ferry was born to write. However, it also marked the conclusion of the dream leading up to it.

Postscript:

The temperamental and competing tensions in Ferry’s writing – so perfectly captured in ‘Mother of Pearl’ – are playfully noted in an article published by glam photographer extraordinaire Mick Rock (Bowie, Queen, Roxy) reprinted for your entertainment below. The quotes and article confirms Ferry’s “outsider” designation (“not a social creature”) while also laying bare the full-throttle life-style Ferry was enjoying in late ’73/74. In addition are some germane comments by Brian Eno regarding the influence of The Velvet Underground on Roxy Music.

Enjoy! Have fun during these summer months. Be safe, be good, and see you soon for the tour-de-force  ‘Mother of Pearl’ Comedown (Part 2).

[My work] is the only thing I have any pride in, I suppose, because I’m not much of a social creature. Therefore, my work has to stand for everything I’m about really.

Bryan Ferry

Biba’s_London_1974_BryanFerry_AmandaLear©MickRock

“Get the picture?”

Oh well Bryan’s really drunk, and you can see the waitress is poised at the side. That was taken at Biba’s. Biba’s for a while—there was a lady called Barbara Hulanicki and her husband floating around London with their little shop, and they took over this great department store that had closed down—but right at the top they would have something that they called The Rainbow Room—I mean there have been other Rainbow Rooms, I know, including in New York—but that was The Rainbow Room, and right at the top of the building they would have these great parties, and people played there too, The [New York] Dolls, The Pointer Sisters, Screaming Lord Sutch, Albert King… they would have all these great performers, and all the fashionable people of that glammy London scene would show up including Bryan Ferry and Amanda Lear.

And people like that picture, partly because he’s fucking drunk and you can see it.”

PHOTOGRAPHY © MICK ROCK 2016 here https://flaunt.com/content/art/rock-will-roll


Eno on the Velvets: here

You first heard the Velvets on John Peel’s radio show while you were at Winchester School of Art in the 60s. What impact did that have?

Within the first few moments, I thought, “Okay, this is important.” I could hear the La Monte Young influence, the sort of drone thing that John Cale was doing on the viola. I think I heard Heroin first. So I bought that album [The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967], which not many other people did at the time. It might be hard for some people to understand, but they were a big influence on Roxy Music. Bryan [Ferry] liked them as well and we both knew about their connection with Andy Warhol, which gave them a sort of cultural position.

When we started Roxy, rock’n’roll was really 15 years old. And in that time you had the whole of doo-wop, Elvis, the Liverpool scene, psychedelia, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, this incredible compression of all that stuff. The history of the music form was already substantial enough to draw from.

We were pop artists in the little ‘p’ and big ‘P’ sense. Bryan had studied with Richard Hamilton at Newcastle, who people often say is the father of Pop Art, and I’d been tutored by one of his most brilliant students, Roy Ascott. So we both had that connection to the idea that culture was its own subject, as it were, and kept redigesting itself all the time. And that wasn’t an idea you were supposed to like back then. That’s what The Velvet Underground represented to me. They sort of endorsed all those things that people had said were wrong about pop music.

 

A few years after that first [VU] album, when I heard some of the other things, I thought they were too close to what I wanted to do at the time. I just thought, ‘Oh God, I mustn’t listen to this

Bryan Ferry