It’s awful to think that that’s your high spot, only your second year of doing anything
– Bryan Ferry on The Second Roxy Music Album, For Your Pleasure.
Nigel Tufnel: It’s part of a trilogy, a musical trilogy that I’m doing in D minor, which I always find is really the saddest of all keys, really, I don’t know why. It makes people weep instantly [plays and sings]
Marty DiBergi: It’s very pretty… What do you call this?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, this piece is called “Lick My Love Pump.”
– This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Written in that most melancholy of the keys, D minor – suitable for lamentations, dirges and requiems – ‘Strictly Confidential‘ is a dark and brooding piece, pure Gothic in its structure, epistolary in its form (a written letter), and revealing a depth of understanding of depression in its poetry and presentation. Musically, Phil Manzanera plays on the edge of controlled hysteria and Andy Mackay contributes saxophone atmospherics worthy of a Gothic novel. This song of encroaching suicide and death is a curious entry in the Roxy Music canon, sometimes undervalued among listeners who liken it to ‘Psalm‘ or ‘Bogus Man‘ – so faithful to form that it palls after a few listens. For others – we here included – believe it contains some of the band’s best work. So be it, ‘Strictly Confidential’ plays wonderfully in the context of the album, relief coming next in the form of the energy rocker ‘Editions of You.’ Superbly sequenced, For Your Pleasure flows through its night journey, often navigating dangerous terrain, often settling on melancholic despair, but always told with musical exuberance and lyrical honesty.
‘Strictly Confidential’ belongs to the sequence of five songs on the first side of For Your Pleasure that had been tightened and honed by Ferry during a self-imposed exile at the remote Derbyshire cottage of Roxy machine designer Nick de Ville (Rigby) before the recording of the album. It is significant to consider that Jane Austen‘s novel Pride and Prejudice is situated in the same Derbyshire hills, and the surrounding wild moorlands were also the location for other classics of English Gothic literature such as Emily Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights, (albeit an hour or so up the road). We can imagine the Implied Author Bryan Ferry preparing himself for the solitude needed to pen ‘Strictly Confidential‘ ‘Beauty Queen‘ and ‘In Every Dream Home, A Heartache’. “I was just sort of on my own in this cottage for a few days” Ferry recalled, “I had no other life.” (Buckley). By doing so the singer/song-writer wrote the songs that would form the backbone of what many consider the peak Roxy Music recording, the dank cottage and creepy moorlands haunting his terror-filled, nightmare-driven writing. “Bad dreams in the night,” Kate Bush sang on the Gothic Wuthering Heights, a title that could have easily substituted for FYP should it have been needed.
The overall lyrical darkness of For Your Pleasure can be explained by the situation Ferry found himself in during early 1973. It made sense to create an album that could stand as the twin or doppelganger of the first record – the dark backing to the sunny possibilities of Roxy Music. The idea fit nicely with the interrogation of glamour, the seduction at once scintillating and inviting (Open up exclusive doors oh wow!) yet also over-powering and ultimately destructive (Solo trips to the stars in the sky/Where do they go? We’ll never know). And so the key forces in Ferry’s writing came to the fore: the push and pull of the drive for stardom and its fearful correlative – the anxiety that comes with the “clutching at straws” and a deep suspicion that fame – while offering a certain kind of life-after-death – actually leaves the mortal realm littered with carnage: Last Picture show drive-ins abandoned, left to mummify in the desert; famous stars dead before their 30s (teenage rebel of the week); and the chilling observation that the greatest of humanity’s art works have subjects built on misery (Lolita, Guernica), that, in the Roxy universe, utilize the universal energy of The Strand, the greatest product failure in the history of British advertising.
The journey we have been mapping with the Roxy Music story can be summarized across the first three records and non-album singles:
I. (Roxy Music/’Virginia Plain‘): The dream and drive for Fame. The mask is donned for the first time. Become someone else. Many possible futures.
II. (‘Pyjamarama‘/For Your Pleasure): Fame arrives. The effects, shocking. Audiences love you (UK). Promoters hate you (US). You arrive at your Hollywood Promised Land and experience disillusionment. The ambitious mask architected at University is attaching itself firmly to the surface of your skin, like fingernails digging into flesh. There is fear and uncertainty about future outcomes. Decisions are made.
III. (Stranded): Roxy mania. The mask settles, inseparable from your own skin now. Human relationships fail. All that remains is art and aesthetics, the striving for the perfection of art. You reach for another cognac, stranded.
So For Your Pleasure becomes a novel of masks and scenarios that explore anxieties and concerns – the subconscious trying to determine a solution or path forward to a problem. ‘Strictly Confidential’ is a song of suicide and death, but at its core it tackles the theme the importance of communication, a gift, it has been said, that women possess innately. All the better then, that this suicide letter may, against all expectations, have been penned by a woman.
I. English Gothic
As part of the song cycle of For Your Pleasure, ‘Strictly Confidential’ and final track ‘For Your Pleasure’ share common themes. In ‘SC’ communication is the gift we “must not lose“; in ‘FYP’ the words we use “tumble” and break up, “gravel hard and loose“. Both songs point to the possibilities of the morning, the possibility of escape from the bad dream, the insightful “magical moment” (‘SC’) and the end to the things you “worried about last night” (‘FYP’). The nightmare is temporary then, and death will not come. Not in FYP. And not in ‘Strictly Confidential’. If, as the Floyd told us the same year, “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” (‘Time‘) then The Second Roxy Music Album presents depression and melancholy as internal struggle, as a form of competing voices, as paranoid schizophrenia, and even though death will not come, there is no certainty the troubles will be resolved by morning. Is there no key?
‘Strictly Confidential’ is a performance piece, presented like a narrative poem or play, with characters written for actors to play a part. Indeed, the third cut on FYP may be the most “acted” narrative Ferry has written – ‘If There is Something‘ a close second – in an album full of wonderful performances and roles invented and presented (‘The Bogus Man‘/’Dream Home‘/’For Your Pleasure‘). The lyric opens dramatically, pulling in the listener: Before I die I’ll write this letter – and continues, packed full of information:
Before I die I’ll write this letter
Here are the secrets you must know
Until the cloak of evening shadow
Changes to mantle of the dawn
Will it be sunny then I wonder?
Rolling and turning
How can I sleep?
Hold on till morning
What if I fall?
The set-up closely involves the reader in an act of intimacy and trust that is the hallmark of Roxy Music’s relationship to its audience. The letter/envelope is addressed formally and in confidence to one person: for our eyes only (Strictly Confidential); we are told this a confession, the “last” words of the narrator (Before I die I’ll write this letter); and we are presented with the prospect of learning personal, possibly illicit information (here are the secrets you must know). In a novel, this is the kind of opening paragraph hook the reader loves. The hook is further sunk as the atmospherics continue with the Gothic setting faithfully adhered to musically by Roxy Music as Ferry evokes a quivering ghostly vocal (before I di-e I write this le-tte-r). The vocal is so wispy thin and fragile it is intriguing to think perhaps the story is being presented from the woman’s point of view; the word selection later is more selective and considered, and even suggests a more sophisticated emotional awareness. This sensibility is backed by the Andy Mackay‘s sombre saxophone signalling the beginning of the piece, utilizing a tone and message similar to John Coltrane’s intro to A Love Supreme, appropriately titled “Acknowledgement“. There is some beautiful work here by Mackay, as he overlays oboe and sax in a manner similar to the minimalist approach – a technique later adopted by Brian Eno and Philip Glass (Glassworks) – and a perfect introduction to this song of sorrow.
The imagery in the first stanza is pure Gothic, and Ferry uses the form and atmospherics of two exemplary models of epistolary literature, the horror classics Frankenstein and Dracula. Epistolary narratives – those that use letters to tell their story – date at least as early as the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – 18 AD) and by the 19th century were the form favoured by Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, early Jane Austin, and Bram Stoker. Dracula in particular is a good read, the entire novel is epistolary, written as diary and journal entries, letters and telegrams, all of which give the reader the perspectives from different characters, an aspect that is important in the the schizophrenic track ‘Strictly Confidential’. Dracula moves from romance to ensnarement and isolation, to hauntings in the house of vampire victim Lucy, in Whitby, England, only a few short hours away from Ferry’s cottage stay in Derbyshire.
Word-choice in the song is literary high-style, which is formal, suited to a version of old-time story-telling favoured by the Gothic classics. Take the lines Until the cloak of evening shadow/Changes to mantle of the dawn. Both ‘Cloak of Evening Shadow‘ and ‘Mantle of the Dawn‘ could be titles for Game of Thrones episodes, so you get the picture about the kind of atmospherics Ferry was seeking to achieve: this is the stuff of castles, cloaks, daggers at dawn, ghosts at midnight. In fact, Ferry sets the two words back-to-back in the stanza: cloak=overcoat/nighttime; mantle=overcoat/morning. Look up ‘mantle’ (Dictionary) and you learn ‘mantle’ is the more authoritative of the two, as in they decided to “place the mantle of authority on younger shoulders.” Compare this to placing the “cloak of authority” on those younger shoulders and you see it doesn’t quite carry the same weight. Why is this important? – well, in terms of narrative poetry, mantle of the dawn thereby gains the upper-hand over cloak of evening shadow. The narrator of the story – the one who chooses the words to tell the tale – is telling us that seeing the sun rise is more important than the finality of midnight suicide – Will it be sunny then I wonder?/Hold on til morning. There is energy against the finality of death baked into the stanza: the suicide note is a letter of torment, representing the haunting of the mind, rather than delivering on the ghastly promise of suicide (“before I die”). There is the suggestion that the author writes this letter each evening as a form of repeated therapy – as a means to survive – rather than as a confession to another person. The writer is both author and the recipient – and we witness this struggle – as they write this letter, Strictly Confidential, to themselves in the desperate hope that they will make it to morning. Every night is a small death, without finality, doomed to repeat. Is there no light here?
Mental illness, and schizophrenia in particular, was a considerable theme in Ferry‘s work with Roxy Music, most notably in Manifesto (1979), with its themes of double-schizophrenia (Williams) and a song dedicated to the subject, ‘Still Falls the Rain’, which Ferry introduces at a Manchester 1979 concert as being “for anyone still interested in schizophrenia.” Ferry’s introduction is telling for it suggests the public’s interest in the subject of schizophrenia had passed by the end of the decade, even if it had not in the singer/songwriter’s mind. Winding back 1979 to 1973 we can see that schizophrenia was one of pop music’s hot topics – primarily because musical giants such as Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett had become ill with the condition, and their unfortunate melt-down had been recorded in two high-profile music paper articles (Wilson the subject of several, notably the Washington Post; Barret by Nick Kent: Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd: The Cracked Ballad of Syd Barrett, New Musical Express, 13 April 1974). The general public was intrigued by how people with elevated status and wealth could succumb to schizophrenia (people were even succumbing to Quadrophenia, a disorder presumably directed at people with four ears. Thanks Pete, our senses will never be the same). Yet schizophrenia does not imply a “split personality” or multiple personalities per se, but is rather a mental disorder characterized by “abnormal social behavior and failure to understand reality” (Wiki). The key in this regard is this the relationship to reality – for instance, if one hears voices in the night that shouldn’t be there, there are only two key (general) causes: an unhealthy mind or ghosts. Okay, there is another one – drugs.
In the early-to-mid 70s there was an increased awareness of schizophrenia due to the come-down of 60s drug culture, Brian Wilson and Syd Barret being two of the prime examples. Yet it was David Bowie that took on the subject of schizophrenia and mental illness in a spectacular fashion, writing on the issues of sanity, family history, and drug-taking (“‘Paranoid schizophrenia runs in my family, on my mother’s side. Sometimes when I’m drunk or stoned, I can almost feel it in me”). Years later Bowie’s brother Terry took his own life by placing his head on an active railway track (loosely referenced in Jump They Say). Terrible. For Bowie, then, the concern about mental illness and depression was real, and informed his writing from The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, through Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and Station to Station were he was pushing the limits of insanity. (And it must be said, the insanity/drug part has been used as a hook by many journalists – “the horror, the horror” – but the actual stories of Bowie’s cocaine psychosis are terrifying (see: Doggett). By the mid-to-late 70s Bowie was trying desperately to get a grip on reality (Low) and say goodbye finally to his inner scary monsters. This is the subject of ‘Ashes to Ashes‘, the masterpiece wherein Bowie reaches back and, in the vast darkness of inner space, navigates his way back to reality and human contact: The shrieking of nothing is killing/…/Want to come down right now. Though character-making is financially rewarding (I’m stuck with a valuable friend) Bowie ends the song by putting a (metaphoric) bullet in Major Tom’s head: one flash of light/one non-smoking pistol, effectively killing the 70s and his own personal demons. Indeed, a few short years later Bowie’s next invitation was healthy and life-affirming: Let’s Dance. This was not the zeitgeist of the early 70s however, when artists such as David Bowie and Bryan Ferry were articulating their experience of new-found fame, an experience that had the potential to remove them from the possibility of communication and meaningful human contact forever.
There have been periods in my life when I have been so closeted in my own world that I would no longer relate to anybody. And I do love communication. – David Bowie, 1996
I like to be private. But in my songs I share myself. The ideas resonate more when you’re disturbed – Bryan Ferry, 2015
II. Truth is the Seed
The struggle for a grasp on reality continues in the second verse as the narrator is trapped in sleepless torment (rolling and turning). A key device used by Gothic writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Bronte is to present the narrator’s haunted state of mind as the physical place or location they inhabit. Witness how Ferry follows this convention by setting up internal thought processes as a physical journey, mapping the highs and lows of the mind via the Gothic, vampiric countryside:
Over the hills and down the valleys
Soaring aloft and far below
Lying on stony ground the fragments
Truth is the seed we try to sow
Hills, valleys, soaring above and below – here Ferry paints a picture of the mind outside itself, dissociated, looking down at itself from above. If truth is the seed that must be sown then it will struggle on this “stony ground” with only “fragments” of a mind to make sense of it all. The fourth stanza continues the struggle, and it is the matter of communication – or the difficulty of it – that is pressed front and center:
Tongue tied the thread of conversation
Weighing the words one tries to use
This is the gift you must not lose
“Tongue tied” is problem of verbal communication, not written, for the written prose in the song has been poetic and vivid, populated with hills and valleys and Shakespearian mantles of the dawn. The narrator’s concern is actually their verbal skills – words are tongue-tied and do not come easily (“weighing the words one tries to use”). Much as been said about Bryan Ferry‘s shyness (see Buckley‘s biography), with the singer being at odds with the rock world. In interviews – a verbal medium after all – Ferry can sound hesitant, calculating, articulating each point just so, trying to apply the same exactitude we find in his song-writing (for Roxy interviews in see John O’ Brien’s excellent online Roxy resource http://www.vivaroxymusic.com/articles.php). In conversation Ferry tries to answer the questions honestly – to a fault perhaps – but at the start of his career he did not have the verbal acuity or warmth of band mate Brian Eno – and Eno could (would) never have written the words to ‘Strictly Confidential‘ or ‘Mother of Pearl‘.
It is interesting then to consider the circumstances of ‘Strictly Confidential’s composition: remote surroundings in the Gothic countryside; tormented by artistic anxieties and audience expectations; the opportunity to analyze the highs and lows of the previous year and the maddening gaps in personality we all play in our heads at night. Indeed, ‘Strictly’ may be the most personal song Ferry has ever written – unless the singer has a proclivity for inflatable dolls and ‘Dream Home‘ is actually a confession.
The sequencing of For Your Pleasure arguably presents the internal and external problems Ferry was grappling with as he arrived at Air Studios to record the second album with Roxy Music – band direction, leadership, ambition, even barely concealed doubt (‘Bogus Man‘). By the final track ‘For Your Pleasure‘ Ferry will make it to the end of the album feeling lighter, ready to wake up soon and fight. But first he has to make it past these early stages and deal with his inner demons. What if I fall?
III. Haunting Me Always
Haunting me always are the voices
(Tell us are you ready now?)
Sometimes I wonder if they’re real
(Ready to receive you now)
Or is it my own imagination?
(Have you any more to say?)
Guilt is a wound that’s hard to heal
(It’s the cross you have to bear)
Could it be evil thoughts become me?
(Tell us what you’re thinking now)
Some things are better left unsaid
In 2006 Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson gave an interview where he discussed his mental health difficulties and how he deals with his condition. A powerful interview (literally, titled Brian Wilson – A Powerful Interview) the frank discussion had Wilson clarify that his experiences went far beyond simple depression and drug use to a “mental condition called schizo affective disorder, which involves ongoing hallucinations and other distortions of reality.” Consider for a moment the context of ‘Strictly Confidential’ (Haunting me always are the voices) and the following description of Wilson’s condition:
[Interviewer] Cooper: How old were you when the voices started?
Wilson: About 25.
Friedman: When did you start getting treatment?
Wilson: Not until I was about 40, believe it or not. A lot of times people don’t get help as early as they should.
Cooper: Has treatment made your life easier?
Wilson: A little bit. It has made my symptoms bearable so I don’t have to go screaming down the street yelling, “Leave me alone, leave me alone,” and that kind of thing.
Friedman: Does anything else accompany the voices?
Wilson: Yes, I get intense fear, too. It comes and goes. You get the feeling and it goes away.
Cooper: What has depression been like for you?
Wilson: Well my depression goes pretty low, pretty deep. I get depressed to the point where I can’t do anything—I can’t even write songs, which is my passion.
Cooper: Is there anything that brings it on? Anything that seems to make the depression hit harder?
Wilson: I dread the derogatory voices I hear during the afternoon. They say things like, “You are going to die soon,” and I have to deal with those negative thoughts. But it’s not as bad as it used to be. When I’m on stage, I try to combat the voices by singing really loud. When I’m not on stage, I play my instruments all day, making music for people. Also, I kiss my wife and kiss my kids. I try to use love as much as possible.
“I try to use love as much as possible.” A beautiful sentiment from a troubled but gifted man. Brian Wilson has written much original and thoughtful pop music – Surf’s Up is multi-layered and powerful – the line A choke of grief hard hardened/I heard the word/Wonderful thing/A children’s song (2.54-4.11) provokes the very choke of grief it describes, such is the power of the music. The description of the schizo affective disorder in the above interview is heartbreaking and so is Ferry’s capture of the condition in ‘Strictly Confidential’. Here Ferry utilizes a narrative structure that dramatizes this grim and terrifying condition, presenting a play of voices in nocturnal call and response:
Haunting me always are the voices – the journey moves from observing the mind from above to being in the house alone at night – the Gothic convention of expressionism evoking voices from each room, and from within each corner of the mind (an experience akin to “intense fear” – Wilson).
(Tell us are you ready now?) – the first appearance of the ghost/interior monologue. Are you ready now … move with us toward suicide and death.
Sometimes I wonder if they’re real – there is now a dual dialog at play: the narrator identifies the mind’s haunting, while the “fragmented” schizophrenic mind observes the experience from above, wondering if the voices are “real.” This is the slipping in-and-out of voices and characters, like a play, with different narrative sensibilities and impressions.
(Ready to receive you now) – the voices are impatient, urging. “I dread the derogatory voices…They say things like, ‘You are going to die soon'” (Wilson).
Or is it my own imagination? – the writer’s mind splits open again and reveals further the questioning voice of the artist – the Implied Author Bryan Ferry, perhaps – as the probing analysis ponders how and why the creative imagination can create such swirling nightmares, the process of art-making a form of madness (see: Vincent van Gogh; Syd Barrett, Vegetable Man). Here the author of the letter repeats the central question of ‘Virginia Plain’: What’s real and make believe?
(Have you any more to say?) – the theme of verbal communication returns, as if to rub salt in the wound – or, like a spiralling nightmare, the voices further expose personal weakness.
Guilt is a wound that’s hard to heal – the most literal line in the song and one that feels out-of-place with the rest of the piece. The author suggests the source of the torment is grief, but does the schizophrenic condition require a justification in order to terrorize the mind? If the song nudges us in the direction of identifying the source of guilt, then we have no choice to indulge in a close biographical reading, for the line demands an answer to the question – what are you actually guilty of? Here’s one hypothesis: Bryan Ferry was formulating a change to the Roxy Music line-up during the writing of For Your Pleasure and the album is in part a dramatization of how he felt about it. The singer’s frustration with Brian Eno‘s high profile would be coming into focus at this point, with Eno shooting from the hip during interviews in an flamboyant and often disingenuous fashion. “My next venture is going to be moon rockets, because I know nothing about them” (Sounds, Oct 72). Here’s how the music papers saw it: “In France, Roxy became known as ‘Eno’s band’ and, in America, Warner Brothers published a hand-out claiming that Eno wrote and sang several of the numbers on For Your Pleasure. For a man who is as proud of his work as Bryan Ferry, this sort of distortion must have been highly distressing.” Rolling and turning/How can I sleep?
(It’s the cross you have to bear) – after the split with Brian Eno July 1973 – four months after For Your Pleasure was released – Ferry told the New Musical Express his decision regarding the direction of the group had been explained to its members in the following fashion: “Either Roxy doesn’t exist anymore or else it re-defines itself in my terms” (Stump, 97). Years later Ferry sounded guilty about the split – “In an ideal world I wish that Brian would have stayed” – while conceding that he had ruthlessly “froze him out.” This ignores the fact that Eno had had enough of being in a rock band, but it seems in Ferry’s nature to second-guess himself on decisions and direction even years later (It’s the cross you have to bear).
And what of the changes that had already occurred within Roxy Music: the mental health deterioration and loss of founding band member Graham Simpson: “The last words Bryan said to me where ‘get well and come back’ – but I never did….” (Graham Simpson, interview). An unavoidable sacking from the group Graham founded, and an obvious impact to the sensitive friend and band leader Ferry. Sadness and guilt produced ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond‘ for the founding members of Pink Floyd after Syd Barrett was let go (Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light). Can the same be said of ‘Strictly Confidential‘ for Roxy Music?
Could it be evil thoughts become me? – another potential title for For Your Pleasure, and the crux of the track ‘Strictly Confidential’. No matter what your reading is of the song – a suicide attempt; a struggle for mental health; guilt over band relations or a doomed love affair – frankly, the love affair theory being the least interesting, considering the power of Pyjamarama and Beauty Queen on the subject – the question “could it be evil thoughts become me?” feels close to the bone. The key is that the narrator has already had the evil thoughts (“could it be”), and even though “guilt is the wound that’s hard to heal” this writer posits that his core nature is ruthlessness and, moreover, there is pleasure in the thought of it. Getting closer to the truth perhaps, and the source of the song’s torment..
(Tell us what you’re thinking now) – the voices have been persistent: are you ready now? Have you more to say? Time’s almost up… Yet the voices sound uncertain, like they are losing momentum in the argument.
Some things are better left unsaid – at the conclusion of this powerful call-and-response stanza the writer denies the voices their prize, rejecting the call for death. And it may be a light-bulb moment for Ferry as well: after wracking himself over his verbal nervousness and essential shyness (Tongue tied the thread of conversation), he matures during the night’s torment and recognizes that verbal acuity or worrying about personality failings may not be the answer – some things are better left unsaid. You do not have access to all my inner feelings; communication is important but not saying something can have as much power. I deny you, my voice, my listener, my reader, the deepest part of myself. This is the gift.
V. Magical Moment
The spell it is breaking
There is no light here
Is there no key?
The conclusion of the piece has the moment of enlightenment shine through after a difficult and torment-filled night. Denying the voices their prize is a “magical moment” as the schizophrenic disorder recedes just as daylight appears, the “spell it is breaking.”
The final chilling note however is that this letter will need to be written again tomorrow night, a reminder that the struggle for health is ongoing and diligence and fortitude is needed for those who are affected by illness, addiction, rifts in reality and everyday life. Reality may be the answer, but the pain is continual and depression can be a life-long affliction. There is no light here/Is there no key?
I’m not obsessed by suicide by any means, but the idea does interest me.
– Bryan Ferry, interview, 2015
Paranoid schizophrenic, definitely… They seem to make the best entertainers.
– John Wetton on BF, quoted in Buckley, 2004.
A really interesting modern take on a classic Greta Garbo photograph “Mata Hari” by C.S. Bull, 1931. The original is right, while the contemporary artist version is left; Venetian music mask; West Bridgford Gothic church under water; Andy Mackay; Bowie and Bryan, 1979; historical letter, USA; Brian Wilson; Syd Barrett; Bryan Ferry; below, Syd Barrett: his art and personal artifacts go to auction after his death in 2006.
In a way this entry is dedicated to Syd Barrett, founding member of the Pink Floyd, but that sounds rather noble and self-centered when you consider the trauma of mental illness and the impact that has on those afflicted by it. Suffice to say, Syd had family and financial support, and his life by all accounts was lived peacefully in Cambridge, sans the occasional dolt fan that would knock on his door and harass him. It is nice to know the band ensured he received his royalties, and he was protected by his family. There is a lovely site run by his sister that hits all the right notes in being respectful and preserving Syd’s eccentricity without glamorizing his condition and way of life.
Graham Simpson was one of the co-founders of Roxy Music, and played bass guitar on the seminal first album before leaving in 1972. Bryan Ferry has said of him, “He was one of the most interesting people I ever worked with. He was crucial to my development as a musician, and in those early years he was a pillar of strength and inspiration. He was a great character…think Jack Kerouac and ‘On The Road’. I liked Graham, and Roxy Music would never have happened without him” (quote). We spoke of Graham’s work in the entry for ‘Bitter’s End’, highlighting in particular ‘Sea Breezes‘ as a key bass track on the album.
Next: Strictly Confidential – Part 2: American Gothic and Marilyn Monroe; Phil Manzanera articulates guitar torment; locating gender and “voice” in SC; Roxy machine photographer Karl Stoecker profile. See you in July!