Mar 092021

Once in a while, I feel like something’s going on that I’m not getting. In the words of Elvis’s second greatest hits package, “50 million fans can’t be wrong.”

Avalon, Roxy Music.

The wife and I are obsessed with the TV show Doc Martin. Can’t get enough of it. We’re on the 6th season, and it just keeps getting better and better. And that more or less goes for just about anything we’ve seen recently from the BBC. Don’t know much about how they function, but it seems like there’s some kind of stipulation in project contracts stating characters must look, sound, and act like real people. Doc, played by Martin Clunes, is best described as homely and doesn’t suffer fools; his wife is pleasantly attractive and talented, definitely not a Barbie bimbo; Bert, who can’t cook to save his life, weighs more than Haystacks Calhoun; and Bert’s son and business partner is the twin of one my most beloved grade partners (yet another reason why I’m hooked, I miss the guy). In short, they’re real.


  91 Responses to “Avalon, Stuff That Smells Like It Came Out of Someone’s Butt, Sinatra, Etc.”

  1. Avalon is the album I assume gets played the most frequently at key parties.

  2. Many believe that to be the case.

  3. 2000 Man

    Roxy Music has so many things I like about them but I’m pretty much broken up with them by Avalon. It’s not offensive or anything but I had a friend that played it a lot and I can’t remember anything about it.

    I don’t get jazz. It either sounds like four guys playing four different songs at the same time or when they finally stumble into something that sounds like it might be a song it turns out to be more boring than hour three of a Phish concert. Early teenage me that thought he would collect rare jazz records and drink liquor on the rocks in a very cool room with a bar in my house is a little disappointed yet a little relieved that beer and Rock N’ Roll are still king around here.

  4. Happiness Stan

    I think 2000 Man has summed up my views on Roxy Music and jazz precisely.

    We gave up on Doc Martin about fifteen years ago. Autistic people having meltdowns and neurotypicals indulging them isn’t where I’m at these days. Having said that, we’ve worked several sci-fi events with Ian McNiece, who plays Bert, and am happy to report that he’s a really lovely bloke.

    Sailing was a vast hit over here and topped the old fashioned hit parade for about a million years. For me, it more or less draws a line between Rod the good old boy and the sleazy cabaret singer. I’ve speculated before that Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan were the key to Rod and Steve Marriott’s entertainment value.

    Martin Clunes’ desert island discs choices sound like what I snobbishly think of as music for people who don’t really like music very much. Chuck in Brothers in Arms, the first Sade album and something by Queen and you’ve got almost the full house. Avalon is Roxy Music for those who prefer to look away when the Top of the Pops clip of Virginia Plain comes on the telly.

  5. Roxy Music’s Avalon is thankful that your association with the album is tied to your love for this Clunes fellow. The same goes for those classical music pieces and their association with films you love. I’m sure I have examples of associations that work for me in that way.

    The one that first springs to mind, although it’s still not allowed me to enjoy the whole piece, is some snippet of a classical piece that is used in the brief, color home movies montage in Raging Bull. I have such limited ability to keep the thread with classical music, but occasionally I try to listen to the full piece that is excerpted here:

    Maybe I’ll try again while I work today.

    There’s so much I don’t get. Like HVB’s thread on albums I don’t own, I wonder why I even try any longer. Classical music, Sinatra, pre-whatever era jazz… The jazz stuff from the ’50s and earlier troubles me most these days. I feel like I should be a better man and dig Charlie Parker and the stuff into the ’50s. To me, that music sounds like the artists are merely playing structured instrumentals with a lot of solo breaks…that stuff bores more, as does most structured instrumental music, like The Ventures. If I’m going to listen to jazz, I want to hear the musicians create a vibe. I’d rather hear 4 guys playing 4 different songs, as 2000 Man described it, until they stumble on something. More traditional forms of jazz make me think the musicians need to get a more open personality and find a singer, kind of how I feel about trios and bands lacking a bass player (ie, “Dudes, get that 4 x 4 dislodged from your butt and construct a real band!”).

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    I suppose my most heretical position is my refusal to believe in the rock godhood of Bob Dylan. I just don’t get it, and there are dozens of people with otherwise excellent taste who really, truly believe in his supposed otherworldly genius. I really like “Freewheelin…” — that album is pleasing to my ears and my brain. But much of the rest sounds either tuneless, lyrically overwrought, or both. And don’t get me started on his 1960s bad-boy genius persona. His cryptic, snarky put-downs of NYC socialites seem to give many of you raging, Lennonite boners, but he just strikes me as an asshole. EPG once asked us to ponder how we would greet our rock idols if they appeared at our front door; would we meet them with a six-pack or a shotgun? I know where I stand on Dylan.

    Having said all that, I continue to feel like I must be missing something — like I must be at fault in some way for thinking so little of this great thinker/musician/poet. So I keep circling back on ol’ Bob, expecting for the clouds to part and the promised land to be revealed to me. So far, though — nothing.

  7. Well said, Hrundi. All that’s more than fair. I’m still waiting for Al to step up and explain his fascination with Sinatra. Really, that’s something I’ll absolutely and positively never understand.

    Moderator, the classical music in the Raging Bull Soundtrack is indeed something else. That said, I too believe that my appreciation for it wouldn’t be as strong if I listened to it without watching Deniro / La Motta in the ring and and clowining around in his home movies.

    And just for the record, I could gab about Raging Bull ad nauseum. I think that might be my favorite movie of all time.

  8. And Moderator, I applaud your diplomatic handling of Avalon, cleverly avoiding what I know to be your appreciation of what’s found within its grooves. For the good of myself and others, such as Happiness and 2000 Man, please tell us know what we’re missing.

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    E Pluribus, check out my latest post on the front page. Pretty sure this explains at least part of Mod’s Avalove.

  10. I wasn’t being diplomatic about Avalon, EPG. I think it’s kind of a masterpiece of album making in the time of some of the worst aesthetic principals in the history of recording (ie, the early 1980s).

    Unlike some of you, I really like Roxy Music. Their first and third albums, in particular, probably make my list of Top 100 albums of the last millennium. I love the mix of soul, glam, and avant-garde touches on the early albums. Original drummer Paul Thompson was a rock ‘n roll beast – not flashy, but always driving things forward.

    Ferry’s lyrics hit on a sense of – and please excuse me for typing what I’m about to type – existential dread. That insufferable feeling is offset by a self-aware humor in much of their best work. It’s a real key to what I love about them.

    I haven’t listened to Avalon in whole in ages. I’d probably rank it 5th in their catalog of 8 or so albums. “More Than This” is a masterpiece. That song along is worth the price of admission.

  11. The coincidence is indeed striking, but I don’t think it has much to do with the Moderator’s enjoyment of the LP.

    My wife and I have a Spotify list of 800 songs or so that continues to grow, and unbeknownst to me, she added the track “More Than This,” which we listened to a few days ago while cleaning up in the kitchen. I’d never heard it before, or at least it sounded like something I hadn’t heard before. The truth of the matter is that I don’t think I’d remember it after 100 or so plays. She told me it was on Avalon. That’s how this whole thing got started. She and the Moderator have a fondness for Avalon. They have a lot other things in common as well.. They grew up not too far from each other and have a lot of similar tastes. And because I recalled the Modertator saying that he liked Avalon, I called him to verify that this was indeed the case, and that’s when he gave me an in depth explanation regarding his fondness for the album. I’m looking forward to reading his assessment because I think it will help me better understand why I link that LP up with friends who I wouldn’t consider part of my music circle gang, but who are decent and worthwhile nonetheless.

    And he better chuck the strategic diplomacy and deliver because if he doesn’t he can forget about those Friday night lasagna dinners and more imporantly, Lady Gergely’s Top Chef-like desserts.

    Funny, but I’ve read Happiness’ post several times today. His thoughts could have been mine to a tee had one of those Avalon-like characters wound up pissing me off in one way or another. He really nailed it when he discussed people who truly could care less about music. And those choices he ascribed to that gang, like the Brothers in Arms LP, were damn near perfect.

    Those people are out there. And there’s an equal amount who could care less about food. Quality and flavor is of no concern as long as it keeps them going. Two of my brothers are like that. I don’t get it. If my wife continues to excel in the kitchen, there’s a strong chance I may end up looking like John Candy and meeting his same fate by the end of the year.

  12. Too late! The Moderator replied! Gotta run to the post office, but I’ll be checking in to see if his dick and balls are in tact.

  13. EPG;

    You didn’t know “More than This.” Really? Not even the Bill Murray version?

  14. Catching up.

    Roxy music: I like the song Avalon but I’ve never heard the entire album. For that matter, the only other Roxy Music songs I know are More That This and Love Is the Drug. Do they have anything worth checking out that is going to top the cover photo of Country Life? Seriously, I’m willing to check out a few tracks to see if anything sticks.

    Classical: I am far too much of a musical simpleton to enjoy most classical. I can appreciate it but I have no interest in listening to it.

    Jazz: As I mentioned here before, I like Jazz until the early-mid 60’s. I’m a total rookie. I’m like a guy who says he likes Rock but really just has a well worn copy the Freedom Rock album. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it. I have about 5 albums that I cycle through if I’m working or cooking and they are as obvious as you can imagine:
    Kind of Blue – Miles.
    My Favorite Things – Coltrane.
    Chet Baker in Paris.
    A Bill Evans compilation.
    Some stray tracks by Monk, Django Reinhart and a big chunk of Billie Holiday.
    I like then there is some dependable structure that I can identify so even though Monk can be weird, there’s a dependability to that weirdness. The unstructured weirdness of free jazz and latter day Coltrane are traumatizing to me.

    Sinatra: I have a big soft spot for Songs for Swinging Lovers. It got a huge bombastic Nelson Riddle arrangement but it’s chock full of great performances of great songs. Check out You Brought A New Kind of Love To Me

    Cheese: EPG, you have always been a font of perplexing and misguided hot takes, but this cheese thing is a bridge too far. I used to think you were a guy who’s tastes were so idiosyncratic and strongly held that you were unable to relax and enjoy some of the many pleasures that life had to offer that fell outside of your tiny self made cell. Now I realize that you are just a child. Enjoy your self imposed sentence of eating dino-nuggets while listening to Herman’s Hermits on repeat, but know that if you ever want help, I’m here for you.

  15. CDM, I’m now realizing that my latest posting may well indeed be a cry for help, That said, I ask that you, Hrundi, Geo, etc. revisit “More than This” and “Avalon”. Is it just me or do these tracks come off like the grand prize winners of some kind of early 80s contest sponsored by some Sam Ash-like outfit: “Anyone can write a song! Try it! World famous Kajagoogoo will record the winning efforts using the finest high tech equipment provided by Yamaha, Korg, Peavey, and Ibanez..”

    How and why are those Avalon tracks any better than servings from ABC, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, or ABC? What’s next? You showing up at my house dressed like Howard Jones?

  16. CDM, that was one hell of a jab. Very effective. I’m actually bothered that your high opinion of me may have withered and died. That said, I need you on my team. Please listen to the Avalon tracks. Talk about Cheese! No wonder I can’t get it down!

    I have these visions in my head of the Moderator showing up at my door, head bowed, swaying back and forth, wearing a floppy “Choose Life” T Shirt underneath an oversized sweater with ridiculously long sleeves that cover the hands, parachute pants, and a faux Greek fisherman’s cap. This is not good. Then again, it all kind of makes sense.

  17. Of the three Roxy Music songs I know, I never liked more than this. But I’m going out for a walk so I’ll revisit those two songs non the Mod’s recommendation and report back.

    …the grand prize winners of some kind of early 80s contest sponsored by some Sam Ash-like outfit: “Anyone can write a song! Try it!.. Excellent stuff.

    Seriously though, start with some Gouda. That’s a good gateway cheese.

  18. Ages ago, my oldest daughter forced me to down some Gouda. It was not a pleasant scene. As I said previously, my palette will not allow me to consider the possibilities of cheese. And because of that, the dream of opening a restaurant with Bobby Flay has been put to rest.

  19. To EPG, cdm, and anyone else who thinks they are going to make the slightest effort to like Roxy Music after all this time:

    If you think you’re going to fall in love with Roxy Music by starting with Avalon – you people, with generally good taste and all kinds of vibrancy, not “normal” people I may only know casually – well, that’s like thinking you’re going to see why Sophia Loren or William Holden are considered to be smoking hot sex symbols by starting with their late-career cameo in a ’70s disaster movie. That’s not to insult Avalon, but by that point the band was a studio band for Bryan Ferry. Phil Manzanera and Andy MacKay were being fed saltpeter. The band was rounded out by studio pros. It’s a nice album…especially for THAT kind of music.

    I can’t speak for cdm, but I’m going to be honest here, since my balls are being questioned: EPG does not possess enough man-sack to listen to the 40-minute Roxy Music playlist I will construct and share this evening. I truly hope I’m wrong.

    Stay tuned.

  20. While the Moderator’s working on all that, here’ something to check out. Click the link for some early footage of the Moderator, right around the time he was listening to a lot of LA stuff like the Motels, Wall of Voodoo, Berlin, and Josie Cotton.


  21. hrrundivbakshi

    Whoah, whoah there! I’m not on Team Avalove.

  22. EPG

    On Avalon, I’ve got nothing. I never went for that sound and if being honest, I’ll admit that my association of a heroic stance against “existential dread” is probably based on Murray’s karaoke version in “Lost in Translation.” I popped it on Spotify and was not really sold, but “More than This” is undeniably catchy.


    Early Roxy is a much different beast. Like Mr. Mod’s beloved Pere Ubu, they overlaid one common style of music, garage for PU and Music Hall Cabaret for Roxy with an aggressively noisy element. I like that stuff a lot. I think this song, first song, first album, captures it pretty well.

  23. Mr. Mod,

    I look forward to the compilation.

  24. EPG

    That was mean.

  25. There’s nothing mean, geo, about anyone making the link between me and my spirit animal, Nic Cage.

  26. The mean thing is the remarkable resemblance which I had never noticed!

  27. Cage appears for a few seconds in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, working in the fast food place. He looks EXACTLY like me at that same age.

  28. File under “back handed compliment.” I got my jab in, but telling anyone they look like Nicholas Cage is high praise indeed.

  29. BigSteve

    I’m all in on Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry, Am I the only one here who is suave enough to enjoy a visit to Avalon?

  30. I have never gotten why everyone thinks the Beatles were so great. I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried. There are a few things I like – their cover of “Rock & Roll Music” is so much better than the Beach Boys version – but for the most part they leave me cold.

    I just don’t get it.

  31. Well, not really, but this thread that had someone trashing Dylan and someone trashing Sinatra. I figured I’d add the Beatles.

  32. Al completes the Holy Trinity of Trashing.

  33. cherguevara

    Probably not surprisingly, I also like Avalon. I’ve had a tendency to reject things that sound very perfect, as if they were always there, as if somehow they were not actually made by people. I felt this way towards DSOTM for a long time. Avalon is one of those albums – it’s so tucked in and manages to encapsulate the 80’s while also managing to avoid most pitfalls. The use of synths is really clever, most of the sounds have aged pretty well, and the way he plays with different shapes of sounds is some subtle, tasteful synthesis. Bob Clearmountain uses big reverb, but it never gets into some of the insanity that happened on songs like “Born in the USA.” Andy Newmark’s drumming kills, throughout. I like the economical arrangements, the vocals are sometimes interspersed with other musical events, trading off, everyone seems to be taking their time to get their moment in. I could see how this laid back, tucked in music could be perceived as boring or bland, even by fans of their previous, more raucous music.

    I am not a Sinatra fan and mostly know his most popular songs. This did not stop me from reading a book that I’d suggest to everyone – “Sessions With Sinatra” by Chuck Granata. This is possibly the best book I’ve ever read about a musician’s recording and creative process. It isn’t a biography – it only tells enough of Sinatra’s life to make sense of what he was doing musically. It traces not only his career, but also the changes in the music biz as he went from recording 78 sides to the evolution of the album, something Sinatra was a big part of. There’s loads in there about his collaborators, the arrangers and musicians he worked with, the life, times and culture of a big-time recording artist in the era when the music biz came into maturity. I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t like Sinatra (though it helps).

    As for classical music, or jazz, I mean, I suppose it’s possible to not like any of it, but these are entire categories with tens (hundreds?) of sub-genres. I listen to a lot of classical music but almost never orchestral music. I listen to chamber music and solo music, seldom orchestral music unless there’s a soloist. I listen to piano music, but not to opera. And I like most kinds of cheese, except for the ones with moldy veins and low-quality processed cheese.

  34. Thanks for the playlist Mod. I will check it out shortly when I go for a walk.

    Yesterday I revisited the three Roxy Music songs that I know plus a few random tracks from their first and third albums because Mod said they were his favorites. It takes a while for stuff to sink in with me and I want to hear the Mod’s list before I comment on the rest of the tracks but as for the three I knew going into this (More than This, Avalon, and Love is the Drug): More Than This is not my cup of tea but it’s a good song. I like Avalon quite a bit. But man, the production on both of those songs is grating. I really dislike that 80s synth sound and the guitars sound like they are using a Strat with those Lace Sensor pickups that were supposed to be the big innovation in the 80s for Fender but really were one of those “innovations” that lost sight of what made a Strat sound cool in the first place. (I just looked it up and Lace Sensor pickups weren’t invented until ’87 so they must have worked extra hard to get such a flaccid, antiseptic guitar sound in the studio.) I suppose the production of both of those songs suits the material to a certain degree, sort of what an incels idea of “sexy music” would be. Despite all of the flaws though, I still like the songs, Avalon in particular. But I would love to hear those songs recorded under the same circumstances as Love is the Drug, a much better sounding song.

  35. I enjoy Avalon, both for its innate qualities and as a culmination of whatever “thing” Bryan Ferry had been cultivating for most of his career. Roxy Music have one of those amazing discographies where each album is a distinct phase all its own, but you can see how each one leads to the next. Also, it’s compact: Eight studio albums and that’s it!

    Robyn Hitchcock has some perceptive thoughts about this album:

    As for fixating on 40-year-old production techniques, you guys have fun with that!

  36. Well, I did my homework. Coke and speed were never my drugs of choice, and I gather that one’ needs to take a lot of both to have any inkling what’s going on in any of those Roxy songs.

    Jeff Lynne and ELO are to Roy Wood and the Move as David Byrne and Talking Heads are to Bryan Ferry and the rest of the think tank behind Roxy Music.

    That said, I’d take the Move over ELO any day, but when I occasionally need some kind of consumer friendly version of Roxy Music, Talking Heads will do.

    And Moderator, I finally understand what’s happening in that head of yours. You’re yet another son of Roxy.

  37. Nice playlist Mod. I am happy to have done some due diligence about these guys. While I’m still not sure how often I’ll make an effort to play Roxy Music myself, I enjoyed most of it and won’t complain if someone else plays it when it’s their turn at the stereo. Some of that earlier stuff really have a Bowie flavor with a hint of Mott the Hoople. Do you think Bowie’s influence was that pervasive or was it just something in the Zeitgeist at the time?

  38. Cher, no blue cheese for you? I admit it’s a bit challenging at first but once you get a taste for it, it is irreplaceable. Kind of like the cheese equivalent of Tom Waits.

    Now that I’m thinking about it:

    Blue Cheese – Tom Waits: An acquired taste that is very specific and divisive, but beloved by it’s fans.

    Brie – Avalon-era Roxy Music: Has the trappings of sophistication but you wouldn’t be surprised if you got a sample of it at Costco.

    Gouda – Rory Gallagher: no frills, just honest and workmanlike.

    Port Wine Cheeseball covered in nuts – Yacht rock: deeply rooted in the 70’s, preposterous and disposably lowbrow, but a hit with almost everyone.

    Cheddar – the Foo Fighters or BTO: It’s fucking cheese, maaan!

    Kraft prewrapped American processed cheese food – Nickleback: Cheese for people who don’t really like cheese.

    String Cheese – KISS: Not much substance. Really relies on a novelty for it’s sustained popularity.

    Feel free to add your own!

  39. American Cheese – Journey. Just the lowest form of popular cheese when no other cheese is available. Kids, parents, grandparents with no taste can all get behind it. When ordering a hoagie (a sub for you outside Philly) and the only option is American, I say hold the cheese. When in the car and Journey comes on, I say turn off the radio.

  40. Cheez Whiz, also referred to as Rug Cheese -Loverboy. Food of the Gods for the run of the mill mall rat, and great cheap bait for trout fishing or attracting a mall rat mate.

  41. CDM, nice analysis of the Roxy Music Spotify list. I too like the sounds of the instruments, pre Avalon. That said, God only know what Ferry’s going on about. Couldn’t relate to any of it.

  42. hrrundivbakshi

    Jalapeño Monterey Jack: ZZ Top. Mildly spicy, pretend ethnicity, qualitatively superior to American cheese, but not by much.

    Queso fresco/cotija/queso de Oaxaca: Ry Cooder

  43. Swiss cheese – ABBA. Enjoyable, not too fancy, popular cheese for people who don’t know Sweden and Switzerland are two different countries.

  44. EPG, your analogy re: Roxy Music and the insights you and cdm brought to this exercise were refreshing. Thanks.

  45. Can we expect a lengthier response when you get a break? This whole Roxy exercise has been a real eye opener.

  46. Fresh Grated Parmesan – not band but more like a vintage tube amp or a Hammond B3 organ: Kind of a pain in the ass to deal with so you don’t want to break it out for every occasion but sometimes nothing else will do.

  47. Squeeze Cheese in a can – Rush/Radiohead/ The Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound: technology doesn’t always make things better.

  48. Provolone – Sonny Bono, The Four Seasons, The Rascals. You know, for ethnic reasons.

  49. I own and enjoy Roxy Music, Country Life, and Stranded. When I have a yen for that 70s glam prog rock, I go to Roxy far more often than Bowie. Their weirdness seems more earned and natural than Bowie’s.

  50. I own all of those as well. They’re in my sale stock. I wish someone would buy them. I listed them about three years ago or so. Nobody seems to want them. Maybe the public’s overall taste is improving.

  51. “Re-Make / Re-Model” by Roxy Music vs. “Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “Ladytron” by Roxy Music vs. “Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “Virginia Plain” by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    Amazona by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “Editions of You”by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “Casanova” by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “More Than This” by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “Mother of Pearl” by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart
    “Do the Strand” by Roxy Music vs.”Barracuda” by Heart / Winner: “Barracuda” by Heart

  52. ‘Cuse nothin scratches that Glam itch like Heart.

  53. Good Morning everyone! Just a couple of things:

    Chickenfrank, I’m not on Facebook. Please provide another link!

    While pissing away time last night with the wife, I stumbed upon two new BBC documentaries, one on the Kinks, another on Stax. Here are the links:

    Kinks Documentary:

    Stax Documentary

    I’ve seen neither and am looking forward to watching both. Anyone seen these?

    And Moderator, If you’re lost. you can look. and you will find me
    Time after time
    If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting
    Time after time

  54. EPG, here’s the clip on Youtube

  55. OMG, I am so glad my days of all that crap are over. Nothing is a bigger headache than being the default leader of the band. I was that guy twice and dealt with all of the following pain the ass tasks: 1) Organizing the practices and booking shows, 2) reading the riot act to so and so who didn’t bother to learn his parts, 3) trying to make “art” through a democratic process when all that is more or less a bunch of nonsense, 4) dealing with unfamiliar club soundmen who do their very best to make your band sound like shit, 5) drama between band members and members of other bands who drove one to drink, 6) jealous girlfriends and wives, 6) gingerly handling Yoko situations, etc.

    Granted, I dealt with all this on a very small scale, but I assure you I did in fact suffer through all the above.

    You know what? I see a great thread in store: Playing in the Band -Willfully Allowing One’s Self to Be Trapped in a Psychological Garbage Bag . Could be very therapeutic.

  56. BigSteve

    I’m not eightiesphobic like a lot of you guys. I love Avalon and the kind of layered production style that it pioneered. Like anything else in music that style was overused and abused, but when it’s done right it can be beautiful. Avalon may seem superficial, and from this standpoint it sounds a lot like the kind of downtempo/chillout music that became the go-to restaurant/boutique music of the 90s/00s, but underneath Bryan Ferry’s suave exterior there’s always heartache and mortality.

    I loved Roxy Music from the beginning, but this is a case where a band’s evolution ends up discarding a lot of what people liked about them. This is probably down to Ferry slowly exerting control over Roxy Music to the point where the band records became indistinguishable from his solo records. He was the one with vision, and Avalon is the purest expression of his vision. He’s spent the subsequent decades pursuing variations on that vision. I think the 2010 album Olympia (the one with Kate Moss on the cover) is another great example of that same sound.

    Hats off to Oats for reminding me of Robyn Hitchcock’s commentary. That Baker’s Dozen series on the Quietus website is almost always worth a read. I love hearing musicians talk about the music they love. The ‘What’s In My Bag’ youtube series from Amoeba is a good example of this too.

  57. Because CDM and the Moderator were bold enough to create playlists to defend their heroes of yore, I’ve decided to do the same. Here are 14 solid reasons why Herman and His Hermits are worth a listen:


    E. Pluribus Gergely

  58. Big Steve, to be clear, I’m not opposed to layered production. I just do not like the sound of 80’s synths, heavily gated drums, and super clean strats in the second of fourth positions. I like organic sounding instruments and that one synth that was ubiquitous (the DMX7 maybe) is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

  59. I think I heard about the Vermeer forgeries in an aesthetics philosophy course. The upshot of the story was that although experts had authenticated these paintings in isolation one at a time, when gathered together as a group and compared to a group of Vermeers, it was obvious they were in a different completely inferior class,. The DX7 was like that. When you first heard one, the sounds were uncanny, fantastic. the xylophone seemed just perfect, the clavinet, the piano. Fast forward 5 years of ubiquitous use and suddenly, no matter what setting was used, it sounded immediately like a DX7.

  60. BigSteve

    I meant to come clean in my previous post that I have a strat copy that had noisy pickups (probably not especially noisy, but I hate 60 cycle hum), and I replaced them with Lace Sensors (the Hot Gold set) 2 or 3 years ago, and I love them.

    What I think is weird about the DX7 is that the passage of time seems not to have softened opinions about it. There are any number of 60s sounds that seemed cool at first, then became uncool because of overuse and time moving on, but now seem kind of charming.

  61. cherguevara

    The synths on Avalon don’t sound like DX7s to me – they have a particular quality to them that made them good for electric piano sounds, bell sounds, and the like. The Taco Bell chime sounds like a DX7 to me. Those synths were easier to program if you had a librarian editor program on a computer, and most didn’t, which would make it harder to push the thing to make different kinds of sounds. But there’s also a flavor to the sounds the DX7, and I agree it hasn’t aged well, it sounds kind of cheap to me now.

    But, to tie things together – surely I’ve posted this before – here is Brian Eno trying to turn on an old, broken DX7:

  62. Hi all! Just a couple of quick things.

    The DX7 may have it’s drawbacks, but it makes a great controller keyboard. It’s built like a tank and has a nice response, with aftertouch. I gigged with it for ages, using it to play a second sound from a multitimbral VA. Very reliable despite rough treatment.

    Remember that Kinks documentary link I posted? Don’t bother clicking it. The wife and I called it quits after 15 minutes. The focus of the documentary was the making of Village Green Preservation Society, featuring old clips we’ve all seen, interviews with geriatric Kinks who we could barely understand, new and slightly altered versions of Village Green tracks played by Ray and Dave Davies and friends filmed in the mid 90s (pretty hard to stomach), and random reenactments circa 1966-1969 featuring an actor that looked nothing like Ray Davies serving up monologues centered around all that brought about the Village Green LP. The only thing that stood out was the same thing that stands out and ruins just about any biopic like feature. The actor(s) didn’t look or sound anything like the real mccoy.

    One last thing. Over the weekend , the wife and I had yet another Zoom get together with the Moderator and his wife. One of the things we discussed was stoner food. Ever make popcorn dressed with nutritional yeast and soy sauce? That’s certainly a good one. The Moderator was kind enough to share one of Chickenfrank’s favorites: ramen, broth drained, dumped on top of a large bowl of popcorn. Chickenfrank, do I have that right? Or and I missing some essential chunk of the recipe?

  63. BigSteve

    This occurred to me in the middle of the night, and I finally got around to looking it up. The DX7 was not introduced until 1983, and Avalon was recorded in 1981-82. The credits don’t list any keyboard player besides Ferry himself. Maybe blaming the DX7, or digital synths in general, is misleading.

  64. So I’m blaming Avalon’s antiseptic production sounds on Lace Sensor pickups and the DX7, neither of which existed when the song was recorded? Well done, CDM, well done!

    By the way BigSteve, I love the fact this woke you up in the middle of the night.

  65. Me too. Next time he does it, he should listen to that Herman’s Herman’s mix while satisfying a midnight craving ala a large bowl of ramen over popcorn.

  66. I haven’t finished working my way through the Hermit’s playlist yet. I tried to replicate it on Spotify but some of the songs aren’t on there so I’m guessing that’s why you opted for youtube. I got sidetracked but will revisit it in the next few days.

  67. That’s more than fair, CDM. And thank you for giving it a listen. And yes, I did opt for Youtube for those very reasons.

    For the record, I never said Herman’s Hermits were in the same tier as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Who. The only point I was trying to make was that a good record is a good record, even if the lead singer’s teeth are as big as paste boards and so white that they’re blinding. Mickie Most, who started his career as a singer ala Billy Furry, Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, more or less chose Herman’s Hermits songs and produced the records. He had a very good ear. And he also used it for the Animals, Donovan, the Jeff Beck Group, etc. Most of the people who give me shit for liking the Herman’s Hermits records are the same ones who never do any real research. I love arguing with those people because It’s readily apparent after the first two minutes of back and forth that they have no idea what they’re talking about.

    I was going to run my mouth about all the great studio musicians who played on the records like Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Big Jim Sullivan, etc., but then I realized that I was negating the solid craft of the songs by reducing the whole thing to that nonsense, pandering to those bozos who use that dumb defense line to explain their enjoyment of what others might consider to be weak.

    All I’m looking for is something in the realm of “You know what? A lot of that’s not too bad. And that one track, (fill in the blank), was actually really good.”

    I look forward to hearing from you!

  68. Here’s yet one more track:

    That’s not worth a listen? Chosen and produced by Mickie Most. Again, he had a good set of ears. Penned by Graham Gouldman. No wonder it sounds like son of “Bus Stop.”

  69. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, E: what would you think of “No Milk Today” if it was a track on “Beatles VI”?

  70. That is a song that’s been ruined by Spinal Tap. While it may be good, I couldn’t stop thinking of Cups and Cakes by The Thamesmen. The title is too funny.

  71. I could already commit to “You know what? A lot of that’s not too bad. And that one track, (fill in the blank), was actually really good.” before I listened to the playlist.

    I’ve always liked Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat and Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good. Great songs. I never knew There’s a Kind of Hush was the name of that song or that the Hermits did it, but that song is pretty good. The rest of the songs are a mixture of pleasant but somewhat nondescript and not so bueno. There’s a reason that the songs I’m familiar with are the ones that became their hits.

    I would put them in the same category as the Dave Clark 5: massive in their day, had a few hits that stand the test of time and a bunch of material that isn’t bad but you’d likely never hear unless someone on a blog talked you into listening to it. I give the nod to the Dave Clark 5 because I like their style better but I’m psyched if I’m listening to the oldies radio and one of the Hermit songs that I mentioned above comes on.

    The elephant in the room is of course ” ‘enry the 8th” It’s unfortunate because that song is probably their most well know song and it detracts from their legacy, modest as that legacy may be. That song is like their My Ding A Ling. But at least Chuck Berry had about 20 other stone cold classics to which one can point, as opposed to 2-3 pretty good songs. I’m a singles/song guy so I can like a song while detesting the rest of the artist’s catalog, or ignore a colossal turd in a catalog, but I wonder how much that song plays into the Hermit’s reputation especially since it’s one of the first things people are likely to have heard by them.

  72. Cups and Cakes is exactly what I thought of when I was watching the Bee Gees’ documentary and they were talking about Spicks and Specks,

  73. Hrundi and CDM, Bingo!

    CDM, you nailed the whole problem. Herman’s Hermits will continue to suffer in the long run for two reasons: “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “Henry the VIII”. Whatever they’ve done will never be taken seriously because those two tracks are continually rammed down the public’s throat in some way or another. They color one’s take on anything else one might hear from their catalog. Their version of “Dandy” is far better than that of the Kinks. Most and company took a sloppy demo like performance and turned it to a real winner. But again, it’s Herman’s Hermits. “My Reservation’s Been Confirmed” could have been on a Yardbirds album. But once again, it’s Herman’s Hermits.

    When I put the track list together, I purposely tried to find titles on You Tube that didn’t include slide show images of the band or performance clips. I didn’t want Herman’s shave and a haircut act to ruin the listener’s possible enjoyment of a given track.

    Hrundi, you brought up an interesting point. Is “No Milk Today” better than Beatles VI’s “You Like Too Much”? Yes. Is the craft of “Milk” better than Beatles VI’s”Every Little Thing”? Maybe, but it certainly doesn’t go down like “Every Little Thing.” Why? Because it’s Herman’s Hermits.

    And regarding the DC5, I can see something happening like the following scenario. Picture the Beatles hanging out in a hotel room, screwing around, while the radio is playing in the background. Should a Herman’s Hermits song rear its ugly head, no doubt, one or all would most probably start slagging the thing. Should the radio serve up the DC5’s “Because” or “Catch Us If You Can,” there might be a few jabs, but there would definitely be some sort of acknowledgment of either track’s merits, followed by a short but uncomfortable silence.

    Whenever I listen to any music whatsoever, I try to my best to separate the reputation of the act from what’s actually in the grooves. Sometimes I do indeed have to acknowledge that a band I detest is capable of something worth celebrating. Again, I can’t stand the Replacements, but I really like “I Will Dare.” The song’s stuck in my head. It’s good.

  74. And don’t get me started on the Bee Gees. While watching the documentary, me and the wife were floored by just how many great records they had. That really didn’t kick in until we watched the thing.

  75. hrrundivbakshi

    E — I presume you’re already hip to “The BeeGee’s First”? That album is pretty freaking great.. If any of you are fans of great psych-lite pop from the magical ’66-’68 years, you will love this record!

  76. I always liked this track as well:

    Years back, when I had a bratless life and could run around ’til 3 or 4 in the morning, I’d hang out once in a while with Secret Cinema Schwartz at his pop culture stuffed postage stamp sized apartment, and he’d turn me on to, what he considered, a lot of good stuff. Granted, not all of it had magic, but if I stayed awake, it was a sure thing he’d eventually pull the lever and deliver the jackpot, like the song I posted. If you like that kind of thing (which I do), there’s a lot more of it on Rare, Precious, and Beautiful, Volumes I, II, and III, all stuff that was apparently big in Australia before the Bee Gees hooked up with Robert Stigwood and conquered the world. Much of it comes off like apprentice work that would eventually pay off. Absolutely and positively worth a listen.

  77. Has anyone caught the latest TJ Lubinsky PBS fundraiser thing called It’s What’s Happening Baby? It was promoted as this Murray the K helmed special unseen since 1965. Thoroughly underwhelming despite a roster including a lot of Motown acts and others like The Ronettes, Gary Lewis, and Herman’s Hermits.

    Biggest problem is most of the acts are lip-synced, including Herman’s Hermits doing Mrs. Brown in the most hokey way imaginable.

    Still, it’s worth recording and zipping through for a few parts. Top is Little Anthony & The Imperials live with each member outdoing each other with some amazing dance moves; the interview with present day Anthony is nice as well. Bittersweet is an interview with Mary Wilson in her last interview before passing away in February. Some live Temptations is another highlight.

    Check your local listings!

  78. Underwhelmed. Yup. Years ago, the Moderator and I saw one of those shows at the Kimmel Center. I think we actually left early.Very, very boring indeed.

  79. BigSteve

    I always liked Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. The lyrics are good, especially the part that goes “Don’t let on, don’t say, she broke my heart.” It’s touching. I even like the way the guitar is so compressed it sounds like a banjo, even though I’m usually banjophobic. The main problem is that the lyrics in the middle eight don’t really fit — “Walkin’ about, even in a crowd, well You’ll pick her out, makes a bloke feel so proud.” What?

    According to Wikipedia the song was “written by British actor, screenwriter and songwriter Trevor Peacock.[who?] It was originally sung by actor Tom Courtenay in The Lads, a British TV play of 1963, and released as a single on UK Decca.”

    I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I saw Herman’s Hermits in 1966, my first concert. So I would never dis them. (I also saw Roxy Music in 1976, when Love in the Drug was a ‘hit.’ They totally rocked, nothing like Avalon.)

  80. Man, Big Steve, your are full of surprises. I certainly wasn’t expecting that response!

    The bridge makes sense to me. She stands out from the rest. Things might have gone south, but he was was one of the lucky ones to have once been her boyfriend.

    You saw Herman’s Hermits and Roxy Music? Granted, I’m not a Roxy Music fan, but seeing them at the peak of their career is huge. My aunts and uncles talk about going to shows like that, and all I can think is that anything I’ve ever seen could never compare to any of that.

    If you could flesh out what you recall about those shows with some more details, I’d really appreciate it! Who else were you lucky to see?

  81. BigSteve

    I was 13, and it was my first concert. I don’t remember much about the Hermits show, except that it was still the screaming girls era. Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders opened. Shortly after that I saw Paul Revere & the Raiders on the touring version of the Where The Action Is tv show.

    The Roxy show was great. It was the era where Bryan wore a pseudo military outfit with an eyepatch. The Manzanera guitar solos were jaw-dropping. Skyhooks opened.

    Other gigs I can use to impress people:

    I saw the Grateful Dead play on the night they were “busted down on Bourbon Street” as mentioned in the song Truckin’. Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green opened.

    And I saw a triple bill of the MC5, the Stooges, and Alice Cooper. (I usually don’t tell people that I thought they sucked.)

    I saw Lou Reed in his bleached blond rock&roll animal phase.

    I saw Beefheart play three times.

    But enough about me….

  82. Jesus!!!!!!!!!!!! You are one lucky son of a gun!!!!!! That said, I’d love for you to throw fuel on the fire and explain why you thought the MC5, Stooges, and Alice Cooper show sucked!

  83. BigSteve

    I wish I could see that show with the eyes and ears I have now. I’m not sure why my friends and I decided to go see that show, because this was 1970, and I was still into hippie music. I think part of the problem was that New Orleans is a seaport, which means that heroin is plentiful. The MC5 were sloppy and degenerate. I didn’t hear their albums until years later, and they seem vastly overrated to me. Here’s a photo (not taken by me) of Wayne Kramer playing a Dan Armstrong that night:

    Iggy was barely sentient that night. He would collapse in a motionless heap after every song. Now I can get into the Stooges brand of minimalism, but back then only people on downers liked them.

    Alice Cooper played last, though I’m not sure why. This was shortly before they had a hit with I’m Eighteen. They were probably the most professional performers of the evening, At this stage Alice was still doing some genderfuck stuff which probably freaked me the fuck out.

    The only thing I really remember is that they had big fans onstage, and at the climax of their set he cut open pillows and let the feathers blow all over everything.

  84. Jesus!!!! What was the venue?

  85. BigSteve

    It was a place called the Warehouse, and that’s exactly what it was, a warehouse near the riverfront. They had just put some carpet remnants on the floor, and there was a raised stage at one end. No air-conditioning, which made summer shows pretty brutal. I saw many shows there. I may be the only person who was at the first show (the aforementioned Grateful Dead/Fleetwood Mac show January 30 1970) and the last show before it closed, Talking Heads in September 1982. The building was torn down a while back, and the Warehouse District is now the hip part of town with art galleries and condos.

  86. So it must have been relatively small? How old were you when you saw that show?

  87. BigSteve

    Google says seating capacity was 3500. I would have been 17 at the time of the Stooges show. It was September, so starting my senior year of high school.

  88. Jesus!!!! Next time I decide to tear into you, remind me that you were at a MC5 / Stooges / Alice Cooper show while I was having a panic attack in bed, worrying about my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Schwartz, belittling me again because I woudn’t drink my milk!

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube