I came across this Holy Grail – for me – of a YouTube clip today.
I’ve long been in awe of the elements that went into the funky space-rock of “Amazona”, from my favorite Roxy Music album, Stranded: Manzanera’s cool rhythm guitar part and otherwordly (especially on the album) solo, Ferry’s humorous delivery, and Paul Thompson’s rock-solid drumming, in particular. The song, like the best of early Roxy Music, both tickles my sense of psychic unrest and makes me laugh thanks to a tongue-in-cheek tone that extends from Ferry’s lyrics and vocals through the musical arrangements. (Phil Manzanera, on the first few Roxy Music albums and his appearances on Eno albums, is rock’s funniest guitarist.)
The first song I remember hearing by Roxy Music was “Love Is the Drug”, which was a hit just as I was entering my teen years and getting a sense of what needs I might have that this drug might fulfill. That song was easy to like thanks to its tight, funky/reggae groove and sly vocals. I may not have heard much by Roxy Music for the next few years, excepting a minor hit single from one of those later ’70s albums like Manifesto, until freshman year in college, when a friend/”spiritual advisor” turned me on to the first Roxy Music album. That album went down real easy – and still does to this day.
This was just around the time, I’m sorry to say, that I finally got to sample that love drug, if you know what I’m saying. By the end of freshman year I was in love with an actual girl that I could, you know, grope. Powerful stuff, for a first-time user. I hope you’ve all had a chance to experience this drug in multiple formulations.
A year later, this tremendous wave of love had subsided – on her part – and I was in need of serious Support Group Music. My Beatles collection came in handy, with all sorts of Support Group songs about heartbreak, pride, and betrayal. Lou Reed was good for supporting the really nasty, bitter stuff, with songs like “Sad Song”. There was a period of a couple of months, I’m really sorry to admit, when we’d talk, I’d send her mix tapes of all these sad, bitter, and “you’ll be sorry”-themed songs and she’d send me a mix tape of her idea of “healing” songs: “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Can We Still Be Friends”… I didn’t want to hear Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends” – that was her Support Group record to spin!
Sadly, but necessarily, this was how I spent too much of my 1982. I’m a better person for 1982, but beside befriending The Back Office there’s not much left from that year that I didn’t burn through. By this point in ’82, a year after first being blown away by the first album, I’d bought all the Roxy Music albums, still favoring the first three, as I do to this date. That year the band released a new album, Avalon, and I was all over that. If memory serves, the band announced a farewell tour at same time, and I saw them play the big arena in Chicago shortly thereafter. It was a great show. The album meant a lot to me at the time.
I heard one of those songs this morning, “The Space Between”, for the first time in ages. I still pull out Avalon and spin the beautiful “More Than This” once or twice a year, but the early ’80s sheen of that album, signifying the beginning of the post-1981 rock ‘n roll apocalypse that Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely also acknowledges, is hard to bear. I knew the production was wrong back then – that’s how well developed my tastes were – but the album’s role in my personal Support Group made it worthwhile. When I heard “The Space Between” this morning, although I initially cringed at all the things I dislike about the production, I soon enjoyed it, as I did all those years ago.
What’s significant about Support Group music at a given time in life is that it helps in the processing of new, unusual, or otherwise difficult emotions. Without the emotional stuff I was going through in the early ’80s, I may have rejected the last couple of Roxy Music albums out of hand – or I might have lumped the band in with David Bowie, unable to embrace them although I loved a number of their songs. Once Roxy Music helped me through those trying times, however, providing me a protective coat of world-weariness, sophistication, and gallows humor, they became special beyond any aesthetic flaws I might have normally used to keep them at arm’s length. They became part of my Support Group.
Have you ever had Support Group records that you may not otherwise have found comforting?