Aug 162008

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?


  15 Responses to “Support Group Music”

  1. I went through a divorce in 2001. Terrible time. 2001 sucked on many levels. Lost my wife. 9/11. Then we lost George Harrison. How shitty is that? Those are just the highlights for me. I’m sure there’s more.

    Anyway, this may sound pretty typical, but I found extreme comfort in those post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys’ albums. Particularly Friends, Sunflower, Surf’s Up, Holland, and Carl and the Passions. I don’t what it was, but I suppose I was feeling that spiritual love Brian was reaching for. Or maybe I was buying into the hype. Words cannot describe what that music has meant to me during those troubled times.

    That was my Support Group music for 2001. This is why, if I ever meet Brian, I’d probably just gush about how much I love him. Like everybody else.


  2. A lot of music has played this role for me in various times and places, but finding much that fits this bill that in other circumstances I wouldn’t like so much is tricky. Still, I have an answer: Linda Ronstadt, Heart Like a Wheel and Greatest Hits Vol 1. Under most circumstances I find her vocal delivery too melodramatic and the backing music just a little too canned and restrained, but there was a period of time where that was outweighed by the way her songs express the determination to get over something and get on with living. You gotta feel the melodrama and I was feeling it.

  3. BigSteve

    I don’t have much experience in matters of the heart. The times I’ve been through the ringer, I’ve found that pretty much everything makes me think of what I’m going through, from the corniest song I’d hear on the radio to the stupidest TV show. Not only make me think about it, but appear relevant to the situation, which only makes me feel worse.

    For insight into those situations, nobody beats Jackson Browne. But the fact is that, when I’m in the middle of it, I don’t want insight. I have to get outside the problem to keep from getting swallowed up by it. For that nothing beats Captain Beefheart, the one kind of music that won’t remind me of anything else but itself.

    And most recently those mid 70s Miles Davis live albums, which are pure blasts of noisy anomie, served the function of assuring me of the reality of a world distinct from my problems, even if it wasn’t a pretty one. Somehow that end of the world soundscape where love didn’t even seem possible gave me peace and a place to stay until I could piece myself together again.

  4. BigSteve

    Fascinating Roxy clip. Unfortunately Phil doesn’t seem to have his good stuff working during the solo. The rhythm parts are groovy. Love the Firebird. Such a very strange song. After having written the previous post, this strikes me also as representing a world so divorced from my reality that it could function as a haven, probably did, since when those early Roxy records were current I had no idea who I was.

    Most of the time I had no clue what Ferry was singing about. I still at a loss as to what he’s on about here. Amazona? Roxy to me was always about the sound. It still baffles me that I didn’t let their Look, and the emphasis on it, drive me away from their records.

    Btw I’m just finishing up the book Re-make/Re-model: Becoming Roxy Music by Michael Bracewell. It’s a pre-history of the band. The first two-thirds are about the various art schools they went to and the networks that developed between them, and now I’m at the point where everybody is in London, and it’s all about the fashion world. The book will end right when the band starts in earnest. I recommend it to anyone with more than a casual interest in Roxy Music.

    A band that was so focused on Look and image is such an unlikely obsession for me. But in the early to mid 70s I listened to them (and Eno and Lou Reed and John Cale) as much as Dylan and the Dead. I was a mess.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    I got kicked in the teeth pretty hard six or seven years ago. I’m like BigSteve in that I don’t like associating music with events like that — so I tend to use music to dissociate with the misery. Break out the AC/DC! Nevertheless, there were albums that came out around this time that couldn’t help but provide soundtracks for self-pity and belly-button staring, and most were ruined for me as a result. Two exceptions: “Painted From Memory” by Burt and Elvis, which I still “enjoy” for all the reasons the composers meant me to — and “Only the Lonely” by Frank Sinatra. Two albums about getting dumped that served their purpose well.

    A few albums were ruined by that relationship, in that they were “our” favorite CDs — but that’s a different thing altogether. It’s a shame I don’t think I could ever listen to my favorite Tom Petty album again (“Wildflower”).


  6. saturnismine

    I RE-discovered Neil Young around the time I was breaking up with my college sweetheart.

    I practically ruined my copy of “Decade” duriing that period.

    “Winterlong” was good for those times when I still couldn’t face the fact that it was over. It was just nice to know that other people (someone as brilliant as Neil Young at that) had been there.

    “Star of Bethlehem,” in particular the last line, helped me face the reality that this girl wasn’t who I thought she was.

    Lines in other songs were also a help: even though “for the turnstiles” was about something else, hearing a really wrecked sounding Neil sing “though you confidence maaay beee SHATTERED…it doesn’t MATTER” really helped me alot.

    “Walk On” was the one that really helped me get OUT of that funk, though.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Good to hear about your Support Group records. I probably set up expectations for support over a breakup, but there may be Support Group records for other occasions, such as the support needed to not face an unfaceable emotional crisis, as BigSteve and HVB referred to. Good stuff. I’m especially intrigued by the Support Group records that surprise you, such as the support Rondstadt provided Mwall.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Oh, and BigSteve, you’re right, Manzanera was off on his solo. I, too, have no idea what that song is about.

  9. 2000 Man

    That was a great Roxy clip! I really enjoyed that and have been recently digging them all over again for some reason. They were a band I could really get behind when I was a kid, and I even thought Manifesto was a really cool album.

    These days for wallowing in my own misery, I like Paul Westerberg or Lucero or any number of guys that agree with me. It’s not my fault – she doesn’t get it and that’s all there is to it. I like that kind of music.

  10. BigSteve

    Speaking of Manifesto, let me see if anyone in this group knows what I’m talking about. Apparently the American version of the album had a completely different version of the song Angel Eyes than the British version. On the American album, which I no longer have, Angel Eyes is a majestic rocker, while on the British version it has a cheesy trash-disco vibe. Unfortunately the current CD version of the album has only the disco version of that song. If anyone has the rock version and can send me an mp3 or otherwise point me to to where that might be available, I would be eternally grateful.

  11. 2000 Man

    I never heard that, BigSteve. I’ve got the US album, but it’s on vinyl and I haven’t got a turntable hooked up to the PC. I remember it well enough, I think. Can you post the disco version?

  12. Mr. Moderator

    Wow, I don’t remember different versions. I only recall the US version, which I now cannot place in my collection.

  13. I have Manifesto on CD (the Virgin Records reissue from around 2000 or s0), and that has the rock version of “Angel Eyes.” The disco one is generally on every Roxy best-of I come across. I always assumed it was the single version. I actually like both versions, while slightly preferring the rock one.

  14. diskojoe

    I had a “heartpunch” several years ago after being rejected by someone I was trying to connect with & I spent a summer listening to nothing but the White Stripes, the Velvet Underground, the early Modern Lovers & the Stooges while avoiding the Hollies, the Left Banke & other “sunshine pop” of the 60s that the other party liked. Eventually, I discovered videos like these on YouTube, which have also been a comfort:

  15. Mr. Moderator

    Talk about your RTH archives, Diskojoe, if you haven’t come across it yet, you should check out the piece The Great 48 did on Hardy. Very cool.

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