May 052009

Roxy Music‘s “Love Is the Drug” was tough, stylish treat on the radio when I was growing up. It wasn’t a smash hit on Philadelphia radio in my middle school days, but it would come on now and then and fit right in with the ’70s soul and downbeat-heavy rock that I sought out as hormones raged. Later in the ’70s, I’d dig rare FM radio spins of songs like “Over You” and “Manifesto.” As bad as commercial rock radio was becoming by that time, playlists still allowed for some “play,” some experimentation. Those chart-scraping Roxy Music singles occupied a similar place in my heart with other slightly dark, soulful not-quite-hits, like J. Geils Band‘s “One Last Kiss.” Some day I need to gather all those last-gasp, blue-eyed rockin’ soul numbers of the late-70s on one mix CD.

I never got around to buying an actual Roxy Music album (or a J. Geils Band album, for that matter) while in high school. The little bit of Roxy Music I was familiar with had qualities I liked, but it required more patience than I could muster. Compared with David Bowie‘s “Young Americans,” a TSOP-influenced song that continues to excite me in an immediately gratifying way from beginning to end to this day, the super-cool “Love Is the Drug” was much more…cool. And I wasn’t that cool.

It wasn’t until freshman year in college that I first heard the mind-blowing early Roxy Music I’d only read about in magazines and books. An older friend and mentor plied me with some of the tools for deeper understanding before throwing the band’s first album on his Bang & Olufsen turntable and and CRANKING UP his super-hi-fi system. I must have been grinning and rocking back like Danny DeVito’s Martini from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
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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.
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May 042008

What is it that allows me to like Bryan Ferry‘s unleashed solo side almost as much as I do Roxy Music? And that would be a lot. Compared with my general anti-camp stance on rock, my longtime enjoyment of Roxy Music and solo Bryan Ferry (up to a point – his solo albums past the band’s breakup circa 1982 are of no interest to me – and maybe this is significant) surprises me and makes me question myself.

Here’s a song and performance that encapsulates much of what I love about Roxy Music: The Power and Glory of Rock, the introspection, the self-effacing humor, the strong rhythm section…

The clip also features Ferry wearing clothes and a mustache that I have found off putting on artists like Bowie and that Sparks guy. Why don’t I simply want to give this guy a wedgie and possibly turn my ears off to his supposedly great music, as I’ve done with some of his contemporaries?

  • Did the work of early Roxy Music buy him (and what the band would become) a free pass?
  • Is it the fact that he seems to have a sense of humor about his persona?
  • Is it the fact that the rhythm section is both tough and fluid?

In short, why do I dig Ferry but recoil at similar impulses in the music and performance of David Bowie and other ’70s camp-rockers?

Feb 082008

I’ve been everywhere, man.

At the risk of having this large chunk of rock stride the pond and pummel me with his Flying V, I can’t help but think of Chris Spedding as “The Forest Gump of Rock.”

It seems unflattering, but I really don’t intend it that way. I’m not thinking of him as a borderline short-busser with high-water slacks. I’m thinking of him as a dude who has participated in an AMAZING amount of rock history and yet, other than weirdos like us, he’s fairly unknown. (At least in the US of A.)

“It will be a cold day in hell before you get me to work with Zwol!”

Chris Spedding, “Motorbikin'”

I first read his name in college as I became enamored with Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets and saw his name on the back as playing on “Needle in the Camel’s Eye” and the “Paw Paw Negro Blow Torch”. I had no idea then and not much more of one until recently that this guy has done a wee bit more than that.

Early on Spedding, with his band Battered Ornaments, played THE Hyde Park concert in 1969 that featured the debut of the Brian Jones-less Rolling Stones. Bridge that with being the producer on The Sex Pistols demos and you start to get an idea of the breadth of experience here.

He has worked with so many amazing people that I’ll only list one for each letter of the alphabet (except x, y & z): Laurie Anderson, Ginger Baker, John Cale, Donovan, Drifters, David Essex, Bryan Ferry, Art Garfunkle, Nicky Hopkins, Kris Ife, Elton John, Dave Kubinec (featuring fifth Rutle Ollie Halsall), John Lodge, Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Pretenders, Dee Dee Ramone, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Thunders, Vibrators, Tom Waits.

His story is pretty damn cool and there’s some great stuff on his website and a 2006 biography, aptly titled Reluctant Guitar Hero, so I won’t belabor it. Rather I’ll just let the man speak for himself as he responds to our questions.

Mar 012007

Excerpted from a press release…I wonder if Dylan even knows who Bryan Ferry is. I’ve always been a big fan of the above cover.

Capitol Music Plans June 19, 2007 U.S. Release

NEW YORK – Fulfilling a long-held dream, BRYAN FERRY will release a full album of classic songs written by Bob Dylan in early spring. The album, titled DYLANESQUE, is scheduled for release on Capitol Music Group on June 19, 2007.
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