Saturday, June 16, 2012

40 Year Itch : Remake and Remodel


With their debut album, released June 16, 1972, Roxy Music set out to re-make and re-model rock and roll. The new sound deconstructs fifties rock, adds electronic bleeps and blitzkriegs courtesy of a synthesizer playing Brian Eno ( who looked like a "balding, long-haired eunuch" to critic Robert Christgau), features the hyperactive saxophone sounds of Andy Mackay and stars the quavering  vocals of the lovelorn front man, former art student Bryan Ferry.

40 years later, I still have a problem enjoying this album as a whole but New Musical Express writer Tony Tyler predicted this was the start of something big:

Already awesome and potentially breathtaking...Roxy Music, Roxy Music Roxy Music. Remember where you heard it first.

Originally a non-LP single, "Virginia Plain" peaked at #4 in the UK charts and helped propel the debut album to #10. Although the song was included on US albums, Roxy's debut flopped in America.

Produced by King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield, the album begins with 25 seconds of party sounds before launching into the stomping "Re-Make/Re-Model". The chant "CPL 593H" is the licence plate of Ferry's old car, a blue 1970 Mini Clubman in which he saw a beautiful woman driving. Everyone gets a solo. Eno makes strange sounds on his synthesizer while bass player Graham Simpson quotes The Beatles' "Day Tripper".

For "Ladytron", Eno and Mackey team up to follow Ferry's instructions to make a sound "like the moon". Eno recently said the only instrument he ever learned how to play was a player piano in the house in which he grew up. His desire for amateur improvisation would soon clash with Ferry's desire for structured sophistication.

If only the entire album were this good. Roxy was still in search of the sound that would produce such classics as Country Life, Stranded and Siren. But the debut would be a major influence on punk and new wave music and a lot of what has followed since then.

Roxy's debut also introduced the first in a series of beautiful models posing for their album covers. In this case the model is Kari Ann Muller who would later marry Mick Jagger's brother, Chris. Mick would have a long term relationship ( and four kids) with Siren's cover model Jerry Hall after stealing her away from Ferry.

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