Friday, November 14, 2014

40 Year Itch : Toujours. L'Amour, Toujours

    No discussion of Country Life can be complete without talking about the cover of Roxy Music's fourth album, released November 15, 1974. So, let's just begin there. Depicted are two German fans, Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald, wearing little in the way of clothes and placing their hands and fingers in suggestive places. Bryan Ferry met them in Portugal and even got their help with some German lyrics for "Bitter-Sweet". They were happy to pose topless.

   "I knew that pictures of pretty girls had been used to sell cars, soap and just about everything else," says Bryan Ferry. "So why not rock music?"  

  The album cover probably helped Roxy Music break into the US Top 40, but it presented the Atco label with a headache. Many retailers refuted to stock the album. In response, Atco took out this full page ad in Billboard Magazine:

As the copy says :

   The album cover was banned in Spain and South Africa. Trades refused to reproduce it in ads. Rack jobbers refused to rack it. Stores refused to stock it. Mark Fenwick, Roxy Music's manager, was perplexed. "I don't understand it," he was heard to say, "They love it at home. Why, it's even won a graphics award!"

   The label's first "cop-out" was to offer Country Life with an opaque green shrink wrap. But customers were peeling off the wrap to see what was causing all the fuss. So Atco followed up with the most innocuous cover possible: a shot of some branches.

   The ad describes the tunes on Roxy Music's album as "experimental, far-reaching, progressive. madcap rock'n'roll". The three singles ("Out of the Blue", "All I Want Is You" and "The Thrill of It All"  ) all expand on the erotic themes and art rock sounds of Stranded, leading Rolling Stone to refer to both albums as marking "the zenith of contemporary British art rock".

  Yes, this is one of the essential albums to own from 1974, even if Side Two is a bit of a letdown. It would finish #9 in the NME poll of the year's best albums while the Village Voice's critic's poll of 1975 would rank the album #7.

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