Tag Archives: Stranded

October 4th 1975

“Work, as usual, a grin. Played Love is the Drug (new Roxy Single) 17 times and bought it. Holly came around in evening”

Since I last wrote about Roxy Music, they lost one of their major band members (Brian Eno – whatever happened to him eh?) and released a surprisingly top notch post-Eno album entitled “Stranded”

Their sound became a little more ‘traditional’, but thanks to some superior songwriting succeeded in maintaining their credibility. (As soon as Bryan Ferry discovered a need to appeal more to a ‘coffee table’ mentality, the group went completely tits-up IMHO).

“Love is the Drug” was the single that took them from being a fringe pop act to genuine superstar status. It gave them their first real exposure in the USA (the single reaching #30 on the Billboard charts) and cemented their appeal to the rest of the world.

It’s such a jaunty ‘strutting’ song – no wonder I could play it umpteen times in a row without tiring of it?! – which (trivia fans, take note) contains an early example of sampling. The now-familiar footsteps on gravel at the beginning were allegedly nicked from the opening segment of Steven Spielberg’s made-for-TV movie “Duel” where Dennis Weaver’s character walks from his home to his car (The prelude to an exciting chase movie which kickstarted Spielberg’s not inconsiderable career!)

I think “Love is the drug and I need to score” may be one of my very favourite lyrics of all time, although “Dim the lights, you can guess the rest” comes a close second, especially given how Ferry sings the latter with a real filthy smirk in his voice.

In case you can’t remember what it sounds like (or maybe had forgotten Ferry’s “American GI with fake eye patch” fashion faux-pas)…

Every so often I have to stand back from everything that went on in my music retailing career and respect the fact that on many MANY occasions I was responsible for turning the public onto slices of (what subsequently became)  real music history. Today in 1975 was one such time – helping sustain the pop enigma of a band who remain one of Britain’s very finest and most creative … well for those first 4 albums at least.

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January 7th 1974

“Berfday. Got lamp, pygamas, £2 from Mormor – bought Stranded – Roxy – Smart!”

So the wild and crazy out-of-control teenager turns 16 and celebrates with … erm… some pyjamas (mis-spelled), a lamp (a lamp??) and a couple of quid from his Danish grandmother.

However, it seems like I made up for it a little later in the day, treating myself to the merest glimpse of Marilyn Cole’s nipples….erm, I mean Roxy Music’s third album, Stranded

Stranded was the group’s first album without Brian Eno, he and Bryan Ferry having fallen out over who was really ‘leading’ the band. With all due respect to Eno, I do feel as though the ‘better man won’ in that regard. Ferry is a stylish crooner in comparison to Brian’s somewhat grotesque “Addams Family” appearance and thin vocals.

(In time, Eno would turn out to be a MUCH bigger hero of mine than Ferry, but we’ll save my feelings on that until reference to him appears in my diary pages)

To enter the grooves of  Stranded one must first get by the striking cover art. Another Anthony Price photo shoot, another superb piece of glamorous titillation. Despite coming from Portsmouth in England, model Marilyn Cole grew up to be a very attractive woman indeed. She was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in January 1972 (indeed, hers was the first full frontal centrespread to appear in the magazine) as well as Playmate of the Year in 1973.

Although dating Bryan Ferry at the time of the photo shoot (but not by the time of the album’s release), it is alleged she was *ahem* actively pursued by Playboy boss Hugh Hefner but ended up marrying the then head of the organisation’s London operations (and renowned playboy in his own right) Victor Lownes.

 

Lucky blighter that Victor!

No Eno. Jobson!

Back to the album itself, which kicks off with “Street Life“, the only cut released as a single (reaching #9 on the UK Singles chart in November 1973). Moody atmospheric electronics start the track off, before it kicks into overdrive, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the “ghost of Eno” was still amongst the group. His place in the group had been taken by Eddie Jobson, a multi-instrumentalist previously with the band Curved Air. Whilst Jobson’s keyboard noodlings were never as innovative as Eno’s, his contribution to Roxy Music really came to the fore with his ability to play the violin, musically adding a ….erm… whole new string to Ferry’s bow.

“Street Life” is a real swaying cruncher of a song, despite only really having one chorus in the middle, and features Ferry almost growling out his thinly veiled allegorical lyrics. His attack on the media (in light of his new found fame and predilection for stunning female companionship) is palpable:
Hey good-looking boys – gather around
The sidewalk papers gutter-press you down
All those lies can be so unkind,
They can make you feel like you’re losing your mind

It’s a pop song which I feel has fully stood the test of time. Conversely, it’s really the only cut on Stranded which harked back to their previous two albums. I’ll admit that personally I think Roxy Music were a much more interesting act with Eno in the line up. It may be because Brian often managed to quell some of Ferry’s predeliction to overt romanticism, or at least disguise it somehow. On “Stranded” however, Ferry was holding on to the reins all by himself… and did a bloody good job!

Personally I’ve always been of the opinion that the rest of this album and the next two albums (“Country Life” & “Siren”) almost represented a kind of “Roxy Music Mk II”.

As if to prove my point – and to prove that Roxy Mk II could be every bit as good as Mk I – “Just Like You” is the next track. This song never fails to move me. It luxuriates in its own languid gorgeousness, Ferry’s crooning beyond reproach. The lyrics are a little bit “moon in june”-ish but he believes every single line and sings them with such conviction its impossible to criticise.

Just when Ferry has lulled you into a soporific state of mind, along comes the somewhat bizarre “Amazona“. It goes off on so many tangents, lilting and tilting here there and everywhere before almost settling on a driving rhythm at the 3-minute mark, then scaring you again with the world highest-pitched guitar solo from co-writer Phil Manzanera. An odd song, but a brilliant one.

Psalm“, closing Side 1 is alleged to be the first song Ferry ever wrote for Roxy Music back in the band’s formative stage. It starts with what sounds like a church organ overlaid with Ferry’s vocals. Slowly, drums, guitar, oboe, violin and a (real? electronic?) choir all contribute to what appears to be some kind of tribute to a multitude of different religions. The song is written – and Ferry sings it – in such a manner that it sounds like a traditional composition from the 40’s or 50’s (surely his intent?), his voice now starting to more regularly display that strange vibrato he does so well.

Side 2 opener is “Serenade“, probably my least favourite cut of the eight. The rhythm feels all wrong to me – always has – and I think the guitar solo halfway through is the only thing that vaguely redeems it.

Where “Serenade” fails, the next two cuts more than make up. “A Song for Europe” is, quite simply, a majestic work of art. Ferry’s immaculate phrasing underscored perfectly by the accompanying musicianship. The simple bass riff at the 3:24 minute mark sets up Mackay’s sax which then does battle with Ferry singing in a variety of tongues – I think it’s Latin, French and Italian? Somewhat weirdly, I often find myself muttering Ferry’s (somewhat awful) pun halfway through the number, where he alludes to Venice with “and the bridge… it sighs”

If that wasn’t enough, it’s followed by “Mother of Pearl” one of my favourite ever ‘corkers’ by Roxy Music, indeed it would almost certainly be one of my ‘Desert Island Discs‘ if I were ever invited on to the programme. Ferry’s lyrics are 100% top notch from start to finish, even if I’ve never really been certain what he’s banging on about. For me it’s just one of those songs that sounds right, if that makes sense?

Sunset” closes an almost perfect album, perfectly. It’s an ode to death, but it could just as easily be referring to the end of a lovely summer’s day. One word: GORGEOUS!

Is “Stranded” Roxy’s best album? Depends who you talk to. For me, it’s certainly the best of their output from this era, although there are cuts from both “For Your Pleasure” and “Country Life” I wish were on it too, just to selfishly make it 100% perfect.

I do think that, in 1974, I was in a weird minority of music fans. I knew lots of people at school who liked Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Roxy Music, but rarely both. It was almost as if everybody had to fit into one camp or the other. Likewise there seemed to be ‘rivalry’ between ELP and Yes fans, T.Rex & Slade fans, even Roxy Music and Bowie fans.

Me? I was just into it all.

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April 14th 1973

“Work all day. Broke bottles. Went up Nigs in evng – listened to For Your Pleasure – Brilliant!”

Broke bottles? What does that mean? Does it mean that I maybe knocked some bottles off a shelf and broke them, or did my work today involve breaking down bottles, maybe to recycle them? (Unlikely it’s the latter as the concept of recycling didn’t really exist in 1973 – which, retrospectively, is obviously a crying shame)

So, tonight I heard Roxy Music‘s “For Your Pleasure” for the first time eh?

Remember me saying how Roxy’s debut album felt like nothing I’d ever heard before? The band’s second album did just that all over again. It even felt a departure from their first album without actually losing that intrinsic (certainly in the 70’s) Roxy ‘sound’

It’s almost impossible to start discussing this album without first commenting on the album sleeve. Like the band’s debut this was a glossy gatefold affair, the front a stylish shot (by photographer Karl Stoecker) of fashion model Amanda Lear. She is dressed in a tight black leather outfit, complete with stilleto heels and a pill box hat, and appears to be (for whatever reason) taking a black leopard for a walk along a rain-drenched urban street.

Folding out the sleeve reveals the picture continues across the back cover, where we see a waiting limo (I always used to think the limo’s interior would get really ruined if that leopard was allowed in it!).

For me, the sleeve’s stylish attitude feels somewhat undermined when you look at the limo driver, stood in the car’s doorway staring at Amanda with a smirk on his face. It’s none other than Bryan Ferry himself, doubtless grinning at all his fans because – at the time – he was dating her in real life. (Since this photo was taken of course, Ferry’s love life has become the subject of many a tabloid rumour)

When you opened up the sleeve, you saw this….

Do they look like bonafide pop stars or what? Nig, Mal and I investigated every little detail of this photo… from the fact that three of the band appear to be left-handed, via Brian Eno’s ludicrous ostrich feathers and all the way to Andy MacKay’s shiny silver pumps.

If the sleeve didn’t draw you in, then the musical contents did.

Opening with a flourish, “Do the Strand” (a hit single in its own right… but not until 1978!) sets the tone of this album immediately.
There’s a new Sensation,
A fabulous creation,
A danceable solution
To teenage revolution

is a killer collection of lyrics IMHO. It doesn’t let up either, as Ferry tries to persuade the entire world to to give up the ‘old’ dance crazes (“Tired of the tango, fed up with fandango“) and instead opt for “Strand Power” (or if you’re Russian, “the Strandsky“). That opening piano riff is as timeless now as it was exciting and original in 1973.

Vibrato piano and Ferry’s mangled vocal style both run right through “Beauty Queen“, the lyrics of which allegedly refer to one of the singer’s ex-girlfriends, Valerie Leon, a movie & TV actress who, like Ferry, was born in Newcastle.

(That’s “Carry On” star, Bond ‘chick’  – OK, and the Hai Karate Girl – Ms. Leon over on the right in that early promotional photo…. maybe pre-empting the “For Your Pleasure” cover by a few years?)

Strictly Confidential” finds a very mournful Ferry penning a pre-death letter to a long-lost lover. It’s almost deliberately dirge-like in its construction, Ferry’s vocals stretched, strained and pained. MacKay’s oboe punctures the gloom, as does Paul Thompson’s light staccato drumming. The only real upbeat moment of the piece comes right at the end with the lyric “There is no light here, is there no key? “, which presumably marks the passing of the song’s doom-laden protagonist.

Editions of You” should have been a single in its own right. It’s such an infectious heavy rock’n’roll song, riddled with catchphrase lyrics and some damn fine solo work from all the members of the band. MacKay, especially, gives a virtuoso sax performance, whilst Eno suitably hams it up on his ‘electronics’.

For most people, the mind-blowing “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” – which closes Side 1 – is perhaps archetypal seventies Roxy.

The first time I heard this song – even before I realised what it was about – I was in awe of the way it just sounded. Then when you get into the lyrical content – a blow-up sex doll – it takes on a whole new meaning. The song’s real panache is the break at around the three-minute mark. It stops being what is essentially a spoken word piece and – with Ferry’s eerie “but you blew my mind” lyric – descends into pure theatrical rock & roll with all the band’s instruments vying for attention. If anything, this cut was a pre-cursor to the material Brian Eno gave the world when he went solo. Structured, but strangely unstructured all at the same time. Yes, that may not make sense to anyone but me!

(Please be warned that later/live versions of “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” very much pale into insignificance compared to the album original)

Side 2 of “For Your Pleasure” features just three cuts.

The opener is a 9+ minute sheer magnificence of a song.

The Bogus Man” stutters and shudders its way through a child’s scary nightmare. Its repetitive structure with the thrown-in clicks and noises now feels similar – to me – to material found much later on David Bowie’s “Low“… an album produced by Brian Eno.

Indeed, when “For Your Pleasure” was released Eno stated that he thought “The Bogus Man” reminded him of music by famed electronic krautrock pioneers Can. At the time I would not have known what the hell he was talking about. It would be a few years yet before I could personally appreciate the electronic noodlings of bands such as Can, Neu!, Faust and Kraftwerk.

The Bogus Man ends with Ferry giving a great big sigh before he goes straight into “Grey Lagoons” which initially presents itself as an atypical good-time rock ballad, complete with vintage-sounding sax work, guitar riffing and some oh-so-tight drumming. Then – like other songs on the album – it seems to kick it up a notch and becomes a different kind of beast, drenched in electronically-generated sounds before resorting, once again, to a feeling of “normality”

The album’s title track closes proceedings. “For Your Pleasure“, despite being written by Bryan Ferry, feels very much like an Eno track from start to finish.

The electronic interludes, the drifting drum sounds, the multi-tracked background (“ta-ra”) vocals and the enhanced piano are all elements Eno would keep coming back to in his later solo work.

I’ll always remember that the distorted end of the cut played havoc with bass speakers everywhere – their inability to deal with the sonics only adding to the distortion.

Trivia buffs may like to know that the female voice muttering “don’t ask why” just before the fade out is none other than Dame Judi Dench!

As regular readers will respect, there are few things I truly, truly remember from these early 70’s. Listening to “For Your Pleasure” for the first time however IS something I can recall.

Maybe it’s because I felt more connected to the band having seen them just a few nights earlier, but I’d rather believe it’s because the album impressed me so immediately and so positively. I remember Nig, Mal & me listening to it over and over – and over – again. I remember loving “Do the Strand” with its clever lyrics, I remember hearing that break in “In Every Home…” for the first time just as much as the human sigh at the finish of “The Bogus Man”.

I remember us looking diligently at the sleeve wondering if the band looked cool or not, eventually deciding “yes, cool”. I remember wanting fancy gold boots like Ferry’s and a white jumpsuit like Mackay’s. Most of all I remember wanting to own the album myself. How long would it take me?!

The thing is – this was just the first of two Roxy Music albums released in 1973. 

Although “For Your Pleasure” was the final album to feature the considerable talents of Brian Eno, it would be the third album – Stranded – that would always prove to be my absolute Roxy favourite… but more about that when it comes out eh?!

I’ll say the same as I said about the debut album; that Roxy Music seemed just so very different to us at the time. So unique. Sure they wore their pop sensibilities on their collective sleeves, but they seemed to wear them almost as an excuse for something that was much more interesting and important. Especially – but not limited to – when Eno was with the band.

In retrospect I always feel it a bit of shame that they got pigeonholed along with the multitude of “glam rock” acts that were emerging around this time. OK, so the clothes the band wore didn’t help matters in that regard, but I always felt they were several miles above the rest (Bowie excluded) in terms of talent and originality.

To paraphrase a remark from a book I am currently reading (about Captain Beefheart) ‘they’ say that whilst most of the time you find the music you want, every so often the music you want finds you. In 1973, I truly believe that Roxy Music found me.

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