Any excuse to just listen to Roxy Music for the rest of the day. Starting with the incomparable first album, of course. What a powerful introduction, from the winking, gaudy throwback aesthetics to the off-kilter romanticism within. I’ve been listening to this record all my life and I’m still not sure what it’s saying. It may be saying that every love affair is like a suit you step in and out of, and life is a series of impressions to write about. Or it could be saying that glamour is a cheap salve that barely covers your wounds and does nothing to protect your vulnerable heart. You can be walking around bleeding on the inside, but at least you look – and sound – great doing so. Or it may be that there is nothing underneath the lace and velour and the poses you strike are everything you are and all of your feelings are just a performance. It may be all of the above, if you’re truly versed in camp and irony.
More Roxy Music, because Roxy Music is the soundtrack of my life and if you haven’t guessed yet, I spend as much time curating the soundtrack of my life as I do living my life. That’s because life is such that there’s days and weeks destined for the cutting room floor for every moment that ends up in the highlight reel. Music just adds the illusion that there’s something meaningful going, an old trick filmmakers like to rely on. If the music is Roxy Music, I can pretend there’s something glamorous and poetic running through my life.
“I can always pretend that I’ll fall in love again…”
As you all know, I have a real weak spot for Roxy Music. They make me feel like I have feelings! Feelings are gauche, of course, but I enjoy the concept. Of course I love things that are suave and depressing as well. I love the intersection of the sleazy and the poetic. I love when sincerity comes dressed in a suit of ironic detachment. I love a whiff of the Romantic aesthetic. I love romantic downfall. The seductive value of sadness and of sad posturing. Posturing sadly while dressed seductively. I like the idea of seduction as a high-concept game akin to chess, as opposed to a game of shoot-the-ducky.
This should be everyone’s first glimpse of Roxy Music. Being the opening of their first album and of one of their first television performances, for many people, it was. It laid out the Roxy Music mission statement pretty clearly; weirdness as a glamorous pose. Eclecticism and eccentricity weren’t new to rock music, but they certainly needed sexing up. Roxy Music did that. Bryan Ferry in gold brocade, leaving chem-trails of sheer glamour. What a fantasy. That was about the most exciting thing an impressionable child could see, now as in 1972. If you were like me, you knew you had to ditch your life and go live in that world. Or at least invest in some baroque garments. Try queuing up Roxy Music videos when you’re dressing up for the night. You should feel inspired to march out into the underworld armed with nothing but bons mots and glitter.
Do you have a song that you feel helped make you who you are? Because you listened to it when you were 12 and heard your future self? I always listened to this song and thought that that’s how I want to be described someday; a woman who knows what she’s worth and lives to have a really good time. I wanted to be the kind of lady who is spoken of with admiration by melancholy men in suits, very much. In other words, this was my jam growing up. It was aspirational. You can say that Roxy Music helped make me the upstanding person that I am today. My aspirations have always been modest enough, I think, and I think I’ve achieved them well enough, thank you.
There’s a biography of Roxy Music called Unknown Pleasures. I haven’t read it, but I like the title. It sums up the Roxy Music mystique rather nicely. There’s the obvious snob appeal, of course; Roxy Music’s pleasures are not widely known, and that’s its own appeal. Once discovered, though, it’s a rich world of glamour and seduction. Everything about Bryan Ferry, from his bangs to his taste in graphic design, implies a worldliness beyond the ordinary. Perhaps he goes home and eats last week’s leftovers in front of the TV like a normal person, but there’s nothing about him that implies mundane living, and who wants a mundane star? Stars are cheap nowadays precisely because they’ve become so open about the sandwiches in their pantry. Mystique, on the other hand, is in short supply. There really aren’t very many stars who can be imagined living a life of haute couture, private back street cabarets, and Ming vases full of cocaine – and that includes the fashion professionals whose job is to upsell that exact fantasy. I, for one, want that fantasy.
I’ve been listening to this song repeatedly lately, and pretty much in general throughout my life and have always found it very meaningful. If the title doesn’t tip you off, yes, it’s about faith and redemption, which are things Roxy Music fans are in need of after their inflatable pleasures have worn thin. Interestingly enough, when I was younger, I somehow completely missed the religious implications, explicit as they are. The idea of interpreting the lyrics spiritually never occurred to me, heathen as I am. For a very long time, what I heard was not an ode to Jesus, but a homoerotic ode to another man. The lines about trying on his coat and walking in his garden? Homoerotic. The lines about someday making his house your home? Homoerotic, while also possibly angling to subsume a rival man’s identity, Talented Mr. Ripley-style. Now, that’s not entirely a far stretch; the language of religious praise very often overlaps with the language of romance, and if you’ve ever studied art you may have noticed the loving care lavished on Christ’s naked torso in all of those Crucifixion paintings. But I think most faith-based people very strongly prefer not to make that overlap any more explicit, despite the best efforts of lapsed Catholics like Madonna. Meanwhile, in a more specific context, as far as I know, Bryan Ferry is a pretty solid not-gay on the Kinsey scale. But the idea of a vaguely homoerotic obsession and rivalry narrative appeals to me a lot more than one about finding God’s grace. So if you’re making another man’s house your home, it’s because you’ve seduced him and stole his identity, and you’re sliding down to the singles’ bar in a tuxedo of lies.