You can ugly cry about getting over your love, or you can be suave about it. Yesterday we heard Lucinda Williams delivering the kind of breakup song that implies months of whiskey hangovers, unwashed hair, and the ritualized burning of keepsakes. Roxy Music delivers the kind of breakup song that suggests putting on your best leisure suit, cruising to the singles’ bar and possibly a discreet mournful sniffle or two post-rebound sex. Different separations call for different coping mechanisms. All are valid! The long, sordid hangover is not always inevitable; sometimes you can just shake it all off and stroll away with nothing more than a lingering tingle of sadness. A little melancholia just makes you look more cool, right?
If I were you I would stay for a little while / If you were me, would you walk out in style?
The 70’s really were weird. In what other era would the artistic insanity of Roxy Music be able to flower? They remain unquantifiable in style, only nominally under the umbrella of glam rock, as much for their posturing experimentation as their shiny epaulets. There has, since then, developed the Bryan Ferry style, which has hard boundaries and is, sartorially at least, easy enough to emulate. Nobody emulates Roxy Music, because there is no formula for Roxy Music, no constraints, no boundaries, nothing to point to except boundless idiosyncrasy. All you can do is watch and say “wow, that happened.”
It’s a little bit meta, a song about how a song plays a part in a life. Roxy Music have a great number of songs that are smoothly designed to be, quite simply, somebody’s ‘that song’. The song that tugs gently at the heartstrings, that easily soundtracks any moment, that brings back memories and evokes feelings (even feelings you may never have had.) Roxy Music songs are soundtrack songs, and Bryan Ferry knows it. It’s his magic power. For me, this takes me back, when my teenage self felt false nostalgia for romance that I hadn’t yet experienced. As for my adult self, well, now I know that romance is a mirage conjured out of hormones and thin air, and it’s songs like this one that help keep the shimmer on the horizon. Well played, Ferry, you elegant bastard.
Very obviously, this is a song about drug addiction. Which is a thoroughly mundane and unromantic subject. I shouldn’t have to point out that in real life, substance abuse can be life destroying; fatal at worst, best case scenario really bad for your teeth. People continue to fall into it, quite open-eyed, for a wide variety of reasons. ‘Because rock stars make it look glamorous’ is probably not the tippy top factor that motivates people to become alcoholics and junkies, but it’s in there somewhere. I mean, who hasn’t wistfully imagined themselves lying awake all night sweating it out cold turkey style? Point being, this very clearly is a song about just that, but damn, it sounds like the sexiest thing.
What is going on in this video? Setting aside the ill-advised Officer Pornstache outfit, what is wrong with Bryan Ferry’s face? He appears to be displaying the tell-tale lockjaw of someone who just blew a week’s paycheck up his nose. Which looks considerably less attractive than you imagine it does when you’re doing it. But I guess 1975 was that kind of a year for everybody. As for the song, well, I’d say it’s a minor love song, high in eccentricity. I honestly never thought Siren was one of Roxy Music’s greatest albums, though critics seem to have agreed that it’s a classic (for what ‘the critics’ are worth.) Though, of course, every Roxy Music album has cycled in and out of favorite status.
Stop, you’re making my cold heart quiver a little. I don’t believe in grand romantic statements; I find it histrionic. But coming from Bryan Ferry’s lips, the idiotic idea of pining for your ‘only love’ suddenly makes me mushy. I’ll hold off on my well rehearsed rant about how our conceptions of what constitutes ‘romantic’ behavior are harmful and misplaced. Sometimes you just wanna pine and you just wanna get mushy. Sometimes you wanna hold on to the fantasy that you’re only allotted one great love in your life and once it’s slipped through your fingers you’ve nothing left to do but mope on a balcony with a cigarette and a flute of champagne. (My preferred image of romantic moping being Bryan Ferry’s image of romantic moping.) And if you have the mental wherewithal to realize that the fantasy is just that, your mope time can even be enjoyable and therapeutic. One of these days I’ll come up with a great playlist of approved romantic mope music to help you mope in style.
Manifesto doesn’t get all the loving that some other Roxy Music albums get. They can’t all be Avalon, of course (not for lack of trying, though.) But it’s hard to find a group more consistently super than Roxy Music managed to be throughout their relatively short existence. In ten years they never made a dud. Bryan Ferry’s solo output has occasionally drooped a little, but he’s never fallen on his face either, for which I commend him. So being slightly less classic in a pantheon of classics isn’t a terrible thing, and there’s plenty to be discovered among the deep cuts. Manifesto boasted a couple of impeccable singles that heralded the group’s new direction, alongside some weirder tracks that harked back to early days. This one falls somewhere in between. It’s not a super substantial song, but it has atmosphere and romance.