Bryan Ferry knows one fundamental truth: everything in life is more beautiful when it’s on the banks of the Seine. Ferry grew up in a small mining town in the north of England, where his father cared for pit ponies. Which put young Bryan as far from the sophistication of Paris cafes as a kid growing up in Appalachia. So, although he jetted his way to the top of the class pyramid without leaving a trace of Northern yokel about himself, there’s always a touch of the outsider’s wistfulness about him. The fascination with luxury and glamour, the slight sense of irony in the way he occupies those spaces. It takes an outsider to understand that even the bad times are a savory delight when you’re having them someplace nice.
Whatever she’s selling, it ain’t seashells, though if you bought the album you can’t be blamed for expecting something nautical from the looks of Jerry Hall on the cover. Bryan Ferry’s wordplay, meanwhile, is pure beat poetry. An indictment of our modern life, circa 1975? Yes, but sexy. She sells you your fantasies of yourself, and herself on the side, and you’re buying it. You’re a consummate consumer and you need it.
Even after a lifetime of listening to Roxy Music, I still haven’t caught all of Bryan Ferry’s wordplay. I just had to look up what clair de lune was. It’s French for moonlight. Somehow I always just accepted that there would be random French phrases in these songs and I would never know what they meant. Well, now we have Google Translate, sapping the mystery and romance out of life. It’ll take you more than a translating dictionary bot to wring some sense out of these lyrics, though. It’s about love and uncertainty and gazing wistfully up at your loved one’s gently glowing windows (which is nowadays called ‘stalking’.)
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.