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Course prep, course prep, course prep, exams, grading and the class I'm "substituting" in because who knows why the administration won't pull the trigger on this ever-extending medical leave (back September 5 [no], back October 1 [no], back October 16 which is eight weeks into a 16 week semester, and I'm pretty sure it's not a physical illness either.). The usual sturm-und-drang over WHAT to do and who to play for a music diary, so I'm just going to be self-indulgent here and skirt around disco for another month. The 1970s again, British again, but a group that re-formed around a core of three members for almost each album and until the very end did MUCH better in Britain than they did on this side of the Atlantic. No, this is NOT going to be exhaustive, because who has time?

From the left: Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay

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Yes, this is Roxy Music. I really like a lot of their songs. Rolling Stone has a pretty good biography (it's better than the Amazon page on Roxy Music). They call this "art rock" and accordingly, there's no fan-generated top ten list which, after the David Bowie exercise, is just as well. Roxy Music, in fact, opened for David Bowie at the beginning of its career, but that didn't last long.

Art rock. Intentional high camp may be more like it, especially given Christopher Isherwood's definition of it as

an art of a confident theatricality, not necessarily trivial.
Theatricality! That's what characterizes this music. You'll see what I mean as you listen to it.

And, like the Bowie diary, my five favorite songs, in chronological order.

From the second album, For Your Pleasure, released in March 1973. Yes, that's a saxophone. Yes, in 1973, that's a synthesizer (it came with the saxophone player), and that's the great pioneer of synth pop, Brian Eno, playing it.  This was Eno's last album with Roxy Music; the fallout was over touring (Eno wanted more of it, Ferry and the others didn't). This song also gets covered. Sometimes. Also, camp-o-rama.

Also from For Your Pleasure. As Paul Stump writes in Unknown Pleasures: A Cultural Biography of Roxy Music (1998):

But perhaps Ferry's greatest achievement and arguably his greatest song . . . [this] can be used as an idiot's guide to what Roxy Music were all about.
Fair enough. There's a "drop" at 3:06 that absolutely lifts this to that level.

From the fifth album, Siren, released in October 1975. No, it's NOT the most played song from this album. "Compelling drama," the critics say. It's nicely hyper.

From the sixth album, Manifesto, March 1979. Okay, so it's a little disco-tinged. This was actually released as a disco single. The critics think it works best on the album. I do too.

Finally, from the last album they did as a group, Avalon, May 1982. And yes, this time it's the title song of the album. Here, the critics (and they're mostly British) think the group had burned out when they got around to recording it and that it's all pale imitation of everything that went before. This MAY be because it's the only album that did better on this side of the Atlantic, and, well, what do WE know about this genre (never mind that we invented it)?  I LOVE this. Maybe not as much as, say Do the Strand, but ravishing.

Oh, yes. Influence. HUGE This is what Wikipedia has to say about that:

The English group Madness are among the artists that have cited Roxy Music as an influence and have paid tribute to Bryan Ferry in the song "4BF" (the title is a reference to the song "2HB", itself a tribute to Humphrey Bogart from the first Roxy Music album). Other artists who have claimed Roxy Music as an influence include Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cars, Grace Jones, Kate Bush, Adam Ant, The Human League, Japan, Duran Duran, Simple Minds, ABC, Spandau Ballet, The Fixx, Depeche Mode, Men Without Hats, Nile Rodgers, Annie Lennox, and Morrissey.
Pretty much no Roxy Music, no New Wave. I think I'll stay with the 1970s for a while so I won't be too tempted to make a foray into the 1980s, where my tastes REALLY get obscure. The next music diary I do will be about an album that was released in 1976. By Motown.

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Originally posted to Top Comments on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by An Ear for Music and DKOMA.

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