Paul Fitzpatrick: November 15th 2022, London.
When you go to a gig nowadays to see one of your favourite 70s bands, words you rarely want to hear are…. “and here’s one from the new album folks”.
As a case in point, I went to see the Stones this summer, I’ve seen them a few times and you kinda accept that due to their colossal back-catalogue there’s gonna be some notable omissions.
Which is why, when Mick said here’s a new song I wrote about Lockdown, there was a collective sigh, and that’s how 65,000 of us got lumbered with “Living in a Ghost Town” instead of rocking along to “Brown Sugar” or “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
It wasn’t always the way though – exactly 48 years ago today on Thursday, 15th November, 1974, I sauntered out to the record store in my lunch-hour to purchase Country Life by Roxy Music, on the day of its release.
The reason I couldn’t wait a day longer is because I’d been to see Roxy a few weeks earlier at the Glasgow Apollo and they’d premiered a few songs from their unreleased album, Country Life, that had blown me away and had been swimming around in my head ever since.
Although predominantly an album band, Roxy always had the knack of releasing great singles – “Virginia Plain,” “Pyjamarama”, “Street Life” and “Love is the Drug” to name a few. The lead single from Country Life, “All I Want is You”, was no exception and was another great teaser for the album.
I’d been a Roxy fan since their first appearance on Top of the Pops with “Virginia Plain”. Their Apollo appearances for the Stranded tour the previous year had been talked about as one of the gigs of the year, so I was really looking forward to seeing them live.
The first thing that struck me was the crowd, up till then most gigs I’d attended at the Apollo had been dominated by Rory Gallagher doppelgänger’s, but this was more like a nightclub crowd, plus there was the unmistakable smell of Charlie (the perfume!) and Aramis in the air, as opposed to the usual aura of perspiration and Newkie Brown.
Roxy Music vintage 1974, was an impressive unit.
Apart from the original four of – Ferry, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson, they’d added a couple of Prog Rock stalwarts to their roster – Eddie Jobson to permanently replace Eno and for the live shows ex-King Crimson bassist John Wetton.
On the night, Roxy got the balance just right by playing all the crowd favourites – “Do the Strand”, Editions of You”, “In Every Dream Home”, etc, whilst slipping in a few new tracks from the album.
I remember vividly a sequence of three songs that has set the bar for any gig I’ve been to since.
Bookended by “Mother of Pearl” and “Song for Europe” was a new song that I would later discover was called “Out of the Blue”, it climaxed with a magnificent electric violin solo, played impeccably by Eddie Jobson on his clear plexiglass violin, which for dramatic effect lit up the darkened stage during the solo.
I still get goosebumps when I hear the song and that violin solo.
To show it was no fluke, exactly the same thing happened a year later when I went to see Roxy again, this time they were showcasing songs from their soon to be released album, Siren, which became another record that I had to go out and buy on the day of its release a couple of weeks later.
After Siren, Ferry focused on his solo career for a bit and Roxy Music drifted apart, it was probably smart timing on their part to take a sabbatical during the Punk era although we would learn that the first band Steve Jones & Paul Cook of the Pistols formed, was called ‘The Strand’, in tribute to Roxy Music.
To affirm the connection further, Roxy’s producer, Chris Thomas would go on to produce Never Mind the Bollocks.
Roxy Music reunited in 1979 with a new album Manifesto and this smoother, slicker Roxy sound peaked commercially with Avalon in 1982.
I didn’t mind these albums but they sounded more like Bryan Ferry solo albums than peak 1972-1975 Roxy to me.
I still listen to Country Life and apart from being a good album it maintains Roxy Music’s glorious tradition of featuring glamorous femme fatale’s on the album sleeve.
The story behind the Country Life cover is that Ferry met two girls who were on vacation from Germany in a bar in the Algarve where he had decamped to write lyrics for the album.
Ferry needed some help translating lyrics into German for the song “Bitter Sweet” and Constanze who was the sister of Can’s Michael Karoli and Eveline (Karoli’s girlfriend), not only assisted with the translations but went one better, by also posing on an Algarve beach for the album cover.
Constanze & Eveline, pictured above, 40 years later….
The gig in Glasgow opened with the closing track from Country Life, a song called “Prairie Rose”, which in hindsight was an undeniable love letter to his Texan beau at the time, the model, Jerry Hall.
“Hey, hey, you’re tantalising me“
I always suspected Jerry made a bad call by choosing Jagger over the dashing Bryan Ferry and it has to be said that Mick’s insistence on performing his new Lockdown song instead of “Brown Sugar” only supports my case!
The set list for the gig is below and there’s also a link to an audio recording from YouTube of Roxy in Newcastle on 28/10/74 which was a few days after the Glasgow gig and the final gig of the 74 UK tour….
Prairie Rose / Beauty Queen / Mother Of Pearl / Out Of The Blue / Song For Europe / Three And Nine / If It Takes All Night / In Every Dream Home A Heartache / If There Is Something / All I Want Is You / The Bogus Man / Street Life / Virginia Plain / Editions Of You / Remake Remodel / Do The Strand