Roxy Music, ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’

Brian Eno

For Lent this year, we at Jukebox Junior are giving up all music that isn’t connected in some way to Brian Eno. To celebrate the Enoxification of our Lord, if you will. I wonder what that involves. A patina of magic dust maybe.

So let’s start at the very beginning (or near enough). After all, as Julie Andrews – another artist capable of doing amazing stuff with just a spoonful of sugar – says, it’s a very good place to start. On For Your Pleasure’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’, Eno stands at the back wearing a feather boa and “playing tapes”. What would ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ be without tapes? It would be an airless piece of prog with a mannered Bryan Ferry vocal. With Eno’s tapes, it’s an an airless piece of prog with a mannered Bryan Ferry vocal and some whooshy phasing (technical term). Genius.

Junior’s not up on sound beds and production jiggery-pokery (she will be by the time we reach Easter), but from the audio alone she detects a man gritting his teeth as he plays guitar. Phil Manzanera’s fretwork is clearly so meaty it’s almost corporeal. She decides there’s “a little too much guitar” and the song is “too quiet” when Ferry dominates. Bring on the tapes then. Examining the inner sleeve, she declares Andy Mackay “the fashion one, the cool one” and points out that Eno “looks like a girl”. We’re on our way.

[8] Roxy Music, ‘Virginia Plain’

Roxy Music

They say there was playground uproar when Bowie appeared on Top Of The Pops, singing ‘Starman’ and snogging Mick Ronson. And obviously our nation was cramped with confusion at Boy George a decade later. So how did the public react when presented with preening peacock Bryan Ferry? Without bothering to research it, we can only guess: “Why’s Mike Yarwood doing Prince Charles doing Liberace?”

Obviously they all looked so staggering on TOTP that I’m thinking of dressing like Phil Manzanera right now, but the music was something else too. A runaway stallion of glam wrecks’n’effects, with a tune you can never quite nail because it’s always one second in the future.

Junior rolled the words “Roxy Music” around her tongue, trying them for size, then asked if she could dance. The dance involved a stiff-backed march around the room. You can just see those boys in the military, can’t you?

[7] Roxy Music, ‘Dance Away’

I saw a BBC 4 documentary about Roxy Music a few months ago, and it was fascinating to see the drift from glam intelligentsia to disco stylists through to smoother-than-silk lounge lizards, and to watch Brian Eno politely distancing himself from everything that came after his pivotal contributions. They were a very different beast by this point – clearly Bryan Ferry’s plaything – and although they’d always led from the front, notionally ahead of prevailing fashions, 1978’s Manifesto album was drenched in disco. Too late? Or an early example of what every other “rock” group was about to do anyway?

No matter whether Roxy were leading or following – ‘Dance Away’ and the more obviously discofied sister single ‘Angel Eyes’ were pure-spun class. I’m not as familiar with the earlier albums as I should be – they’re always on my list for a Fopp splurge – but there’s an effortless freshness to the RM sound that belies its age. ‘Dance Away’ is clearly the work of a craftsman, beautifully arranged, no note wasted etc., and in fabulous couplets like “She’s dressed to kill/And guess who’s dying?” it straddles the pithy/corny line that would become so familiar to Roxy Music in their twilight years.

Their reputation even seems to reach the pre-schoolers, with Junior asserting “I like Loxy Music” when I told her what was going in the tray. I don’t suppose she has much heartache to dance away, but she shook her hips and wrenched her sister’s arms from her sockets as per. “I like it; play it again.”

[11] World Of Twist, ‘Sons Of The Stage’

World Of Twist

World Of Twist were the choice of the cognoscenti during the 90/91 Association Psychedelic Dance-Pop season. A bit of 60s beat group, mixed with Northern Soul and Roxy Music and all manner of swirly things, they were just what the country needed as the Madchester scene began to pall. Of course, the country never realised this.

‘Sons Of The Stage’ was the second single, after 1990’s highly-touted ‘The Storm’. It doesn’t really date, with influences covering 30 years of pop, and still has me bouncing. Junior too. She’d have loved to have seen them live, the stage adorned with bacofoil and various shiny objects, a spinning wheel with a suitable legend daubed upon it and the lightshow a riot of kaleidoscopic colour. It looked really cheap.

As a group of lads near me regaled the singer Tony Ogden with a lusty chorus of “Ogden is a wanker”, I knew they’d made it. For a night, at least.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]