Friday, 1 June 2018

Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure (1973)

There's a new sensation....


Released March 1973

Recorded at Air Studios, London

Running time 42:16

Roxy Music's second album, released in early 1973, ironed out just a few of the rough edges of their otherwise stunning debut album with this, another offering of experimental, innovative "art rock" meets fifties rock'n'roll meets glam. It was the last to feature synthesiser and sound specialist Brian Eno. There were increasing tensions in the studio between the innovative Eno and the more poppier instincts of Bryan Ferry and this is clear in the contracting material the album. It led to the departure of Eno four months after the album's release.

1. Do The Strand
2. Beauty Queen
3. Strictly Confidential
4. Editions Of You
5. In Every Dream Home A Heartache
6. The Bogus Man
7. Grey Lagoons
8. For Your Pleasure                                                    
There are three great "glam", typically Ferry upbeat tracks to be found in the thumping, lyrically oddball Do The Strand, the frantic, swirling Editions Of You and the Andy Mackay (saxophone) dominated Grey Lagoons. The first two appeared as a US double "A" side single. Surely it would have been a huge hit if released in the UK. Instead, we had the quirky, somewhat short Pyjamarama* which charted but not as high as I am sure Do The Strand or Editions Of You would have. All these tracks follow in the footsteps of Roxy’s first, ground- breaking huge hit, Virginia Plain - they are lively, catchy, lyrically bewildering and fully representative of the glammy art rock that Roxy burst upon the scene with in 1972-73. There had certainly been nothing like this before.

Beauty Queen and Strictly Confidential are quintessential Ferry slow, intoxicating numbers that eat into your consciousness, as indeed does the extended, insistent and at times almost funky The Bogus Man. Apparently about a sexual stalker, Eno has since said he was influenced on this track’s creation by the krautrockband, Can. The song's lengthy, minimalist sound was very representative of the sort of material that Eno was coming up with at the time.

For Your Pleasure is also in the same vein - a somewhat bizarre lengthy fade out to the album which has served well as a live show closer, with band members departing one by one. It is dominated by Eno’s messing around with tape loops which, on this track, goes on a few minutes too long, to be honest. It is probably here that the differences between Ferry and Eno occurred because Roxy certainly didn't subsequently record anything like these two tracks. 

Then there is the monumental, now iconic In Every Dream Home A Heartache, Ferry's love song to an inflatable sex toy. How did he get away with that in those days? “I blew up your body - but you blew my mind”. The track is also notable for Phil Manzanera's blistering guitar solo at the song's climax, having built up to it with Ferry's slow, evocative and insistent verses. The track is chock full of mystery and atmosphere. 

Personally, I prefer Stranded, but this is right up there as a example of Roxy Music's best work. It was a perplexing, beguiling and challenging album in all ways - musically, lyrically and stylistically. Indeed, at the time, American rock critic Paul Gambaccini stated that that "the bulk of “For Your Pleasure”  is either above us, beneath us, or on another plane altogether." Quite. Roxy Music at this time really were quite unique. 


*The non-album single from this period and its 'b' side were:-

Pyjamarama was a most quirky and oddball follow-up to the hugely successful debut single, Virginia Plain. It has no obvious verse/chorus structure, just a few lines of lyrics in between some typically adventurous saxophone/guitar/drum instrumental passages. The song's title is not mentioned in the song, neither does it have any relevance. It was a strange single, totally uncommercial, but it made the top twenty. It has become somewhat forgotten in the Roxy canon. 

There were two versions one on Island Records and one on Polydor. There are said to be differences but I have never been particularly successful in noticing them. The Polydor one seems to have a slightly clearer sound quality to it and the guitar bit at the end has a few different notes.

Below is a clip of Roxy performing Pyjamarama. Wonderful. That was why I loved them in 1973 and why  still love them today. 

The Pride And The Pain. Roxy Music seemed to be building up a tradition of putting out instrumental 'b' sides that underplayed their abilities, in many ways. Many people find their 'b' sides interesting in a "cultish" sort of way, unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I just find them not very good! Oddly, on all these 'b' sides, the sound quality is far inferior to that of the albums. Anyway, this track is pretty unremarkable, punctuated at the beginning by some off-putting whiplash noises, presumably put in there to give some vague hint of sado-masochism. To be fair, the track does carry a certain amount of mysterious atmosphere with it. After a few listens, I find myself getting into it. There is something of the ambience David Bowie created on Low, the common denominator, of course, being Brian Eno

Photo by Karl Stoecker. The model is Bryan Ferry's girlfriend at the time, model Amanda Lear. The drawing of the initial idea for the cover was by Antony Price