Brian Eno left Roxy Music in 1973. How does the band cope with the loss of one of its main attractions and musical innovators? Pretty well, so it seems.
In 1972 Roxy Music debuted with the release of the album Roxy Music, which was followed by For Your Pleasure in March of 1973. Their art-rock was very well received, both by the general public as by the press. The single Virginia Plain was a hit.
The group’s presentation was glamorous and the band got noticed for their look and clothing. The band seemed to be led by Bryan Ferry, but on-stage Ferry was often out-classed by the eccentric Brian Eno, who re-established the term ‘to dress up’.
But, Eno was just as important musically. His synthesizer eruptions gave Roxy Music something that was experimental, unexpected and unpredictable.
Roxy Music’s fans were divided into two factions. To many, Eno was indispensable and had decisive impact on the success of the band. To others, Eno was the man who often paralyzed the rock-machine Roxy Music with his beeping and grinding sounds.
Anyway, Bryan Ferry wasn’t to keen on being trivialized by anybody else than Bryan Ferry. The relationship between Eno and Ferry quickly deteriorated and Ferry wanted to take control over, what he considered to be, ‘his’ band. So, exit Eno.
In the meantime Ferry had launched a solo-career.
After Eno’s departure, Roxy Music went to work to record the next album. The rest of the band found out about Eno’s leaving upon reconvening in the studio. Eddie Jobson was introduced as his replacement. Ferry was in full control this time, even though Stranded marked the first time others would (co-)write on a Roxy Music album.
Wish everybody would leave me alone, that’s the way Ferry opens the album Stranded which was released on November 23rd, 1973. The lines stem from the song Street Life, which was released as a single and is considered to be a classic song in Roxy Music’s body of work. Stranded is filled with classics. As if Eno never existed, Roxy Music delivered their masterpiece (Eno himself calls Stranded the best Roxy Music album).
Songs like Street Life, A Song For Europe and Mother Of Pearl posses a quality that is timeless and will surely contribute to the living memory of the name Roxy Music. Ferry’s vocals are stronger than before and the band sounds like a real tight band musically.
With just two albums under their belt, Roxy Music was already renowned for their album covers. These contained pictures of beautiful women or models. It was told that the models were Bryan Ferry’s girlfriend at the time. When it comes to Stranded, this is not the case.
The gatefold cover is a photo by Karl Stoecker, that shows the Playboy model Marilyn Cole (Playmate of the year 1973). Cole remembered in 2007:
“It was at a tiny studio, somewhere off the Edgware Road in London. I’d never even heard of Roxy Music. I very soon understood that I was in safe hands, among some very talented people.
There was a red dress hanging up, and I thought, ‘Ooh, good, I’m going to get to wear a really nice dress’… whereupon, as I’m having my make-up done, Antony comes in and starts ripping the dress – a hole there, a slash there. I was thinking, ‘Oh no.’ They stuck me on this big log and explained I was supposed to be stranded in a jungle, and then they started spraying me; they sprayed my hair gold, and there was a whole mist coming over me and the dress was getting wet in all the right places.”.
Eno’s leaving was mentioned in almost every review, but not mourned. The album received lots of raving reviews and was very quickly considered to be a classic, and regarded as a logical development in the band’s career. In Europe Roxy Music did very well, but in the United States their success was considerably less. In a review for Rolling Stone Magazine attempts were made to get Americans get exited for the latest Roxy Music album. it didn’t work.
Two British bands are genuinely stretching the dimensions of pop music. One, 10 c.c., has already found a degree of popularity in the States. Roxy Music has been unable to cross the Atlantic so far, but that should change with this album. Stranded is one of the most exciting and entertaining British LPs of the Seventies.
Roxy has constructed the modern English equivalent of the wall-of-sound. One instrument, either the guitar or a keyboard, will sustain or repeat a note, and the other instruments will build on top of it. Added to the thick mix is the unique voice of Bryan Ferry, who sounds alternately tormented (“Psalm”), frantic (“Street Life”), or about to sink his teeth into your neck (“Mother Of Pearl”). He delivers his consistently clever lyrics in the most disquieting baritone in pop. Everywhere there is menace.
Andy Mackay, whose searing sax made Mott the Hoople’s “All the Way from Memphis” an American favorite, has written the tune for “A Song for Europe” — the most impressive track on the album. It’s an awesome example of self-disciplined hard rock. Instead of flailing frantically away, the musicians, including Ferry on piano, limit themselves to maintaining musical tension. Here is emotion without lack of control. Ferry’s tortured recitation is supported by an eerie, pained musical backing. Mackay’s sax is mournful, Phil Manzanera’s guitar lines are expressive, and the drumming of Paul Thompson is dramatic.
Like “Street Life,” “Psalm” fades in, with an organ swelling slightly to introduce Ferry’s half-intoned, half-sung ode to the Divine. As the group slowly joins in and increases volume, there’s a bolero effect, and toward the end of the extended piece a Welsh male choir enters. Soon, the group sounds frenzied, yet not irreligiously so. Ferry is a possessed man offering a prayer, and this exceptional “Psalm” sounds like a wily demon’s prostration before God.
“Street Life,” a highly enjoyable entry (and British hit single), opens with what sounds like a UFO coming in for a landing and ends with fading finger-snapping. Ferry spits out his literate lyrics to chaotic uptempo support. The reference to “pointless passing through Harvard or Yale” as “only window shopping … strictly no sale” may draw a few Ivy League smiles.
Only on “Amazona” does Ferry’s cleverness get the better of him — a couple of puns provoke groans. But the intriguing instrumental track, with its several shifts of mood, dynamics and tempo, helps save it.
Roxy Music can no longer be ignored by Americans. They may not achieve the commercial success they have in Britain, where Stranded reached Number One, but their artistic performance must be recognized. Stranded is an eloquent statement that there are still frontiers which American pop has not explored.
© Paul Gambaccini, Rolling Stone Magazine, 23-05-1974
My father admired Roxy Music greatly. He had every album up to and including Viva! Roxy Music. At the time I used to go over the album covers over and over again and stared for hours at the pictures. Eno fascinated me endlessly.
Of all the studio albums, Stranded was played the most frequent. If only for it contained the song Psalm, a classic within our household. It was the central theme song to my mother’s funeral, who was a big Bryan Ferry fan.
Besides the obvious nostalgia, Stranded is filled with beautiful music and highlight after highlight. Next to Psalm, Amazone and Mother Of Pearl are favorites also.
My favorite Roxy Music album is the live album Viva! Roxy Music, number 23 in my album top 50. Stranded is my favorite Roxy Music studio album, one of the few bands I own every album of.
Immediately following the recordings for the album, before the album’s release, the accompanying tour started in Bath, England on October 14th, 1973. Bryan Ferry moved away from his keyboard position and took the center stage position and focused on his vocals, giving less attention to keyboards. During the tour multiple concerts were recorded for inclusion on a possible live album. Chance Meeting and Pyjamarama recorded on November 2nd, 1973, in Glasgow finally appeared on the live album Viva! Roxy Music.
On January 23rd, 1974, Roxy Music performs on the German music program Musikladen and plays Street Life, Pyjamarama, Mother Of Pearl, Amazona and Psalm. This performance has been released numerous times on differrent bootlegs. And rightfully so, it’s a stunning performance.
All songs written by Bryan Ferry, unless stated otherwise.
- Street Life
- Just Like You
- Amazona *
- A Song for Europe †
- Mother of Pearl
|*||Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera|
|†||Bryan Ferry, Andy MacKay|
- Bryan Ferry – vocals, piano, electric piano, harmonica
- John Gustafson – bass
- Eddie Jobson – synthesizers, keyboards, electric violin
- Andy Mackay (Andrew Mackay) – oboe, saxophone
- Phil Manzanera – guitar
- Paul Thompson – drums, timpani
- Chris Laurence – bass on Sunset
- The London Welsh Male Choir – choir on Psalm
- Chris Thomas – bass on Street Life (uncredited)
What do you think of Stranded? Let me know!
Roxy Music – Stranded – Gatefold image: allmyrecords.com
Brian Eno – Roxy Music – 1973 image: twitter.com/eno
Roxy Music – Stranded image: artrockstore.com
Roxy Music – Stranded – Bryan Ferry & Marilyn Cole image: twitter.com/eno
Rolling Stone Magazine Logo image: srds.com
Roxy Music – Stranded – Ad image: superseventies.com
Roxy Music – Musikladen 1974 image: youtube.com
Roxy Music – Street Life (single) image: ultratop.be