Roxy Music

Vinyl Friday #2: Roxy Music “Avalon”

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There are few pop albums that contain as much dreamy pleasure for me as Roxy Music’s Avalon. Although not particularly rare or unique, it still feels like a jewel in the crown of my collection. It’s a soft, romantic album that makes me fall in love with it over and over again with each and every listen.

Most people seem to be fans of the more ‘funky’ albums like their self-titled or For Your Pleasure. Actually, I think a lot of fans probably prefer Country Life, but I’m sure that’s probably preferring the cover art more than the actual content. Cheeky gits.

Speaking of cover art, this is possibly my favourite of the lot. It evokes so much mystery and atmosphere – much like the music itself. The cover model is Lucy Helmore, who would later a bride of Bryan Ferry’s. The two had four children together, including a son name Merlin which I find unbelievably fitting. The falcon, medieval helmet and mist imagery refer to the legendary island of Avalon – of which the album takes its name. Following its inspiration, the album is full of almost bard-like songs of love and loss.

The copy in my collection isn’t a first pressing, but I like to treat it as one. When the day comes that I have more money than sense, I will buy every copy of this album I come across because it’s just so good. This particular copy was nipped from a re-sale store. I had own the CD for a number of years before I dived into buying it on black. It instantly caught my eye because of that gorgeous cover. I had held the album dearly already, but seeing and hearing it in its full glory was some other experience entirely.

I’ve written about this album a number of times, but it really ranks as one of my favourites ever. Every summer I visited my parents, I kept this album in my car. It was on constant repeat. Especially before my poor car had a working air con, I would keep the windows down and drive down the long country roads, weaving in and out of the pine trees.

It’s such an evocative album, especially the two instrumentals India and Tara – the last being the name of one of Ferry’s future sons. But the singles (More Than This, Avalon and Take a Chance With Me) is a really strong set of songs. Not every Roxy Music album was great, but this last shot managed to get everything right. It’s a much more mature sound than many of their previous outings, but it pays off. Being the last album they ever released together, it feels like the perfect sending off.

Like Arthur’s trip to home. To Avalon.

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Is there really anything more heart-shatteringly beautiful in music than Yanick Etienne’s voice on Avalon? I really don’t think so. Brings me to tears every time.

Hot town, summer in the city

AgentOrangeNow I’ve got less than a month until I take my first trip State-side since September. That means I haven’t stopped thinking about my visit for weeks. Unfortunately, Wisconsin still seems to be clinging onto that terrible weather, but I’m praying for blue skies and warm weather for my journey in early June. Here in London we’ve had quite a mix, but there have already been a few lovely hot days out. Summer has pretty much arrived in Britain.

Since we can deem this weeks as ‘summer’ (especially since I haven’t had a class since early April now that I’m working independently), it’s time to put away those somber tunes of Winter and dust off the jackets of Summer listening. For more than five years, I have carried the same three albums in my old Ford. These are the albums I swear by as usually I don’t listen to much else when the scorching sun keeps me hidden away inside.

1. The Smiths ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’

Although usually ranked as the least favourite of many Smiths fans, ‘Strangeways’ is still magic in its own right (and a personal best, stated by both Mozzer and Marr). The fourth album by the Manchester band is filled with some of their most popular singles like ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Head This One Before.’ But I think it’s tracks like the sweet closer ‘I Won’t Share You’ that make this album sound special. It’s the breathiness and light that makes this album the most listenable in the summer. Save your cemetery gates and poets for days more rainy.

2. Agent Orange ‘Living in Darkness’

Call it cliche, but summers, beaches and surf music go hand in hand. Surf punk if we want to even do things better. Orange County punkers Agent Orange made the perfect album with ‘Living in Darkness’ in 1981 (although I keep the reissue on hand just because there’s more to love). There’s a clever mix of punk gold like the title track and the furious ‘Bloodstains’ with the So Cal flavour of covers of ‘Miserlou,’ ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Mr. Moto.’ It’s a crowd favourite when you’re blasting this in a furious summer traffic jam.

And mostly I am such a fan of drummer Scott Miller’s sweater.

3. Roxy Music ‘Avalon’

The non-funky stuff of Roxy Music makes up what is possibly my favourite album ever. It’s dreamy, airy, sexy and every bit of my ideal perfection. I find words difficult when it comes to why and how I love it. The reasons are probably something similar to why people love summer: there’s a lightness to the atmosphere and it soars giving a sense of effortlessness. Max Brooks even uses ‘Avalon’ in one of my favourite books, World War Z. A student sings the title track before the battle of the five colleges to bring hope to the defenders. I couldn’t think of a better use for it.

The album also includes two of my favourite instrumentals on any pop album, ‘India’ and ‘Tara’. I often just listen to them both on repeat. Short bursts of gold.

So as summer draws near, what will you be listening to?

It’s all rock and roll to me

If it has some how escaped your attention, that blabber mouth Courtney Love has decided to make another bizarre rant again. This time she was targeting Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band (that latter of whom was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). According to Love, “saxophones don’t belong in rock’n’roll.” Of course everyone is entitled to their opinions, I just really disagree with hers.

The woodwind instrument has long been in rock music and its deep roots. Although it was originally one of instruments made for use in military bands, but it was later found in most jazz bands which, you know, was one of the predecessors to rock. And I mean, this guy is all I really need to mention.

The saxophone isn’t the most ‘classic’ of instruments in rock. You don’t look inherently cool playing it. But since when did rock have rules? We are better than that. We piss on  those rules and those expectations. Rock can do whatever the hell it likes.

But instead of moaning about it, I’ll just counter her opinion with a playlist of some of the best songs in rock. Oh and they all also happen to include the saxophone.

And yes. I played alto sax for eight years. No shame. Sax for life.

 

Down beneath those dandy clothes

Today is BBC Radio 6’s “Wear your old band t-shirt to work day.” Since I’m a university student and I get Fridays off I’m spending the day in bed, but that won’t stop me. And yes, I’m donning my Roxy Music top today (even though it’s not really that old. Then again, either am I).

Band t-shirts are great. That’s why it’s crackin’ that there’s a day for everyone to show off their goods – if you know what I mean. Like football tops, it’s addicting to collect and keep, and there’s always sentimental value involved.

Plenty of people ask me “why music shirts?” A lot of kids growing up find their solace in music. We wear band t-shirts in hopes of maybe finding someone that like the same shit as us. Because let’s face it: most of us don’t grow up cool. In days where we don’t know how to define ourselves we often let clothes do the talking.

Since all of my band t-shirts have been left behind in America other than my Roxy Music one, here’s a slideshow of my most painful moments as a girl growing up in merchandise. I know this is a rather egotistical post, but hey – music is personal.

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Wearing a band t-shirt today? Tweet BBC Radio 6 your photo with #tshirtday. Have fun!