Ladytron – Roxy Music
You’ve got me girl on the run around, run around got me all around town
June 1973, Lewes Priory 5th form are doing their O Levels – for some reason I’m only doing six – English Literature, English Language, Geography, History, a split course Biology/Chemistry and Latin. I know. Latin. I hated it. The teacher was a permanently drunk Welshman called Dai Jones and I learned nothing and failed the exam with a 9. The lowest possible score. I’d already done French, Art and Maths in the 4th year, and the following year in the Lower Sixth I would take Geology which was my favourite subject of all time. I very nearly did a degree in Geology because I loved it so, particularly the section-maps going underground to reveal the layered rocks beneath, which you had to draw only from surface evidence – wow that was cool. I still love those maps. Had I followed that particular nose I would have been lost to all but the oil companies I suspect, perhaps the main reason, in the end, that I decided to do Law instead. But in the 5th year all these considerations were way off. There was a mini-cultural explosion in mid-June when the LP Roxy Music was released and kids started carrying the distinctive blue and pink cover with Kari-Ann Muller giving us her pin-up flex around the school corridors.
16-year old boys with pin-up LP covers ! Further examination revealed a music that none of us had even imagined before, let alone heard. This was a musical box of chocolates with every shape, flavour and colour and we became obsessed, none more so than me. I couldn’t get enough of this record and played it to death over the summer of ’73, with the result that my younger brother Paul, turning 14, became an even bigger Roxy Music fanatic than me – almost an impossible feat! Deep inside the carefully-designed sleeve were more delights, pin-ups of the band members who appeared to have beamed down from an outer space glamour convention, the lot “designed” by Anthony Price.
Well Graham Simpson on bass looks pretty Andy-Williams-normal. But Andy Mackay became my new saxophone guru although he also played the oboe and could do things that I couldn’t even contemplate on the saxophone, nevertheless I did play along with Ladytron from time to time, a moment that sums up everything about Roxy for me at that time – Mackay’s sax and Phil Manzanera’s electric guitar playing a harmonic riff together while a mental piano plinks and plonks some kind of rhythm around it under an odd electronic bubbling from weirdo Brian Eno (bottom middle in the pic above), making it all sound sci-fi, and still everything, and I mean everything is rooted to the rock-solid rock-steady drums of Paul Thompson (with a tiger on his shoulder above). And Ferry, above all else, Bryan Ferry’s vocals, mannered, exquisite, English, haunted, pleading, romantic. I worshipped the man. This feeling grew over the ensuing three years as further LPs came out, costumes were worn, lyrics were caressed. But for now all I had to go on was this picture, these strange but compelling gentlemen from the planet Rock which was in this incarnation planet Roxy. Some of them were wearing make-up! They were clearly obsessed with style as much as music. With glamour more than chasing a hippie dream. That summer my first eyeshadow was bought, and worn, although not around the council estate where I lived. I knew that young men were a little sensitive about these matters.
When I listen to the LP today it still has the same effect on me as it did when I was a 16-year old boy. It thrills me to the core with it’s daring clashes of style, it’s thunderous drumming which anchors every splash of electro-wierdness, the oboe, the guitar, the lyrics about Humphrey Bogart, about World War Two, about Brief Encounter, but above all else a huge confident new sound, rooted in rock’n’roll but re-made, re-modelled for the future. It became my musical badge of honour and remains my favourite of their LPs. I have them all of course, and all of Ferry’s solo output and Brian Eno’s. This LP is a pinnacle of art-rock, and they would never return there. I’ve seen them live too, and met the man, but that’s for a later conversation. For now, just listen to those castanets, and the sheer thrill of the beat doubling up for the instrumental drive-by. Sensational music.