Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
The radio stations I listened to during my adolescence in the late-70s and early-80s (mostly WPLJ and WNEW, the two biggest Rock stations in New York City) did not feature Roxy Music very often. The only song I recall hearing during those formative years is “Love Is The Drug,” but what a great song it was (and still is). It always stood out from most of the other tunes being played, with its funky groove, honking sax and Bryan Ferry’s lecherous vocals. I always stopped what I was doing to listen whenever it was played. But since I didn’t hear anything else from them, I assumed they were a band with one good song and never sought out their albums. I was content to hear this one great song whenever the DJ chose to play it.
Around 1982 or 1983, when I was 16-17 years old, I discovered a UHF channel (I believe it was 68, and broadcast from somewhere in New Jersey) that would play music videos after I got home from school…followed by The Uncle Floyd Show and reruns of classic episodes of “The Lone Ranger” from the ‘50s (with the awesome Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels). One of the videos that was played nearly every day was for a Roxy Music song called “More Than This.” It sounded completely different from “Love Is The Drug,” but its slicker production and more muted sounds didn’t negate its impact…and I looked forward to hearing it every time it was played. I don’t remember much about the video, but the song itself stayed with me. I saw that it was from an album called Avalon, and I knew I would have to get my hands on that one day. That would still be several years away.
Fast forward to 1986. While attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I stopped into one of the many local record stores and came across an import CD called Street Life: 20 Great Hits, credited to Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music. I’m pretty certain that the CD cost at least $20, which was not cheap (especially when you’re a college student), but with 20 songs (14 by the band and 6 by Ferry as a solo artist) I got a lot of bang for my buck. Also, import CDs were a rare commodity at the time, so I felt like I was getting something special…and I was right. It quickly became a favorite, and I played it a lot throughout my sophomore & junior years. I was already a fan of the Ferry song “Slave To Love” by that time, but the CD introduced me to a diversity of sounds, including covers of Bob Dylan (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”), The Platters (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), Wilson Pickett (“In The Midnight Hour”) and John Lennon (“Jealous Guy”). But they weren’t just great interpreters of other people’s music: their originals sounded like nothing I had heard before. More on that in future posts, as I delve into each album. For anyone just discovering their music, this collection would be an excellent place to start, even though there are probably more recent compilations available.
By early 1987, my CD collection numbered around 50-60, which doesn’t sound like a lot now, but at the time I was the guy with the “huge CD collection” in my dormitory. When I returned from Spring Break that year, I discovered that someone had broken into my room and stolen about half of my collection…including my Roxy/Ferry import CD compilation. I searched every record store looking for a copy, but it proved impossible to find. I was able to replace every other stolen CD, so this remained the one gaping hole in my collection. A few years later it was reissued in the U.S. on Reprise Records and I finally replaced that stolen CD, but the packaging wasn’t as good as the import version. If I remember correctly, all the photos on the inside of the booklet were now black-and-white. I thought that was the version I still owned, but looking at it now, as I type this, I realize that I have an import copy (on E’G Records). I must have traded in my domestic copy with the inferior packaging at some point and replaced it with the superior UK version. I’m no longer that obsessive, but apparently at one time I was.
In the ensuing years I purchased the entire Roxy Music catalog on CD, but I don’t think I ever spent enough time with any of them to truly get to know their music beyond what I already knew from the compilation. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to remedy that by immersing myself in their music like I’ve never done before. I’ll post about a few albums at a time, and I invite you to share your thoughts in the “Comments” section. I look forward to developing a dialog with you. In the future I’ll probably do the same with Bryan Ferry’s music, but that’ll have to wait for another day. Thanks for checking in.