There are some of us that think new music is irrelevant. Others find the first group, dinosaurs since they don’t see the value of hip hop gangsters and boy bands. Sorry to the younger generation if I prefer my music with notes and musicians. I wrote a bit on how I developed my taste of music here. Mostly by listening for the instruments and oddly enough early music videos were a part of that.
Back in the mid 80s I fell in love with this specific version of My Only Love ( Roxy Music) . It was taken from the extended play live record The High Road. It only had four songs but what a punch they packed. I will focus on the second track. To my knowledge there is no video of this particular track. Just to prove Roxy Music are not robots there is a video that I bought on VHS in the early 90s of this same song on the same tour. They play it a little bit differently. Nowhere near as satisfying granted this specific version I am highlighting had about a 7 year head start so there is that possible bias.
I have enjoyed writing about music since high school but this is the first time I tried dissecting a song using the track time as a basis. So I documented what I heard and how what I heard made me feel. Very subjective exercise but isn’t that what writing is all about? Isn’t that what listening to music is all about?
(0:00) the haunting intro on electric piano, we know this is not a happy song. The somber chords evoke dread to my psyche. The credits say that the keys were manned by Guy Fletcher who I knew was from Dire Straits.
(0:07) Interesting how it seemed either the crowd hushed themselves to really pay attention or this is the result of mixer magic since you only hear the band? We know that this particular song was recorded at the Apollo in Glasgow, Scotland on 30 August 1982 during the band’s Avalon tour.
(0:17) the bass kicks in
(0:35 ) Phil Manzanera’s noodling comes in. Of course more on him later.
(0:49) finally the smooth, silky, classy voice of Bryan Ferry implores the lyrics. He is not only singing , he is playing a role.
(01:16) the first appearance of the title/ chorus.
(01:24) the trio of backup female vocalists make their presence felt.
(01:35) “ does it seem so funny for a fool to cry?”– how descriptive can you get about heartbreak and loss?? When your love leaves you, do you feel like a fool? Do you feel like crying?
(01:48) for years I always misheard these lyrics as ” do you know the meaning of alibi?” like some relationships die from too many lame excuses.
(02:00) “If you need to know remember me..” imagery that you hope the other party remembers you from some visual cue. Of course this yearning eventually passes with time but the protagonist in this song is dealing with his current, raw feelings.
(02:20) if you are used to the 3 minute pop song you might believe this is the outro guitar part. Even though it lasts for 47 seconds it is just an appetizer.
(03:08) Ferry begins the last verse. Let us assume there are no vocal overdubs on this recording. His voice sounds so good and he is doing this over a full concert. You can spend days or weeks in the studio making one song sound good. It is not a powerful voice we hear but it appropriately compliments the Roxy Music sound. This song is not about being in direct conflict with his “Only Love” but trying to come to grips with the loss, feeling very vulnerable and hoping to have made an impact. That is what I meant by Ferry playing a role. Not unlike De Niro or Pacino playing a role.
(03:50) the title is repeated a few times by the singers then they stop
(03:56) Phil Manzenera’s guitar solo begins in earnest and it is both haunting and beautiful. Tempo is still slow here. The bass comes in sparingly all throughout this gem of a guitar solo.
(04:46) Phil climbs the fret board.
(05:08) I am not sure why the thump on the bass here is so memorable but it is. Maybe to punctuate this beautiful guitar solo that is still developing.
(05:19) more high notes
(05:35) Manzenera starts strumming here as if he is coming up for air or signaling a transition.
(05:42) cymbals crashing in time with the accents of the guitar.
(05:51) the icing on the cake , Andy Mackay’s saxophone ( which has been mute up to this point) comes in doubling the lines of the guitar part as they play in unison ever so briefly then Mackay picks up the baton like a relay runner from hell as the tempo speeds up. Then a furious charge like it could cut through adamantium.
(06:40) The backup vocalists rejoin singing the title while Andy continues to take no prisoners.
(07:09) It finally ends with a Mackay wail bringing this masterpiece to a dramatic conclusion. Roxy Music where the singer is tastefully restrained but the sax player is the one who wails.
You might hear something totally different than what I heard. You may like this song now and love it later. You might like the original studio version from Flesh + Blood better. It is more concise and does not have that energy build up of my favorite version. It also fades ( as a lot of studio songs do ) as opposed to the cold ending of the live version. You might like the version that made it on the live video Roxy Music released. What is strange is the CD version kept the version from the EP which we know is recorded in a different country.
Why write this at all besides my obvious love for the song? Forget the fact that the song was composed almost 40 years ago. It is a good song played by a great band. Contemporary music fans are totally clueless by great playing and they wonder why those of us with different values are not ” kilig” with Justin Bieber.
There is nothing like seeing a great band live. Current “music ” no longer features live albums , great bands or even albums. What is prevalent is the one hit wonders that have the permanence of toilet paper. This song encompasses values that the kids today are totally unaware existed. I am just one person with a voice in cyberspace. If I can slightly expand the musical horizons of a few others out there, this will all be worth it. There is such a thing as good playing, band interaction, tasteful arrangements. You just won’t find it in hip hop or people who make 11 year old girls swoon.
More about My Only Love / Roxy Music
The rest of my GRP contributions.
Putting a very sharp needle into the balloon known as Pinoy Pride since 2012.