Three Seminal Singles: Number 3

It begins with a single guitar chord. Next the bass player adds an insistent bassline. A hint of noir sax wafts across the stereo field like steam from a manhole cover in the predawn hours. Footsteps. A car door is opened. An engine roars to life and speeds off to a rendezvous as a drumroll enters with a tattoo before settling down into a modified reggae groove with the bass. As if anything else was needed to, the farfisa organ that entered the mix afterward cemented this song indelibly into my heart of hearts when I first heard it some time in 1975.

Atco | US | 7" | 1975 | 45-7042

My third seminal single was the first time that I had ever heard of Roxy Music, by then well into their 5th album since springing into the world, fully formed as if from the head of Zeus, in 1972. As you can see, the DJ marked up my copy of this record but I have no idea from which station library this disc ultimately came from. I heard it on WLOF-95 AM but only on rare occasions. No, this was a song that was too otherworldly and dark for my Top 40 station of choice. So as usual with these seminal singles, I relied on Billboard’s American Top 40 program to hear it maybe once a week during its chart run.

Like the other two songs in this series, hearing it was a rare treat and suggested that there was something out there in the world more exotic and adult than The Captain & Tennille and Frankie Valli. But while this song was my entrée to the world of Roxy Music, possibly the most influential artist to all of the many groups that I would come to love as I matured, I didn’t hear anything else by the group until 1980, when I went out and bought what was their new album, “Flesh + Blood.” Having finally gotten a stereo in 1978, I made it a point to keep up with Roxy Music since all of the music I was loving at the time looked either to them, Bowie, Kraftwerk or The Velvet Underground as their inspiration. And Bowie and Roxy, it can be successfully argued, took some of their cues from the VU, for certain.

Ironically, I never heard “Siren,” the album that this single came from until some time in 1985, ten years later. By that time I’d become familiar with the first two Roxy Music albums, with Brian Eno, as well as their reformation period albums: “Manifesto,” “Flesh + Blood” and “Avalon.” I’d inquired about “Siren” while hanging out at Crunchy Armadillo Records – the amazing record store I frequented in the early 80s as run by Craig Michaels, an ex-Orlando FM Rock DJ. Since I knew that “Love Is the Drug” hailed from “Siren,” I asked Craig how the album was and to my surprise, he panned it.

A couple of years later, on a special night in 1985 when I couldn’t stand it any more, I went out in a fit of Roxy Music consumption and bought six of the first seven Roxy Music albums on CD [German Polydor 1st pressings] and heard the amazing “Stranded” and “Country Life” albums for the first time. “Flesh + Blood” was unavailable on CD at that time, so I had to wait another three years for Virgin to press it. I also bought “Siren,” and sure enough, I agreed with Craig. Apart from “Love Is The Drug” and “Both Ends Burning” [helpfully, the B-side of this US 7″ single] the “Siren” album was pretty tepid stuff. The rare flat album in the Roxy canon. Nevertheless, by 1985 Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry were like titans in my musical universe.

Ten years later I finally found myself at a Bryan Ferry concert when his “Mamouna” tour hit Atlanta. Against all odds, my friend Sandra and I were approached by some guy who offered us backstage passes for $10 a pop. What the hell, I thought, so we took the bait. Two hours later I found myself in a receiving line with Mr. Ferry and as I shook his hand I managed to tell him that I’d waited 20 years to finally hear him sing in person and that it meant a lot to me. About five weeks later, I was relating this story to the woman who 17 months later would later be my wife. When I’d heard how much she liked Bryan Ferry I knew that we had something in common but little did I know at the time how the seed of a Top 40 single in 1975 would reverberate through my life in such dramatic ways.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Three Seminal Singles: Number 3

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    Jim-san,

    I started down the path with Roxy Music before the debut album even had a US release; all I knew was that it was being produced by a member of King Crimson.
    I was done with them by the time album #3 came along – but these days, I am good for everything up to album #4. That being said, I desperately want a UK 45 of “Love Is The Drug” on Island UK. And the Grace Jones cover version of it ain’t bad, either!

    RK

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      @ronkanefiles – I buy every Roxy Music 45 I see. I have many foreign variants, but I am not certain that I have the straight UK Island of that title. I think I have a plushly sleeved copy of central European origin, but I’m not certain. And yes, the Grace Jones cover is fab-tastic. I bought this remixed, clear vinyl, poster-sleeved single of it: http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=965915 because this was the only place where I could find the wonderful song “Living My Life,” which I’d really enjoyed the video of, but the track itself is curiously missing from the album of the same title. On Discogs, I can only find this Portuguese 12″ http://www.discogs.com/Grace-Jones-Living-My-Life/release/728806 and a US Dj promo with the same cut on both sides. Do you have any idea why this great song is so hard to get?

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  2. Brian Ware says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for this really engaging series of blogs. Not just for the great detail and time involved, but for continuing to dig deep into your psyche. So many pivotal moments when songs contributed to shifts in my perceptions of life – not sure I could narrow it down to three, but knowing you as I do, I have a new appreciation of how important these songs are in the rock and roll timestream.

    Thanks also for the beautiful illustrated John Foxx essay – the collector nerd in me always loves this kind of project.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      @Brian Ware – I have always felt that these three songs, which barely existed in my world for many years, had a seismic impact that belied their scarcity. There are many other seminal singles, and I may carry through with essays about them at a later time.

      The Foxx post was intended as a quickie, but I quickly got sucked into the rabbit hole. Much to my chagrin. I chose not to delve into peripheral material related to that period like the remixes of “Mr. No” and “20th Century” that recently surfaced [and are fantastic]. Or the live “New Kind Of Man” album that contains the full “Metamatic’ album played live with appropriate B-Sides added to the setlist.

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