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.
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.
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