for your pleasure

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

Island Records (1973)

For Roxy Music’s second album For Your Pleasure, two separate producers were employed to take the reigns in the studio. The tracks on side one were done by Chris Thomas, a veteran from working with bands like Procal Harum and Climax Blues Band amongst others and for the tracks on side two, the talents of John Anthony were employed. Anthony had worked with Van Der Graaf Generator for their first four records including the classic’s H To He Who Am The Only One and Peter Hammill’s first solo Fool’s Mate, as well as bands like Lindisfarne and the early Genesis lp’s Trespass and Nursery Cryme. The fact that there are two different producers on this record is not something I believe one would automatically recognize on first hearing since both sides share many similarities in sound but differ slightly in content and this difference only becomes apparent on repeated listenings.

The band:

Brian Ferry – Voice, Keyboards

Andrew Mackay – Oboe, Saxophone

Phil Manzanera – Guitar

Paul Thompson – Drums

Brian Eno – Synthesizer, Tapes

John Porter – Bass

I regard this album as the natural next step in progression from the first self titled lp Roxy Music of 1972 but taken as a distinct recording on its own, I feel it is leaps and bounds past the first record in terms of a band’s maturity. Where the first record was obviously earth shattering and nevertheless unique when it came out in 1972 in that there was simply nothing like it that came before, For Your Pleasure solidified the concept of avant garde rock as a new genre on the scene. Roxy had a strange hybrid of sounds going on at the time, obviously glam but other disparate vibes like 50’s R&B and proto-ambient Berlin school Kosmiche, a la early Kraftwerk and Can, but none of these other genres were obvious but merely hints, teases. You had a sense of the different, the new, but you didn’t quite know from where. Circus Magazine gave it a ‘For Savory Tastes Only’ vote and those were the albums that I mostly bought, usually without the slightest chance of hearing them before a purchase. I was rarely disappointed.

I do remember being totally fascinated by the Circus Magazine article and couldn’t wait to pick this lp up. The cover alone was the clincher for me, with Amanda Lear walking a panther on a leash on the front cover only to flip it over and see Bryan Ferry as a limo driver waiting for Miss Lear to finish her stroll and take her (and the panther) home. As someone in grammar school with an over active imagination, this was fodder for my juvenile fascinating. The inner gatefold was even more alluring. As a neophyte guitar player, never did I see so many strange guitars before like a Hagstrom Swede, Gibson Firebird and a Weissenborn slide guitar amongst others being held by the band members and it would be many years before I would actually have the chance to play any of them for real.

After hearing the album at home for the first time, it instantly opened my eyes to a type of music that was both fascinating to me as well as totally new and fresh, completely different from the Led Zeppelin, Who, Beatles & Stones records that I heard non stop growing up being played in the house (along with a heavy dose of Caruso and Sinatra records). But I couldn’t get enough of this record. Soon after, I remember it started to get played on WNEW-FM radio.

In the 1970’s, there was a great FM station named WNEW-FM and along with DJ’s such as Allison Steele (The Nightbird) and several others, jettisoned Progressive rock onto a very thirsty listening audience that was ripe to hear something new and fresh after the break up of The Beatles. When I think back at the importance of this radio station in the development of many artists to Americans, it is astounding, for without this pioneering group of DJ’s, this new British Invasion would have certainly failed and fallen flat. It also opened the door to other stations such as WQIV-FM, a pioneer in quadrophonic sound broadcasting over the airwaves, with the progressive tastes of its main DJ Rosko and it also motivated countless college radio stations to flourish and play new and interesting music well into the 90’s in radio. FM radio the way it used to be.

In all of its idiosyncrasies, For Your Pleasure stands as a unique document in music history as well as in Roxy Music’s long and outstanding career. A natural progression from their first album and not quite like their next lp Stranded, released later the same year and with Brian Eno gone and replaced by Eddie Jobson and John Porter on bass replaced by Johnny Gustafson.

track order:

Do The Strand

Beauty Queen

Strictly Confidential

Editions Of You

In Every Dream Home A Heartache

The Bogus Man

Grey Lagoons

For Your Pleasure

Do The Strand and Editions Of You hark back to the first lp and portray their 50’s etiquette, both strong single material, but ironically were not released as singles until 1978. Beauty Queen, Strictly Confidential and In Every Dream Home A Heartache have more elements of Krautrock and glimpses of what would become ambient years later.

Side two opens with The Bogus Man, a nine minute sci-fi fest of echoed guitar, sax, oboe & synth sounds and bizarre vocalizations from Ferry mimicking ska guitar parts with a completely steady and trancelike beat throughout. Infectious and ethereal. Grey Lagoons follows and quickly changes the momentum back to a 50’s R&B swingbeat heard on parts of the first side and consisting of brilliant sax, harmonica and guitar solos by Andy Mackay, Brian Ferry and Phil Manzanera in the mid section with Brian Ferry pumping away on the piano in Jerry Lee Lewis fashion while not playing the harmonica. Some great backing vocals are heard at the end, probably an overdubbed Brian Eno, hinting at what he would develop on his solo albums and future Talking Heads albums to come.The album closes with the title track For Your Pleasure, a song sounding quite unlike anything ever done before with heavy use of some haunting tape loops, a tribal drum beat and ending with some spoken words by Judi Dench. This song went on to inspire countless 80’s post punk bands including ClockDVA, Magazine, Wire and Coil, all have numerous moments in their own histories that can be traced back to this one song alone. Tape loops were nothing new at this point, case in point being The Beatles extensive tape production in Revolution No. 9 from The White Album several years prior. But it is here where I feel they were used in an entirely new way and formed one template for things to come. Overall the second side is the more adventurous side of the two and probably what solidified Circus Magazine’s vote of “For Savory Tastes Only”.

In conclusion, For Your Pleasure stands as a landmark in musical history as well as in the Roxy Music discography in that it challenged preconceptions of what rock n’ roll was all about and paved the way for what was to come. An experiment that motivated countless bands to follow and truly a remarkable work of art. One of the most important recordings of the 1970’s.