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 Post subject: Wall St. Journal article from Feb 2019--LITD
PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:56 am 

Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:33 pm
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Enjoy! ... 1551286800

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The Swaggering Love Song That Launched New Wave
Roxy Music’s ‘Love Is the Drug’ introduced a glossy, jagged sound that was years ahead of its time

By Marc Myers
February 27, 2019
The song changed rock. In 1975, years before the new wave and synth-pop movements of the late 1970s and early ’80s, Roxy Music released “Love Is the Drug.”

The minor-key single, with its pulsating bass line and swaggering croon, reached No. 30 on Billboard’s pop chart and influenced the music of Nile Rodgers, Kraftwerk, the Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, U2 and the Smiths, among others.

Recently, co-composers Bryan Ferry and Andy Mackay talked about Roxy Music and the song’s evolution. Mr. Ferry’s latest album is “Bitter-Sweet” (BMG) and his U.S. tour starts in July. Mr. Mackay’s latest album is “3Psalms” (Good Deeds). Roxy Music will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 29. Edited from interviews:

Andy Mackay: I first met Bryan Ferry in London in 1971. Mutual friends who had attended art school at the University of Reading introduced us. I had studied the oboe and alto saxophone there.

In college, I hung out with the art crowd and formed a performance-art group in 1967. We staged happenings and performed avant-garde contemporary music along the lines of John Cage, La Monte Young and Morton Feldman.

Bryan and I quickly discovered that we both were working part-time as school teachers. We had an immediate rapport, and soon we began playing together with bassist Graham Simpson in what would become Roxy Music.

A short time after the band formed, I brought Brian Eno into the mix. I had met Brian years earlier through my performance-art group.

Just before I met Bryan, I bought a VCS 3, a portable analog synthesizer. I continued to play oboe and sax in Roxy, but I found the VCS difficult to play and operate at the same time. So I played and Brian Eno twiddled the knobs. We also were using the VCS in Roxy to treat and distort the vocals and oboe.

Bryan Ferry: When we formed Roxy, we just wanted to make interesting music that expressed who we were and what we were. I wanted Roxy to reflect my various interests and musical styles and forms, especially art music by John Cage and others like him.

So it was great when I met Andy and, subsequently, Brian Eno and the others. We all had similar interests. There was a combination of elements that we put together that sounded different from what everyone else was doing.

Mr. Mackay: At home in London in early ’75, I came up with chords for an unusual song on my Wurlitzer electric piano. My chords had a distinctly English-y sound inspired by 20th century classical composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams. They had a folk-harmony feel influenced by early church music.

The song I composed didn’t have words or a title. When I played it for the band at the studio, my tempo was slow, with a majestic, sweeping feel, moving in a dreamy and ambient direction. Bryan and drummer Paul Thompson wanted to push it along, to make it more dance-y.

Mr. Ferry: In June 1975, we began recording “Siren,” our fifth Roxy Music album, at George Martin’s AIR Studios on London’s Oxford Street. Chris Thomas was producing.

I was writing the words and music for many of the album’s songs on my own. But at some point, Andy played me an interesting chord sequence that sounded very promising. It was different from the other songs I had in mind for the album.

At first, Andy’s song was very slow moving—a bit like a requiem. I remember thinking it might sound better if we sped it up a bit.

Mr. Mackay: As soon as the tempo picked up, bassist John Gustafson jumped in with an awesome bass line. Interactions followed between the bass and drums that produced a Latin feel along with Jamaican ska, which was big in London then.

I added my alto sax briefly in the early part of the song and then played a riff during the chorus. I was influenced by R&B sax players like King Curtis and wanted a nonjazzy riff.

Chris, our producer, suggested I double-track my riff on the chorus, to give it dimension. He insisted I double-track precisely. Chris was the guy who pushed you to work hard.

He also stopped me from playing any additional sax lines. Had he not been there, I probably would have wanted to play the sax all the way through the song. Playing it at the start and on the chorus was just enough.

Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music performing on stage at Vorst Nationaal in Brussels on June 4, 1980. PHOTO: GIE KNAEPS/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
Mr. Ferry: I played the Farfisa organ, and Andy and Eddie Jobson added the other keyboards. Andy’s sax fanfare on the intro was striking, and Phil added some great chiming guitars on the chorus. Paul Thompson played a strong and simple drum part, and Chris added a shimmering Leslie effect on the snare.

The bass part John carved out was very unusual—angular and abrasive. I loved what he did the moment I heard him play it. John was special. He had played in the Big Three, one of the Liverpool bands of the early 1960s. He was a very rock ‘n’ roll sort of guy.

Years later, producer and Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers said that John’s bass line was a big influence on his group’s “Good Times” in 1979.

Mr. Mackay: When we finished recording the music, Bryan took a tape home to work on the lyrics. When they were done, he brought them into the studio, complete. He liked to hone his product and get it down to what he felt it should sound like.

Mr. Ferry: Back then, I lived on Ladbroke Road in Holland Park, West London. I tended to work through the night on lyrics, which I would write on notepads. Then I’d piece them together on my old beat-up typewriter.

My lyrics for the song’s opening were inspired by the Caribbean patois of our Trinidadian friend, Christian. He worked for Roxy doing wardrobe. Christian was a very amusing, laid-back guy. If there was ever a problem, Christian would say, “T’ain’t no big t’ing.”

I liked the phrase, so my opening lyrics to the song were: “T’ain’t no big thing / to wait for the bell to ring / T’ain’t no big thing / the toll of the bell.”

The image I had in mind for the song was a young guy getting into his car and zooming off into town, looking for action at a club: “Late that night I parked my car / Staked my place in the singles bar / Face to face, toe to toe / Heart to heart as we hit the floor.”

I don’t know how I came up with the rest of the song’s lyrics. As a songwriter, you kind of discover what a song is, or it imposes itself on you. It’s always quite complicated. I just thought of them. The words weren’t based on something I had read or heard.

“Love Is the Drug” turned out to be a fun, upbeat song with a jaunty feel—quite unusual for me, as a lot of my songs had a melancholy flavor. At some point, I thought the song needed a dramatic opening. Outside my house, I had a gravel drive, and the crunching sound of the stones under my shoes were an inspiration.

I decided it might be a good idea to add some sound effects to the song’s intro. This would help create a picture of someone jumping into his car, revving up and heading off into town.

We found the different sounds for the opening on various sound-effects library recordings—a car door slamming shut, the engine starting and so on. Then we overdubbed them.

Mr. Mackay: When Bryan brought his lyrics into the studio, he double-tracked his vocal in stark harmonies to give it a full feel. With “Love Is the Drug,” we needed a song that would take us a little bit mainstream without compromising our artistic approach.

We wanted to consolidate ourselves on “Siren” and have the result sound more like a rock album. We didn’t want it to sound too strange. We needed to make some money and tour. North America had been hard for us. We were seen there as an art-rock band.

Mr. Ferry: There is a kind of mysterious and slightly subdued quality about the song. We also used an interesting sixth on the song’s final chord. I always quite liked that.

We didn’t shoot a video for “Love Is the Drug”—MTV was still six years away. But there is a television appearance of us performing the song. I wore a black eye patch in the video, but it wasn’t a piratical fashion thing, as many people thought.

The day before our taping, I was sent to the hospital to have my eye looked at. I had walked into a door or something. I remember thinking, “Oh, God, we’ve got to do a television show.” Which we did despite my eye. In the video, if you look carefully, you can actually see a bandage with a dressing underneath. But the black patch looked good.

Corrections & Amplifications
Paul Thompson was the drummer for Roxy Music. An earlier version of the article misidentified the drummer as Phil Manzanera. (March 1, 2019)

Appeared in the February 28, 2019, print edition.

 Post subject: Re: Wall St. Journal article from Feb 2019--LITD
PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 2:54 am 

Joined: Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:58 pm
Posts: 924
This is a good article, full of fresh commentary (no Pit Ponies!!!)

The WSJ can definitely be a worthwhile read (although the editorial page is a bit too much, much of the time...) I like to get the weekend edition which is an interesting counterpoint to the Sunday NYTimes. Yes, I still buy a print edition of the NYT almost every day. Sigh. If you wonder how this might connect to Roxy, go back and mull over the lyrics to Three and Nine and BF's nostalgia for simpler times...

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