Sunday, January 3, 2021

This Siren pulled me in

One of my favorite pastimes back in the day was to spend an hour or two wandering around a record store randomly studying album covers and reading the song titles and credits. As a result, I knew a bit about some artists even though I'd never heard a note on any of their albums.

I had known of Roxy Music for several years. Those album covers were so fascinating -- not in a young man's centerfold-ogling kind of way. But they always made me wonder what the heck could be on those discs inside those odd covers with the offbeat high-fashion models.

I never heard any of Roxy's music on the radio. I knew from reading those credits all the time that Eno was in the band, and I knew that Eno was kind of famous for weird electronic shit that did not interest me in the slightest. So I resisted taking the plunge.

But one day in summer 1976, I walked into a record store near Southwest Missouri State University to while away an hour or so. I had been hearing "Love is the Drug" on the radio a bit. It was a fine song, gave me a little taste of what Roxy Music sounded like. So when I mindlessly picked up a copy of Siren, from the previous year, I saw on the back cover that Eno wasn't on this one and "Love is the Drug" was the lead track. So I had a bit of an idea of what I might hear. I studied that cover for a couple of minutes, and then I also grabbed a copy of Bryan Ferry's Let's Stick Together, released earlier in 1976. And without any further thought, I walked to the register to pay for both of them.

I got in tune with Siren immediately. I loved that thing on first listen. The Ferry album was good, more interesting than spine-tingling. Let's Stick Together, it turns out, was Ferry's third solo release of cover songs. I liked it, found it interesting if not spine-tingling. But for this shopping trip, Siren was the prize.

Siren was a great album when I first listened to it. I now consider it among their best. There are three or four exceptional tracks on this one and not a weak one in the bunch. I learned later, diving into the rest of their catalog, that each of the first four Roxy albums had at least one stinker of a track that I could live without. But that's not the case with Siren. It's a bit less adventurous -- no new ground is covered here. But Siren is what I consider Roxy Music's last hurrah before Ferry went off to focus on his solo career. Ferry did reform the group a couple years later, but then it was more the Bryan Ferry Band than it was Roxy Music.

The big hit: Roxy was quite popular across the pond throughout their career. But "Love is the Drug" was their only Top 40 hit in the U.S., reaching No. 30 in September 1975. None of their albums sold particularly well here. I think most U.S. music fans were like me -- they knew those album covers but didn't have much idea what the music was all about.

That cover: The cover photograph helped kick-start the modeling career of Jerry Hall, who was Ferry's girlfriend at the time. She left Ferry a couple years later for Mick Jagger. Jagger and Hall had four children together before she left him for Rupert Murdoch, whom she married in 2016.

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