[Review] Bryan Ferry: These Foolish Things (1973)

Ferry turns his revolutionary eye to rock & roll classics and performs them in his own particular, aagh, idiom.

Kronomyth 1.0: The bogus minstrel.

Queen Syrenia sat in her stone chair, caressing a Grecian urn of Elvis with hands loitering at the loved handles in quiet lament, when what should shake her sequined kingdom but the sound of the bard, too beloved, being strangled in the mouth of Bryan Ferry with a “Why, doom-crooner of the ages?” Could this be the same BF of stargazed schoolgirls, their nouveau jeans marked by late-night kneeling at the shrine of le Strand, he on whom the future so much depended like a lipstick-red wheelbarrow hauling manna over the scorched earth of meaningless sixties pop?

Just as the bard’s mad prophecy ended, the wheelbarrow tips over to reveal that the Bogus Minstrel has been carefully picking up despised pieces of pop music along the way–Lesley Gore, the Paris Sisters, the Beatles and the Stones—with the intent of Heaven only knows. Ferry’s first is disturbing: “Sympathy For The Devil,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It’s romantic: “These Foolish Things,” “Don’t Worry Baby.” It borders on being tasteless: “It’s My Party,” “Piece of My Heart.” Yet, lost in a moment, perhaps in the closing minutes, the urn falls absentmindedly from regal fingers and rolls unheard into some dusty corner, where it watches in silent envy as a new shape assumes its pedestal, one with a continental flair for trendmaking and trailblazing.

Like the emperor’s new album, we adjust our tastes, convinced that Ferry’s must be the finer palate. Had we spit out “River of Salt” in haste, or missed the mystery of “I Love How You Love Me?” Or was the new king of pop merely a junk collector at heart? It still eludes me today, this enigmatic entrance. Whatever angle you’re coming from, urn for a big surprise.

Original LP Version

A1. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan) (5:20)
A2. River of Salt (Irving Brown/Bernard Zachery/Jan Zachery) (1:48)
A3. Don’t Ever Change (Gerry Goffin/Carole King) (2:15)
A4. Piece of My Heart (Bert Berns/Jerry Ragavoy) (3:06)
A5. Baby I Don’t Care (Jerry Lieber/Mike Stoller) (1:52)
A6. It’s My Party (Herbert Wiener/Wally Gold/John Gluck) (1:58)
A7. Don’t Worry Baby (Brian Wilson/Roger Christian) (4:13)
B1. Sympathy For The Devil (Mick Jagger/Keith Richard) (5:51)
B2. The Tracks of My Tears (Smokey Robinson/Marvin Tarplin/Warren Moore) (3:05)
B3. You Won’t See Me (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) (2:32)
B4. I Love How You Love Me (Larry Kolber/Barry Mann) (3:02)
B5. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (Ivy Jo Hunter/Stevie Wonder) (3:06)
B6. These Foolish Things (Holt Marvell/Jack Strachey/Harry Link) (5:42)

The Players

Bryan Ferry (voice & occasional piano), Roger Ball (alto & baritone saxes, horn arrangements), Malcolm Duncan (tenor sax), Eddie Jobson (violin, keyboards & synthesizer), Henry Lowther  (trumpet), John Porter (guitars & bass), David Skinner (piano), Paul Thompson (drums) with The Angelettes (backing vocals), Jessie Davis (backing vocals A1/B1), Phil Manzanera (guitar solo on B3), Robbie Montgomery (backing vocals on A1/B1), Ruan O’Lochlainn (alto solo on B4), John Punter (additional drums on A7, B1). Produced by Bryan Ferry, John Porter and John Punter; engineered by Steve Nye and John Punter.

The Pictures

Photography by Karl Stoecker. Cover design by Nicholas de Ville.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on October 5, 1973 in the UK (Island, ILPS 9249), the US (Atco, SD 7304), Japan (Island, ILS-80184) and the Netherlands (Island, 87266 IT). Reached #5 on the UK charts. Also released on elpee in 1974 in Australia and New Zealand (Island, L35015).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Atco, SD 7304 with barcode).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Polydor, MPF-1121).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1981 in Japan (Polydor, MPF-1339).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1984 in the UK (Polydor, 2302 046).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in 1984 in the US (Reprise, 26082-2/4).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in Australia (Polydor, 2310 057).
  7. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Polydor, 2344 063).
  8. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (EG, 25VB 1154).
  9. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1999 in the UK (Virgin, FERRYCDX-1).
  10. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on March 28, 2000 in the US (Virgin, 47598).
  11. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2002 in Japan (EMI/Toshiba, TOCP-53300).
  12. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2007 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-68812).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *