[Review] Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure… (1973)

Their surreal second album stands as perhaps both their brightest and darkest hour.

Kronomyth 2.0: At the strand of nightmares.

Roxy’s first was a revolutionary record, but it didn’t haunt you through the ages. For Your Pleasure does. It is the soundtrack to a beau monde in blacklight, a surreal nightmare where love is a temptation impossible to taste. The final words, “Tara, Tara,” foreshadow the ghost world of Avalon, and you could argue that Roxy’s immortality rests on these two albums of the dead (although I would tell you that Country Life is the best thing they’ve ever done because I’m a contrarian pain in the ass).

The band spent considerably more time and money on their second album, going through two producers (Chris Thomas, John Anthony) in the process. What you’ll hear immediately is a greater sense of control over their music. Compare the schizophrenic second side of their debut with the black holes of “For Your Pleasure” and “The Bogus Man.” Those songs (and “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”) suck you in like innocents and spit you out psychologically shaken. The dark album cover isn’t a deception; in the world of Roxy Music, style and substance are equal partners, and the album cover is as much a part of their art as their music.

If their second album contained only those opaque wonders, it would still have a measure of fame, like Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. But the rest of the album is a refinement of the revved-up, glammed-up art rock of their debut. The opening “Do The Strand” and “Editions of You” are mined from the same vein as “Virginia Plain,” and it’s not for nothing that many consider Strand to be the quintessential Roxy song, so perfectly does it capture everything that was exciting and special about the first incarnation of the band. And then there is the star-crossed “Beauty Queen,” one of Bryan Ferry’s most romantic numbers over a long career as a crooner.

Although rarely counted among classic Roxy compositions, “Strictly Confidential” might be the album’s most important song, as it underpins the idea that Ferry is singing from the land of the dead. Here, as on much of the album, Andy Mackay’s oboe and saxophone create an otherwordly atmosphere; in many ways, his role is more critical than Eno’s in adding an alien beauty to For Your Pleasure. Paul Thompson, an underrated drummer, also does an impressive job of playing drums in a dreamlike style, no easy feat. Eno’s treatments are stamped all over the title track and “The Bogus Man;” in fact, while listening to the title track yesterday, I jotted “fat lady of limbourg’s suicidal sister?” in my notes.

If I didn’t mention Phil Manzanera immediately, that’s probably by design. His non-traditional approach to the electric guitar casts him as a colorist, often heavily treated by Eno’s electronics. There are fleeting bits of guitar solos, but mostly Manzanera is stringing barbs and broken glass on Ferry’s staff. John Porter, credited here as a guest artist (the band never had a proper bassist), plays an important supporting role in the music. His is the first instrument you hear on the album, and the final mix features him prominently on most of the songs. It’s impossible to imagine “Do The Strand,” “Beauty Queen” or “The Bogus Man” without his contributions.

While second albums tend to disappoint, For Your Pleasure has always found favor with critics, drawn to the album’s dark magnetic pull. New Musical Express, in a 1993 poll, ranked it among the top 30 albums (#27) of the 70s. In 2000, Q Magazine slated it slightly below (#33) in a list of the 100 greatest British albums of all time. As I said, I don’t believe this to be their best album; as much as I love Eno, he was always a bit of an odd fit in the band. But their darkest album? Oh yeah.

Read more Roxy Music reviews

Original elpee version

A1. Do The Strand (4:00)
A2. Beauty Queen (4:35)
A3. Strictly Confidential (3:42)
A4. Editions of You (3:40)
A5. In Every Dream Home A Heartache (4:25)
B1. The Bogus Man (9:22)
B2. Grey Lagoons (4:11)
B3. For Your Pleasure (6:58)

All songs written by Bryan Ferry.

The Players

Eno (synthesizer and tapes), Bryan Ferry (voice and keyboards), Andrew Mackay (oboe and saxophone), Phil Manzanera (guitar), John Porter (bass), Paul Thompson (drums). Produced by Chris Thomas (A1-A5), John Anthony (B1-B3) and Roxy Music; engineered by John Middleton and John Punter.

The Pictures

Photography by Karl Stoecker. Art direction by Nicholas de Ville. Artwork by C.C.S. Modeling by Amanda Lear. Amanda’s clothes, hair and make-up by Anthony Price. Roxy hair by Smile.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in March 1973 in the UK (Island, ILPS/Y81 9232), in June 1973 in the US and Canada (Warner Bros., BS 2696) and in 1973 in Germany and the Netherlands (Island,86 729 IT) and Japan (King, ICL-55) with gatefold cover; reached #4 on the UK charts and #193 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and 8-track in June 1976 in the US (Atco, SD/TP 36-134) {yellow label}.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in February 1977 in the UK (Polydor, 2302 049) and in 1977 in Japan (Polydor, MPF-1141) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Canada (Atco, SD 36-134) {purple-gray label}.
  4. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in 1984 in the UK (EG, EGLP/EGCD 8) and Japan (EG, VJCP-23179) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1985 in Japan (Polydor, 20MM 9107) with gatefold cover.
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in the UK (Virgin, EGCD 8).
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1999 in the UK (Virgin, ROXYCD2), the US (Virgin, 47449-2) and Europe (Virgin, 847 449), and on September 29, 1999 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-53044).
  8. Re-released on high-definition remastered compact disc on October 3, 2001 in Japan (EMI Toshiba, TOCP-65823).
  9. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee on October 28, 2008 in the US (Virgin, 509992 43032 17) with gatefold cover and poster.
  10. Re-released on super high material compact disc on July 31, 2013 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-98137).
  11. Re-released on super audio compact disc in 2015 in Japan (Virgin, UIGY-9666).

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