“Mother of Pearl” – Roxy Music


For those that only know Roxy Music by the smooth crooning of 1982’s “Avalon” album need to understand that the band was not always so slick. The material that Roxy recorded during the period between 1972 and 1975 was a wonderful mix of the sleazy and the sublime. “Mother of Pearl” is arguably the greatest song of that period, and arguably the greatest thing they ever recorded.

The first 1:23 of this song is pure metallic freakout by guitarist Phil Manzanera while lead singer Bryan Ferry sings about all of the meaningless sex he’s getting, albeit with a very frenetic, panicked tone. Then, the song slows down considerably and Ferry finally confesses that he’s found what he was looking for all along … true love … and that he will give up everything to spend the rest of his life with his “mother of pearl.” Critics cite the Who’s “A Quick One” as the greatest mini-rock opera of all time. I totally love “A Quick One,” but I would also add “Mother of Pearl” to that very short list. It’s an absolutely thrilling and emotional epic. The song was used in a very pivotal early episode of the hit TV show “How I Met Your Mother” and also in the film “SLC Punk.”

(On a side note, I would also add Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia” to that very short list of greatest mini-rock operas of all time. But I’ve already discussed that in an earlier post).

“Jesus of Suburbia” – Green Day


I resisted Green Day’s “American Idiot” for years because the idea of a punk band trying to do a rock opera didn’t seem like an appetizing proposition. However, you couldn’t escape several of the album’s songs for years (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and “American Idiot”) and while I liked all of these songs to varying degrees, I still didn’t give the album a chance until recently. Well, I’m sorry it took me so long to listen in because this is a great, great album.

And arguably, the centerpiece of the album is this 9+-minute mini-rock opera called “Jesus of Suburbia”. Yes, a rock opera within a rock opera seems doubly pretentious, but this song cycle is magnificent. It encompasses so many styles, from hard rock to hardcore punk to pop to ballad to Broadway and beyond. The accompanying video is ambitious as well, but while it’s decent, doesn’t quite live up to the song in my opinion.

A word of warning. The video has some R-rated material, due to strong language, nudity, sex, violence, massive substance abuse, anti-social activity, and self-mutilation. Definitely not safe for work or little ones.  The actress playing the irresponsible Mom is Deborah Kara Unger, one of my favorite actresses from edgy 1990s cinema (David Cronenberg’s Crash,” David Fincher’s “The Game”).