There are many interpretations of what the lyrics of this song mean … some of them thoughtful, others not so much. I’m not sure what’s going on in this song, from the barely heard Robert Altman-esque dialogue in the background, to the lyrics which sound like someone having a mental breakdown, but I’m mainly focusing on the wall of noise that surges louder and louder as the song progresses to have the entire thing crash down into a million pieces at the end. This was the first Weezer song I remember hearing and when I found out Ric Ocasek from the Cars produced this, I thought “Of course.” Mainly because I thought Weezer (circa 1994) sounded like a more radio-friendly version of the Pixies in much the same way the Cars were a more radio-friendly (at least in America) version of Roxy Music. This is not meant a slam to either Weezer or the Pixies (or the Cars or Roxy Music), because that first Weezer album (the self-title “blue” album) takes everything that’s great about the Pixies and adds more hooks. It’s a classic pop album and it’s the one I most frequently return to, even though I love a lot of Weezer’s later albums. “Undone” is my favorite song off the “blue” album.
The first three songs from side 2 of Roxy Music’s incredible 1974 album “Country Life,” my favorite album from that legendary band. And with a graphic that is finally safe for work! Anyone familiar with the “Country Life” album will know why this is significant. In some ways, “Country Life” is the perfect “desert island disc,” not only for the great music, but … well … the cover. If you’re alone on a deserted island with no companionship and limited media, this album has what I will call “multiple purposes.” If you have no idea what I mean, you can do a search on Google Images. After that, you’re on your own.
Mr. Black covers the iconically weird Track 1 Side 1 from Roxy Music’s revolutionary 1972 debut album. Funny, but had I not known this was a cover, I never would’ve thought Black hadn’t written this himself.
On the surface, this seems like a joke. Europe’s artiest rock band covering a song by America’s grungiest troubadour? Until you realize that this classic Neil Young song has all of the elements of Roxy Music’s best songs. The way Ferry and company cover this, it sounds like they could have written it themselves … even though Young’s version sounds quintessentially Young. Seriously, I’m hard pressed to say which one is better.
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).
From Roxy’s terrific 1975 album “Siren,” here in just slightly over 5 minutes is the blueprint for most of Duran Duran’s output from between 1981 – 1986. Duran squared claimed they sounded like a cross between the Sex Pistols and Chic. But I would argue that statement was a subterfuge to mask their real influence. Durannies, I’m calling you out.