Melody Maker - - The Heavy Side of Ferry - Sat 6th Jul

Melody Maker
06 July 1974

The Heavy Side of Ferry
By Allan Jones for Melody Maker, July 6 1974

If you're gonna be the sharpest blade on the block you've got to move fast, and jeep at least three moves in front of everyone else.
You need distance, you can't afford to keep looking back over your shoulder. You have to keep the momentum building all the time, creating your own level of reality as you move. Speed is essential.

You're a moving target, and if you slow down for a minute you're out. Available for every hit in the business...and who wants to be the next dead pigeon on 42nd Street?

Bryan Ferry has all the style in the world.

After being taken into the back room for a critical working over for "These Foolish Things," one might have expected Ferry to have faltered. No way. He kept his head, and with Roxy Music produced THE album of 1973 "Stranded."

Next week sees the release of his second solo album, enigmatically titled "Another Time, Another Place." It's a different bunch of bananas altogether, although the same concepts which informed the Roxy albums and "Foolish Things" applies here.

It's a much stronger album than the previous outing, much closer to Ferry's preoccupations and obsessions with Roxy.

Ferry himself agrees that the album is more powerful than its predecessor.

"It's generally a lot heavier all round, I think. It's heavyweight where the first one was lightweight or bantamweight, or whatever. The mood of a lot of the songs is quite heavy...

"The first album, for me, was only half successful, because I tend to like more and more, the songs I did changes to rather than those I left virtually the same as the original records. With this one I tried to do a totally new arrangement on every number, and put as much of me on it as possible."

The album is therefore much closer to the Roxy products in that each song becomes a cameo performance, with each cameo coming eventually together to form a coherent whole.

We find Ferry stepping in and out of different roles, appearing in different contexts, carrying the whole thing out with great precision. It's his favorite kind of texture to work with, he says.

"I'm very conscious of building up a picture, because I do see things in visual terms. It helps, the stronger the idea you have before you take a song into the studio, the more complete it feels. It's a very curious business.

"I don't know what other people do, whether they just sit and mess around, and gradually build something without knowing where it's sounds like that to me. But if you have a strong idea, no matter how many curious overdubs you put on it will still keep its identity."

Two of the tracks on the album "Fingerpoppin'" and "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" are like flashbacks to Ferry's days with Gas Board, the band he used to front at the Newcastle A Go Go.

"That's a photogrpah of me taken in '67, which is quite interesting to compare with some psychedelic pictures of contemporaries...I never went through that at all. I'm wearing a midnight blue mohair suit in that picture, with a button-down collar shirt, posing against a Studebaker. I was much more flash then than I am now."

Had he been influenced at all by West Coast music during that period?

"Oh yeah, very much at that point, which explains the pink shirts, white jeans and sneakers. We were all very much into the Beach Boys' music at that time. Any surfing music was considered to be the hippest thing around. It was the American Dream for you can imagine, being stuck up in Newcastle."

Ferry has always admitted to the influence of Americana, and the disposable mythologies of Hollywood. But more than that, in songs like "In Every Dreamhome a Heartache" and "Mother Of Pearl," he comes very close to creating a rock parallel with the erotic textures of American pop-artists like Tom Wesselman, and more particularly Richard Lindner.

"It's very interesting that you should mention Lindner; now he's very 'In Crowd.' I think that track conjures up a kind of image rather like his pictures -- that kind of neo-Berlin kind of thing...It's the kind of thing one feels one can offer with a European intelligence, so to speak."

What about the Velvets, how important an influence had they been?

"They must have been an influence, but not as much as one might imagine. I was aware of them from the first album, although I like them much more now than I did then. No musicians that I knew liked them.

"It was just artists who were friends that had the records, because it was all part of the Warhol spin off. I never really spent a great deal of time listening to them, because a few years after that first album, when I heard some of the other things, I thought they were too close to what I wanted to do at the time. I just thought, 'Oh God, I mustn't listen to this...'"

The remodelled version of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make it Through The Night" elevates the song from its essential rock 'n' roll experience to a much more considered statement, closer to "Psalm." And the almost Beardsley-like iconography of that song.

"It's strange how the most degenerate kind of characters can flirt with religion like that. What's always interested me is the gradual process of a lot of poets and the phases they go through. Like intense love poetry, over 20 years or so it can become stranger and stranger, and more introspective, until it reaches this amazing religious intensity.

"John Donne, for instance, was always the most amazing one for me."

Ferry's treatment of Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe," achieves a similar effect. Dylan, in fact, is probably the one contemporary songwriter that Ferry has any respect for.

"I'm much more at home working with a craftsmanlike written song like "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," which has an incredibly clever lyric. It's a piece of poetry in a way. The people who did the best songs were, for me, pre-Beatles.

"After 64, and the Beatles and Dylan, it became more or less obligatory for performers to write their own songs, whether they could nor not. And most often they can't in my opinion."

It often seems that Ferry is using his music, not as an end in itself, but as an attempt to create an identity for himself, a reality beneath all the style:

"It's the only way I can. My work is the only justification for doing anything really, sitting here talking to you, or walking down the street. Therefore my work is very important to me. Although I have to laugh at it or whatever, to keep a certain perspective

"It's the only thing I have any prode in, I suppose, because I'm not much of a social creature.

"Therefore, my work has to stand for everything I'm about really."

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