Turn the lights down / way down low
Turn up the music / hi as fi can go
All the gang’s here / everyone you know
It’s a crazy scene (hey there just look over your shoulder..)
Get the picture? No, no, no, no … (YEAH )
Walk a tightrope ( your life-sign-line)
Such a bright hope (right place, right time)
What’s your number? (never you mind)
Take a powder (but hang on a minute what’s coming round the corner?)
Have you a future? No, no, no, no … (YES )
Well I’ve been up all night (again?) – party-time wasting is too much fun
Then I step back thinking of life’s inner meaning and my latest fling
It’s the same old story: all love and glory—It’s a pantomime
If you’re looking for love in a looking-glass world it’s pretty hard to find
Oh mother of pearl I wouldn’t trade you for another girl
Divine intervention—always my intention, so I take my time
I’ve been looking for something I’ve always wanted but was never mine
But now I’ve seen that something just out of reach—glowing very Holy Grail
Oh mother of pearl, lustrous lady of a sacred world
Thus even Zarathustra, another-time-loser, could believe in you
With every goddess a let down, every idol a bring down—it gets you down…
But the search for perfection, your own predilection
goes on and on and on and on…
Canadian Club love: a place in the country – everyone’s ideal
But you are my favorita, and a place in your heart, dear
makes me feel more real.
Oh mother of pearl, I wouldn’t change you for the whole world
You’re highbrow, holy with lots of soul melancholy shimmering…
Serpentine sleekness was always my weakness; like a simple tune
But no dilettante, filigree fancy, beats the plastic you
Career girl cover, exposed and another slips right into-view
Oh looking for love in a looking glass world is pretty hard for you
Few throwaway kisses, the boomerang misses, spin round and round
Fall on featherbed quilted, faced with silk softly-stuffed eider down
Take refuge in pleasure, just give me your future, we’ll forget your past…
Oh mother of pearl, submarine lover in a shrinking world.
Oh lonely dreamer your choker provokes a picture cameo
Oh mother of pearl, so-so semi-precious in your detached world.
Oh mother of pearl – I wouldn’t trade you for another girl
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(That Bryan is such a Ferry !)
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MOTHER OF PEARL
This is a wonderful song, poetic yet hard-hitting: an artistic recreation in two parts, of an experience and a contemplation of that experience.This is not the only time Ferry produces a disturbing monologue on the vacuous nature of opulence to for its own sake. “Dreamhome” resonates with the same notion.
I have yet to see a coherent explanation of this song. It has been interpreted as a eulogy to cocaine, but I disagree. Maybe the song is a poem, a song and an experience which defies explanation but here goes anyway!
“Mother Of Pearl”
The first part creates the party, with its frenzied pace and loud guitar. The music is overpowering, everyone of note is there, and they all “take a powder”. The scene is set, and is underpinned by Mananzera’s dominant guitar.
Then Ferry takes centre stage, and with stylised movements, begins a stream of consciousness contemplating the emptiness of the life he has chosen. He is the consummate player, with every movement, every wave of his hand carefully orchestrated.
At this point, it is necessary to consider the title. “Mother of Pearl” is a substitute for real pearl. and is derived from a veneer inside the oyster’s shell. An excellent metaphor for his superficial life which has a lustrous veneer but no substance.
He is aware that this “party time wasting” is devoid of meaning, empty, superficial, “a pantomime” yet he is lured in just the same.
The world of fame, parties, changes of partners who are solely concerned with image is not conducive to happiness. The following line will feature several times:
“If you’re looking for love/in a looking glass world /it’s pretty hard to find.”
However, although aware that there is a higher love, it is out of reach, and at that point begins the religious imagery, which adds an ambivalent overlay to the song:
“Very holy grail” ” Lustrous lady of a sacred world”. “Highbrow holy”
This love may be aspired to but was “never mine.” The celestial, which is merely glimpsed briefly, is juxtaposed with secular love, and the protagonist seems unable to make the distinction.
And so it is that the substitute life is embraced. This false shimmering god is irresistible, even to Zarathustra. (Zarathustra is a character in Nietzsche’s philosophical novel which is often mistaken as a nihilistic system of thought- Ferry himself makes this error), and in the same way Ferry cannot resist.
“Serpentine sleekness” refers to the biblical temptress who engineered the downfall of Adam, and who is the false ideal the protagonist has chosen to worship. He is fully aware of the choice he has made and so ” no filigree fancy beats the plastic you.” All the magazine cover girls are vacuous and interchangeable:
“Career girl cover/exposed and another/slips right into view.”
The “throwaway kisses” could be for anyone, who cares if they meet their intended target? Just fall back into a life of luxury and all will be in order.
Towards the end we have the “choker” image, which is both the necklace which adorns the female, yet also a symbol of her demise, being literally choked in the world where image is rated more highly than reality and sincerity.
Finally, and depressingly, we have the affirmation of superficiality above authenticity.
“Mother of pearl/ so semi precious/ in your detached world.”
There is multiple repetition, involving several unaccompanied voices, of:
“Mother of Pearl
I wouldn’t trade you for another girl”, reinforcing that message.
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Excellent commentary on a favorite song.
Thank you for visiting my blog, Jill.
What other Roxy songs do you like? Which is your favorite album?
I like “Dreamhome” very much, and “Manifesto” even though it did not receive the acclaim I believe it deserved. ( I have written something about “Manifesto”-song and album.
By the 80s, Ferry had found a formula, but without such songs as “Dance Away”( from album “Manifesto”) they could not have survived as a band.
“Flesh and Blood” is a very polished album, less innovative, less experimental, but the title track really nails the uneasy relationship between the sexes. “My Only Love” is heart wrenching, especially the live version which contains an amazing guitar interlude by Phil Mananzera. I find “Running Wild” and “Just another High” evocative too. I believe it is perfectly possible to like the “crooning” songs, even though they lack the innovation of the early years.
Many people believe Ferry sold out, but songs such as “M of P” are not easily understood and do not have the mainstream appeal of the more commercial songs.
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It seems you appreciate the later Roxy sound. I definitely prefer the first 4 albums but I esteem anything Bryan F. and Roxy had a part in.
It is interesting to note the difference in the sound/style of the early VS. the later Roxy. It amazes me how polished and precise they were in live performances, even up to very recent shows.