I recently picked up Unknown Pleasures: A Cultural Biography of Roxy Music by Paul Stump, a book about one of my favorite bands. I tend toward fanaticism about them, but I was not ready for the advanced level of Rock’n Roll geekery I would find in this dense and detailed volume. It is nice to have so much information on Roxy’s history, influences, make-up (personnel, not cosmetic) but it is a case of information overload.
I appreciate Roxy Music on many levels, but if forced to reduce it to basics I would say Ferry’s poetic lyrics (filled with references to art, philosophy, and cultivated despair) and Paul Thompson’s masterful drumming (along with the crazy musicality of the band in general) are what I enjoy most. I remember their song Love is the Drug on top-40 radio in the mid-seventies, but it was not until I borrowed the album Siren from a girlfriend (I may have never returned it!) that I began to really listen to every song. Later, I encountered Country Life, which I listened to even more carefully. I remember it was the lyrics that got me most of all. Part of the reason I love poetry can be blamed on Roxy Music, as well as on the infamous Euro-brit original album cover of Country Life , which at that time was banned in the U.S.
The author of the book has very fixed opinions about the band. He praises their first album and everything Eno-esque. He tends to dismiss, in an annoyingly glib way, most of what came after the first two albums, and this bothers me. It is never fun to hear someone dismiss, or indifferently ignore music and art that has profoundly moved one’s soul. But I do appreciate his taking his love of Roxy Music to the heights of Rock’n Roll geekery.