She Sells: 3 Versions

 

An all-time favorite song.
Listening to the separate piano part makes me appreciate it even more.
Here is the 1976 album version:

And here, live, from 1975:

I finally understood, after years of loving this song,
that the title can be interpreted as a Spoonerism for Sea Shells.

Things I love about this song:

The jaunty piano intro where Paul Thompson comes in with that great hi-hat/bass triple thump . . . the tempo shifts to a slow bounce at Nine-till-five / the daily grind. . . and then again shifts at 2:40 in the original studio version above to an expansive majestic sound which ends the song. And the lyrics, like all Roxy lyrics, are poetically exciting, full of word-play and innuendo. Is it about a real-estate agent? A tailor doing alterations? A table-dancer at a gentleman’s club? A dealer in illicit stimulants? A Chinese ceramics collector? An Asian prostitute? Maybe all of that at once. Or maybe just a fantasy in the singer’s mind about his girlfriend. Who knows ? (only Bryan Ferry and God.)

She Sells

Now you’re talking in headlines
Up to the minute and free
Stop press, hold the front page
Up as a mirror—
Are you reading me?

Watch you walking in waltz time
A jigsaw puzzle in tune
Or are you faking a straight line—
To suit yourself too soon

Rather nouveau than never
Contemporary ideal
Some natural kind of poet might slow it
But she sells . . .
more my speed.


She sells country and modern:

Ancient western song
Of oriental confusion—
You so right, me so wrong

Now you’re fixing to fly me
Auto-erotic pleas,
Off the record you’re gliding;
Your lingerie’s a gift-wrap—
Send it to me.

Nine-till-five:
The daily grind
Made-up eyes
Make up my mind
Same machine consuming me,
Consuming you . . .

Oh why, oh why
She sells . . . I need
Oh why love why
She sells . . . I need.

Thus, even Zarathustra…

Turn the lights down / way down low
Turn up the music / h
i 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
g
oes 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
m
akes 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