Saturday, December 7, 2013

"But no dilettante filigree fancy beats the plastic you"/Chris D. on Roxy Music's "Mother of Pearl"

About six years ago I approached Chris D. about publishing a collection of his music writing (from Slash and elsewhere) and sent him a dvd of James Frawley's The Christian Licorice Store. Never heard back from him though I was happy to see the publication in 2009 of A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die: A Collection of Writing by Chris D (New Texture, 2009). I have written about the collection previously here but the collection itself is not oriented towards his writing on music and film, though the book is loaded with enough references to both to keep you busy for a while tracking them down. The intros to the various sections (on poems, dream fragments, screenplays, lyrics, novel excerpts, etc.) remind me somewhat of the super dense (albeit short) film reviews that Chris used to publish in Forced Exposure. How many would he cram into an issue, fifty? Though in this collection, there is a lot of memoir contained in the short intro write-ups (generally 2-3 pages) to make the collection stand out from a mere compendium of work. So while I have never had a chance to ask Chris about Roxy Music, I figured like everybody else he would find the first five records unassailable. Who knew that he should have been interviewed for that doco on the band a few years back given his great articulation of why that period is/was held in such high esteem. In the discussion of his still unpublished first novel with the Ballard-esque title Sacred World (an influence on the novel along with Genet, P.K. Dick, Diamond Dogs era Bowie, Burroughs, noir, euro art film and his own "romantic 19th century literary damage from high school and college), he writes:
The title Sacred World was taken from a lyric phrase from Roxy Music's "Mother of Pearl" from their Stranded album. That song perfectly captures the kind of transcendental modern romanticism I was going for here, and it is perhaps Bryan Ferry's shining moment as a singer and lyricist (before he descended totally into artifice). It is a masterpiece of testimonial love that updates the type of high society amor fou found in 1940's films like Gilda, Humoresque and Notorious to profound tragic 1970's melodrama - a sung monologue of obsessive love which raises the object of affection to fetishistic heights, elevating glamour to a surreal cosmology, yet still miraculously retaining a heartbreaking poignance. Disturbingly confessional when the listener can easily interchange the love object: with one line it is the ideal woman, with the next, is it the narcissistic singer himself? Let's put it this way ... is the ideal woman really meant only for the ideal man? Thus making this a double whammy of interlocked circular obsession? That's basically what I was striving for in my elliptical fashion (though you would have to read my whole unevenly-written novel to really get that.
Second that Dr. Chris about "Mother of Pearl." Maybe add in some then contemporary Fassbinder period melodrama damage into Ferry's cultural mix (from the same 1973-74 period of the Musikladen performance below) and stir. Enjoy the screen caps and dig Sal Maida from Milk 'n Cookies on the bass.