Saturday, October 01, 2005

8. Bryan Ferry, 9. Siouxsie Sioux, 10. Steve Harley/Cockney Rebel

Bryan Ferry has an uncanny ability, given his interpretive skills, of transforming nearly any song into a Bryan Ferry song. At the height of his campiness, backed by most of Roxy Music, he could also make almost any song sound like a Roxy Music song, as he does with Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which he gives a forceful, fun 4/4 beat, backing vocals and even some giddily unnecessary sound effects.

Siouxsie and the Banshees have always been a grey area for me. I know the hits (of which “Cities in Dust” is one), but never spent the time with the group to get to know them better. That will change, since I downloaded their entire back catalog in anticipation of remastered albums coming soon. In the meantime, I was reminded of how great this song is, every bit as apocalyptic as Dylan (Siouxsie once covered “This Wheel’s On Fire” without knowing it was one of his, based solely on the imagery) but danceable and featuring one of Budgie’s best drum parts. Really rhythmically inventive. No wonder the Slits brought him on board for their first record. He’s what’s keeping “Cut” together (though not what makes that album great, of course).

Steve Harley and his band Cockney Rebel were sorta contemporaries of Bowie and Roxy, but made even less of a dent in the U.S.. That’s a shame, since their first two albums were equal to those act’s best early works. “Judy Teen” is on the first album, “The Human Menagerie,” a single tacked onto the end. I love his singing on this, because despite being entirely in English his slurred, stylistic phrasing makes it sound at times like at least three different languages.

This is another record my local record shop recommended. They were surprised I hadn’t even heard his big hit “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me),” which apparently everyone in England knows, and which was apparently used in “Velvet Goldmine,” a film I don’t remember much about except that I didn’t like it very much.


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