Roxy Music—
Pyjamarama/The Pride And The Pain

Released 1973 on Island
The Seth Man, September 2001ce
Roxy Music’s second single, “Pyjamarama” / “The Pride And The Pain” bore similarities to their first in that both sides failed to surface anywhere on their then-currently released album (although the American version of Roxy’s debut LP saw “Virginia Plain” inserted on side one) as well as keeping the A-side a Ferry-projected vocal pop hit and resigning the B-side to a Mackay-penned instrumental of completely uncommercial terrain. “Pyjamarama” is a classic because in a few well-chosen words, Ferry was able to mix a late-night cry for love with dapper robe and slippers and champagne-in-hand shenanigans that only led to just playing footsies for hours by a non-unmade hotel bed of promises whilst her partially revealed baby doll teddy and gentle nod of the head to the door only made him wind up crying hot, lovelorn tears alone in his own room. The obliquely romantic lyrics Ferry so eloquently postulates yet believes in so unconditionally are as brimming with hope and passion as much as the music that sallies forth above Eno’s Geiger-counting electronic pulse and shored up by Paul Thompson’s drumming. And speaking of this last-named Ozzy Osbourne look-alike of the drum kit (check out the gatefold of “For Your Pleasure”) his introductory rolls are so precise and strong that when they first kick off “Pyjamarama” it’s almost anticlimactic when the signal of the mix drops unexpectedly when Ferry’s vocals enter. But accompanied by Manzanera’s underwater and Leslie-warped guitar, it all begins a slow veering off into imbalance with the entrance of a later Manzanera filigreed solo of ultimate thrust via Bo Diddley with mascara and maracas. Ferry’s vocals dive further and further into sheer tremulousness, and the extended coda sees the guitar now screaming with sustain and coupling with blasts o’ sax as the Diddley beat goes off into the fade of the horizon.

“The Pride And Pain” is as strange a track as Roxy Music ever committed to vinyl during their initial period. And at this point, they certainly laid down more than their share of oddness so to call this track ‘pre-ambient’ wouldn’t be entirely accurate -- although there are no drums and the piece does seem to practically float by in an unspoken and drumless melancholy. Gently pressed e-piano notes begin the trelliswork for oboe, guitar and electronic devices to perch upon. As it does for the mechanical birds that caw and wheel over the windy, overcast and loveless plain evoked by Mackay’s plaintive and delicate oboe passages with Manzanera stepping in to weave gently restrained counterpoints. That is, until without reason or warning three savage cracks of a whip resound and immediately colours the scene from one of somber beachcombing to happening upon a scene of flagellation behind the next sand dune. You hear a determined voice rasp something out (in all probability masked backward to protect the innocent, because it’s just out of reach of audible coherence) against the ever-fleeing wind. Perhaps the memories of the person at the receiving end are far more painful than the lashes itself, and the whipping is necessary for that victim to invoke them to his or her conscious surface (along with the reddening welts)? Or perhaps it was a nod to The Velvet Underground, as even The Grateful Dead recorded a sick, twisted and unreleased song called “The Barbed Wire Whipping Party” in the late 1960’s as a reaction to The Velvets. Who knows -- but it’s an uncomfortably dark track, and not only because of those three whip cracks but (because context is everything) the song would be of an entirely different nature without them. Finally, a wordless chorale heralds a balm from above the skies as mournful guitar of only the sparsest of playing trails off into barely perceptible wisps of feedback. Further phlanged e-piano notes continue with their small gatherings over the wind, until they too are carried off like so many specks of dust.