Fans were pleased by Roxy Music this day in 1973. The then art rock quintet put out their second album, For your Pleasure 49 years ago today. The album picked up where their eclectic and odd debut album left off the year before. For fans it’s noteworthy for both being the most “out there” of their output and for being the last one with Eno on it. He quit the band shortly after the record came out, to chase his own musical rainbows and get more seriously into production – something that U2 would be very grateful for about a decade later!
They recorded it at George Martin’s Air Studio in London (not to be confused with Abbey Road where Martin did so much of his magic with the Beatles) and had another Beatles connection on it. They brought in Chris Thomas to co-produce with them (and possibly John Anthony, who’s credited on some versions of the albums and not on others.) Eno seemingly began to cut his chops as a producer on this one but having Thomas to help was invaluable. Previously he’d been working extensively with Procol Harum in the studio and had assisted Martin with the last few Beatles recordings, allegedly doing the full production on their song “Happiness is a Warm Gun”.
The songs were written by Bryan Ferry and it was Ferry at his most adventurous. Add to that unusual instruments (Ferry played guitar on one track, an oddity, and mellotron on several; Eno did all sorts of ahead-of-its-time things like playing around with tape loops in the studio to add other-wordly effects) and striking arrangements and you have a very odd-sounding record. Odd, but strangely catchy. The standouts were the album’s opposites. On the one hand, there was the dynamic, glam rock track “Do the Strand”, which was a single in much of Europe and sounded precisely like a hit single. On the other, there were the lengthy, moody, more than a little creepy “The Bogus Man” and the ode to a rubber sex doll, “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”, with lines like “My plain-wrapper baby, your skin is like vinyl” and which became a standout in a slightly livelier version on their first live album, Viva!
The album squeaked into the American album chart but was far from a hit, but at home in Britain it made it up to #4 and went gold (every Roxy studio album would go gold or better there, when all was said and done) despite the lack of a hit single. “Do the Strand” wasn’t released domestically as a 7” then, and the band was riding on the success of “Pyjamarama”, a top 10 standalone single released almost simultaneously (and later added to many pressings of the album and CD).
Critics liked it then, and still do. Q consider it the 33rd best British album of all-time and Rolling Stone now include it among the 500 greatest albums – British or otherwise – ever calling it “highly stylish, abstract-leaning art rock”. Pitchfork rate it 9.5 out of 10 and noted at length that both Ferry and Eno came from low-income, working class homes and went to art school and both were vivid influences on them; feeling “rat-trapped” in the “impermeable class system” and influenced by being surrounded by artists as youth, they gravitated towards glamor and glitz and viewed music as their escape. Allmusic consider it one of the band’s four 5-star albums, particularly “Do the Strand” and loving how “the tensions between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry propelled their music to great, unexpected heights.” Heights they would perhaps top in some future albums but never with the level of unexpectedness.