Record Machine: Avalon by Roxy Music

After years of obsessing over Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” I finally bought myself a copy of the album from which it comes, Avalon. And I ask: Is there a more perfect representation of early 1980s music?

Roxy Music - Avalon

Yes, of course opinions vary on what makes an album “perfect” or a representation of anything, but I loved the whole of Avalon on the first listen. It has those jangly, melancholy English guitars coupled with introspective lyrics and pop grandiosity. It walks the walk and hopes that success will follow — which it did. Though it is the last of Roxy Music’s eight albums, it was their most commercially successful and reached platinum status after its release in 1982.

Just to get it out of my system, let’s listen to “More Than This” one more time before I talk about other portions of the album:

It was fun for awhile
There was no way of knowing
Like a dream in the night
Who can say where we’re going

I love the shimmery synths present in many of the songs, and like a lot of ’80s music, the saxophone features prominently on the album, played here by Andy Mackay. What one does not often see, however, is the presence of an oboe on a pop album. Mackay plays the oboe on “Take a Chance With Me,” which was the album’s third single:

As they say, two can play
But keep that song away from me
In my time, too much love
Has made me sad for so long

A permeating sadness runs through Avalon, and it tells the story of a relationship that is reluctantly reaching its end. Most of the songs are written by singer Bryan Ferry, with the exceptions of “Take A Chance With Me” (co-written with guitarist Phil Manzanera), “While My Heart is Still Beating,” and “Tara” (both co-written with Andy Mackay). Ferry’s smooth voice is saturated with need, and “The way I see it/ This relationship ain’t right.”

What is interesting about Roxy Music is that their sometimes melancholy content is juxtaposed with either upbeat or grooving music. They seem to say, “Ah yes, I may have suffered, and I may not know where I am going next in life, but I do know that those troubles created this.”


Roxy Music- Avalon back coverSide One

  • More Than This
  • The Space Between
  • Avalon
  • India
  • While My Heart is Still Beating

Side Two

  • The Main Thing
  • Take a Chance With Me
  • To Turn You On
  • True to Life
  • Tara

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

8 replies on “Record Machine: Avalon by Roxy Music”

I’ve only seen Lost in Translation once (actually, in the theater when it first came out), if you can believe it, and it was before I was fully aware of the greatness of that song. I know it’s on Netflix, so I should really re-watch it some time so I can fully appreciate Bill Murray’s version.

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