. . .
In 1975, after Siren, Roxy Music essentially broke up because Bryan Ferry wanted to concentrate on his solo career. However, because they issued the live Viva! Roxy Music in 1976 and my beloved Greatest Hits album in 1977, when they regrouped in 1979 — the solo career going nowhere (at least in the U.S.) — and put out Manifesto, most folks could be excused for not knowing that they’d been gone at all.
But of course, the version of Roxy Music that came back was completely different: the hard rock craziness that had defined their earliest days was long gone, and in its place was smooth blue-eyed soul, completely dominated by Bryan Ferry. And while Eddie Jobson was long gone — having formed the prog supergroup U.K. (whose album I dutifully bought in 1977 and don’t remember a lick of) — Phil Manzanera was still on guitar, Paul Thompson still on drums (for at least this record), and Andy MacKay still played the sax and oboe.
Also long gone: any sort of semblance of edge, even if “Trash” & “Angel Eyes” tried. That said, Manifesto boasted a song that is on the short list of Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded, Post-Glam Division, the etherial “Dance Away.” What the rest of the world heard in “More Than This,” I hear in “Dance Away.
It starts unassumingly: just a kick drum and percussion, lead by the insistent claves (which wikipedia tells us were played by Steve Ferrone) which provide a pretty big hook even before Ferry opens his mouth and sighs.
Yesterday, when it seemed so cool
When I walked you home, kiss goodnight
I said “it’s love”, you said “alright”
Its funny how, I could never cry
Until tonight, when you pass by
Hand-in-hand with another guy
You’re dressed to kill, and guess who’s dying…
One of the things I love is the castanets that punctuate each phrase, and the last line, “You’re dressed to kill, and guess who’s dying” is such a fucking great lyric on every level. A sad pun. Especially the way that Ferry sings it, holding out dyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyying while the chorus overdubs in is absolute masterclass in how to construct a hook, especially considering how great that chorus is.
Dance away the heartache
Dance away, tears
Dance away the heartache
Dance away, fears
It’s really one long sigh, and given that it’s not really a given that dancing is going to take care of the heartache — not to mention the tears or fears — incredibly bittersweet. But also undeniably gorgeous, which is why in the end, after the customary multiple verses, Ferry ends the song by singing that chorus over and over and over.
In the U.S., it still wasn’t enough to get Roxy Music back into the top forty, as “Dance Away” stalled out at #4, but in the U.K., it was an absolute smash, topping out at #2, the first of several smash U.K. singles in their second phase that made the top ten, as the next two records — 1980’s Flesh + Blood and 1982’s Avalon — spun out single after single that were all huge in their native country. Though ironically, their biggest single in this period was a non-album cover, a very personal take on John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.”
And all of those singles are very very very good, but none of them, not even “More Than This” — far and away their most streamed song on Spotify (and which of course bombed as a single here no matter what you might think you remember) — ever connected with me. I understand why people love “More Than This” and “Avalon,” but I can only stand on the sidelines and cheer them on.
“Dance Away” on Top of the Pops
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page