More or less perfect modern pop from a more or less perfect moment in modern pop-time. Which is to say 1972, glam eruption. Except it’s wrong to classify Virginia Plain (or Roxy Music for that matter). Virginia Plain defies genre. It just is. Three minutes of pure, strange, driving fun. And thus a reason to live.
“David Bowie hits the 1980s in powerful form with Scary Monsters, blows minds and fuses across all known dimensions. But then that’s pretty much it. He’ll sell piles of records through the decade, make the cover of TIME magazine, and everything else for that matter… but he’ll never be truly monstrous or scary again. Which is either A. damned sad, or B. whatever. I mean, it’s not as if he hadn’t already given us way more than enough through the 1970s, from collapsing the hippie dream to unleashing his own personal alien glam supernova, onward unto cocaine bullshit, decadence, everything. But he always kept his cool even as he lost his mind. Did any other single artist come even close? Definitely no game.” (Philip Random)
In which Brian Eno kicks out some almost punk intensity dada circa 1974, at least two years before such aggressive tendencies would even begin to stick, culturally speaking. Though the surrealism of the lyrics suggests other more complex forces at work than mere punk anyway. Also, the yodeling.
“Tight, hard, fast, and looking very good – nobody else sounded or looked or felt remotely like Roxy Music in 1973. That would have to wait five or so years. Then all kinds of people were sounding, looking, feeling like Roxy Music (in 1973). Unfortunately, Roxy weren’t anymore. They were getting all smooth and white-boy soulful, turning into a creature I was fast finding it hard to love. But that was okay. I was really just discovering 1973 anyway, and it was all for my pleasure.” (Philip Random)
“Fashion victims, we called them. Also sophistos, or simply haircuts. But the correct term was New Romantic. And we could make all the fun we wanted, they had some of the best tunes for a while, with Fade To Grey particularly notable, because it was Visage, Steve Strange‘s group, the guy who’d started it all, shrugged off the ugly extremes of punk and replaced them with a more alluring and androgynous aesthetic – equal parts beautiful and absurd. Glam retro-fitted for the 1980s. And Fade To Grey was definitely beautiful.” (Philip Random)
“Sometimes I need to see a song used in a movie to truly get it. In the case of Needles in the Camel’s Eye (the first song on the first side of Brian Eno’s first solo album), that movie was Velvet Goldmine, the title sequence in which glam-rock fervour erupts through drab Britain circa 1971-72. As the story goes, David Bowie refused to let director Todd Haynes use any of his music in a movie that was a essentially about him. So Haynes scrambled, signed up everybody else that was relevant at the time, and the result was perhaps more confusing than originally intended, but probably better.” (Philip Random)
“I did hear Telegram Sam at least once way back when, and my immediate teeny bop take was, ‘this sounds exactly like that other T-Rex song‘. And I was right. But ultimately, wrong. Because what I was really referring to was T-Rex‘s groovy, funky, rockin’ one in a trillion sound. Which I didn’t really get for at least another decade, which is when Bauhaus’s rather raucous take on Telegram Sam nudged me into paying attention again. Pop for the ages, glamorous and forever cool.” (Philip Random)
“I hated the golden age of rock and roll when I was a young teen. Not the song, the era. The Buddy Hollys, Chubby Checkers, Bill Haleys, Big Boppers, Elvis – the whole big deal 1950s-early-60s retro thing that was suddenly going down everywhere in the wake of American Graffiti (the movie). Which wasn’t bad at all. I just didn’t need the f***ing revival. I had Bowie, T-Rex, Jethro Tull, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, The Stones, Mott The Hoople, who, of course, wrote this song about it all, with the crucial line that the golden age of rock and roll wasn’t then, it was now. And it still is. It has to be. Believe otherwise and you might as well be dead.” (Philip Random)
Apparently this is the first time Marc Bolan really rocked out on record. The band was still called Tyrannosaurus Rex at the time, and despite the name, a comparatively lightweight outfit – too much flowers and fine herbs, not enough thunder and rumbling. But that had to change. The 1970s were looming, the acid was wearing off, the hippie dream was much further away than it had previously seemed. Maybe it had never been there at all. Just another storybook fantasy.