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Baker's Dozen

Grit In One’s Third Eye: Robyn Hitchcock’s Baker’s Dozen
Julian Marszalek , February 11th, 2013 11:14

English songwriter and frontman of The Soft Boys, The Venus Three and The Egyptians, Robyn Hitchcock leads Julian Marszalek through his most played LPs


Roxy Music – Avalon
Unlike Bowie, Bryan Ferry took one persona and he refined it. And his name actually is ‘Bryan Ferry’ and what’s cool is that he’s got two ‘Y’s in it and I’ve only got one in mine! I don’t really think he’s gone anywhere much since Avalon but he’s still an original. He has a lightness of touch. Bowie is much more heavy-footed and in a way more confident and more of a hard rocker. Like Jim Morrison he takes vocal styles and attitudes from a time before rock and he was always influenced by the big hits and the music from the 30s and 40. His first solo album, These Foolish Things, which came out only a year after Roxy’s first album, was going back to the 1920s.

He’d been to art school and he had a concept but it’s hard to say what it was. He’s a bit like Warhol in that he had a sense of himself as a brand. Bowie wasn’t so much a brand as a series of identities that amounted to Bowie and you could join him in experiencing each identity with each record. He was quite inclusive in a way. Ferry was more about refining this thing and unfortunately what started off ironically with the dinner jacket and the poolside wound up being this hunting, shooting and fishing Vanity Fair world that I don’t find particularly attractive.

But I suppose that en route to that he created some great stuff. Avalon has a mood and one of the great things about it is that you can play almost all of the songs on it on acoustic guitar but it’s one of the great pre-digital pieces of production. It has qualities that his solo albums don’t have and as far as I know he’s made two records that haven’t come out. Creatively, I don’t think there’s a lot left there [these days] and his last record [Olympia]found him drowning in a sea of overdubs. But there is still a style that he evolved with late Roxy that nobody else does and it’s almost effortless and doesn’t break a sweat and yet it moves. They were more experimental to begin with. You can never be art-rock in your day but it turns afterwards that you were art-rock. The Velvet Underground turned out to be art-rock as did Roxy Music and in our own way The Soft Boys were art-rock but by the end they’d become this one thing.

Like I said The Doors’ first album is a great loser’s record, I think this is a great loser’s record. You can just stand there, by yourself, in the drizzle with a gasper and a glass of pinot noir while the guy over the wall is doing paint stripper and you can put it on the turntable or the iPod or the mindpod and there you are: she’s not going to come but it doesn’t really matter. It soundtracks all the unresolved things that have happened in our lives or went wrong and all the things you promised someone you’d do but you won’t; it’s all in there. It’s an adult album but it’s not so far from adolescence because it’s romantic.