“Both Ends Burning”: Roxy Music’s Second Call “Siren”

Roxy Music vintage 1975 signified a more dance-oriented incarnation of sophisticated music than that of previous years. But not only did they retain all of their inventiveness and style, but by the end of the year they had just enjoyed their highest-ranked UK single to date and their fifth Top 10 album in a row.

The album was Mermaid, hence that first single was the brilliantly incisive “Love Is The Drug”, an intelligent take on nightclub culture that will soon explode. Written by Bryan Ferry and Andy Mackay, he reached No.2 in the UK, beaten at the top only by David Bowiethe re-release of “Space Oddity”, and helped fuel a number 4 debut for the album.

Then on December 27, the second and last single from Mermaid bowed. “Both ends are burning” is a less famous, but state-of-the-art Ferry composition, with synth details from Eddie Jobson, Mackay’s ever-urgent saxophones, and Ferry’s passionate frontman.

The single entered the UK charts at No.40, and although it did not become one of Roxy’s biggest hits, went on to spend two weeks at No.25. The B-side was a live version. of “For Your Pleasure”, recorded a few weeks earlier on the band’s Empire Pool show at Wembley.

Mermaid was the third consecutive Roxy Music album to feature bass playing by John Gustafson, a very experienced player who had been with 1960s beat era bands like the Big Three and the Merseybeats. He also toured extensively with Roxy in the mid-1970s. “I can usually find something in any band that will bring me to life musically,” Gustafson later said. Mojo, “but Roxy was confusing at first because no one seemed to be leading him.

“Bryan would have little more than a chord sequence. It was often a complete mess at first, but it always seemed to work. Something would take shape. All Bryan would say is, “Make that sound black.”

The super deluxe edition of the 1972 debut album Roxy Music can be purchased here.

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