Bryan Ferry, These Foolish Things

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

These Foolish Things

Bryan Ferry

Released in the U.K. the same fall 1973 week as David Bowie's Pin-Ups, Bryan Ferry's first solo outing, together with that album, invented rock covers while setting a precedent that few could follow. Like Bowie, Ferry is both reverent and iconoclastic on this idiosyncratic collection, which spans '30s pop (the title track, a jazz standard), '50s rock ["(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care," popularized by Elvis and Buddy Holly], and '60s soul (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Tracks of My Tears," the Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever").

America was not yet ready

But whereas Bowie risked less by doing amped-up glam renditions of songs that already rocked in their original form, Ferry goes further on a limb with a far more eclectic song selection, creating Roxy-meets-big-band-R&B renditions of sacrosanct rock. The band here is For Your Pleasure bassist John Porter on guitar and bass, Roxy drummer Paul Thompson, and brand-new Roxy addition Eddie Jobson on violin and keys together with a bunch of horn players and background singers. Inventing plastic soul before Bowie claimed credit for the concept on Young Americans, These Foolish Things polarized critics, expanded Roxy's U.K. fan base, and did little to charm American audiences still scratching their unkempt heads over Ziggy Stardust.

Beyond the U.K. and parts of Europe, realness was really the only respected rock aesthetic of the early '70s, and when Ferry opened with a tremulous, melodramatic rendition of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," the hippies weren't having it. "Why was he holding her hand when he's supposed to be mine?" Ferry queries, daring to not change the gender of Leslie Gore's already camp-crazed "It's My Party." Despite the fact that Ferry bedded most of the knockout females who graced Roxy LP sleeves (possibly even Manifesto's mannequins), there were few Yanks at this point who thought a dude named Bryan Ferry with comic-book-hero blue-black hair was straight. America was not yet ready. Her loss.