Desert Island Singles: “More Than This” by Roxy Music (1982)

Image from 80smusic.about.com

Brian Ferry…sounded unlike anyone else on the radio at the time, his voice more reminiscent of old-time jazz-age singers and post-war tenors like Bill Kenny of the Ink Spots and Tony Williams of the Platters. Indeed, the romantic and flighty tune reminds one of old torch songs…Phil Manzanera punctuates his partner’s vocal lines with a singular staccato guitar style, favoring muted single-string lines over full chords. Andy MacKay’s sax floats in and out of the mix, swimming in the smooth reverb. Andy Newmark never wavers from his steady drum beat. – Bill Janovitz

In our on-air sessions my friend Alan Haber has observed that in many of the best pop singles, musicianship serves the song, not the other way around. “More Than This” is a textbook example of that. A song about being in the moment and seeing what’s in front of you is sparse, spare, and economical, an ethereal presence. Manzanera’s opening guitar riff kicks everything into action, then he steps back and adds only the briefest of licks. The instrumentation works with the lyricism as a cohesive whole: gauzy synths, reverb on the drums, clean and compressed guitar tones. In fact, Ferry retreats vocally for most of the song’s minute-plus “off ramp.”

It’s a love song, an exquisite make-out song, and a sly sublime rocker too. It rewards repeated listenings.

It’s been covered a few times. 10,000 Maniacs took it to the US Top 40 in the post-Natalie Merchant days. Norah Jones recorded a masterful smoky-ballad version with guitarist Charlie Hunter. And Bill Murray sings it in a karaoke scene in the movie “Lost In Translation,” which made it to the soundtrack CD as a hidden track.

We’re all at the mercy of unconscious forces over which we have no control. We have to learn to ride the sea at the tide and appreciate the wave, however fleeting it might be.

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they’re blowing
As free as the wind
And hopefully learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning

More than this, you know there’s nothing
More than this, tell me one thing
More than this, nothing

It was fun for a while
There was no way of knowing
Like a dream in the night
Who can say where we’re going
No care in the world
Maybe I’m learning
Why the sea on the tide
Has no way of turning

More than this, you know there’s nothing
More than this, tell me one thing
More than this, no, there’s nothing

Advertisements

2 Comments on “Desert Island Singles: “More Than This” by Roxy Music (1982)”

  1. AnnMcK says:

    Thanks, Scott. Forgot how much I love this song!

  2. […] by Nick Lowe (1982) 11/5/13: “Fountain Of Sorrow” by Jackson Browne (1974) 10/30/13: “More Than This” by Roxy Music (1982) 8/16/12: “Taken In” by Mike and The Mechanics (1985) 8/12/13: “American […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s