2.8.17

Michel Karoli & Polly Eltes: Deluge



Holiday reading has been Michael Bracewell's "Roxy".

The endless circling around the fine details of what amounts to the undergraduate shenanigans of Bryan Ferry and Andy Mackay gets exasperating very quickly. The book's central thesis - that Bryan Ferry is to Richard Hamilton what Lou Reed was to Andy Warhol is flawed. Bracewell desperately tries to make it hold together, chiefly by introducing a supporting cast of minor characters like the artists Mark Lancaster and Rita Donagh. This spectacle is like watching someone struggling to erect a sandcastle on a wavy beach.

The contradictory impression given lucidly in the book is that Ferry was not committed or especially passionate about his subject at Art School (that he gets a 2:2 is almost bashfully admitted). And that while he was at Newcastle Hamilton was basically oblivious of him (he refers to seeing Bryan at a few student parties and noticing what a handsome chap he was). That Hamilton is subsequently delighted by witnessing Ferry on stage (ooh look one of my students!) and that Ferry is wise to the reputational usefulness of over-emphasising his fragile connection to "the father of British Pop" is essentially immaterial.

What did Warhol give Lou Reed? Well, maybe not masses, but the Factory was clearly the birthplace of the Velvet's aesthetic. You only have to hear the early Reed/Cale demos which sound like folky madrigals to be convinced of this. Andy organised the Exploding Plastic Inevitable concerts. Andy "produced" their demos - to some extent at least. Andy did the sleeve art for the debut album. Tellingly Bracewell gushes in a footnote about how magical it would have been if Hamilton had designed the first Roxy LP cover, perhaps rather than that of The Beatles' "White Album".

The absolute highlight of the book is Eno's entry into the fray. Brian's upbringing is truly wonderful and the stories of his clan of eccentric Sussex postmen is enchanting. After the endless descriptions of Newcastle and Reading institutions of higher education he comes as a breath of fresh air. Brian is touchingly loyal to Ferry and credits him with all the songwriting and also for being the band's leader and driving force. In fact no one interviewed has anything but exaggerated praise for Ferry and, perhaps unfortunately, the impression this creates is one of a fearfulness towards him.

I'd come across The Moodies in Simon Reynolds' book on Glam. They feature here in, perhaps unsurprisingly, more detail. The Moodies were big in Germany. I googled their Polly Eltes and discovered that she had made an LP with CAN's Michael Karoli - she refers to him as "Micky" in the book. I remember I used to see this record "Deluge" all over the place but I'd never actually heard it. To be honest it's very much the curate's egg, but the title track (above) is pretty sweet.