roxy for your pleasure: cultural resonance

by Art Chantry (

sometimes the littlest things can be so radical. this is an advert for roxy music’s second LP titled “for your pleasure”. it was their first american release. their actual first record ‘virginia plain’ was only released in europe originally. this ad is from the july, 1973, issue of national lampoon.

when i tripped across this the other day, it was a major jolt in several different directions. one, was how shocking they looked at the time. i remember the first time i saw this ad, i had to turn the page (hide it) because i was afraid someone would think i was gay just looking at it. hey, it was 1973 in tacoma – totally homophobe turf. i actually hid my copies of david bowie’s ‘aladdin sane’ and my new york dolls LP in the very back of my collection so none of my friends would see i owned them. thank god those days are over.

AC: i didn't have the skills this had. whoever did this was an in-house professional. i was an outis=der geek. so, my layout looks different enough from this that you may not even spot it. i just know that i was somehow instinctively aping that roxy ad. i didn't know it at the time. but, for some reason, i do know it now with some certainty. i was aping the FEEL of that ad. it's CULTURAL RESONANCE. sounds silly, but i think it's true.

see that guy in the upper left corner with the feathers? that’s the laconic brian eno in flashier days. this band was considered ‘glitter rock’ back then. the term “glam rock” (later shortened to just “glam”) was a term used to describe the same musical trend in england. however, back at the time it was happening, we americans called it “glitter rock”. kinda lame, but true. the term ‘glam’ didn’t become universally accepted until the punk era came along and changed all the definitions. remember ‘art rock?”

roxy music was one of those bands that changed the world. people tend to point to t.rex and david bowie or even lou reed as the prime exponents of the style. but, it was roxy music and their swinging style of rock (they were the first to actually use a synthesizer as a regular credited instrument in the band. eno was the first official “synth and tapes’ musician listed in a regular band lineup. they were the ones to first fully integrate the electronic world into rock and pop. no small achievement.

but, their sense of style and fashion and mood and pop actually pioneered much of what happened not only in later punk, but the was likely as large an influence on the post punk period as any band before the sex pistols. granted the ounk and post punk brits all reviled all things ‘roxy’, but when they sat down to play it all came out as bryan ferry vocals and phil manzanera guitar and eno synth. it’s as plain as your face (behind the make-up).

but, what really struck me about this ad was how radical and simple it is. i hve no idea if my next comment holds any water at all, but i can’t remember any ad that looked like this before it. you have to go back all the way to old movie posters and (maybe) perfume ads in 1930′s vogue magazines to spot much else that approaches it. it’s almost totally new. it’s so far ahead of it’s time in it’s thinking, that by the time i was art directing the rocket, even we thought that such a crazed fre-form layout was a little radical. you didn’t even see it pop up often in the pages of the rocket.

now, most of you reading this comment will snort and say, but that in’t nothing. it’s just pilling all the elements on a page and letting stay there. well, yes, it is. but, t=that sort of thing just wasn’t done. not then, not now. you have to be a total amateur, untrained in the extreme and working from apace a total ignorance to (or laziness) to design an ad that looks like this even today. it’s actually that extreme. all our training and design thoughts rejects this look utterly. even punk design has more gridded nuance to it.

i remember blowing out an ad for a production of the rocky horror show on the back cover for the rocket back in about 1986. i was so disgusted by the project (even though i won all sorts of awards and recognition and derision for the posters i did for it. one even hung in the louvre for a few weeks!) that i just blew it out and literally threw the elements on the page and left them there. it’s the closet ad i ever designed that looked like this. and it was a blow off in protest of a project i hated.

so, when i saw this i immediately realized i was aping this layout – 15 years later. i suddenly realized that in the back of my mind somewhere, i was thinking of this little

i was talking in a language of outrage and rejection that i had absorbed as a kid and still had buried in the back of my skull. when i did that rocky horror ad, it came tumbling out in emulation of the fear and anger and doubt that i had experienced when i first saw this roxy music ad. i KNEW it instinctively when i saw this again. that’s quite a jolt.

the idea that i could be jolted by a recollection/recognition that 25 years earlier i had instinctively copy-catted an ad that i had forgotten about from 15 years prior to then? man, that’s interesting.

is that how punk graphics managed to look like dada?


AC: i notice that n=most of the music ads in the lampoon are strange. you never see the mainstream acts advertised there – like led zep or james taylor or even the stones. it’s all bands like speedy keen and commander cody and manassas. there are ads for early john denver and late period deep purple. but they were not that big at the time – yet. so, the music industry was trying to reach a more ‘experimental’ and ‘more intellectually daring” demographic by advertising in the lampoon. makes for some strange juxtaposition……yeah, it’s hard now to imagine ANYTHING that could shock us any more. and yet lady gaga wears a meat suit and BINGO! so, i guess it’s still possible…yes! amanda lear! thanks for that. she was a she-devil, apparently. a regular anita pallenberg…

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Cinema/Visual/Audio, Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>