Before I go any further on this relatively quick post, time for a weather report [*insert urgent news teletype alarm here*]: Winter is here! No, not the Game of Thrones-type metaphorical winter (though it’s coming). I’m talking the real winter, with all the cold, snowy weather. Here in Madison, we’re already getting our fair share of winter weather. As I write this, it’s a Friday evening and we’re in the midst of a nasty storm that will leave us with up to 10 inches of snow by the time it moves out Saturday night, after which chilly air will move in. This is in addition to the 6 inches or so of snow we received last weekend, and the 4 or 5 inches that dumped on us the weekend before that.
Oh, and did I mention it’s still technically autumn? Yeah, the winter solstice doesn’t occur until next week. And with that will come 3 months of snow and cold. It makes you long for warmer climates. With a sandy beach. And not a care in the world. Places like what this song may conjure up:
Okay, so maybe a Victorian-era estate in the English countryside is a mighty distance away from a warm beach, or any body of water for that matter. But let your mind drift away from the visuals in the video for “Avalon” and listen to the music. Roxy Music recorded this song and the same-named album in the early 1980s, but several years earlier they recorded material in the same London studio where the one and only Bob Marley laid down some of the reggae music he was known for.
That Marley influence must have remained in the back of the Roxy Music’s mind, as guitarist Phil Manzanera admitted here, for you can clearly feel that “reggae lilt” on “Avalon.” The relatively light instrumentals (and, oohh, that saxophone) combine to take you away from a background — your everyday troubles perhaps? — that’s steadily, magically fading out of focus (to paraphrase a line from the lyrics). Brian Ferry’s lead vocals, though quiet and seemingly tired, seem to assure you it’s okay to let go of life and relax for a while. Right alongside is Haitian singer Yanick Etienne, whose background presence made for a nice story: Roxy Music was doing overdubbing work on the album in New York City, and Brian Ferry overheard Yanick in the next studio during a break. Enchanted by her singing, Ferry invited her over to add some backing vocals to “Avalon.” What a fortunate move, for Yanick’s soaring high vocals provide the perfect cap-off, a way of saying it’s okay to fly into serenity.
Feel free to hit “replay” on that video again. Close your eyes, though, and imagine what you see in your mind as you listen to “Avalon.” What do you see?
- Do you see paradise? A tranquil, palatial setting not unlike, say, the cover art of the Avalon album? (Mind you, the album got its name from the mystical place in Arthurian legend.)
- Do you imagine someplace a little brighter than that? Maybe with a long beach? And waves caressing your feet?
- Do you imagine someplace warm perhaps? A place with no snow or cold whatsoever? And the only trouble in the skies are a passing puffy cloud or two that occasionally interrupts the golden sunshine?
- For sure, though, you imagine a place without a care in the world. A place a million miles (seemingly or otherwise) away from the difficulties of your everyday world — no 40-hour work week, no bills to pay, no politics or controversies. Just you and perhaps the one you love enjoying some peace.
Ahhh… what a paradise, isn’t it? It’s that paradise with a warm beach that surfaces in my mind every time I listen to “Avalon” being played. The song may never have been used for some Caribbean nation’s tourism ministry (Jamaica and the Bahamas have cool ad campaigns already), but it creates a wanting to go to such places someday, if not right away.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get away from the winter weather that’s still socking Madison for the next 4 minutes and 12 seconds at least. Perhaps you’ll hit “replay” once again and join me on that beach? See you there.