The fourth and final part of Britain’s period of national mourning for John Lennon and we end, quite fittingly, with a glossy tribute.
Jealous Guy, by Roxy Music (their 1st and only #1)
2 weeks, 8th – 22nd March 1981
To my ears, this is an interesting choice of both song and band to end up with the big Lennon tribute hit. ‘Jealous Guy’ wasn’t one of his very biggest hits, and Roxy Music aren’t the first act you’d think of to have been influenced by The Beatles, or John Lennon. Then again, what band that formed in the early ‘70s wouldn’t have been influenced by The Beatles? And maybe a more predictable cover of ‘Imagine’, or ‘Give Peace a Chance’, would have been met with a collective shrug.
I went through a phase, as a teenager, where ‘Jealous Guy’ was my favourite song, ever. It’s overwrought, and needy, you see… It’s Lennon’s ‘emo’ record. Feeling insecure… Swallowing my pain… Shivering inside… Those sorts of things. I still like it, though there are other Lennon tracks I much prefer these days. And I quite like this cover version. Bryan Ferry’s vocals are excellent – tremulous but powerful, and not as theatrical as he sometimes can be – but the music is slightly self-indulgent soft-rock.
It’s slow – though the original is, too – and over-long. I count three solos: guitar (good), synth (fine), saxophone (not for me). At least they kept the whistling. That was always my favourite bit. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered since starting this blog, it’s that whistling in pop songs usually works for me. If every sax solo ever recorded was replaced by whistling then the world would be a better place.
This was Roxy Music’s sole number one single, almost a decade into their chart careers. They had a similar chart run to ELO, who had scored their solitary #1 a year before. Both were a huge presence throughout the seventies (though Roxy Music had a two-year hiatus in the middle), and both scored a belated chart-topper with what was far from their best song. Though, I have to admit, my knowledge of Roxy Music beyond their biggest hits is patchy.
It’s worth noting, as we reach the end of it, the effect John Lennon’s death had on the top of the UK charts for three whole months. Other big, premature artist deaths – Buddy Holly, Elvis – resulted in posthumous #1s, but not in weeks of domination. And it will never happen again, in the download/streaming age, where an artist’s back-catalogue is at our fingertips, and we are no longer at the mercy of re-releases. Anyway. Next time out, ‘normal’ service is resumed.