476. ‘Jealous Guy’, by Roxy Music

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.

7 thoughts on “476. ‘Jealous Guy’, by Roxy Music

  1. I prefer this version to the starker original, oddly. And Roxy were well overdue a number one. My prefetence has always been for Eno -era Roxy: Virginia Plain is a total original. Theres no hook, no chorus, lyrically extravagant and imaginative and i know every word every nuance every Ferryism. A singer with his own style. Plus i love sax 🙂 Even better, Streetlife, Pyjamarama, All I Want Is You and Ferrys soli versions of Dylans A Hard Rain and the blues standard Lets Work Together as Lets Stick Together. Later stuff was too polished on the whole but Love Is The Drug, Angel Eyes and Same Old Scene were great. So i still approve of Jealous Guy, it was much better than the average Roxy single of the 80s 🙂

    1. Yeah ‘Virginia Plain’ is the first Roxy Music song I knew, and for a long time the only one I knew… Or maybe I knew ‘Do the Strand’ first. Either way, both are pretty far from ‘Jealous Guy’. I should delve a bit deeper into their back-catalogue though.

  2. Love this song. I knew Roxy Music’s cover before I heard John Lennon’s original. Nowadays, I prefer John’s version. As a huge Beatles fan, I can’t deny I’m probably biased. Regardless, Roxy did a great job with this one!

  3. badfinger20 (Max)

    I always liked this song. I think they did a good job. Bryan Ferry also did a great job covering The Beatles song You Won’t See Me. I still will take the originals but hey give credit where credit is due…a very good cover of Jealous Guy…. Pretty much what Christian said!

      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        I do like this and his solo covers. With The Beatles solo songs…I change from day to day. My favorite John song is an album cut called I Know (I Know) off of Mind Games.

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