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Music

How Humphrey Bogart inspired a classic song from Roxy Music

@jackwhatley89

There’s a suave and effortless charm that permeates everything Bryan Ferry ever does. The singer is a smooth-talking, wink-inducing behemoth of swooning potential. Whether wrapping his hands around a cover, developing his orchestral powerhouse abilities or performing with his landmark glam rock outfit, Roxy Music, Ferry is the kind of performer one could easily see making the transition to the big screen.

In 1972, there was no band as forward-facing as Roxy Music. Led by Bryan Ferry with a virtuoso band that included the mercurial electronic pioneer Brian Eno among other gifted musicians, the group single-handedly laid out the blueprint for pop music of the future. And, in Bryan Ferry, the band had a truly enigmatic singer.

Exuding dynamism with every movement, Ferry’s vocal was allowed to saunter across the airwaves after being so roundly covered by his marksman band. With Eno providing the electronic “mood enhancers” in various guises, it allowed Phil Manzanera’s idiosyncratic guitar to slide out whenever needed—Roxy Music were a force to be reckoned with.

That did somewhat change when, in 1973, Eno left the group to pursue his own meandering experimental musical direction. But the group pushed on and have enjoyed a long and varied career based on spectacular songs and a glitzy persona that couldn’t be held captive. That showbusiness swagger doubled when they took inspiration from the elite of Hollywood with their song ‘2HB’.

Considering the song features the line “Here’s looking at you, kid,” there are no prizes for guessing that the ‘HB’ in question is not a graphite pencil but Casablanca star Humphrey Bogart, perhaps one of the finest Hollywood heartthrobs of all time.

More than just an ode from Bryan Ferry dedicated to the late actor and his work on the iconic Casablanca, the musicology is equally influenced by the film. It meanders around Morocco with a glam rock skip. The song features an Andy Mackay sax solo—based on the melody of ‘As Time Goes By’, a tune performed by Dooley ‘play it again Sam’ Wilson on that old piano in the corner.

The track has all the glitz, glam and shrewd intent of Roxy Music’s best, with Brian Eno providing tape echo treatment to transform the song into something that still sounds fresh and new. What set Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music aside from other slinky art-rock imitators is that he had not only the musical chops to stack against the stylings but a diverse creative impulse behind all the showbiz and the Bogart-like sincerity to pull it all off.

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