The title track of Roxy Music’s final studio album almost never made it onto the album. Yet today, Avalon, which debuted in 1982, has become a staple of New Wave playlists over the years. How a song that went from the virtual dustbin to fronting the band’s best-selling album is an interesting story.
Avalon’s producer, Rhett Davies, recounted the tale in a 2004 interview with Mix Magazine. The core of the song was written by bandleader Bryan Ferry while he was staying at a lodge on the West Coast of Ireland and inspired by the Arthurian legend. According to Ferry in 1982, “When King Arthur dies, the Queens ferry him off to Avalon, which is sort of an enchanted island. It’s the ultimate romantic fantasy place.” Thus it was the perfect foundation for what has been acknowledged as the band’s most romantic album.
When the band recorded Avalon for the album during the original sessions in the Bahamas, however, the tempo was twice that of the final song. According to Davies, “It was really fast, twice the tempo, even though it was the same chord sequence but it never really developed into anything. I can vaguely remember the rhythm box on there and the feeling that it was very pop tune — sounding, but Bryan couldn’t exactly get a handle on it in a way that fit the album.”
While Ferry, Davies, and engineer Bob Clearmountain were doing the album’s final mixes at the Power Station in New York, no one was happy with the song. Ferry had a flash and reimagined the song at a much slower tempo. So he rewrote and rearranged it on a Saturday and called in the band to re-record on a Sunday. As luck would have it, Sunday was also demo day at the studio and Ferry overheard Yanick Etienne singing in the next studio. Enchanted by her voice he added her part – the atmospheric backgrounds that give the song a haunting sound – and sang his vocals again, inspired by her performance.
Roxy Music was one of the first art rock ensembles, breaking the mold of most rock music of the eras both in sound and fashion. Most of its original members had been art students. Though never reaching mainstream commercial success, Roxy Music has long been admired by other artists and music aficionados. Founded by Bryan Ferry and bass player Graham Simpson, Roxy Music was formed after Ferry had been turned down to replace Greg Lake as the lead singer for the band King Crimson. Brian Eno, who went on to become one of the most revered music producers of all time, was a member of Roxy Music for the first two albums but left after it became clear that Ferry was the band’s one and only leader. His departure apparently didn’t hurt the quality of music as its next two albums, Stranded and Country Life, were called “the zenith of contemporary British art rock” by Rolling Stone magazine.
Roxy Music cast a long shadow in the music industry considering their relatively short career and limited output. They, along with David Bowie, led the glam rock trend and served as harbingers for New Wave music. Artists including Kate Bush, the Cars, Duran Duran, Adam Ant, Human League, Japan, Simple Minds, XTC, the Fixx, Depeche Mode, ABC, Spandau Ballet, Eurythmics, Morrissey, and many others have cited Roxy Music at one time or another as a major influence on their work and careers.
The Toyota Avalon first rolled off the assembly line in 1994 to provide a larger, more comfortable sedan for Camry owners to graduate to. Now in its fifth generation (read our review here), the Avalon was designed specifically for the American market that for the most part prefers larger, softer, and more luxurious cars. While never a blockbuster seller – its volume peaked at just under 89,000 units in 2006 – it has a very loyal fan base.
The current Avalon still delivers on the nameplate’s top-of-the-range luxury promise, with elegant interiors and all the comfort features you’d expect from a full-size premium sedan. Built on the same TNGA platform as the new Camry, however, this latest Avalon has sporting pretentions as well. In its XSE trim, the Avalon is stiffer and more responsive thanks to its adaptive variable suspension and new 301 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. For those who prefer their cars to sip fuel, Avalon is also available with a hybrid powertrain that delivers 43 miles per gallon. The 2019 Avalon is priced from $35,500 and goes on sale this June.