'Hello Hollywood, This Is ROXY Music'
West Hollywood, CA
December 18, 1972
JEMS Archive (in partnership with Goody)
01 The Bob (Medley)
02 Would You Believe?
05 Grey Lagoons (announced as 'The Bogus Man, Part 2')
06 If There Is Something
08 Virginia Plain
-If There Is Something: splice
JEMS prides itself on surfacing previously uncirculated recordings, and we are fortunate to be trusted with the work of many tapers and collectors who were active in the pre-digital age.
One such friend for over 25 years is RG, music collector, concert aficionado and also an active taper in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s where he documented a lot of punk, new wave and early alternative bands as they came through Los Angeles. We’ve shared some of his work in the distant past, including recordings of U2 and R.E.M.
For years we’ve wanted to visit RG’s home and go through the boxes in the garage. A few weeks ago we finally did just that, yielding a treasure trove of tapes of bands like The Jam, The Specials, Talking Heads, Buzzcocks, Boomtown Rats and many others which we look forward to presenting later this year.
As we were digging though the boxes looking for masters, other curiosities revealed themselves, including some interesting Stones-related material, a Millard-recorded Kinks show for which we didn’t have the master or any downstream copy and this. When I first looked at the tape spine I thought it couldn’t be right: Roxy Music at the Whisky 1972?
I assumed the tape was mislabeled because to the best of my knowledge not only was there no known recording of Roxy Music’s first LA show, I’m not aware of any extant recordings from the band’s first U.S tour (Dec 1972-Jan 1973) period. In fact, beyond BBC recordings, tapes of Roxy with Brian Eno are incredibly scarce and mostly rugged quality.
RG told me he had obtained the tape in the ‘80s from a guy in a semi-famous LA band. The handwritten set list looked right, yet I was still doubtful. I borrowed the tape and a day or two later popped it into the Nakamichi and listened. The quality was surprisingly good but was it really the Whisky? Then I heard Bryan Ferry say, “Hello Hollywood, this is ROXY Music.” That sealed the deal: it was indeed a recording of Roxy’s first show at the Whisky.
As a document of this rare and excellent performance, the baseline recording is quite solid for 1972. It is mono and perhaps not hi-fi, but not low-fi either, with relatively broad fidelity and instrument separation.
But it needed a lot of work. The biggest challenge to the tape is well over 100 volume drops and fluctuations likely caused by an automatic level control or limiter on whatever tape recorder was used. Most of them occur in the first six minutes of the recording. They do continue but at far less frequent intervals throughout the set, with only a handful in the last 25 minutes.
Many of the drops are major, losing 8-10 decibels. I went through most of them one by one and attempted to lift and normalize the volume levels. For the most part that work keeps the music level relatively steady. However, because the drops are inconsistent and abrupt, raising the levels that high also raises the hiss substantially in bursts. As you bump through a sequence of fixes in close proximity, it can be jarring as the noise level shifts. But the fixes do make it much easier to listen to the show and keep the music going instead of dropping.
Then there were the pitch issues. It was clear the pitch was off and inconsistent, so I turned to the man I consider DIME’s foremost expert in the field, Professor Goody. He broke the show into segments and applied pitch adjustments accordingly. Says Goody, “There may still be a bit of drift here and there, but its pretty tight now; plus those guys didn’t all play quite in tune with one another now, did they?”
While he worked on the pitch, Goody also did some tidying up of the glitches and bumps, smoothing things out and managing the hiss even better than I had. Then mjk5510 took a pass and he really took a flatiron to the wrinkles and delivered an even more consistent result. Though we had to do a fair amount of work to mitigate problems in the original recording, when the tape is solid, as you’ll hear in the samples, it is delightfully listenable.
The performance itself is utterly charming with faithful if occasionally stretched out versions of key songs from Roxy’s debut album, plus “The Bogus Man” (referred to as Pt. 2 here) from For Your Pleasure and the UK single “Virginia Plain” (also on the early US pressings of the first album). The last three songs of the set, “If There Is Something,” “Re-Make/Re-Model” and “Virginia Plain” are riveting and the crowd is clearly won over.
Ferry alludes to Hollywood on more than one occasion, introducing “2HB” as, “a tribute to a star. It’s also about a movie called Casablanca,” referring to Humphrey Bogart, the HB of the song’s title.
As I mentioned above, there are precious few Roxy recordings from the Eno era, so to find a good audience recording from the first US tour is quite miraculous. As for the date, one online source says the band played the Whisky on December 19, another says they played on December 18 and 19. Setlist.fm has the band in Milwaukee on December 20, which seems unlikely if they played LA on the 19th. On top of that, the tape itself was dated December 18 so we are going with that.
Huge thanks to RG for letting us comb through his personal archive and pull out so many gems like this one. We look forward to presenting his recordings soon.
To Goody, thanks for volunteering to work on this historic tape. Your changes made the end result so much better. Finally, as always, mjk5510 handled the critical last mile to get this one up and out and his mastering pass really gave Roxy at the Whisky a deserving final polish. We couldn’t do this without him.
In this unprecedented time of upheaval from normalcy and what we have all known and lived day to day, please take care of yourselves, those around you and anyone else you can help who needs it, strangers and neighbors included. Music is a salve in these times and you can’t take rare tapes with you. So if anyone is sitting on any “rare” recordings, what are you waiting for? Having lost Jared and Stan already from Team JEMS, trust me when I say now is the time.
BK for JEMS
Roxy Music 1972-12-18 Whisky Hollywood (JEMS).zip - FileFactory