This is one of the five Roxy Music songs Bryan Ferry originally re-recorded for a solo single b-side that ended up on his 1976 album Let’s Stick Together. Like the other Roxy covers on the record it’s far more conventional than the original but I’ve always loved its suave funkiness and this was the first version of the song I knew. The band playing on it is basically Roxy Music too.
Don’t think I need to say that I prefer Bryan’s version of this song to Bob Dylan’s. Not only didn’t he have both Phil Manzanera and Chris Spedding playing on his, I bet Dylan never wore leather trousers while singing it either.
There’s an exhibition on at the Tate Liverpool at the moment called Glam! The Performance of Style which looks interesting. Part of the show is a 1977 documentary called Roxette about young Roxy Music fans in Manchester getting dressed up to go see the band live. The whole movie is 30 minutes long and looks utterly fab judging by this short clip which makes me really want to see the entire thing (wish they’d used a different song though, don’t they know I posted “Beauty Queen” just last week!) I’d love to make it to Liverpool to see the show too but doubt if that’s on the cards.
The main job of British movie dolly birds in the 60s and 70s was to be passive objects for the likes of Sid James or Robin Askwith to phwooaar all over or to scream helplessly and faint when Christopher Lee appeared in a cape. But with her imposing height, Amazonian build, and drop-dead looks, Valerie Leon didn’t fit the part of the ditzy barmaid or virginal damsel in distress so she was usually the one being sexually aggressive and domineering — entering rooms like a panther in heat, thrusting her cleavage forward like a deadly weapon, giving off enough horny static to power a large city — and it was the men who got all flustered and ran to the fainting couch when she approached.
She looked like such a you-are-not-worthy goddess that a lot of the time she wasn’t cast as a regular human being and played a variety of jungle warriors, aliens, and reincarnated Egyptian queens. Even in the Hai Karate ads she came across like some amorous Terminator robot who could not be stopped. Typically, when she did play a normal person we were supposed to believe she was such a crazed nympho that she’d chase after such weedy targets as Jim Dale, Ronnie Corbett, and even Charles Hawtrey. But I guess that was supposed to be the funny part.
She was a ubiquitous presence on 1970s telly, forever popping up as the comedy crumpet on variety shows and sitcoms, and you could always rely on her to class up a production — at least visually. As a boy I would immediately, um, perk up when she appeared and would sit through some right old rubbish in the hope that she’d appear again, however briefly, in that low-cut cocktail dress or fur bikini and play havoc with my hormones.
I’ve no idea if she was any good as an actress, watching her my normal critical faculties tend to be short-circuited, and her filmography is full of such nameless roles as “Hotel Receptionist”, “Lady in Bahamas”, “Serving Wench”, “Bath Girl” and, amusingly, “Queen of the Nabongas.” But one credit she should be proud of is having Roxy Music’s “Beauty Queen” written about her. I never knew that until recently but apparently she had a fling with Bryan Ferry at some point and now the opening line “Valerie please believe, it never could work out” makes sense to me. Whether this is true or not (the internet says it is) I hope it is because someone as gorgeous as Valerie Leon should have songs written about her.
I’ve been on a lot of photo shoots and they’re usually very enjoyable, but it can also be bloody hard work getting the shot right. Never done anything like these though, the last model I shot was a bloke. Sigh.