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Vladimir Arsenijević, Serbia
Roxy Music: A song for Europa

„A Song for Europe" already creates a very majestic atmosphere with its title, but many interpret a heavy melancholy in the song. For Vladimir Arsenijevic that is just a question of perspective.

It was in the tender age of 13 that I obtained the licensed Yugoslav edition of the Roxy Music Greatest Hits LP. The year was 1978 and I was a budding angry punk rocker, stuck in the hopelessly provincial Belgrade and yet thoroughly transformed by the Sex Pistols, hypnotized by The Stranglers and in love with The Clash. It is, I guess, easy to understand why the Roxy Music with their gender-neutral high camp looks and their intellectually charged avant-garde brand of glam rock did not exactly fit the expectations of this fierce teenage rebel in the making. But hey, the choice of available records in the socialist Yugoslavia was fairly limited. You had to make do with what was on offer and so stretching ones musical choice was in a way a must.

So here it was - Roxy Music Greatest Hits LP blasting from the turntable of my Traviata record player. All irony and experiment, weirdly angular guitars, screeching saxophone, those early bubbling and burping synth sounds flying seemingly from nowhere and on top of it all the singers voice lingering over this unusual musical concoction in a way that resembled emotional crooning of a chanson singer dead drunk on absinth, but with far less pathos and much more irony.

There was something distinctly European about Roxy Music and their, well, music. Particularly if by "European" we agree to understand "self-consciously artistic". And nowhere was this distinct continental intensity communicated in a better way then on the third song on the side B of this marvelous collection. Not least of all because of the sheer grandness of its title - A Song for Europe.

Rare are the songs, indeed, with such majestic atmosphere. So strong and so vulnerable simultaneously, A Song for Europe builds up to the climax in a way that I never heard before. It unmistakably gave me goosebumps every time I listened to it and I did listen to it on the daily basis.
 



It starts with a beautiful piano and a singer singing in low key about how he sits alone in an empty cafe by the river Seine thinking about a love that he lost. The story and the song develop quickly into a pure drama of the most wonderful saxophone solo my ears have ever heard and the singers voice that follows sounding as genuine and serious as possible, now with not a trace of irony lingering in the overtones. And when he lifts his voice an octave higher in a statement that there is "Now only sorrow, no tomorrow, there's no today for us, nothing is there, for us to share, but yesterday", it is clear that this particular "no tomorrow" that he is preaching here is equally dramatic and yet significantly different from the nihilistic "No future" prophecy of The Sex Pistols that I was enchanted with so much.

Sure, A Song for Europe can be interpreted as an anthem dedicated to the loss of the loved one. But it can also be interpreted in numerous different ways just as all great poetry can. My feeling and understanding what it is all about changed over the years but what was always undeniably there was this underlying divine melancholy for something that could have been but is sadly gone never to return again. All those moments, as the singer wails, lost in wonder that we'll never find again.

Forty years ago, back in 1978, Europe was a bipolar continent with a slight glitch somewhere in its southeastern side - the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia that was neither East nor West or it was either East or West or maybe it was both bloody things in the same time, depending on how and from which perspective you looked at it. The point is that this dichotomy proved to be unsustainable, that it failed to live up to its own expectations and the process of its disintegration (if only that word was not so cold and feelingless!) hurt much more than one could possibly imagine.

Nowadays we sadly fear that the same applies to the idea and the reality of Europe. So when I play A Song for Europe today, when we have no idea where we are and even less so where we are heading, I actually keep hearing a wholly different message. But I turn up the volume nevertheless, close my eyes and let the song fill me to the brim.

Tous ces moments, croons the singer in his somewhat ridiculous but grand French accent, perdus dans l`enchantement qui ne reviendront jamais...

Jamais jamais jamais jamais jamais! he goes on and on.

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