38. Roxy Music – Ladytron (1972)

We can’t leave London’s glam rock scene behind without a track from Roxy Music. Here’s one from their first record, when they were at their most experimental and interesting.

So much to love here: Andy Mackay in a green-spangled dracula cape playing the oboe like some sort of extraterrestrial Sufjan Stevens… Phil Manzanera wearing shades that he might have borrowed from P-Funk and playing one of the loudest chords I’ve ever heard at 3:25… Bryan Ferry preening smugly in some sort of sequined leopard-print shirt… And then, of course, there’s Brian Eno, lurking in the wings like the Wizard behind the curtain, making dwoopdwoop noises on an early synth that looks like it’s powered by a game of Battleship, keeping a low profile until the last two minutes of the song when he unleashes the apocalypse.

Eno — whose full name (and I kid you not) is Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno — left the band after two albums and went on to a long and innovative career as a solo artist and record producer. He was one of the key figures in the development of the minimalist genre of ambient music in the mid-1970s — music that was designed to create an atmosphere without drawing attention to itself as music. But he’s probably best-known for his work with U2, since he’s largely responsible for designing the sound that made them famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

His biggest hit, however — possibly one of the biggest hits of all time, even though it’s only six seconds long — is The Microsoft Sound. Imagine if he were paid royalties on that thing!

Anyways, so far there hasn’t been much to say about London in this post, so I thought I’d use The Microsoft Sound as an awkward segue to say something practical about electronics. In case you don’t already know, plugs in the UK look different than plugs in the US, and electrical outlets are rated at 240 volts rather than 120 volts. What this means in practice is that  anything you bring to London from home that comes with a power cord (laptop, phone charger, hair dryer, etc.) is going to need an adapter to fit in the wall. You can buy these quite cheaply — you shouldn’t spend more than a few dollars on one, so don’t get ripped off. (They’re easy to find in airports, but usually more expensive there. They’re relatively easy to find in stores in the UK, but you might want to have one handy before you leave. Just google “US UK travel adapter” to see some options if you want to pick one up in advance.)

In some cases, however, you may need an adapter that is also a voltage converter, and these are somewhat more expensive. Naturally, this is what stores are going to try to sell you. The thing to look for on your device is a little note that says something like “100-240V” and “50/60 Hz.” As long as it says this, you can get away with a cheapo adapter.

Brian Eno (and his bird friends)

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