When I slipped Rock Galaxy onto the turntable at home, I fell in love with it at once. Certain tracks were naggingly familiar – and, as I played it over and over, this horribly designed album turned out to have some monumental music on it. A bit of research in the local record store  revealed that it was in fact Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in a new gatefold sleeve. The inside featured a big picture of David Bowie in his then contemporary guise – jeans, kickers and a plaid shirt. Someone at RCA must have thought they could capture a new audience for Bowie’s glam records by branding a compilation with his Lodger persona. Anyway, c’mon – Hunky Dory AND Ziggy Stardust!

Miles Away by John Foxx, however, was a major disappointment. It sounded pedestrian in comparison with what I remembered of Metamatic. There was more romance or something cluttering up what I’d hoped would be a loftily sterile slice of the future. I played it a couple of times and put it away.

Then one wet day, I decided to go through all my 7″ singles and play every B-side I owned. It was then I heard A Long Time, Miles Away’s flip. B-Side

My stereo at the time was a mono turntable rigged up to an amp/ speaker, courtesy of one of my dad’s friends who flew jets for a living and tinkered with electronics in his spare time. It looked weird, (being mainly fashioned out of wood) but it sounded warm and bassy and I was very grateful for it.

A Long Time has an intro of synthesised notes that flicker back and forth across the stereo picture. At 11 seconds, the drums and a wash of warm synth come in. There’s a lot of bass very high up in the mix. John begins to sing in the yearning, romantic vocal style (like a desperate Lennon). He’d clearly been busy changing his style since I listened to Metamatic. At about 2.30 there’s a drum breakdown (great slathers of echo, making for sloppy rock beats), followed by a bass solo! This was extraordinarily different from his earlier work, but the combination of electronics and hackneyed rock elements made for a heady, driving, forceful piece of work. Like a Berlin-era Bowie song colliding with John Lennon at a Kraftwerk convention. Well, it did it for me. I’m still listening to it.

[If you’re new to John Foxx, a good place to start is Metamatic but the compilation, Metatronic provides an excellent overview of his electronic work from Metamatic to the present day. He also helmed the first three Ultravox albums (when they used an ! at the end of their name, and before Midge Ure made them more chart-friendly – hooray for them and sports cars all round. I stopped listening round about then). Foxx’s latest album with The Maths, Interplay, is also well worth investigating if you fancy a bit of warm analogue synth-pop.]

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