Bitters End

Album: Roxy Music (1972)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Bitters End" appears to be written from the perspective of a sad, lonely, but affluent male protagonist. While it begins by depicting an extravagant party lifestyle, the song eventually exposes the man's melancholy within:

    Give now the host his claret cup
    And watch Madeira's farewell drink
    Note his reaction acid sharp
    Should make the cognoscenti think


    Bryan Ferry has returned to this kind of character throughout his career, with The New Yorker referring to the Roxy Music frontman as "the alpha male of highfalutin sleaze" in 2011.
  • Musically, this song takes inspiration from doo-wop vocal groups such as The Platters and The Ink Spots. Ferry revealed to Melody Maker: "'Bitters End' is quite serious – there's the ambiguity of the doo-wopping singers in the background, which gives people a certain image, against the words, which are strange and not at all the kind of thing you'd usually find in that musical context."
  • Bryan Ferry included an instrumental version of this song on his 16th solo album, Bitter-Sweet. The album sees Ferry reimagining his back catalog through a jazz lens. It came about after he worked on the Netflix television series Babylon Berlin, a German period drama set in the Weimar Republic.
  • Roxy Music saxophonist Andy Mackay and Grant Lee Buffalo bassist Peter Kimble recorded a cover of this song for 1998's Velvet Goldmine. Directed by Todd Haynes and starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor, the film follows the story of the fictional glam-rock star Brian Slade.

    Velvet Goldmine also includes several Roxy Music covers performed by The Venus in Furs, a supergroup of British musicians including Mackay, Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, and Suede's Bernard Butler. Among them: "2HB," "Ladytron," and "Bitter-Sweet."
  • "Bitters End" is the final song on Roxy Music's self-titled debut album. Released on June 16, 1972, the album takes inspiration from multiple moods and genres. As Ferry told Uncut in 2022: "The first album was an exploration of many styles and so diverse that it indicated many different futures the band could follow. The first Roxy album is an unusual collage of musical elements, and the songs themselves, if you break them down, are just simple experiments in different genres."

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