By 1974, Francis Phoenix had grown heartily tired of the old hat tackiness of Glam Rock, convinced as he was that Modernist outrage had nowhere left to go. So, instead his devotion started to centre on the more refined corruption of the golden age of Modernism of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and especially its leading cities as beacons of revolutionary art, luxury and dissolution. They included the London of the Yellow Decade, Belle Époque Paris, Jazz Age New York, and most of all, Weimar Republic Berlin.
At some point in ’74, he started using hair cream to slick his hair back in the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald, sometimes parting it in the centre just as his idol had done, and to build up a new retro wardrobe.
These went on to include a Gatsby style tab collar, which he wore either with striped collegiate tie, or cravat or neck scarf. Over this, he might wear a short-sleeved Fair Isle sweater, a navy blue blazer from Meakers, and a belted fawn raincoat straight out of a forties film noir. His grey flannel trousers from Simpsons of Piccadilly typically flopped over a pair of two-tone correspondent shoes.
There were those cutting edge artists who appeared to share his love affair with the languid cafe and cabaret culture of the continent’s immediate past. Among these were established acts, such as David Bowie and Roxy Music, and newer stars such as Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel, and Ron and Russell Mael from L.A band Sparks, who’d recently come to Britain in search of Glam Rock glory. Some of Roxy’s followers even went so far as to sport the kind of nostalgic apparel favoured by Ferry himself, but they were rare creatures indeed in mid-seventies London.
As for Francis, he wore his bizarre outdated costumes in arrogant defiance of the continuing ubiquity of shoulder-length hair and flared denim jeans. In 1975, he even had the gall to go to a concert at West London’s Queen’s Park football stadium dressed in striped boating blazer and white trousers, only to find himself surrounded by hirsute Rock fans. The headliners were his one-time favourites Yes, whose “Relayer” album he’d bought the year before; but his passion for Progressive Rock was a thing of the past. He’d moved on since ’71, towards a far deeper love of darkness and loss of innocence.
But there was nothing even remotely dark about the time he fell in love with Marianne, a Dutch girl while sitting Spanish “O” level in June 1974 in Gower Street, Central London. She didn’t look Dutch; in fact, with her tanned complexion and long dark brown hair, she was Mediterranean in appearance.
It was probably she who approached Francis, because he was so unconfident around girls in those days that he’d have never made the first move, and in all the time he knew her, he didn’t have the guts to tell her how he felt. So, once they’d completed their final paper, he allowed her to walk away from him forever with a casual “I might see you around”, or some other clich é of that kind.
For about a week, he took the train into London and spent the days wandering around the city centre in the truly desperate hope of bumping into her. One time he could have sworn he saw her staring coolly back at him from an underground train, possibly at South Kensington or Notting Hill Gate, just as the doors were closing. Typically though, he was powerless to act, and simply stood there like a lovesick fool as the train drew away from the station.
In time, his infatuation faded, but certain songs – such as “I Just Don’t Want to be Lonely” by The Main Ingredient, and “Natural High” by Bloodstone – would continue to recall for him those few weeks in the summer of ’74 which he spent in hopeless pursuit of a woman of whom he knew quite literally nothing.
It wouldn’t be long before he’d forsaken his absurd super-square twenties style image; nor before he’d look back at his failed attempt at romance with Marianne and wonder if she’d been slightly repelled by his appearance. By this, he meant the vast expanse of white forehead that has been revealed by his having so severely slicked his hair back with hair oil or brilliantine. Once he stopped doing this, his romantic appeal started to swell by degrees…but this didn’t return Marianne to him. She was lost to him forever, and whether he ever fully recovered from her loss is open to debate. The chances are…he never did.