|Single by Roxy Music|
|Recorded||10–12 July 1972 at Command Studios, London|
|Roxy Music singles chronology|
"Virginia Plain" is a song by British glam rock group Roxy Music, released as their debut single in August 1972. Written by Roxy frontman Bryan Ferry, "Virginia Plain" was recorded by his band in July 1972 at London's Command Studios. Backed with "The Numberer" (an instrumental composed by Andy Mackay), as a single the song became a Top 10 hit in the UK, peaking at number four.
The song was not present on the original UK LP version of the band's debut, Roxy Music, and had not even been recorded when the album was released. After the success of the album in the UK, it was included on later reissues. In 1977, it was re-released as a single, together with "Pyjamarama", originally the second Roxy Music single, to promote their Greatest Hits album, and reached number 11. Both "Virginia Plain" and "The Numberer" can be found on "The Thrill of It All" boxset.
"Virginia Plain" features bass guitarist Rik Kenton, who joined after Graham Simpson left the band. It begins with a deceptively quiet introduction, followed by an instant increase of volume as soon as the vocals come in on the first verse, this apparently being a deliberate ploy by Bryan Ferry to trap unwary radio and club DJs. The song was also notable at the time for its lack of chorus and for its synthesizer work by Brian Eno, and also that the title is only heard in the last two words of the lyric.
Former art student Ferry took the title "Virginia Plain" from one of his own paintings, featuring an image of cigarette packaging - "Virginia Plain" is a variety of cigarette tobacco. The name "Robert E. Lee" refers to music industry lawyer Robert Lee, practicing at law firm Harbottle & Lewis at the time. Warhol superstar Baby Jane Holzer is also referenced in the lyrics "Baby Jane's in Acapulco / We are flying down to Rio" and "can't you see that Holzer mane?".
- Bryan Ferry - vocals, piano, Mellotron, harmonica (on "The Numberer")
- Andrew Mackay - oboe, saxophone
- Brian Eno - VCS3 synthesizer, treatments
- Paul Thompson - drums
- Phil Manzanera - electric guitar
- Rik Kenton - bass guitar
Appearances in popular culture
- Ferry's idiosyncratic appearance and vocal delivery on this song was affectionately parodied on sketch show Big Train, where Kevin Eldon played Ferry as Chairman Mao Zedong on his death-bed inexplicably returning to life and singing the song with the rest of Roxy Music.
- Along with a number of other Roxy Music songs, it features prominently in the 1998 Todd Haynes film Velvet Goldmine.
- The song appears in Lars Von Trier's 1996 film Breaking the Waves as well as the film's original soundtrack.
- Virgin Atlantic Airways had operated a Boeing 747-400 aircraft named Virginia Plain from 1997 to 2013 with tail registration G-VTOP.
- In the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones mentions Roxy Music as a major childhood influence while a part of the Top of the Pops performance of "Virginia Plain" is shown. Jones later appeared in the 2009 BBC film More Than This - The Story of Roxy Music, discussing the same thing.