Bête Noire (album)

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Bête Noire
Bryan Ferry Bete Noir Cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released2 November 1987 (1987-11-02)
StudioCompass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas; Marcadet, Paris; Mireval, Var; Guillaume Tell, Paris
LabelVirgin (U.K.)
E.G. (U.S.)
Bryan Ferry chronology
Boys and Girls
Bête Noire

Bête Noire is the seventh solo studio album by the English singer Bryan Ferry. The album was released in November 1987 on Virgin Records in the United Kingdom and E.G. in the United States. The album was a commercial and critical success, peaking at No. 9 in the UK and was certified Gold by the BPI.

The first single, "The Right Stuff" (a collaboration with Johnny Marr and is adapted from The Smiths' instrumental B-side "Money Changes Everything") was the album's only top 40 hit in the UK, peaking at No. 37.[1] The second single, "Kiss and Tell", narrowly missed the UK top 40, but made the U.S. top 40 (becoming Ferry's only solo single to chart in the U.S. Top 40). The song also appeared in the film Bright Lights, Big City. The third and final single, "Limbo", peaked at No. 86 in the UK.[2][3][4] The promotional video for the single "Kiss and Tell" features the models Mandy Smith (who is also featured on the single's cover photograph), Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.[5]


After the success of Ferry's previous album, Boys and Girls (1985), he decided that it was time for a change of style in his career. In an attempt to give his music a more danceable sound, he joined forces with Patrick Leonard who was famed for having worked with Madonna.[6] Leonard went on to co-write five of the album's songs. Guesting on the album would be Pink Floyd's former guitarist, David Gilmour, session musicians Guy Pratt, David Williams, Abraham Laboriel, Roxy Music's former guitarist Neil Hubbard and drummer Andy Newmark.

Fans have often speculated that his song "Kiss and Tell", was Ferry's response to Jerry Hall's tell-all book about their relationship published a couple of years earlier.[7]

Lawsuits with E.G. Records[edit]

Prior to the release of the album, Ferry claimed that his recording agreement with the label, E.G. ended in March 1987, and that he was in a position to sell his new album to any company. E.G. said that he was in breach of a 15-year contract which gave them exclusive rights to market the album in Canada and the United States. The action was heard at the High Court of Justice in London, and in a preliminary hearing, the parties agreed that if the album was to be released before the main hearing, Ferry was to pay a third of the royalties into a joint account with E.G. – which they would receive if they were to win the case. E.G. later won the case and they marketed the album in Canada and the United States.[8]

The album was released in the United States by Reprise Records. Reprise Records 25598 debuted on the Billboard chart 11/21/1987 and spent 31 weeks on the chart peaking at #63. [9]

1988–89 tour[edit]

Ferry toured Australia, Japan, United States, and Europe to promote the album. The Edge from U2 joined Ferry on stage at the Dublin show to perform the Irish folk song, "Carrickfergus" (which Ferry had previously recorded in 1978) and Johnny Marr joined the backing band for "The Right Stuff" at the Manchester show. Former Roxy Music musician Andy MacKay also joined the backing band for a few numbers at the London Palladium and Wembley Arena dates.[10]

Several of the songs from the Glasgow show were included on several Bryan Ferry CD singles between 1993–95.


Video release[edit]

Cover art for the Video release

The Bête Noire Tour movie was released 10 November 2008 by the EMI Productions studio. The DVD features a pair of solo performances by Bryan Ferry, the first performance previously released as New Town, was filmed during his 1988–89 Bête Noire European Tour. The bonus show is the previously unavailable Virgin Germany 25th Birthday concert in Munich in 2002.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars link
Robert Christgau(C+) Jan. 26, 1988
Rolling Stone3/5 stars link

Reviewing retrospectively for AllMusic, critic Ned Raggett wrote of the album, "Bête Noire sparkles as the highlight of Ferry's post-Roxy solo career, adding enough energy to make it more than Boys and Girls part two. Here, his trademark well-polished heartache strikes a fine balance between mysterious moodiness and dancefloor energy, and Leonard adds more than a few tricks that keep the pep up."[12] The critic Robert Christgau wrote of the album, "As with Mick Jagger, of all people, the signal that self-imitation has sunk into self-parody is enunciatory ennui—vocal mannerisms that were once ur-posh are now just complacent."[13] Billboard wrote of the album, "Former Roxy Music maestro's much-awaited follow-up to "Boys And Girls" harbingers well for his new association with Reprise. Like past Ferry solo efforts, this displays the singer/writer's usual suaveness; tunes hinge on his familiar theme of l'amour moderne on the rocks. Tracks are uniformly solid, although "Kiss & Tell" and "Seven Deadly Sins" stand out."[8]

Anthony DeCurtis reviewed the album for Rolling Stone and wrote "Bête Noire is another step in Ferry's retreat from distinct songs into atmosphere and feel. The strategy can sometimes work wonderfully, as Ferry proved on the transcendent album Avalon from Roxy Music. But as his voice sinks more deeply into the murky layers of his music, as his lyrics are reduced to a Morse code of refined despair and his subjects recede into the mist, Ferry seems increasingly like Narcissus, enraptured by his own reflection in the pond - and the bottomless depth below." [14] Mark Coleman reviewing for the Rolling Stone Album Guide stated "Bête Noire could use one solid melody. As hushed and haunted as ever, Ferry's deeply evocative voice nevertheless gets lost amid the grandiose and antiseptic musical trappings of the digital recording era. Bête Noire is depressingly tasteful and restrained—state-of-the-art rock wallpaper."[15] Ira Robbins of the Trouser Press commented "The similarly restrained Bête Noire confirms Ferry's commitment to innocuous sophistication. That wonderful voice is his sole asset: what he's singing is all but irrelevant. But this record's stronger melodic development and a wider variety of danceable tempos than on Boys and Girls are palpable signs of life; the involvement of ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr as a player and the co-writer of one near-exciting song ("The Right Stuff") is another positive touch. In the end, given one's diminished expectations,"Limbo," "Kiss and Tell" and "Day for Night" are coolly inviting and likable enough.[16]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Bryan Ferry and Patrick Leonard, except where noted.

Side one
1."Limbo" 5:00
2."Kiss and Tell"Ferry4:57
3."New Town"Ferry4:50
4."Day for Night" 5:35
5."Zamba" 3:00
Side two
6."The Right Stuff"Ferry, Johnny Marr4:25
7."Seven Deadly Sins"Ferry, Chester Kamen, Guy Pratt5:10
8."The Name of the Game" 5:28
9."Bête Noire" 4:53
Total length:43:18

Bonus tracks on limited edition Australian CD included: The Right Stuff (12" Mix) 6:31; Kiss And Tell (Dance Mix) 7:08; Limbo (Latin Mix) 6:39; Bête Noire (Instrumental) 4:59


Note: The LP's sleeve notes includes "Vive la Résistance" to a list of musicians. Only their names are mentioned, their instruments and the exact songs on which they play are not. The following list merely tentatively mentions the instruments the same musicians have played on other Ferry records.

  • Bryan Ferry – Lead vocals, keyboards, piano

Additional musicians


  • All songs produced by Bryan Ferry and Patrick Leonard, except "Kiss and Tell", "New Town", "The Right Stuff" and "Seven Deadly Sins" (produced by Bryan Ferry, Patrick Leonard and Chester Kamen).
  • Recording Engineers: Steve Jackson, Kevin Killen and Ian Eales
  • Mixed by Alan Meyerson and Bruce Lampcov
  • Mastered by Bob Ludwig
  • Tracks 1, 4, 5, 8 and 9 published by Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd. and Johnny Yuma Music.
  • Tracks 2 and 3 published by Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd.
  • Track 6 published by Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd. and Warner Brothers Music Ltd.
  • Track 7 published by Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd., Warner Brothers Music Ltd. and Copyright Control.

Chart positions[edit]


Chart (1987) Position
UK Album Charts 9
North American Billboard chart 63
Swiss Hitparade chart 21
German Media Control chart 21
Netherlands MegaCharts chart 15
Swedish Sverigetopplistan chart 6
Norwegian VG-lista chart 10
Australian ARIA Charts 38
RIANZ chart 11
Canadian RPM Top Albums chart 23


Year Single Chart Peak
1987 "The Right Stuff" UK Singles Chart 37
1988 "Kiss and Tell" UK Singles Chart 41
1988 "Kiss and Tell" US Billboard 100 31
1988 "Limbo" UK Singles Chart 86

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bryan Ferry, retrieved 12 July 2014
  2. ^ STUART LENIG -The Twisted Tale of Glam Rock – Page 88 2010 "The music was very programmatic, with images of southern sambas in "Limbo," seaside tales in "Windswept," and hidden ..."
  3. ^ Digital Audio and Compact disc Review – Volume 4, Issues 7–12 – Page 87 1988 "Bryan Ferry: Bete Noire ... "Limbo" kicks off this danceable recording in a Caribbean groove, "
  4. ^ Keyboard – Volume 14 -1988 Page 106 "In Bryan Ferry's "Limbo," from Bete Noire, there are saxophone section parts that sound like they're from a 78 record, and in the beginning there are weird sounds like bird calls and swamp animals ..."
  5. ^ Kiss And Tell by Bryan Ferry, retrieved 12 July 2014
  6. ^ History, retrieved 12 July 2014
  7. ^ "Songfacts: Kiss And Tell by Bryan Ferry". Songfacts. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
  8. ^ a b c The Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music Album By Album Thread, retrieved 12 July 2014
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Pop Albums : 1955-1992. Record Research, inc. p. 244. ISBN 0-89820-093-8.
  10. ^ Tours, retrieved 12 July 2014
  11. ^ Product Info, retrieved 12 July 2014
  12. ^ Bete Noire, retrieved 12 July 2014
  13. ^ Bryan Ferry, retrieved 12 July 2014
  14. ^ Quoted in Buckley, David. The Thrill of It All: The Story of Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music. 2004. pg 382
  15. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony. "Bryan Ferry". Rolling Stone Album Guide. 1992. pg. 243-244
  16. ^ http://trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=bryan_ferry

External links[edit]