Michael Des Barres: The Key To The Universe

The song remains the same for the Bill Nighy of groin-thrusting Britrock.

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Still wearing leather trousers at 67, Michael Des Barres helped establish the archetype for exiled Britrock princelings moving to Hollywood and refusing to grow old. An aristocratic Carnaby Street playboy in the 60s, a glam rocker signed to Led Zeppelin’s label in the 1970s, and sometime frontman with Duran Duran offshoot the Power Station in the 80s, Des Barres has also long balanced acting with his musical careers.

His latest solo album was recorded in Rome with a guest list including former Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison and Portishead drummer Clive Deamer, but the sound remains rooted in unreconstructed, hip-swivelling, groin-thrusting, blues-soaked raunch-rock.

It’s a generic and conservative package, but one saving grace of The Key To The Universe is its pleasingly raw production, which lends a visceral garage-metal feel to the serrated guitars and a coarse-grained soulfulness to the singer’s voice.

Hence there are strong Neil Young overtones to his strangulated rasp on Room Full Of Angels and Just A Dream, while Black Sheep Are Beautiful could almost be a lost out-take from Bowie’s pre-fame, proto-glam album The Man Who Sold The World.

Ultimately, anyone who can write a romantic riff-slammer called I Want Love To Punch Me In The Face with no hint of irony deserves some respect./o:p


Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.