Everything about this break-out hit for the UK's Roxy Music, released in August 1972, screamed art school! The clothes, the make-up, the glam posturing, the outsider chic, Bryan Ferry's rather-too-studied cool - and the fade-up intro, played on a VCS3 synthesiser by Brian Eno, bringing analogue music technology into the nation's living rooms via an iconic appearance on Top of the Pops. Recorded and released after their debut album, this was the signature tune that stamped Roxy Music on the collective psyche. It entered the charts at number 10, and divided opinion about the band's authenticity as musicians - were they serious? or just a lame novelty act?
Predictably, it was too much for the beard-stroker elbow patches at the Old Grey Whistle Test, who were predominantly blokey types favouring cheerless mavericks like Van Morrison. But, at Bowie's Dorchester Hotel release party for Ziggy Stardust, Virginia Plain was the only music apart from his own that he allowed to be played.
A mere 8 years later, with Brian Eno long-gone and the rest of the band relegated to supporting players, Ferry reinvented Roxy Music as a yacht-rock combo playing bland dinner-party music for aspirational young professionals. The party was over. The 80s had begun.
The Robert E. Lee referred to in the song was not the US Confederate General, but the band's laywer.
The title, and the song's last line, refers to a painting by Ferry, in the style of Andy Warhol.