"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.
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 reference to American Civil War general Robert E. Lee may relate to his command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. 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, Hohner pianet, 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
- 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.
- Olivier Assayas's 1994 film Cold Water uses the song as a framing device.
- The songs appears in Lars Von Trier's 1996 film Breaking the Waves as well as the film's original soundtrack.
- Virgin Atlantic Airways operates a Boeing 747 aircraft named Virginia Plain
- 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.