Ladies and Gents, I envy you. Why? Because you either do not know at all Roxy Music or have a vague idea of tracks such as “More Than This” or “Dance Away” and will now enter a new music world! Early Roxy Music is to rock music what “Lost” or “Twin Peaks” are to series, that is to say a source of constant and never-ending joy.
It all began in the late 60’s/early 70’s where a young art student/music fan formed a band with the ambition of doing something traditional and new at the same time. There have been many different musicians in the band (what about the bass players that made them go away regularly?) but the legendary core members are : Andy Mackay (saxophone), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Paul Thompson (drums), Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, more commonly known as Brian Eno (keyboards) and of course Bryan Ferry as singer and leader.
The history of Roxy Music is quite simple to decipher: five A-MA-ZING records from 1972 to 1975, a three-year break that most fans thought as definite at the time and then three polished but nice to hear adult dance rock records from 1979 to 1982, a definite split in 1983 and a few reunion shows since the start of the 21st century.
What makes these five 1972-1975 records so great?
- The songs: Re-Make/Re-Model, Ladytron, Sea Breezes from “Roxy Music” (1972), Do The Strand, In Every Dream Home A Heartache, The Bogus Man from “For Your Pleasure” (1973), Just Like You, A Song For Europe, Mother of Pearl from “Stranded” (1973), The Thrill Of It All, All I Want Is You, Out Of The Blue from “Country Life” (1974) and Love Is The Drug, Both Ends Burning, Just Another High from “Siren” (1975). But believe me, it could be all of them as every song is a killer. 10/10 for the first three LP’s and 9.5/10 for the next two ones.
- The musicians: with Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, Andy Mackay is for me the only other saxophone player able to integrate the instrument as a real component of a rock band like for instance guitar and the drums and not like an awful Adult Oriented Rock kind of thing. Phil Manzanera is a very inventive guitar player too but the real strength of the band has been the creation and tension between Bryan Ferry on voice and lyrics and Brian Eno on noise and keyboards. Brian Eno has always said that people put too much importance about his period in Roxy Music, that he only stayed for a couple of years (the first two LP’s) and that this was Bryan Ferry’s band overall. Probably but he brought to them and to the world of music in his subsequent role as producer a weirdness with sounds that was really new at the time (and still is…). And what a leader Bryan Ferry was: fantastic lyrics and such a voice, quite different from the crooner’s voice described later by lazy critics.
- The clothes, the looks, the glamorous side of the covers! I bought back in vinyls all LP’s to get these great ladies covers (Amanda Lear, Jerry Hall,…). For more about all these clothes, covers stories and the intense Roxy Music story, I strongly recommend the “More than this” DVD.
As all things eventually come for those who wait, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Roxy Music last year in Rock en Seine festival near Paris. Even though I had read good reviews of previous shows, I was of course a bit scary to see how they would play all these great songs live (and would they play them and not concentrate on the more famous late period for the French audience?). I must say that even with a few more wrinkles, Ferry/Manzanera/Mackay were on top form and on stage with younger musicians, therefore giving a great energy to the show.
Bryan Ferry did a very good solo album last year as well with many former Roxy Music partners, “Olympia” (8/10) and played the Olympia in Paris tonight amongst nine other musicians (including his son as one of the two drummers). Excellent show, with a good balance between “Olympia” tracks (You can dance, Alphaville), his elegant and classy late-night music (Slave to love, Boys and Girls, Don’t Stop the Dance), great covers (Like a Hurricane, I put a spell on you, What goes on) and rewarding us with a few Roxy Music songs (If there is a something, Love is the Drug). Here are a few pictures of both shows: