Roxy Music

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Roxy Music
Origin England
Genres Art rock
Glam rock
Pop rock
Years active 1971–1983
2001–present
Labels Virgin Records
Associated acts The Explorers
801
Members Bryan Ferry
Phil Manzanera
Andy Mackay
Paul Thompson
Past members Brian Eno
Eddie Jobson
Graham Simpson

Roxy Music are an English art rock group founded in the early 1970s by art school graduate Bryan Ferry (vocals and keyboards). The other members are Phil Manzanera (guitars), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe) and Paul Thompson (drums and percussion). Former members are Brian Eno (synthesizer and "treatments"), later famous producer and musician, and Eddie Jobson (synthesizer and violin), replacing Eno. Extant from 1971 through 1983, they reunited for a concert tour in 2001, and have announced that they are recording a new album in 2005-2008 for a yet-to-be-confirmed release date.

The group's name was partly an homage to the titles of old cinemas and dance halls, and partly a pun on the word 'rock'. Ferry had first named the band Roxy, but learning of an American band with the same name prompted the alteration of the name. The juxtaposition of nostalgia with contemporary or futuristic themes was a distinctive feature of the band, particularly in their earliest incarnation. The group is noted for their combination of idiosyncratic experimentation and sophisticated wit, evident in their literate lyrics, restrained instrumental virtuosity, and highly developed visual presentation, mainly directed by Ferry, that expropriated imagery from the realms of high fashion, kitsch, and commercial photography.

During the 1970s, Roxy Music emerged as one of the foremost bands of the time, esteemed by critics and popular throughout the UK and Europe. In the USA, Australasia and other regions, however, while their albums sold well, the band only achieved significant mainstream top 40 success with the 1975 hit "Love Is The Drug".

History

Formation and first two albums (1970–73)

In November 1970, ceramics teacher and aspiring rock musician Bryan Ferry advertised for a keyboard player to collaborate with him and Graham Simpson, a bass player he knew from his art college band, The Gas Board. Earlier in 1970 Ferry had auditioned as lead singer for King Crimson (who were seeking a replacement for departed vocalist Greg Lake) and although Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield decided that Ferry's voice was unsuitable for King Crimson's material, they were impressed with his talent and they subsequently helped the fledgling Roxy Music to obtain a contract with E.G. Records.

Andy MacKay replied to Ferry's advertisement, not as a keyboard player but as a saxophonist and oboist; however, he did possess a VCS3 synthesiser. Andy met Brian Eno during university days, as both were interested in avant-garde and electronic music. It was some time later that they met again; although Eno was a self-confessed non-musician, he could operate a synthesizer and owned a Revox reel-to-reel tape machine, so Mackay convinced him to join the band as a technical adviser. Before long Eno was a performing member of the group. After Dexter Lloyd, a classically-trained timpanist, left the band an ad was placed in Melody Maker magazine saying wonder drummer wanted for an avante rock group.[1] Paul Thompson responded to the ad and joined the line-up in June 1971. Soon after, guitarist Phil Manzanera replaced former Nice guitarist David O'List, making Roxy Music a six-piece band. With this line-up, their first album Roxy Music was recorded in March and released in June 1972, receiving some good reviews and moderate success in the charts. Simpson was then sacked and replaced with Rik Kenton.

To garner more attention to their album, Roxy Music decided to record and release a single. Their debut single was "Virginia Plain", which reached #4 in the British charts. The band's eclectic visual image, captured in their debut performance on the BBC's Top of the Pops, became a cornerstone for the glam trend in the UK; the TOTP video of "Virginia Plain" was later parodied by the British comedy series Big Train. The single sparked a renewed interest in the album, which started rising in the charts.[2] Soon after "Virginia Plain", Rik Kenton departed the band.

The next album, For Your Pleasure (recorded with guest bass player John Porter) was released in March 1973. It marked the beginning of the band's long, successful collaboration with producer Chris Thomas and recording engineer Bill Price, who worked on all of the group's classic albums and singles in the 1970s. The album was promoted with the non-album single "Pyjamarama", but no album track was released as a single. At the time, Ferry was dating French model Amanda Lear, who was photographed with a black jaguar for the cover of For Your Pleasure (Ferry appears on the back cover as a dapper driver standing in front of a limousine).

Stranded, Country Life, Siren, and solo projects (1974–77)

Soon after recording For Your Pleasure, Brian Eno left Roxy Music amidst increasing differences with Ferry over the direction and running of the group (and, as some have contended, over a personal feud that developed between the two).[3] The other members of the band are reported to have shared some of Eno's concerns about Ferry's dominance, but they elected to remain in the group. The band would never again settle on a permanent bass player. John Gustafson, John Wetton, Gary Tibbs and Alan Spenner among others would fill the revolving role.

Eno was replaced by 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson, formerly of progressive rockers Curved Air, who played both keyboards and electric violin. Although some fans lamented the loss of the experimental attitude and camp aesthetic that Eno had brought to the band, the classically-trained Jobson was a dynamic and accomplished musician. His arrival reinvigorated the group, with his keyboard expertise freeing Ferry from his keyboard duties on stage, as well as lending greater refinement to the group's studio recordings. His dazzling electric violin skills added an exciting new dimension to the band's sound, as showcased on the song "Out of the Blue". Eno himself later acknowledged the quality of the two albums that followed his departure, Stranded (1973) and Country Life (1974), and they are widely regarded as being among the most original and consistent British rock albums of the period. Rolling Stone referred to the albums as marking "the zenith of contemporary British art rock".[4] The songs on these albums also cemented Ferry's persona as the epitome of the suave, jaded Euro-sophisticate. Although this persona undoubtedly began as a deliberately ironic device, during the mid-1970s it seemed to merge with Ferry's real life, as the working-class miner's son from the north of England became an international rock star, an icon of male style who had love affairs with many beautiful women, among them Playboy playmate Marilyn Cole (who appeared on the cover of the Stranded album) and fashion models Amanda Lear (who would later date David Bowie) and Jerry Hall (who later became the common law wife of Mick Jagger).

On the first two Roxy albums, all songs were written solely by Bryan Ferry. Beginning with Stranded, Mackay and Manzanera began to co-write some material. Gradually, their songwriting and musicianship became more integrated into the band's sound, although Ferry remained the dominant songwriter; throughout their career, all but one of Roxy's singles were written either wholly or jointly by Ferry. Stranded was released in November 1973, and produced the top-10 single "Street Life".

The fourth album, Country Life, was released in 1974, and was the first Roxy Music album to enter the US Top 40, albeit at #37. Country Life was met with widespread critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone referring to it "as if Ferry ran a cabaret for psychotics, featuring chanteurs in a state of shock".[5] Their fifth album, Siren, contained their only US hit, "Love is the Drug". (Ferry said the song came to him while kicking the leaves during a walk through Hyde Park.) At this time Ferry was involved in a high profile relationship with Texas-born supermodel Jerry Hall. Hall had a small impact on the group, being the subject of the Roxy song "Prairie Rose" (from Country Life), a song that directly inspired the Talking Heads song "The Big Country". "Prairie Rose" was later covered by the Scottish rock group Big Country as a B-side to their single "Where The Rose is Sown" in 1984. Hall is also featured on the cover of the Siren LP and in the video for Ferry's 1976 international solo hit, a cover of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Stick Together".

Following the concert tours in support of Siren in 1976, Roxy Music disbanded. During this time Ferry released two solo records on which Manzanera and Thompson performed, and Manzanera reunited with Eno on the critically acclaimed one-off 801 Live album.

Final albums and break-up (1978–83)

Roxy Music reunited in 1978 to record a new album, Manifesto, but with a reshuffled line-up. Jobson was not present (reportedly not contacted for the reunion) as Ferry decided to perform keyboards himself. After the tour and prior to the recording of the next album, Flesh + Blood, Thompson broke his thumb in a motorcycle mishap and took a leave from the band (and soon after left permanently). The three remaining members were supplemented by a variety of session players over the next few years, including Andy Newmark, Neil Hubbard and Alan Spenner.

The changed line-up reflected a distinct change in Roxy's musical approach. Gone were the jagged and unpredictable elements of the group's sound, giving way to smoother (some would say blander) musical arrangements. Rolling Stone panned Manifesto—"Roxy Music has not gone disco. Roxy Music has not particularly gone anywhere else either"[6]—as well as Flesh + Blood ("such a shockingly bad Roxy Music record that it provokes a certain fascination").[7] Later, with more sombre and carefully-sculpted soundscapes, the band's eighth—and, until their 21st-century reunion, final—album, Avalon (1982), was a major commercial success and restored the group's critical reputation (Rolling Stone: "Avalon takes a long time to kick in, but it finally does, and it's a good one.") The trio toured extensively until 1983, when Bryan Ferry dissolved the band and band members devoted themselves full time to solo careers (see below).

Reunion and new album (2001–present)

Ferry, Manzanera, Mackay, and Thompson re-formed in 2001 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band and toured extensively. A festival appearance in Portugal and a short tour of the USA followed in 2003. Absent was Brian Eno, who criticized the motives of the band's reunion, saying, "I just don't like the idea. It leaves a bad taste."[8] Later Eno remarked that his comment had been taken out of context. Manzanera and Thompson recorded and toured with Ferry on his 2002 album Frantic. Eno also contributed to Frantic on the track "I Thought".

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the group #98 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[9]

Roxy Music returned to the stage for a live performance at the 2005 Isle of Wight Festival on 11 June 2005, their first UK concert since the 2001-2002 world tour. On 2 July 2005, the band played "Jealous Guy", "Do the Strand" and "Love is the Drug" at the Berlin contribution to Live8; only "Do the Strand" was available on the DVD.

In March 2005 it was announced on Phil Manzanera's official site[10] that the band, including Brian Eno, had decided to record an album of new material. The project would mark the first time Eno worked with Roxy Music since 1973's For Your Pleasure. After a number of denials that he would be involved with any Roxy Music reunion, on 19 May 2006 Eno revealed that he had contributed two songs to the new album as well as playing keyboards on other tracks. He did, however, rule out touring with the band.[11] The record will also be the first since Manifesto on which original drummer Paul Thompson performs.

File:RoxyMusicExCelCentre2006.JPG
Roxy Music on stage during concert at London's ExCeL Exhibition Centre, July 2006

In early 2006, a lesser-known Roxy track, "The Main Thing", was remixed by Malcolm Green and used as the soundtrack to a pan-European television commercial for the Opel Vectra. The film featured legendary football referee Pierluigi Collina, whose sartorial elegance somewhat echoed Ferry's. The remix was immediately popular across the continent and the UK, bringing Roxy to a new generation of viewers and fans.

In July 2006, the band toured Europe. They concentrated mostly on places they've never visited before, visiting for a first time Serbia and Republic of Macedonia. Roxy Music's second drummer Andy Newmark handled the tour as Thompson withdrew due to health issues.

In a March 2007 interview with the Western Daily Press, Ferry confirmed that although the next Roxy Music album is definitely in the making it will not see light for another "year and a half", as Ferry had just released and toured behind his twelfth studio album, Dylanesque, consisting of Bob Dylan covers.[12]

In June 2007 the band hired Liverpool based design agency to develop their new website supporting their new albm. Early in the year, Phil Manzanera revealed that the band are planning to sign a record contract. In an October 2007 interview, Ferry said that the album would include a collaboration with Scissor Sisters.[13]

Solo work

All members of Roxy Music have prolific careers. Ferry's solo career had already begun in 1973 while he was still very much a member of Roxy Music, and his solo albums (mostly containing ironic cover versions of pop standards) alternated with Roxy's releases. Ferry's solo debut, These Foolish Things, is notable as one of the first and best examples of the much-imitated trend that has seen scores of rock musicians recording albums made up of cover versions of songs from earlier eras chosen for their influence on the performer's musical development. Ferry's battle with writer's block, however, was probably a factor in his choice to perform cover songs.[14][15] The same year, David Bowie's Pin Ups adopted a similar formula, also employed earlier in Ringo Starr's Sentimental Journey.

Manzanera and Mackay undertook solo projects, both of them with Thompson drumming, and Manzanera also played guitar on many of Eno's solo and collaborative recordings of the mid-1970s. Manzanera and Mackay, along with Thompson and Jobson, also took part in various of Ferry's solo recordings (some of which included reworkings of old Roxy material), and Manzanera regularly played with Ferry on his solo tours.

After their last album and tour, Mackay, Manzanera, and Ferry all released solo albums. Ferry's solo career has continued uninterrupted. Andy Newmark participated on all of Ferry's subsequent records and tours. Thompson worked as a session drummer for various artists; his post-Roxy session work included such diverse acts as a punk band The Angelic Upstarts on their 1983 album Reason Why and blues-rocker Gary Moore on his Emerald Aisles Live In Ireland tour in 1985, which was released on video. In 1990-91, Thompson replaced Harry Rushakoff as the drummer in Concrete Blonde, during which time they had their biggest hit with the single "Joey".

In 1984, Manzanera and Mackay teamed with vocalist James Wraith to form The Explorers. Signed to Virgin, the band released a self-titled album and a number of singles (among them "Venus de Milo" and "Falling for Nightlife", the latter of which was not included on the LP version), but none of their material charted in England. Virgin dropped the band while they were in the studio recording a second album. This eventually emerged in 1990 under the name Manzanera / Mackay. In 1987, Manzanera teamed with former Roxy and King Crimson bassist John Wetton for the LP Wetton/Manzanera.

Style and legacy

Roxy Music was one of the first rock groups who created and maintained a carefully crafted look and style that included their stage presentation, music videos, album and single cover designs, and promotional materials such as posters and badges. Legendary critic Lester Bangs went so far as to say that Roxy represented "the triumph of artifice".[16] The band's debut album, produced by King Crimson's Pete Sinfield, was the first in a series of increasingly sophisticated album covers, art-directed by Ferry in collaboration with his art school friend Nicholas De Ville.

The album artwork for the first five Roxy LPs imitated the visual style of classic "girlie" and fashion magazines, featuring high-fashion shots of scantily-clad models Amanda Lear, Marilyn Cole and Jerry Hall, each of whom had romances with Ferry during the time of their contributions (as well as model Kari-Ann Muller who appears on the cover of the first Roxy album but who was not otherwise involved with anyone in the band, and who later married Mick Jagger's brother Chris).[17] The title of the fourth Roxy album, Country Life, was intended as a parody of the well-known British rural magazine of the same name, and the visually punning front cover photo featured two lingerie clad models (two German fans, Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald[18] standing in a forest. As a result, in many areas of the United States the album was sold in an opaque plastic wrapper because retailers refused to display the cover.

Roxy Music were a significant influence on the early English punk movement, as well as providing a model for many New Wave acts and the subsequent New Romantic and experimental electronic groups of the early 1980s. Ferry and co-founding member Brian Eno have also had broadly influential solo careers, and Eno in particular has emerged one of the most significant record producers of the late 20th century, with credits including landmark albums by Devo, Talking Heads and U2.

Discography

Studio albums

  1. Roxy Music (July 1972)
  2. For Your Pleasure (April 1973)
  3. Stranded (December 1973)
  4. Country Life (November 1974)
  5. Siren (November 1975)
  6. Manifesto (April 1979)
  7. Flesh and Blood (May 1980)
  8. Avalon (June 1982)

Live albums

  1. Viva! (July 1976)
  2. Heart Still Beating (October 1990)
  3. 2001 World Tour Live CD (Double Album) (June 2003)

Band members

Core members

Former members

Session and touring musicians

  • Rik Kenton – bass (1972-1973)
  • John Porter – bass (1973)
  • John Gustafson – bass (1973-1976)
  • Rick Wills – bass (1973-1975)
  • Sal Maida – bass (1973-1975)
  • John Wetton – bass (1974-1976)
  • Alan Spenner – bass (1978-1983)
  • Neil Jason – bass (1979-1982)
  • Gary Tibbs – bass (1978-1980)
  • Zev Katz – bass (2001)
  • Mark Smith – bass (2002-2004)
  • Guy Pratt – bass (2005-present)
  • Paul Carrack – keyboards (1978-1980)
  • Colin Good – keyboards (2001-present)
  • Dexter Lloyd – drums (1971)
  • Rick Marotta – drums (1979-1982)
  • Steve Ferrone – drums (1979)
  • Simon Phillips – drums (1980)
  • Allan Schwartzberg – drums (1980)
  • Andy Newmark – drums (1980-1983, 2006)
  • Jimmy Maelen – percussion (1982-1983)
  • Julia Thornton – percussion, harp (2001-2005)
  • Roger Bunn – guitar (1971)
  • David O'List – guitar (1971-1972)
  • Neil Hubbard – guitar (1979-1983)
  • Chris Spedding – guitar (2001)
  • Chris Laurence – string bass (1973)
  • Richard Tee – piano (1979)
  • Yanick Ettiene – vocals (1982)
  • Lucy Wilkins – violin, keyboards (2001-2003)
  • Louise Peacock – violin, keyboards (2003-2006)

Notes

References

  • Bracewell, Michael Roxy Music: Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Art, Ideas, and Fashion (Da Capo Press, 2005) ISBN 0-306-81400-5
  • Buckley, David The Thrill Of It All: The Story of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music (André Deutsch, 2004) ISBN 0-233-05113-9
  • Rigby, Jonathan Both Ends Burning: The Complete Roxy Music (Reynolds & Hearn, 2005) ISBN 1-903111-80-3
  • Stump, Paul Unknown Pleasures: A Cultural Biography of Roxy Music (Quartet Books, 1998) ISBN 0-7043-8074-9

External links