Several of the album's songs were thematically linked to movies. "2HB", with its punning title, was Ferry's tribute to Humphrey Bogart and quoted the line "Here's looking at you, kid" made famous by the 1942 film Casablanca; "Chance Meeting" was inspired by David Lean's Brief Encounter (1945). "The Bob" took its title from Battle of Britain (1968) and included a passage simulating the sound of gunfire.
Discussing the music, Andy Mackay later said "we certainly didn't invent eclecticism but we did say and prove that rock 'n' roll could accommodate – well, anything really".
The band had been rehearsing and re-working the songs for a couple of months before they finally found a recording place, after which the entire album was recorded in the space of a single week. This was necessary because there was no record deal as yet, and their managers at EG were financing the sessions themselves, paying £5,000 in recording fees. The album was produced by King Crimson's lyricist Peter Sinfield, who had recently left that band. In May 1972, a few weeks after the recording sessions, a contract was signed with Island Records and in June the album was released.
The band's penchant for glamour was showcased both in the lyrics and in the 1950s-style album cover. The photographer Karl Stoecker shot the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller, who later married Chris Jagger, brother of Mick Jagger. The album was dedicated to Susie, a drummer who auditioned for Roxy Music in the early days.
Roxy Music, particularly the album's LP incarnation, has been released in different packages over the years. The album's original cover, as issued in 1972 by Island Records, featured a gatefold sleeve picturing the band (including original bass guitarist Graham Simpson) in stage attire designed by Antony Price, and did not include the track "Virginia Plain". The album's original US release, in late 1972 on Warner Bros. Records' Reprise subsidiary, included "Virginia Plain", which had since been issued as a single in the UK. The original US release also featured a gatefold sleeve, but replaced Simpson's photo with that of Rik Kenton, who played bass on "Virginia Plain" following Simpson's departure from the group.
US distribution of Roxy Music was transferred from Reprise to their affiliated company Atco Records in 1976, and back to Reprise in the mid-1980s. LP editions of the album pressed in these timeframes were without the gatefold sleeve and band photographs, instead providing liner notes on the rear album cover.
The original LP release did not contain any singles. In July 1972, a few weeks after the contract was signed, Roxy Music recorded two more songs, "Virginia Plain" and "The Numberer", that were released as a single. It peaked at No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart and helped push sales of the album, which itself went to No. 10. In most later repressings of the album, including CD versions, the song "Virginia Plain" has been included.
In the Q magazine Special Edition issue Pink Floyd & The Story of Prog Rock, the album came number 31 in its list of "40 Cosmic Rock Albums".
Ferry was quoted around the time of their 3rd album, "Stranded" that he did not like the odd production of the first LP, and was re-recording many of the tracks. Ferry eventually re-recorded "Re-Make/Re-Model", "2HB", "Chance Meeting" and "Sea Breezes", and released them as B-sides to some of his solo singles between 1973 and 1976, collecting them together on his 1976 solo album Let's Stick Together.
In 1994, Roxy Music was ranked number 57 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums. He described it as "totally original and a breath of bizarre air", stating: "[the album] put Brian Ferry and Eno at the forefront of the art-rock movement." In 2003, Rolling Stone picked the album as number 62 in its list of the best debut albums of all time, stating "In England in the early Seventies, there was nerdy art-rock and sexy glam-rock and rarely did the twain meet. Until this record, that is."