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 (a stylised portrait of Kari-Ann Muller also graces the cover of Mott the Hoople's 1974 album The Hoople). 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.
Versions of all nine tracks of the UK album were recorded by the BBC for the John Peel show on 4 January and 23 May 1972, with the earlier session featuring David O'List on guitar.
Reviewing for Creem in 1973, Robert Christgau said: "From the drag queen on the cover to the fop finery in the centerfold to the polished deformity of the music on the record, this celebrates the kind of artifice that could come to seem as unhealthy as the sheen on a piece of rotten meat. Right now, though, it's decorated with enough weird hooks to earn an A for side one. Side two leans a little too heavily on the synthesizer (played by a balding, long-haired eunuch lookalike named Eno) without the saving grace of drums and bassline.". 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 Bryan 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.", while Uncut placed it at number 9 in their 2015 list of best debuts.
In March 2018, a Super Deluxe 3CD + 1DVD "Book Set" of the debut album Roxy Music was released containing previously unheard material, original 1971 demos, the original album plus alternate takes, contemporary BBC Sessions and a DVD containing rare video footage and a 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson, along with a 136 page hardback book with an essay by Richard Williams, including many rare and unpublished photographs. All are within a heavy-duty slipcase.[better source needed]