Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Yesterday, when it seemed so cool...

Forty years ago, the musical world changed forever!

I watched on Sky Arts a fabulous documentary last night about that most magnificent band Roxy Music, celebrating four decades since their foundation in 1971. Watching it just served to reinforce my own feelings about them - they were years ahead of their time, produced snatches of brillance that others can only dream of, and provided an influence for many of the biggest movers and shakers in music at the end of the 20th century and beyond.

From their early art-house experimental days, the embryonic Roxy Music hurtled into the centre of the "mutually-feeding" musical scene that emerged at the turn of the 60s to the 70s. They were influenced by Bowie, Bowie was influenced by them. Velvet Underground influenced them both, but Lou Reed varied his musical style to reflect some of the work that Eno was doing; Iggy Pop took his lead from all of them, and so it went on...

In the end, the two Brian/Bryans (Eno and Ferry) together with Messrs Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson produced what were soon recognised as some of the finest albums of the decade - For Your Pleasure (my personal favourite!), Country Life (with its headline-grabbing near-nude girls on the cover), and Siren among them. With songs that have become modern standards such as Virginia Plain, Street Life, Do the Strand, Love is the Drug, Every Dream Home a Heartache and the rest their place in the pantheon of pop gods was assured.

Over at the Museum of Camp, we are hosting a complete exhibition of Roxy Music album covers - check them out!

As the documentary highlighted, their fashionable dominance of music was not confined to those early years. For even as Roxy themselves were parting their ways (Eno left in '73, and by 1976 the band was "on hold" as Bryan Ferry embarked on a solo career), so their trend-setting musical styles played a leading part in the development of newer, younger bands and new genres of music. Without them - as Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and Her Imperial Majesty Siouxsie Sioux admitted in the documentary - much of Punk would not have existed. And of the post-Punk generation? Well, the part that Roxy Music played in the development of the icy European sounds of the New Romantics was beyond question...

The re-emergence of Roxy Music as a conquering force in the 1980s came as little surprise, in a scene so full of acolytes. However, as several commenters noted, their compositions were by then in a much mellower, more melodic vein altogether - even if their sound (in particular Mr Ferry's vocals) was unique! They managed to hit the zeitgeist perfectly on their return, with the unfortunate death of John Lennon - and yes, everyone admits these days, Jealous Guy is more unmistakably a "Roxy song" than it is a Lennon one. Deservedly, their sublime cover hit the top of the charts (31 years ago this week) and became the best tribute to the man ever recorded.

Ironically it was also not until the 80s that the band finally broke the notoriously difficult American market, with their own special twist upon the "late-night" smooochy music so beloved of US radio and what appears to be their last album together, Avalon. Even though the documentary leaves the viewer with a tantalising glimpse af all the original members of Roxy Music (including Brian Eno) in the studio together, in the end it never became a band album, but just a Bryan Ferry solo project. They do occasionally re-form for live appearances, however, including their current 40th anniversary tour.

If they never record anything together again, the world will forever have the magnificent legacy of Roxy Music to enjoy...

More than this - The Roxy Music Story is available on DVD from Amazon

Roxy Music official website


  1. What an amazing post! I am really getting into Roxy Music right now (I have always liked the solo stuff from Byran Ferry, including stuff from his latest album). I see some CD shopping in my near future, and I must buy that DVD as well.

  2. Their early stuff was absolutely amazing... Jx

  3. I still need that DVD, along with some albums. I have been buying up the Bryan Ferry catalog (although I am still missing a few titles).

    It depends on my mood what era of Roxy Music I like the best. Overall though, I seem to prefer their later stuff (which sounds a lot like the Ferry solo work that was to follow).


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