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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Roxy Music's not-so-secret ingredient

I caught "The Roxy Music Story" via the iPlayer. It was OK. All the members past and present appear reassuringly sane. I could hug the drummer Paul Thompson if my arms were only long enough. They rowed everyone out to talk about them. Richard Williams, who discovered them. Michael Bracewell, who talked about their artistic credentials. Steve Jones was there to give them a free pass on behalf of punk rock. Siouxsie did the same thing on behalf of wimmin. Simon Reynolds explained where they fitted in critic-wise, which is funny because, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he was only nine when their first record came out.

But these documentaries are always so busy trying to underscore the seriousness of the subject that they invariably miss the elephant in the room. Roxy Music were, for about four years, the hottest ticket in the UK, because Bryan Ferry was a bigger sex symbol than Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue combined. Plus they made records that perfectly framed that sexuality. It wasn't just chin-stroking Velvet Underground fans and customers of Zandra Rhodes who loved Roxy Music. It was girls in Leeds. It was brickies in Cardiff. People screamed. People swooned. People dressed up. When Bryan Ferry appeared on stage dressed as a G.I. out of "South Pacific" everyone I knew talked about the way he had his tie tucked into his shirt. In the mid-70s there was a glamour and swagger about Roxy Music that has not been equalled by anyone in British music since. Of course the Americans didn't buy it and so it was inevitable that they would implode as nearly every British group has done ever since. But at their height they were more dazzling than they're given credit for.

12 comments:

  1. Yes, precisely. I still think 'Love Is The Drug' has one of the best intros ever (as well as being a sublime and accomplished song as well). A style much copied but never really brought off authentically by later artists.

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  2. Yes, Ferry was Newcastle's (only) Mr Sex.I watched the doco, and, David, as you said, bland. But what lovely chaps, eh?

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  3. It's the ending of Virginia Plain that does it for me. Being too young to remember them in their early 70s days, I only have the late 70s/early 80s incarnation to look back on. I then saw Virginia Plain on some reply of Whistle Test from when it was old and grey and was stunned by where they had come from.

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  4. I first became of them via Bryan Ferry's solo stuff as a 12-year-old in 1977. I thought Tokyo Joe was the best record ever.

    And when they released new stuff in '79 I was locked in for life. Now they're one of my favorite bands.

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  5. Fantastic doc for all sorts of reasons. Interesting to hear that ex-punk Gary Tibbs was hired as bassist to bring down the average age of the ensemble because only a couple of days earlier I heard veritable stripling Jeremy Hardy explaining that he had been hired by I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue for precisely the same reason. Eno was brilliant and brilliantly funny of course. And also – although I'm the world's smallest fan of rock reunions – wasn't it nice to see the ridiculously down-to-earth Paul Thompson back in the band? Even though he seems to have morphed into a Sontaran.

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  6. I love the images created by Oh Yeah (On The Radio).

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  7. I've always felt Roxy never get anywhere near the credit they deserve - hipper than Bowie they arrived fully formed, looking like the sixties never existed. Hugely influential across all genres- almost all punk bands name check them, Chic styled their upmarket look on Roxy and a stack of 80s bands copied the Roxy template (David Sylvian stretching it a bit too far).Then of course there's Eno! Also

    Spin up Pyjamarama over the weekend it's an underplayed nugget

    PS - Ferry's one of the few heavy hitters that didn't go off the boil in the 80s

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  8. Even my mum fancied Bryan, the cover of the "Another Time, Another Place' album made her swoon.

    There is some incredible video on YouTube of them playing live on German telly when Eno was still in the band. Bryan is wearing a dazzling white suit and the combo of sound and visuals just blows you away, you think for that short moment in time they were the greatest band on the planet. I love Bowie but it makes what he was doing at time look a bit creaky.

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  9. Bracewell's new book on their art school roots is a great read by the way.

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  10. 1st 3 albums = flawless

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  11. Why does the year on Simon Reynolds' birth certificate preclude him from commenting on Roxy Music?

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  12. It doesn't preclude him. It just seemed curious that while everyone else was involved in an "I was there" capacity, he wasn't.

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