Roxy Music are an English art rock group initiated during 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 include Brian Eno (synthesizer and "treatments"), and Eno's replacement Eddie Jobson (synthesizer and violin). Although the band terminated during 1983, they reunited for a concert tour during 2001, and have announced that they are recording a new album for a yet-to-be-confirmed release date.
Roxy Music attained popular and critical success in the UK and Europe during the 1970s and early 1980s, beginning with their Top 10 debut album, Roxy Music, of 1972. The band was a significant influence of early English punk music, as well as providing a model for many New Wave acts and the experimental electronic groups of the early 1980s. Ferry and co-founding member Eno have also had influential solo careers, the latter becoming one of the most significant record producers of the late 20th century, with credits including albums by Devo, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Roxy Music #98 on its "100 The Greatest Artists of All Time" list.
Formation and early years (1970?71)
During 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 Newcastle art college band, The Gas Board and with whom he collaborated on his first songs. In early 1970 Ferry had auditioned as lead singer for King Crimson (who were seeking a replacement for departed vocalist Greg Lake). 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. Mackay had already 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 advertisement was placed in Melody Maker magazine saying "wonder drummer wanted for an avante rock group". Paul Thompson responded to the advertisement and joined the band during June 1971. 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 named the band Roxy originally, but after learning of an American band with the same name he altered the name to Roxy Music.
Around October 1971 Roxy advertised in the periodical Melody Maker seeking the "Perfect Guitarist" and Phil Manzanera (real name Philip Targett-Adams) was one of about twenty players who auditioned. Manzanera, the son of an English father and a Colombian mother, had spent considerable time in South America and Cuba as a child and although he did not have the same art school background as Ferry, Mackay and Eno, he was perhaps the most proficient musically of them and had a variegated interest in music. Manzanera also knew other well-known musicians, such as David Gilmour, who was a friend of his older brother's, and Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt.
The band's fortunes were greatly increased by the support of Melody Maker journalist Richard Williams and broadcaster John Peel. Williams became an enthusiastic fan after meeting Ferry and being given a demonstration tape during mid-1971, and he wrote the first major article on the band, featured on Melody Maker's "Horizons" page in the 7 August 1971 edition.
During the latter half of 1971 bassist Graham Simpson became increasingly withdrawn and uncommunicative, and near the end of the year suffered psychiatric problems and left the band. He was replaced by Rik Kenton.
First two albums (1972-1973)
Although Ferry and the group were impressed with Manzanera, the job was given initially to David O'List, former guitarist with The Nice, although Manzanera was invited to become their roadie. However during February 1972 O'List quit the group abruptly after an altercation with Paul Thompson which took place at their audition for David Enthoven of EG Management. When O'List didn't show for the next rehearsal, Manzanera was asked to come along, on the pretext of becoming their sound mixer. When he arrived he was invited to play guitar and quickly realised that it was an informal audition. Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, Manzanera had learned their entire repertoire and as a result, he was immediately hired as O'List's permanent replacement, joining on February 14, 1972 and two weeks later Roxy Music contracted with EG Management.
With this team, EG Management financed the recording of the tracks for their first album, Roxy Music, recorded in March-April 1972 and produced by King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield. It is notable that both the album and its famous cover artwork were apparently completed before the group signed with Island Records. A&R staffer Tim Clark records that although he argued strongly that Island should contract them, company boss Chris Blackwell at first seemed unimpressed and Clark assumed he was not interested. A few days later however, Clark and Enthoven were standing in the hallway of the Island offices examining cover images for the album when Blackwell walked past, glanced at the artwork and said "Looks great! Have we got them signed yet?" The band signed with Island Records a few days later. The LP was released in June to good reviews and became a major success, reaching #1 on the UK album chart in late 1972.
To garner more attention to their album, Roxy Music decided to record and release a single. Their debut single was "Virginia Plain", which scored #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 caused a renewed interest in the album. (it's significant to note that all of their singles have interesting B sides; instrumentals, experimental and weird and nothing like the music they were releasing on their albums. These B sides can be found on disc 4 of their box set "The Thrill Of It All".)
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 about the management of the group. 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 have 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 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 an 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 music albums of the period. Rolling Stone referred to the albums as marking "the zenith of contemporary British art rock". 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 U.S. 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". Their fifth album, Siren, contained their only U.S. 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 relationship with Texas-born supermodel Jerry Hall. Ferry's paean to Hall, "Prairie Rose", directly inspired the Talking Heads song "The Big Country" and was later covered by the Scottish rock group Big Country as a B-side to their single "East of Eden" in 1984. Hall is also featured on the cover of the Siren LP and in the video for Ferry's 1976 international solo success, a cover of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Stick Together".
After the concert tours in support of Siren in 1976, Roxy Music disbanded. Their live album Viva! was released in August 1976. 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 end (1978?83)
Roxy Music reunited during 1978 to record a new album, Manifesto, but with a reshuffled cast. Jobson was not present (and reportedly not contacted for the reunion) as Ferry decided to perform keyboards himself. After the tour and before the recording of the next album, Flesh + Blood (1980), 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 cast reflected a distinct change in Roxy's musical style. Gone were the 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" ? as well as Flesh + Blood ("such a shockingly bad Roxy Music record that it provokes a certain fascination")., while other sources praised the reunion. Melody Maker said, of Manifesto, "...reservations aside, this may be the first such return bout ever attempted with any degree of genuine success: a technical knockout against the odds."
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 and contained the successful single "More Than This". 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 performance in Portugal and a short tour of the United States 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". 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".
During 2002, Image Entertainment, Inc., released the concert DVD Roxy Music Live at the Apollo featuring performances of 20 songs plus interviews and rehearsal footage.
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the group #98 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Roxy Music gave 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; "Do the Strand" is available on the 4-disc DVD collection, whereas "Love Is the Drug" can be found on the Live 8 Berlin DVD.
In March 2005, it was announced on Phil Manzanera's official site 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. The record will also be the first since Manifesto on which original drummer Paul Thompson performs.
Roxy Music on stage during concert at London's ExCeL Exhibition Centre, July 2006
During 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 featuring legendary football referee Pierluigi Collina.
During July 2006, the band toured Europe. They concentrated mostly on places they had never visited before, such as Serbia and Macedonia. Roxy Music's second drummer, Andy Newmark, performed during the tour, as Thompson withdrew due to health issues.
During a March 2007 interview with the Western Daily Press, Ferry confirmed that although the next Roxy Music album is definitely being made, it will not be vended for another "year and a half", as Ferry had just released and toured behind his twelfth studio album, Dylanesque, consisting of Bob Dylan covers.
During June 2007, the band hired Liverpool based design agency to develop their new website supporting their new album. Early in the year, Phil Manzanera revealed that the band are planning to sign a record contract. During an October 2007 interview, Ferry said that the album would include a collaboration with Scissor Sisters.
Main articles: Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson (musician)
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 whereby rock musicians record albums made of cover versions of songs from earlier eras chosen for their influence on the performer's musical development. Ferry's struggle with "writer's block", however, was probably a factor in his choice to perform cover songs, although Ferry himself has compared them to the famous "readymades" of Marcel Duchamp. It was released just before David Bowie's Pin Ups, which adopted a similar formula.
Eno began his own solo career in 1973. His first four albums were comparatively conventional, mixing popular-rock melodies and song structures with experimental sounds and oblique lyrics reminiscent of the work of Syd Barrett and they featured many leading musicians including Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson as well as John Cale and members of Can, Cluster, King Crimson, Henry Cow and Genesis. His solo debut Here Come The Warm Jets (Jan. 1974) was a UK Top 40 album and one of his greatest commercial successes. During this period Eno also collaborated with Robert Fripp on two albums of experimental music, No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, which used a tape-delay system (dubbed "Frippertronics") which became the basis of the next phase of his recording career. Eno also collaborated on albums by John Cale (Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy), Genesis (The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway), Robert Wyatt, Jon Hassell, Cluster, Harold Budd and others. In 1976, he established the short-lived Obscure Records label and released Discreet Music, the first of a series of influential recordings which created the genre of ambient music. This also marked the end of the "pop" phase of his career, and he rarely redid the vocal song format on his own records in later years. By the late 1970s, alongside his own recording career, Eno had also become a sought-after producer of other artists, with credits including albums by Devo, Talking Heads and Ultravox. He featured prominently on Talking Heads Remain In Light and collaborated with frontman David Byrne on the landmark album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, one of the first popular-rock recordings to incorporate samples as a compositional tool. Eno is probably best known today as a producer, thanks to his long association with U2 and his production for other acts such as James and Coldplay.
Manzanera and Mackay each recorded solo albums, both of them with Thompson as drummer. Manzanera also used some of the studio time during the recording of his solo debut Diamond Head to reconstitute his former band Quiet Sun and produce an album of their (previously unrecorded) material; he played guitar on many of Eno's solo and collaborative recordings of the mid-1970s - notably collaborating within the critically acclaimed, yet short-lived supergroup 801 (named after a term from the Brian Eno song The True Wheel). Manzanera, Mackay, Thompson and Jobson have all participated with various Ferry solo recordings (some of which included reworkings of old Roxy material), and Manzanera has played regularly 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 success 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 ended its relationship with the band while they were in the studio recording a second album. This was vended eventually during 1990 with 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
The early style and presentation of Roxy Music was influenced by the art school backgrounds of its principal members. Ferry, Mackay and Eno had all had studied at prominent UK art colleges during the mid-to-late 1960s, when these institutions were introducing courses that avoided traditional art teaching practice, with its emphasis on painting, and instead focussed on more recent developments?- most notably "Pop Art"-? and explored new concepts such as cybernetics. As writer Michael Bracewell notes in his book Roxy: the band that invented an era, Roxy Music was created expressly by Ferry, Mackay and Eno as a means of combining their mutual and interests in music, modern art and fashion.
Ferry studied at the Newcastle University in the Sixties under renowned pop artist and educator Richard Hamilton, and many of Ferry's university friends, classmates and tutors (e.g. Rita Donagh & Tim Head) became well-known artists in their own right. Eno studied at Winchester College and although his iconoclastic style became apparent early and caused some conflict with the college establishement, it also resulted in him meeting important artists and musicians including Cornelius Cardew and Gavin Bryars. His interest in electronic music also resulted in his first meetings with Andy Mackay, who was studying at Reading University and who had likewise developed a strong interest in avant garde and electronic music.
The three eventually joined forces in London during 1970?71 after meeting through mutual friends and decided to form a rock band.
Roxy Music was one of the first rock music 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, handbills, cards and badges. They were assisted in this by a group of friends and associates who helped to sculpt the classic Roxy Music 'look'?- notably fashion designer Antony Price, hair stylist Keith Mainwaring, photographer Karl Stoecker, the group's "PR consultant" Simon Puxley (a former university friend of Mackay's) and Ferry's art school classmate Nicholas De Ville.
Well-known critic Lester Bangs went so far as to say that Roxy represented "the triumph of artifice". 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 friend Nick 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). 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 models (two German fans, Constanze Karoli ? sister of Can's Michael Karoli ? and Eveline Grunwald) clad only in semi-transparent lingerie 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. Later, an alternate cover (featuring just a picture of the forest) was used.