Between 1972 and 1977, Bryan Ferry, with and without Roxy Music made 9 of my favorite albums.
In the early-mid ’70’s, Roxy Music was about the coolest band around. They made 5 of them, each one better than the last.
They weren’t childhood friends. They weren’t childhood friends. Bryan found everyone through advertisements in Melody Maker.
In early 1970 he auditioned for King Crimson, as a replacement for Greg Lake. Although Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield felt his voice was unsuitable, they were impressed enough to help the fledgling Roxy Music get a contract with E.G. Records.
Andy Mackay replied to Ferry’s advertisement, not as a keyboard player but a saxophonist and oboist, though he did have a VCS3 synthesizer. Mackay knew Brian Eno from university days, as both were interested in avant-garde and electronic music. Although Eno was a non-musician, he could operate a synthesizer and owned a Revox reel-to-reel, so Mackay convinced him to join the band as a technical adviser. Before long Eno was an official member.
In June 1971, Paul Thompson responded to an advertisement placed in Melody Maker, “wonder drummer wanted for an avant rock group”.
Originally naming the band Roxy, Ferry changed it when hearing of an American band with the same name. “Roxy Music” was partly an homage to old cinemas and dance halls, and partly a pun on the word rock.
In October 1971 he advertised in Melody Maker seeking the “Perfect Guitarist”. Phil Manzanera was one of about twenty players who auditioned. However, Manzanera did not get the gig; the successful applicant was David O’List, former member of The Nice. The group were impressed enough with Manzanera that he was invited to become Roxy Music’s roadie, an offer which he accepted.
Bands of brothers tolerate conflicts better than a bunch of free agents. Roxy Music was never stable. They didn’t even even have a permanent bassist, but rather a rotating group of temps.
Davy O’List was edged out due to some kind of altercation with Paul Thompson prior to getting their record deal. In the meantime, roadie Phil Manzanera had secretly learned all his parts. Their first BBC sessions feature O’List. It’s interesting to compare and contrast their styles.
Bryan Ferry pursued a solo career concurrent with Roxy Music, using wonder drummer, Paul Thompson, and Roxy’s rotating bass players. Andy Mackay is the only member, besides fired Eno who doesn’t participate. He was replaced by Mel Collins. Chris Spedding largely handles the guitars, although Davy O’ List and Phil Manzanera both make appearances.
Three of the four solo albums are dominated by covers. In fact he was one of the first to tackle material not normally associated with rock n roll.
“In Your Mind” (1977) is all original material.
Then two things happened. In 1977 Jerry Hall left him for Mick Jagger, and “The Great Paul Thompson” quit due to musical differences.
Ferry’s “The Bride Stripped Bare” (1978), and Roxy Music’s “Manifesto (1979) suffer greatly from his absence, and instead feature the slick hired gun sound he’s mostly stuck with ever since.
Paul Thompson’s return did wonders for Roxy Music’s 2001 reunion tour and the reulting 2002 double live album.
In March 2005, it was announced on Phil Manzanera’s official site that the band, including Brian Eno, would 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. Had the record been released as a Roxy Music album, it would have been the first album since “Manifesto”* on which original drummer Paul Thompson performed. The album has, however, been released as a Bryan Ferry solo album entitled Olympia.
I’m glad they didn’t call it a Roxy Music album.
This compilation comes from his first four, 1973-77. The Roxy Music titles are covers.
*although Thompson is listed as a member of the band, two other drummers are also credited, and the drums, overall, lack any of Thompson’s signature sound.