A ‘long-awaited honor’, Roxy Music to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame


There are many arguments about the merits, or lack thereof, of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and conflicts over its criteria. Is it a question of popularity – record sales and concert tickets? Critically acclaimed? Cultural influence? A nebulous combination of all?

Heated debates have been going on for years, but let’s leave these concerns at the table for a moment and just agree that induction is meritorious. And above all, a tribute to Roxy Music, a long awaited honor. The British group, led by singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry, had been eligible for the nomination since 1997, but were first elected in 2018 and were rightly elected.

On March 29 in Brooklyn, Roxy Music will be inducted by John Taylor and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran. “They looked like nothing we had ever seen before, did they? Taylor recently said on Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones’ radio show, recalling seeing “Virginia Plain” on the BBC in 1972.

Duran Duran, of course, was heavily influenced by the Roxy of the last days when they achieved greater commercial success with sweet and elegant songs such as “Angel Eyes”, “Oh Yeah”, “Over You” and ” More Than This “.

But it’s hard to overstate how mind-blowing Roxy was a mashup. There was no formula. It was art-rock or prog-rock, but twisted, edged with sly humor. It was glam-rock, but more in appearance than in musical style. It was avant-garde, but still pop.

Maybe the best tag was retro-futuristic. They took inspiration from American rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s – especially when saxophonist Andy Mackay was honking – and moved forward with shocking arrangements and lyrical chases never before heard. Consider “In Every Dream Home a Heartache, a slow, swirling love song about Ferry’s longing for. . . an inflatable sex doll.

Ferry was both a Sinatra-style crooner and an outright rocker, who was not averse to the use of vibrato or falsetto. And, of course, there was the smoothness and sex appeal of Ferry; he certainly capsized hearts when he recklessly sang “To Turn You On” and “My Only Love”.

While Ferry was the focal point, Brian Eno – the self-proclaimed “non-musician” – was the synthesizer and sculptor of sound, turning the knobs and tweaking the sound. On stage, dressed in flamboyant costumes, Eno gave Roxy Music its otherworldly aura and a polysexual vibe.

Eno was gone after the second album, “For Your Pleasure”, coming out for an overwhelming solo career (and later fame as a producer), replaced by violinist / keyboardist Eddie Jobson. Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxophonist / oboist Andy Mackay have been steadfast throughout the years; on tour, Roxy was often accompanied by various musicians and singers. Ferry was the main songwriter, but occasionally collaborated with Manzanera and Mackay.

Roxy Music has had its ups and downs and three distinct phases, as Ferry told me in 1993.

Ferry, who has carved out a simultaneous career as a solo artist, looked at recording periods this way: “The first one, which is the first two [‘Roxy Music’ and ‘For Your Pleasure’], was very exciting. There is the intermediate period [‘Stranded,’ ‘Country Life’ and ‘Siren’] where we were trying to get more musical, with Eddie Jobson in the band. I had stopped doing the keyboard on stage and I became [only] the singer. It ended with “Siren” in 1975. “This album spawned their first American hit,” Love is the Drug, “ranked No. 30.

The band took a hiatus in 1976 and returned in 1979. The third phase includes the albums “Manifesto”, “Flesh + Blood” and “Avalon”. “Over the last period, records have gotten more and more sophisticated – sounding more atmospheric, smoother on drums,” Ferry said. “I entered a darker [more soulful] thing, which I personally like best, but unfortunately that meant that I stopped being so goofy and, perhaps, eccentric. ‘Avalon’ was a really interesting record, but it was very different, smoother and more seductive than the previous ones.

Still, Roxy bent convention. Listen to “Take a Chance on Me” and “Sentimental Fool,” both of which have long, textured, serpentine instrumental preludes before the vocals enter. And whether playful and frantic (“Remake / Remodel”) or painful and measured (“Just Another High”), confrontational romance was a frequent theme for Roxy. “It’s inexhaustible,” Ferry told me, laughing during our last conversation in 2016.

From Roxy’s last period, particularly from the last studio album, 1982’s “Avalon”. Ferry said his challenge was to write songs that were “less ironic and more heart-stuck on my sleeve. I wasn’t trying to be so smart in the lyrics; I was trying to be a little more sincere and my aspiration as a songwriter turned slightly different.

“Avalon” was Roxy’s last studio album, but they reunited in 2001 and toured sporadically, going their separate ways in 2011. When I asked Ferry in 2016 if there was any chance of another reunion, he said it was “by the boards”.

They will meet, of course, for the last time, for this three or four song showcase staged during the induction ceremony. Eno, although he is inducted, will not be present. (The show will air on April 27 at 8 p.m. on HBOAs for Ferry, at 73, he begins a world tour in May with, without a doubt, a crack group and performs at the Boston Opera on August 5.


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