Roxy Music Celebrates 50th Anniversary By Re-Releasing Original Albums And Breaking Into The Arena

It was 1974 and Roxy Music were playing in Birmingham, England in support of their third album, country life, when 14-year-old John Taylor, along with his schoolmate (and later Duran Duran bandmate) Nick Rhodes, recalls seeing the band doing their soundcheck before being taken away in a black car. Describing the frenzy and flash of that moment, as Taylor and his Duran Duran bandmate, singer Simon Le Bon, inducted the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, Taylor said that when he returned home that night and listened to the tape recording of their show which he recorded, he knew what he wanted to be. “I knew my destiny,” said the Duran Duran bassist, who added, “Without Roxy Music, there would be no Duran Duran,” a sentiment that would be echoed by many other artists down the decades.

Le Bon called Roxy Music a “shock to the system,” recounting the first time he saw the ragtag team of artistic musicians perform their debut single “Virginia Plane” on top pops in 1972. “Psychedelic Sinatra crooning, pop art poetry on drums, saxophones and oboes, heavily processed electric guitars and the most extraordinary synthesizer parts you’ve ever heard – the musicians themselves were dressed outrageously, each with a well-defined individual look,” Le Bon added. “Put it all together and you have luscious sci-fi.”

Just when The Velvet Underground had disintegrated and David Bowie was exploding with the Spiders From Mars, there was Roxy Music. A collective composed mainly of dropouts from art schools alchemizing their artistic talent as musicians, crossing a musical field of disco and rock, punk, electronic, jazz, pop and at the dawn of the new wave of the end of the 70s, all curated by their individual style, bespoke enough to leave their mark on music, art and fashion and transform the concept and style of what a band should look and sound like with their art-rock.

Led by the debonair croons of lead singer and songwriter Bryan Ferry, whom Taylor has compared to screen legend Cary Grant for his “effortless and ambitious” grace, and the magic of synthesizer and keyboards of Brian Eno , Roxy Music were perfectly complemented by their former roadie, guitarist Phil Manzanera, the late bassist Graham Simpson (1943-2012), who only stayed with the band for their early days – the band continued without ever having a bassist permanent – classically trained saxophonist, oboist and wind instrumentalist Andy Mackay, former violinist Eddie Jobson and drummer Paul Thompson, who would later play with Concrete Blonde and continue to work with his bandmates Roxy on their solo projects.

Bryan Ferry (Photo by Neil Kirk/High Rise PR)

Formed in 1970, Roxy Music would release eight albums together over their 12-year lifespan. Now, five decades later Roxy Music debuted, and 40 years since the band broke up after the last album AvalonFerry, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson (Eno left the band after their second album At your service) are re-releasing their eight original albums, each having received a half-speed remaster at Abbey Road Studios by Miles Showell. The band will also embark on an international tour, the first since their 2011 At your service shows, and 20 years since they performed in the United States, to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Roxy Music influenced an intersection of artists across mixed media, including music with everyone from Talking Heads, Nile Rodgers and Chic, the Sex Pistols, Def Leppard, Depeche Mode and the upcoming New Romantics of the 1980s .

Manzanera, who toured with David Gilmour and co-produced the Pink Floyd guitarist’s 2006 album On an island, said the idea for the 50th anniversary tour was floated after their Hall of Fame stints, when he and Ferry discussed playing a new Roxy Music show together over tea. “Rehearsing for the Hall of Fame, it was fun to play those songs again,” shares Manzanera, who adds that if the induction hadn’t happened, forcing everyone in the band to perform together again, that they did, playing six of their songs, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”, “Out of the Blue”, “Love Is the Drug”, “More Than This”, “Avalon”, and “Editions of You” – he doubts that it was a question of the tower current.

“We haven’t toured America in 20 years, although Bryan has toured solo, and I’ve been there with David Gilmour, but not as Roxy and not playing our body of songs, so I have to relearn some of the songs, but relearn them properly,” laughs Manzanera, who says they’re going to whittle down their 80+ track catalog to a touring slate of 30. “I thought I could play them, but I went back to the multitracks and listened to them in detail, and what I thought I was playing isn’t quite right.”

Ferry also credits the boost that induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gave the band to get back together. “We’re a long way back so it was nice to be with them again,” Ferry said of their performance in 2019. “Celebrating 50 years is quite a milestone for us. I don’t think about it much, but it’s a big number.

Unlike Manzanera, Ferry says he knows all the songs and has no problem drawing on old Roxy music since he’s continued to perform many songs on his solo tours over the years. Ferry, who released his first album, These crazy things while in the band in 1973 through their most recent 16th album bitter-sweet, recently released a comprehensive collection of all the songs he has written. The book, titled Lyrics features Ferry’s lyrics on 17 albums, including Roxy Music albums as well as his solo material up to his 2014 release Avonmore.

“The show will represent all periods – early, middle and late – and all Roxy Music albums,” says Ferry. “I’m looking forward to getting a good mix of stuff. These songs have held up over time for me.”

The Roxy Music catalog was written almost entirely by Ferry before Manzanera and Mackay began co-writing a handful of songs for the band’s third album. Failed through Avalon. “There’s a lot of diversity, from start to finish,” says Ferry. “In America, audiences are more familiar with this later period because it took a while to settle in, but it’s good to throw out some of the early stuff because it’s important for the image.”

He hopes to capture the “fantastic and authentic” sound of Roxy Music in the new shows. “There’s a lot of emotion in these songs,” adds Ferry. “The beats aren’t too old-fashioned, and the melodies and all the actors are interesting. Phil and Andy are exceptional soloists and they all have character. I think it’s something you don’t see every day. And they play like they really mean it, and I’ll do my best to make it work too.

Roxy Muisc (Photo by Brian Cooke/High Rise PR)

There’s never been an album or song quite like Roxy Music’s glamorous punk charge of “Re-Make/Re-Model” (Roxy Music) and the disco-tinged funk of Mermaid track “Love Is the Drug” to the most powerful pop of the Avalon opus, “More than that”. It was part of the magic of their more artistic brew, Manzanera says.

“It was an evolution,” says Manzanera. “We knew we had to try to do something different and we wanted to do something different with each album. We couldn’t just repeat what we were doing before.

For Roxy Music, most of the songs were written over a period of almost two years before being recorded, while At your servicewhich features one of the first songs Ferry ever wrote for Roxy Music, “Grey Lagoons” – was all new material from then on.

“After At your service, we expanded the musical palette, with me and Andy putting on some of our kinds of musical backdrops for Bryan,” Manzanera says of the period when Eno parted ways with the band. “I was giving him everything we had and seeing if he liked it or thought he could write something on it, and that’s how it continued gradually until the end of Mermaid with ‘Love is the Drug’ and then there was a break of a few years.

Manzanera says it was during a nearly four-year hiatus after Mermaid focus on solo and outdoor projects when everything started to fall apart again. These changes were eventually reflected in the music before the band reunited for their sixth album, Manifest, released in 1978. “We were all changed, so the music changed with us,” says Manzanera. “It’s a reflection of who we are, who we were playing with at the time, and trying to bring some of that knowledge into the band situation. It wasn’t in a conscious way. It was just by osmosis because there was never a master plan with Roxy Music. It was just like, ‘What do you have? OK. That’s it.'”

Like a new exhibition about to open, 50 years later, the magic of Roxy Music is still palpable. “It’s the different personalities and different styles of music that we’ve been playing and experimenting with from the very first album,” says Ferry, who recently released a new EP, love lettersin 2022. “We were trying different things on each track and sometimes in one song there were two or three different feelings, like a collage of ideas and moods. I think as the band developed, each album seemed to take on a vibe of its own, especially towards the end. Avalon has a kind of very overall mood about it, as well as At your service. Of all our albums, these are my two favorites.

Being in Roxy Music was one of the most formative periods of Ferry’s life, and one he still treasures. “I found it so exciting, making records and I still do. I love creating stuff and being creative in music,” Ferry shares. “Sometimes it’s infuriating because it’s not physical. You’re kind of trying to create something that’s not a physical entity. You’re trying to make beautiful things…out of nothing, just trying to spit it out. There’s no such thing as a perfect record, of course. , but I try.

Roxy Music is like the “summary of a whole bunch of shortcomings,” says Manzanera, who recently released their second collaborative album, The Ghost of Santiago, with Crowded House frontman Tim Finn. “When we started, we thought of ourselves as ‘inspired amateurs,'” says Manzanera. “We have to do better at what we do, and when all the little pieces come together, they add up to something. It was a lot of simple songs, but this particular combination of people makes it sound like Roxy. I think it must have to do with our flaws, because if everything was technically perfect, it probably wouldn’t have any resonance, any bite.

He adds: “None of us chose to become a technical expert. It’s all about atmosphere and resonance and feeling, much like the blues actually, and we all continue to make music with other people and bring that to the party. So that’s what Roxy Music really is.

Courtesy of High Rise PR

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