It took weeks to record, with an odd choice of producer and no record company involved. But it kicked off an iconic career. The album was Roxy Music’s self-titled debut album in 1972, and it contained all the elements that would make them legendary. And for guitarist Phil Manzanera, it was an eventful time. “I wasn’t officially confirmed in the band until February 14, 1972, and a month later we were in the studio.”
Manzanera had auditioned the previous October, but lost to former Niçois David O’List. But when the band performed for EG Management in early February 1972, there was a fight between O’List and drummer Paul Thompson. As a result, EG hired the group but insisted that O’List go.
So Manzanera arrived, joining Thompson, frontman Bryan Ferry, bassist Graham Simpson, synthesizer Brian Eno and saxophonist Andy Mackay. And, funded by EG, Roxy traveled to Command Studios in central London on March 14, working with producer Pete Sinfield, best known as the King Crimson lyricist. “EG managed it, so they kept it in the family. I don’t know why he was chosen, but the good thing is that Pete let us have it.
Roxy recorded live in the studio, with a few overdubs. But the band had rehearsed so much that they were ready to do it that way. “Back then, we were a group of inspired hobbyists, who worked very hard and had a lot of enthusiasm. And the album has a charm of its own as a result.
The songs were written by Ferry, carrying a number of cinematic references, which delighted Manzanera. “It’s one of the things that we bonded over – we loved the movies. And hear something like 2HB, with his tribute to Humphrey Bogart, or Meeting by chance [inspired by the classic movie Brief Encounter] was just amazing. Bryan had so many ideas and I always thought the rest of us provided the music for his lyrics.
The opening song, Redo / Re-Model, in fact sums up the group’s eclecticism, with nods to the Beatles, Duane Eddy and… Wagner. “We all got a chance at the end to do our own thing. It’s a crazy trip with a lot of energy and it’s so exciting. It immediately said who we were – a bunch that would try anything. “
While Roxy has had great success with Virginia Plain later in 1972, reaching No.4 on the chart, this was recorded four months after the album and was not included in the tracklist. “Back then we liked to keep singles separate and not feature them on albums. ”
Besides the music, what immediately stands out is the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller. It set Roxy apart from almost everyone. “This cover was so striking that we’re going to use it to promote our UK tour in January – it still looks so good, even now.”
The album was eventually released via Island, thanks to a licensing agreement entered into by EG. “We got £ 5,000 from the label for a five-year lease. At the time, it was very innovative. I know EG had to fight to persuade some people on the island to post this. But it worked well for them.
The Roxy Music the album reached No. 10 on the UK charts, selling over 100,000 copies. As Manzanera concludes, “This was just the start. The rest is history.