Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera on the band’s 50th anniversary and upcoming world tour : NPR


NPR’s Scott Simon talks with Roxy Music lead guitarist Phil Manzanera about the influential band’s 50th anniversary and upcoming world tour.



SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Roxy Music is back. Fifty years after their first recording, one of the most influential bands of all time is back on tour and re-releasing their eight studio albums on vinyl.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “LOVE IS DRUG”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) Oh, catch that buzz. Love is the drug I think of. Oh…

SIMON: The band has only one Top 40 hit, “Love Is The Drug,” but its music is considered pivotal in the history of rock connoisseurs – witty, lyrical, innovative and remarkably dancing. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, and we’re now joined by lead guitarist Phil Manzanera.

Thank you very much for being with us.

PHIL MANZANERA: Well, it’s a great pleasure.

SIMON: Why did you all decide to come back together?

MANZANERA: Well, I was sitting having a cup of tea, like you do in the UK, with Bryan Ferry, the singer, on Christmas. He said to me, do you want to do concerts because it’s our 50th, and how else are we going to celebrate it? And I said, well, if you want to do it, I will. I’ll call Andy. I’ll call Paul. And it’s as simple as that. It’s a privilege to be able to go out and play, you know, 50 years later. I can hardly believe I’m saying these words – 50 years.

SIMON: I heard a story that you didn’t know you were auditioning for the band.

MANZANERA: Well, no, it was the second time. The first time, I answered an ad in the Melody Maker for a guitarist, but it didn’t work. And then, yeah, I got a call from Bryan, saying, would you like to come mix the sound? And I said, well, I don’t know anything about sound mixing. And he said, don’t worry. Brian Eno will teach you. In short, I went there, when I arrived in this abandoned house, in fact, which nevertheless had electricity. They said, well, there’s a guitar over there. Do you want to try? And so I said, show me how to play it. And they said, OK, well, that’s how it goes. I said, okay. Let’s play.

(ROXY MUSIC SONG SOUND EXTRACTION, “LADYTRON”)

MANZANERA: Obviously, I thought I was pretty damn good, so they said, do you want to join us? Three weeks later, we are in the studio recording the first album. Hey, it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.

SIMON: Roxy Music was known to be ahead of its time. Your awesome edit “Editions Of You” has been called proto-punk.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “EDITIONS OF YOU”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) And as I drifted past the Lorelei, I heard these slinky sirens moan – whooo. So watch out…

SIMON: What do you hear over there?

MANZANERA: I mean, the thing about Roxy is that we called ourselves inspired amateurs. You know, we wanted to play interesting music presented in a visually appealing way. But, you know, we loved the Velvet Underground. And, you know, they had very few chords in their songs. And it was a matter of simplicity, but it was about words that had a different subject than boy meets girl. In the lyrics that Bryan wrote, there are a lot of art-related metaphors.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “EDITIONS OF YOU”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Vocals) Don’t make yourself look like a fool – too much cheesecake too soon. Old money is…

SIMON: What do you think of the term that often comes to you – glam rock?

MANZANERA: I used to discuss it, actually, with David Bowie. And he used to tell me, Phil, the thing is, there was high glam and low glam. We were very glamorous (laughs). But as soon as everyone jumped on the bandwagon, we changed. By the third album, and, you know, after about 18 months, it was all gone. We were in costume. The audience always wore glamorous clothes, and they were completely confused.

SIMON: Well, I mean, Roxy Music – known for having, you know, satin pants, tiger print jackets.

MANZANERA: You got it.

SIMON: How do you dress for this tour?

MANZANERA: I have my original stage outfits. I can’t even put my arm through my leg. I was so skinny – you know, when you were 21.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “MORE THAN THIS”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Vocals) I could feel at the time that there was no way of knowing. Leaves fallen at night…

SIMON: 1982, ‘More Than This’ – what do you think your music put into rock that didn’t exist before?

MANZANERA: There’s a lot more to Roxy in the 10 years we’ve been making albums. So the different phases of Roxy’s stages provided different aspects – rock music or innovative types of rock music. By the time you get to “More Than This”, it’s all distilled almost to ambient music. “Avalon” has a very strong mood. This particular track, “More Than This,” really distills everything that we started doing almost like a haiku poem, a very simple statement, that seems to resonate a lot with people, you know? More than that, there is nothing. It’s quite prophetic, really, because afterwards there was nothing. There were no more recorded albums.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “MORE THAN THIS”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) More than that, nothing. More than that.

SIMON: This brings me to another piece of music that you co-wrote. Let’s listen to “Take A Chance With Me”.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “TAKE A CHANCE WITH ME”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) I was blind, you can’t see, through the long lonely night.

SIMON: Why, after such a beautiful and successful album, did you break up?

MANZANERA: When we got together, yeah; it was like a band, but it was a group of people who had certain musical interests in common, but a lot of very different musical ideas. And right from the start, almost after the second album, we all started doing solo projects. We loved playing together and creating something unique. We always wanted to work with other musicians. And, really, that’s the whole Roxy story. And we all went off and did hundreds of different musical projects and things. The big picture is that you’re in it for your entire life, and so spread it out. Enjoy.

(ROXY MUSIC SONG SOUNDITE, “TAKE A CHANCE WITH ME”)

SIMON: And what do you think people will take home?

MANZANERA: Well, I’m hoping for a souvenir.

SIMON: Yeah. It’s true. They will buy a small gift while they are at the concert. Yeah.

MANZANERA: They’ll take back – yeah – their memories. You know, whatever resonance it has for them, they will come back and reflect. It depends on what entry level you’ve come to like Roxy. And you’re probably there at the show because you love Roxy, and you paid money, lots of money, to come see him. And so he will have memories for you. And I’m sure people will talk about it when they get home.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “VIRGINIA PLAIN”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) Make me a deal, and make it honest.

SIMON: Phil Manzanera is the lead guitarist for Roxy Music’s 50th Anniversary Tour this fall. Thank you very much for being with us and congratulations on your return.

MANZANERA: Thank you very much, Scott.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “VIRGINIA PLAIN”)

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) I’m trying to save time.

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