Even though they never stormed the charts in the US the way they did in their native UK, eccentric rock art providers Roxy Music were one of the most influential and revolutionary groups of the 70s, just behind David Bowie in terms of impact. the explosion of synthpop and new wave of the following decade. With the supernatural vibrato and sparkling keyboards of Bryan Ferry, the wacky saxophone of Andy Mackay, the intricate guitar sounds of Phil Manzanera, the inventive basslines of John Gustafson, the multiple and invaluable contributions of Eddie Jobson, the drums Paul Thompson’s vigorous and (for the first two albums) gonzo synthesis work by Brian Eno, Roxy was unlike anything else on the stage. On their first release they delivered five unrivaled rock art classics between 1972 and 1975, and upon their reunion in 1978 after a brief hiatus they released three more albums, including another frosty classic, pop mature adult Avalon.
In honor of their well-deserved Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2019, here are Roxy Music’s 10 best songs.
10. “2HB” (Roxy Music, 1972)
Roxy Music’s self-titled debut album in 1972 introduced the world to their postmodern and restless artistic rock style. Okay, that introduced the band to Britain – the album was a hit in the UK, but fizzled out in the US, where it was too layered for the glam crowd and too satirical for the prog scene. One of the best debuts of the decade, a highlight is Bryan Ferry’s tribute to Golden Era Hollywood icon Humphrey Bogart with “2HB”. On a meditative jazz fusion-y electric piano, Ferry quotes Bogie (“Here’s looking at you kid”) while singing in a weird effect – this one is weird even to him (at times it looks like he’s trying to sing while holding his tongue). Double down on the Casablanca references, Andy Mackay plays a saxophone solo inspired by “As Time Goes By” that Brian Eno, naturally, manipulated with echo effects; the result is a distinct and supernatural homage that seems to reach the listener in an artistic blur.
9. “Avalon” (Avalon, 1982)
When Roxy Music reinvented itself as a vehicle for soft and sophisticated pop in the years 1982 AvalonGone were the unusual song structures and abnormal vocal assignments. But it was not a commercial clearance sale. Instead, the Sonic Switch emphasized the expert craftsmanship of their material, not to mention the warmth inherited from Ferry’s voice when he puts irony on the back burner. With chic female choirs, a calming saxophone, a softly insistent rhythm, and an enchanting, understated guitar, “Avalon” proves that you can broaden your appeal while broadening your palette – and without responding to the lowest common denominator.
8. “Mother of pearl” (Failed, 1973)
Failed, their debut album after Eno’s departure, demonstrated that Roxy Music had lost none of its forward-thinking ambition with its release – admirably demonstrated by the fierce “Mother of Pearl”. Opening to a wild, crooked guitar riff from Manzanera, Ferry’s almost demonic voice erupts twice, with two jarring counter-melodies coming in and out of the mix (one of which finds him doing a disturbing approximation of the classic “woooo!” by Little Richard!). After a minute and a half, he goes on to a second relatively comforting composition, a declaration of adoration for the “brilliant lady” Mother of Pearl delivered with a sardonic sequence. It ends with the repeated a cappella chorus – a fairly common turn in rock, but as for a challenge, Ferry sings it four times, which is just enough to be too much. Bonus points to Ferry for having the vision and the moxie of forcing “Zarathustra” to rhyme with “loser”.
7. “All I want is you” (Country life, 1974)
Placed as a plea to a lover whose singer has just learned that he plans to leave him, “All I Want Is You” proves that intelligent rock can still be muscular. The full, resonant guitar practically knocks you down at first, and Ferry looks just as confident for a man about to be dumped; but the moment he shows a hint of sentimental weakness and throws the old line “if you ever change your mind”, Phil Manzanera’s guitar deftly shifts from expansive to focused sound, screaming in short, painful flashes. Ferry lets a slight tremor enter his voice as he repeats “whatever I want” at the end, revealing the uncertainty hurt under the bravado.
6. “Love is drugs” (Mermaid, 1975)
With John Gustafson’s slender bassline, a thorny guitar riff from Manzanera, and Ferry’s vibrato in full swing, “Love Is the Drug” is one of the sexiest and most irresistible songs from the often difficult band – and of course the Mermaid the single became their only top 40 hit in the US, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. But even on one of their most digestible songs, Roxy Music remains tirelessly innovative; the bassline with a disco tendency is particularly influential, having inspired Nile Rodgers‘bassline in Chic’s “Good Times” which in turn would help lay the groundwork for hip-hop as the bone of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”.
5. “Plain of Virginia” (simple, 1972)
The group’s debut single (possibly included in subsequent pressings of their self-titled debut album) introduced the world to the basics of Roxy Music: Mackay’s avant-garde saxophone, Eno’s savage synth hijackings, and eerie vocals. , quivering and totally unmistakable from Ferry. Lyrically, “Virginia Plain” is also chock-full of Roxy characteristics: obscure references, a fixation with retro teen culture, and a curiosity for commercial representations of beauty (as opposed to human beauty in the flesh. bone). It was a smash in the UK and totally ignored in America, a pattern that will torment them throughout their careers.
4. “More than that” (Avalon, 1982)
Because as strange as Roxy was in the 70s, they became mainstream in the 1982s. Avalon. But even when they’ve sanded down the rough edges and left the weirdness behind, they haven’t lost an ounce of their sophistication. The lush debut single “More Than This” is a beautifully sung and expertly crafted adult synthpop slice. Even though he missed the Hot 100, it is one of their best-known songs in the United States, thanks in part to Bill Murray’s karaoke. Lost in the translation.
3. “Three and Nine” (Country life, 1974)
A charming and sweet counterpoint to the song he immediately follows Country life (the visceral “The Thrill of It All”), “Three and Nine” is an alluring, mellow rocker with overtones of open meadow (via a country-tinged harmonica backing) and late-night jazz club ( thanks to some saxophone solo from Mackay). The oblique lyrics (“Decimal romance / If you’ve warmed to centigrade / You stand a sporting chance”) resist comprehension, but this textured and warm number is one of the little-known gems of their catalog.
2. “Make the strand” (At your service, 1972)
The opening track of At your service, the biggest album of the group, is not long in being announced: before a whole second elapses, the piano resounds furiously and Ferry launches out in his carnival argument on “a fabulous creation” which doubles as a “dancing solution to the teenage revolution.” “In 1972, they were still unfairly lumped together with the thriving glam rock scene in the UK, but Roxy was far stranger than their counterparts, and” Do the Strand “is an example of their slanted approach to rock, drawing inspiration from everything from Kurt Weill to proto-punk to Ornette Coleman to create a tense and thrilling rocker.
1. “Editions of you” (At your service, 1972)
There’s a barely suppressed energy simmering in the early chords of the electric piano, and when Paul Thompson’s drumbeat snowballs at the 16-second mark, the whole group unleashes the weird and launches into the jugular on one of the most muscular rock songs of all. time. As Mackay lets loose on the sax and the Farfisa organ, Eno’s VCS3 synthesizer practically screams, working on an improvised melody that has almost nothing to do with the rest of the song. But Manzanera’s quivering guitar and Thompson’s relentless percussion keep the punishing rocker to the ground, and Ferry performs one of his best vocals ever. On “Editions of You,” Roxy’s lead singer sounds positively deranged, yearning for the perfect pinup while spitting out one aphorism after another. And when he mimics “the moan of slinky sirens” with a “woooo!” Multi-track chilling, Roxy does to the listener what the sirens do to them: “Their crazy music drives you crazy.” This is followed by an invitation to follow Roxy Music into their idiosyncratic wormhole (“over here …”) to which open-minded listeners eagerly submitted.