Bryan Ferry – circa 1987
“You’re dressed to kill and guess who’s dying?” – ‘Dance Away’ (Bryan Ferry)
“I do have a vast wardrobe,” acknowledges Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music. “But it’s certainly not on the Elton John scale,” he adds in reference to the flamboyant British pop star. Nonetheless, Ferry’s rather more distinguished sartorial splendour is part of Roxy Music’s image. His look is akin to a lounge lizard from the 1930s, or perhaps an exiled Count from some tiny middle European principality. Roxy Music comes to prominence in England in the early 1970s as part of the glam rock movement. In this case, ‘glam’ is short for ‘glamour’ and Roxy Music – particularly Ferry – live that part to the hilt. The style is not so much about ensuring one’s jacket has the correct number of buttons as it is an artistic creation in its own right. “Right from the beginning, Roxy Music were about presenting music in a visually attractive way,” points out guitarist Phil Manzanera.
Bryan Ferry is born 26 September 1945 in Washington, Tyne and Wear, County Durham, in north-east England. He is the son of Frederick Charles Ferry and Mary Ann Armstrong. Fred Ferry is a coal-miner. “I do have memories of deprivation,” says Bryan Ferry, “but I don’t carry them around like some bitter, left-wing hammer to beat people on the head with.” The singer muses, “You know, we were poor, and I thought we were poor, but in many ways my life was easy. My education was funded by the State, I went to a really nice Northern grammar school, and then I went to university on a full grant.” Ferry refers to the University of Newcastle where he studies art. “At school I was on my own, studying art. I felt I was in my own little world.” One of his teachers is Richard Hamilton, the nearest thing the U.K. has to U.S. pop art icon Andy Warhol. Looking at Hamilton’s collages of images from pop culture, young Ferry thinks, “I’ll try and do something like that in music with all the things that are important to me.”
Bryan Ferry is as interested in music as he is in art. “I was torn between the two,” he advises. However, not every kind of popular music connects with Ferry. “Folk music…it was not my thing. I was very much into Otis Redding, soul music, Stax, Motown…” Ferry begins his singing career before he goes to university. “Someone asked me to sing in a band. It was called The Banshees. We played working men’s clubs. When I got to university I started my own band called The Gas Board.”
After graduating university, Bryan Ferry is employed as a teacher. “I got a year’s travelling scholarship from Royal College of Art, London. Instead, I stayed in London and wrote songs,” he reports. The conflict in his mind between art and music is also resolved: “When I started writing songs, I stopped painting completely.”
In 1970 Bryan Ferry seeks out an old college friend, bass player Graham Simpson (13 October 1943 – 16 April 2012), with the intent of starting a band. Ferry intends to call the group Roxy, after the Roxy Theatre. However, upon learning there is already an American group called Roxy, Ferry modifies the name of his outfit to Roxy Music. So it is that in November 1970 Roxy Music is founded…with only Bryan Ferry and Graham Simpson. A trade advertisement for musicians leads them to Andy Mackay in January 1971.
Andy Mackay (the latter part of the surname rhymes with high, not hay) is born 23 July 1946 in Lost Withiel, Cornwall, England. He grows up in Pimlico in central London. Andy Mackay plays saxophone and oboe and studies avant-garde music. He attends Reading University. “Bryan [Ferry] tells me we met at Reading…but [I only] vaguely remember,” admits Andy Mackay. “I was introduced [properly] to [Ferry] in 1971, by which time he’d already started trying to put his band together. And then, of course, I introduced Brian Eno to that situation.”
Brian Peter George St John Le Baptiste De La Salle Eno is born 15 May 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England. He is the son of a postman, William Eno, and his wife, Maria. Brian has a sister, Rita, and a brother, Roger. Like Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno is also an art student. After attending Ipswich Art School, he goes on to Winchester College of Art (1966 – 1969). “I started performing music at art school but it was the kind of music that happened in mid-1960s art schools – not necessarily pop music, but experimental music,” notes Eno. Along the way, Brian Eno marries Sarah Grenville in 1967 (though they will later divorce) and they have a daughter, Hannah (born 1967). Brian Eno meets Andy Mackay when the two young men catch the same tube train.
By this time, Bryan Ferry and Graham Simpson have found some other musicians. Andy Mackay brings Brian Eno along to a rehearsal, not to join the band, but to make use of his technical knowledge to assemble a demo tape. “I went along with one of my [tape] recorders,” recounts Eno, “and there was a synthesiser [belonging to Andy Mackay] there that no one was playing…Andy said, y’know, ‘Have a go at it if you like’…”
So it is that in 1971 Roxy Music is constituted with this line-up: Bryan Ferry (vocals, some keyboards), Roger Bunn (guitar), Brian Eno (synthesisers), Andy Mackay (saxophone, oboe), Graham Simpson (bass) and Dexter Lloyd (drums). This version of the band exists until June 1971.
Roger Bunn quits Roxy Music in June 1971, becoming a freelance session musician instead. His replacement on guitar is David O’List (born 13 December 1948). The newcomer played in the first version of The Nice (circa 1967), before being squeezed out by that act’s flamboyant keyboardist, Keith Emerson. Phil Manzanera also applied for the vacant slot in Roxy Music, but lost out to David O’List. Manzanera settles for acting as the sound-mixer for Roxy Music. However, in February 1972, David O’List and Dexter Lloyd quit Roxy Music.
“I put an ad in [U.K. music newspaper] ‘Melody Maker’,” explains Bryan Ferry. “We interviewed a few people. One of them was Paul Thompson who walked in fresh from the building site.” Paul Thompson (born 13 May 1951), cheerfully acknowledges, “I did feel a bit out of place – intellectually.” Ironically, as a child, Thompson showed some artistic ability, but gave up on such things due to peer pressure. Now he finds himself amongst a self-consciously arty crew of musicians. Before joining Roxy Music, Paul Thompson played in a band called Smokestack.
A replacement guitarist is a bit easier to find since Phil Manzanera is already on hand as sound-mixer. Phil Manzanera is born Philip Targett-Adams on 31 January 1951 in London, England. His father is English, but his mother is Columbian. “I guess my story is quite different to all the other guys in the band,” suggests Phil Manzanera. “I was brought up in South America, Cuba, Venezuela…I used to dream about coming to England to get into a rock ‘n’ roll band.” Manzanera begins playing guitar when he is 8. Returning to the U.K., he attends London’s Dulwich College. He is part of an ‘experimental’ band called Quiet Sun before enlisting in Roxy Music. “He was great,” says Bryan Ferry of the new addition. “He was very young [a bit over five years younger than Ferry].”
With the revised line-up of Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno, Andy Mackay, Graham Simpson and Paul Thompson, Roxy Music secures a recording contract with Island Records and commences work on their debut album.
“The thing about Roxy Music at the start was it didn’t have a style. It was all about exploring different musical styles,” asserts Bryan Ferry. It has been said that early Roxy Music ‘sound like half a dozen bands competing for attention in one.” While that may be an exaggeration, there is, initially, a sort of pleasantly over-egged, busy quality to their sound.
Roxy Music is usually considered a glam rock band. That is certainly the dominant style for early 1970s British recording artists. What distinguishes Roxy Music from most of their glam rock peers is the emphasis on keyboards. While Phil Manzanera is certainly no slouch, with both Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry on keyboards, it is not surprising that instrument is more dominant. Most glam rock acts favour big and crunchy guitars. Only an emphasis on catchy pop hooks separates them from heavy metal. Roxy Music is quite different. Glam is pretty much exhausted by the mid-1970s, but Roxy Music’s keyboards-oriented sound makes them role models for the new romantics and synth pop acts of the early 1980s, acts who become Roxy Music’s peers on the pop charts.
While musically Roxy Music’s allegiance to glam rock may be questionable, visually they fit right in. With platform shoes, sequins, spangles, feather boas and more make-up than straight men had ever previously worn, Roxy Music was the epitome of glam. They looked like aliens or visitors from the future. Brian Eno struggles to justify their look: “Bryan [Ferry], coming from the soul tradition, had the idea you didn’t go on stage looking sloppy…None of us had that rock ‘n’ roll idea [of long hair and denim].” Again, as glam fades during the 1970s, Roxy Music’s attire gradually tones down. Bryan Ferry’s mutant teddy-boy look gives way to his more familiar, gentlemanly matinee idol appearance.
Bryan Ferry’s interest in soul music has previously been cited. However it is not that strong an element in the songs he writes for Roxy Music. Perhaps it is just impossible for a white, English boy in the 1970s to emulate music more identified with the African-American community of southern parts of the U.S.A. in the late 1960s. What Ferry does in his cerebral, artistic fashion is try to adopt some of its style…but, inevitably – perhaps even mercifully? – what emerges is something more original. As the frontman and chief songwriter of Roxy Music, the direction of the band is largely formulated by Ferry. What he conjures up is a world of parties and social scenes where exotically beautiful women are pursued by stylish Lotharios. Yet there is an underlying sadness about it. Love is often seen nostalgically as something of the past and the immaculate cuffs are somehow frayed or soiled. It seems to be all Ferry’s protagonist can do to stir from his ennui long enough to grasp the microphone and tell us of his sorrow. “The older I get, the less I know about women,” he tells an interviewer with a sigh.
Women feature not only in the songs of Roxy Music, but on their album covers. Rather than a photo of the band, images of languid fashion models are plastered across the sleeves of most Roxy Music albums. ‘Roxy Music’ (1972) (UK no. 10), the debut album released in June, showcases Kari-Ann Muller, who later marries Chris Jagger, the younger brother of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. She is convinced to participate in a photo session for the still-unknown Roxy Music by Anthony Price, the photographer and designer, who is friends with the band. “That was a crucial moment for me,” claims Bryan Ferry of the chocolate box-like design for the photo-shoot. The album, ‘Roxy Music’, is produced by Pete Sinfield, the lyricist for art rock ensemble King Crimson. ‘Richly inventive and precociously assured, ‘Roxy Music’ remains for many the best debut ever recorded.’ All the songs on the album are written by Bryan Ferry. They include the influential ‘Ladytron’, but the disc’s best known moment may be ‘Re-Make / Re-Model’. “I could talk, talk, talk myself to death / But I believe I would only waste my breath,” sings Ferry, competing with an overstuffed arrangement. Perhaps the most mystifying aspect of the song is the background chant of “CPL593H’. This is the number-plate of Ferry’s old car, a blue 1970 Mini Clubman. The singer saw his old vehicle being parked by its new owner, a lovely young lady who caught his eye. So his narrator in the song pursues, in fiction, this (real-life) woman – with her vehicle’s registration for accompaniment.
Bass player Graham Simpson leaves Roxy Music – and the industry in general – in June 1972. This is the month the album ‘Roxy Music’ is released, so Simpson plays on the album, but then bows out.
Bryan Ferry has the idea that Roxy Music’s singles should be separate entities in their own right, not tracks pulled from the band’s albums. So ‘Virginia Plain’ (UK no. 4, AUS no. 99) is released in August, shortly after the first album. This romping effort is named after one of Ferry’s paintings and ends with the words, “What’s her name? / Virginia Plain.” Recorded shortly after the ‘Roxy Music’ album, this song features new bass player Rik Kenton.
Only a few months later, Rik Kenton leaves Roxy Music. John Porter joins up for the first two months of 1973, during which time Roxy Music record their second album. After that, Porter quits to become a record producer instead.
The March 1973 single ‘Pyjamarama’ (UK no. 10, AUS no. 96) arrives on waves of sensuous luxury, with Bryan Ferry crooning, “Couldn’t sleep at all last night / Oh, how I love to hold you tight.” This is the end of Roxy Music’s plan for one-off singles.
In 1973 Bryan Ferry has a relationship with Amanda Lear. Somewhat controversially, Lear claims to be a transsexual, but this claim is later denied by Lear herself. The truth remains ambiguous. Amanda Lear, walking a black panther, is the cover model for Roxy Music’s second album.
‘For Your Pleasure’ (1973) (UK no. 4, US no. 193) is released in March. It is co-produced by Chris Thomas, John Anthony and Roxy Music. This is an album of ‘highly stylish, abstract-leaning, art rock’. This set of Bryan Ferry compositions includes ‘Editions Of You’ and ‘In Every Dream Home, A Heartache’. Its best known song is ‘Do The Strand’, a celebration of a (fictional) dance-step. “There’s a new sensation / A fabulous creation / A danceable solution / To teenage revolution,” insists Ferry in the vocal, interspersed between a banging piano and Andy Mackay’s honking saxophone.
Sal Maida plays bass with Roxy Music on the tour to promote ‘For Your Pleasure’. However he never records with them and his presence during the 1973 tours of Europe and the U.K. is looked upon only as a fill-in role.
In July 1973 Brian Eno leaves Roxy Music. Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno had been ‘pulling the band in separate directions.’ Ferry favoured a more commercial approach while Eno wanted to be more experimental. “We’re both self-centred,” Ferry acknowledges. “I think we both think the world revolves around us.” Roxy Music simply isn’t big enough for the two of them. Eno goes on to record ‘acclaimed ambient music albums, [both] solo and with collaborators such as John Cale, Robert Fripp and Daniel Lanois.’ As a record producer, he works with such artists as David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2. Eno marries for a second time in 1988. He and Anthea Norman-Taylor have two daughters, Irial (born 1990) and Darla (born 1992).
Oddly, after wresting control of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry’s first move is to cut a solo album. ‘In his solo efforts, [Ferry] shows a cool, crooning style.’ At first, the difference between Roxy Music albums and Ferry’s solo work is that Roxy Music gets his original songs while, on his own, he records cover versions of other performer’s material. Thus, ‘These Foolish Things’ (1973) (UK no. 5, US no. 204) in October, consists of his interpretation of such tracks as Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ (UK no. 10, AUS no. 23) from 1962. This was originally one of those folk songs that were “not my thing”, in Ferry’s words. Predictably, his version is more instrumentally full-bodied.
Romantically, in 1973 Bryan Ferry moves on from Amanda Lear to Marilyn Cole. Just as Amanda Lear was the cover girl on ‘For Your Pleasure’, a wet and disarranged Marilyn Cole adorns the cover to Roxy Music’s November release, ‘Stranded’ (1973) (UK no. 1, US no. 186). Chris Thomas acts as producer for this album. Roxy Music includes two new members: Eddie Jobson (violin, synthesiser) (born 28 April 1955) and John Gustafson (bass) (born 8 August 1943). Jobson comes from art rockers Curved Air, while Gustafson is a veteran of The Big Three and Quartermass. On the bouncy ‘Street Life’ (UK no. 4), Bryan Ferry urges, “Hey good looking boys gather around” and instructs, “Come on with me cruising down the street / Who knows who you’ll see, who you might meet.” Yet, ‘Mother Of Pearl’ supplies the other side of the picture: “If you’re looking for love in a looking glass, it’s pretty hard to find.”
Although John Gustafson works with Roxy Music in the studio from 1973 to 1976, on tour it’s a different story. John Wetton (born 12 July 1949) plays bass from 1974 to 1976 and Rick Wills performs the same role later in 1976. Roxy Music seems either unable or unwilling to settle on a bass player.
Bryan Ferry’s ‘Another Time, Another Place’ (1974) (UK no. 4) in July is, again, heavily-weighted towards cover versions. Perhaps the best of them is his reading of ‘The In Crowd’ (UK no. 13, AUS no. 83), a song recorded by Dobie Gray in 1965, though ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ (UK no. 17, AUS no. 99) also does well.
The next Roxy Music album, ‘Country Life’ (1974) (UK no. 3, US no. 37), follows in November. The barely-clad cover models are Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald. John Punter co-produces the album with Roxy Music. The album’s highlight is the lightning-struck rock of ‘All I Want Is You’ (UK no. 12) in which Bryan Ferry declares, “Don’t want to learn about etiquette / From glossy magazines / Why should I try to talk correct / Like they do in other scenes?” Phil Manzanera co-writes with Ferry on the poised surge of ‘Out Of The Blue’. This album is also home to ‘The Thrill Of It All’. ‘Country Life’ ‘brims with romantic pop and sleek arrangements that hint at a lifestyle of luxury, style and erotic allure.’
From 1975 to 1977 Bryan Ferry is involved with Jerry Hall, an American model from Texas. Jerry Hall is attired as a kind of mermaid for the cover of ‘Siren’ (1975) (UK no. 4, US no. 50). Chris Thomas returns to production duties for this set. Up to this point, Roxy Music has been ‘popular in the U.K. [but had] little impact in the U.S.’ ‘Siren’ gives the band a higher profile in America. “New customers are always welcome!” jests Ferry. Part of the breakthrough is due to Roxy Music’s finest single, the ‘disco-flavoured’ ‘Love Is The Drug’ (UK no. 2, US no. 30, AUS no. 18). The song opens with the sound of footsteps crunching on gravel, a pulsing bass, and a car starting. The narrative’s protagonist roars away into the darkness. “Late that night / I park my car / Stake my place in the singles bar,” notes Ferry. “I say ‘go’, she says ‘yes’ / Dim the lights, you can guess the rest,” he adds with a chuckle. ‘Love Is The Drug’ is co-written by Bryan Ferry and Andy Mackay. With its portrait of a playboy on the prowl amidst seedy neon decadence, this is the essential Roxy Music song. Its melody, as addictive as love, is a major bonus. The swaggering party ode, ‘Both Ends Burning’ (UK no. 25) maintains the image: “Who can sleep in this heat?”
In June 1976 Roxy Music goes on hiatus. The live album ‘Viva Roxy Music’ (1976) (UK no. 6, US no. 81) in August may be seen as a last gasp. Bryan Ferry’s third solo album, ‘Let’s Stick Together’ (1976) (UK no. 19, US no. 160) in September is host to one of his biggest solo hits, a hammering work-out on Wilbert Harrison’s 1962 song ‘Let’s Stick Together’ (UK no. 4, AUS no. 1). When a wilfully arch rendition of The Everly Brothers’ 1966 song ‘The Price Of Love’ (UK no. 7, AUS no. 9) also scores, questions are raised about whether Roxy Music has a future.
With Roxy Music on sabbatical (at best), there is an increased amount of original material on Bryan Ferry’s ‘In Your Mind’ (1977) (UK no. 3, US no. 126). Though it is not well regarded critically, this album still yields such interesting songs as ‘This Is Tomorrow’ (UK no. 9, AUS no. 6), centred on an electric piano, and ‘Tokyo Joe’ (UK no. 15, AUS no. 30), which bristles with Eastern motifs.
Bryan Ferry loses Jerry Hall to Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones in 1977. Ferry’s next solo album, ‘The Bride Stripped Bare’ (1978) (UK no. 13, US no. 159) is released in September and ‘reflects the emotional trauma of the break-up.’ Although it substantially consists of soul music covers, it is notable for a re-working of the 1969 Velvet Underground song ‘What Goes On’ (UK no. 67, AUS no. 73). In 1978 Bryan Ferry has Barbara Allen to tend his wounded heart.
Given his circumstances, it is perhaps not a complete surprise that Bryan Ferry retrenches and reactivates Roxy Music in August 1978. [Though ‘The Bride Stripped Bare’ is released the month after the reunion, it was, of course, recorded beforehand.] The ‘new’ Roxy Music consists of: Bryan Ferry (vocals, some keyboards), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone, oboe), Dave Skinner (keyboards), Gary Tibbs (bass) (born 25 January 1958) and Paul Thompson (drums).
By 1978 Andy Mackay is married. He and his wife, Jane, have a daughter (born 1979) and a son (born 1982).
Before Roxy Music re-enters the recording studio, Dave Skinner drops out to be replaced on keyboards by Paul Carrack (born 22 April 1961) from funky pub rock band Ace. ‘Manifesto’ (1979) (UK no. 7, US no. 23) is produced by the band themselves. ‘Trash’ (UK no. 40) is the first new product. ‘Dance Away’ (UK no. 2, US no. 44, AUS no. 92) languidly depicts the dancefloor as a salve for heartache. ‘Angel Eyes’ (UK no. 4, AUS no. 89) is also a sharp disco number, though it is embellished by a harp (the stringed orchestral instrument, not a mouth organ) and slashes of guitar. “Oh, Angel Eyes / Am I deceived or did you sigh?” asks Bryan Ferry in this song he co-writes with Andy Mackay.
The long-serving drummer Paul Thompson resigns after this album. Andy Newmark (born 14 July 1950) takes over the vacant position.
Choosing one album as Roxy Music’s best is difficult. The vote is split between a number of contenders, each of whom has valid arguments for their quality. If there is one disc that deserves the accolade, it is – arguably – ‘Flesh And Blood’ (1980) (UK no. 1, US no. 35). Other Roxy Music albums may be more innovative, and some may be more commercially successful, but ‘Flesh And Blood’, released in June, may just be the most consistent of their works. An unidentified group of Nordic women prepare to hurl javelins on the cover. Rhett Davies co-produces with Roxy Music on both this and the group’s next disc. ‘Flesh And Blood’ incorporates two cover versions, The Byrds’ 1966 hit ‘Eight Miles High’ and Wilson Pickett’s 1965 soul music standard, ‘In The Midnight Hour’ (US no. 106). Bryan Ferry seems barely able to stir himself from his lassitude for ‘No Strange Delight’ and ‘Running Wild’, two songs he co-writes with Phil Manzanera. Chilly keyboards pervade ‘My Only Love’ and ‘Rain, Rain, Rain’, though the title track, ‘Flesh And Blood’, is, appropriately, a bit warmer. However it is the album’s trio of singles that most impress. Against a tingling guitar backdrop and staccato horns, on ‘Over You’ (UK no. 5, US no. 80, AUS no. 45) Ferry moans, “Oh baby, this is nowhere / Wish I was somewhere / Over you.” A busy disco synthesiser forms the floor-plan for ‘Same Old Scene’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 35). The club scene that was previously celebrated on ‘Siren’ now prompts only the dismissive gesture, “Nothing lasts forever / Of that I’m sure.” The elegant ‘Oh Yeah’ (UK no. 5, US no. 102) applies a nostalgic gauze to its tale of lost love: “It’s sometime since we said goodbye / And now we lead our separate lives / But where am I, where can I go?” ‘Flesh And Blood’ is lent a cohesive mood by the autumnal feel that overlays the album.
Roxy Music flails about with its almost obligatory subsequent line-up changes. Paul Carrack departs, as does Gary Tibbs. Although Alan Spenner (bass) (7 May 1948 – 11 August 1991) is enlisted to replace Tibbs, rather than taking on a new keyboardist in place of Carrack, a second guitarist, Neil Hubbard is brought in. This may all be irrelevant anyway because Roxy Music soon devolves to the three core players – Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay – augmented by various session musicians. (Alan Spenner dies of a heart attack on 11 August 1991.)
After rock music icon John Lennon is assassinated on 8 December 1980, Roxy Music record Lennon’s underrated 1971 song ‘Jealous Guy’ (UK no. 1, AUS no. 1) as a single. It is a moving tribute. “I met John Lennon and he was with his wife in Tokyo. I met him there,” Bryan Ferry recalls.
‘Avalon’ (1982) (UK no. 1, US no. 53) in May turns out to be the final Roxy Music album. The glistening ‘More Than This’ (UK no. 6, US no. 103, AUS no. 6) serves up a stylish groove atop which Bryan Ferry frankly declares, “You know there’s nothing / More than this.” In the legends of England’s King Arthur, after the fall of Camelot the great king relocates to the mystic isle of Avalon. It’s not hard to draw the parallel to the close of Roxy Music as the lordly Ferry intones, “Now the party’s over / I’m so tired,” on the stately and wistful title track, ‘Avalon’ (UK no. 13, AUS no. 22). ‘Take A Chance With Me’ (UK no. 26, US no. 104) is also drawn from this album to be a single. This disc is the band’s biggest commercial success ‘and the pinnacle of rock elegance.’
The cover of ‘Avalon’ shows the back of the head of an armoured figure gazing across the water. Although it’s virtually impossible to recognise her, under the layers of metal is Margaret Mary ‘Lucy’ Helmore. On 26 June 1982 Bryan Ferry marries Lucy Helmore at the Church of St Anthony and St George in Duncton, West Sussex, England. Helmore is 22 at the time while Ferry is 36. The couple will have four sons: Otis (born 1 November 1982), Isaac (born 16 May 1985), Tara (born January 1990) and Merlin (born December 1990).
‘The High Road’ (UK no. 26, US no. 67) is a live EP from Roxy Music released in March 1983.
Without Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry continues to release albums under his own name. ‘Boys And Girls’ (1985) (UK no. 1, US no. 63) features the syncopated sashay of ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’ (UK no. 21, AUS no. 68) (co-written by Ferry and co-producer Rhett Davies), and ‘Sensation’, a twitchy nerve beneath a satin overlay. The 1986 single ‘Help Me’ comes from the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘The Fly’ (1986). This song is co-written by Ferry and Nile Rodgers. The mastermind of 1970s disco act Chic, Rodgers imparts his dance music expertise to the Morse code keyboards of this song. The album ‘Bete Noire’ (1987) (UK no. 9, US no. 63) yields ‘Limbo’ (UK no. 86), ‘Kiss And Tell’ (UK no. 41, US no. 31, AUS no. 38) and ‘The Right Stuff’ (UK no. 37, AUS no. 23).
‘A Heart Still Beating’ (1990) is a live album of a Roxy Music concert from 1982. Andy Mackay’s wife passes away suddenly in 1992.
Bryan Ferry’s solo albums continue but the amount of cover versions involved increases. Ferry says, “It’s great to write stuff…I do that less and less…It’s just slower.” Yet, on another occasion, he claims, “I don’t write so much now, because they’re too painful.” So Bryan Ferry releases ‘Taxi’ (1993) (UK no. 2, US no. 79), ‘Mamouna’ (1994) (UK no. 11, US no. 94) [‘Mamouna’ is all original material], and ‘As Time Goes By’ (1999) (UK no. 16, US no. 195), the last-named a collection of pop and jazz standards.
Roxy Music reunites in March 2001 to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson tour for three months. This is their first world tour since 1983. Roxy Music never officially disbands after this point. They irregularly reconvene for a few shows or a tour. From 2005 they are augmented by Oliver Thompson (guitar). Although rumours fly about new recordings, nothing eventuates.
Bryan Ferry’s next release is ‘Frantic’ (2002) (UK no. 6, US no. 189), a mainly original album.
In 2003 Bryan Ferry and Lucy Helmore get a divorce. He subsequently lives with Katie Turner, a dancer he got to know during Roxy Music’s 2001 tour.
‘Dylanesque’ (2007) (UK no. 5, US no. 117) is, as the name implies, a Bryan Ferry album consisting of cover versions of Bob Dylan songs.
In 2009 Bryan Ferry has a relationship with Tasha de Vasconcelos. Later in 2009 he takes up with Amanda Sheppard (aged 26), whom he marries in 2012.
‘Olympia’ (2010) (UK no. 19, US no. 71) is Bryan Ferry’s first album of new compositions since 2002.
In 2011 Bryan Ferry is awarded a C.B.E. (Commander of the order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list.
‘Jazz Age’ (2012) reinterprets Bryan Ferry’s original compositions (from both Roxy Music and his solo work) in a jazz style. The disc is credited to The Bryan Ferry Orchestra.
In 2013 Bryan Ferry’s marriage to Amanda Sheppard comes to an end.
‘Avonmore’ (2014) (UK no. 19, US no. 72) is Bryan Ferry’s next solo album.
It is possible to see Bryan Ferry as a just a dissolute clothes-horse, but this seriously underestimates the man. The dedication of Roxy Music – and Ferry – to style and glamour was just part of the band’s visual aesthetic. It was born from their art school backgrounds. Yet Roxy Music was never a rock music equivalent of the old tale about the Emperor’s new clothes. There was genuine substance beneath the style. Their work charts a course from experimental sonic landscapes, through celebrations of club culture, to a world-weary dignity. A new suit can just draw attention to someone whose merits should always have been evident. Roxy Music was clearly meritorious. Roxy Music ‘had a fascination with fashion, glamour, cinema, pop art and the avant-garde’. They were ‘perhaps the most extraordinary group to emerge in the early 1970s.’
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- ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 64, 67, 68
- allmusic.com, ‘Roxy Music’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 25 February 2014
- ‘Bryan Ferry With Roxy Music – The Ultimate Collection’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (EG Records Ltd, 1994) p. 4, 7, 9
- ‘The History of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p. 153
Song lyrics copyright EG Music Ltd.
Last revised 2 January 2015