Roxy in the Hall of Fame
Roxy Music will be among the performers tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, when the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame opens its arms to the latest group of inductees. No one really needs the validation offered by this much derided and arguably unnecessary institution, but it’s like the Oscars or the Booker: at least it gives you something to argue with.
I suppose Roxy are getting in on the strength of Avalon, the band’s only million-selling album in the US. In their home country, their biggest impact was created — as David Hepworth notes in A Fabulous Creation, his new book about the history of the pop LP — by their debut album, which slid a dagger into the heart of progressive rock and endless boogie in the summer of 1972.
Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera will be there tonight. Brian Eno and Paul Thompson won’t, for various reasons. Nor will Graham Simpson, the original bassist, who left before the first album came out but without whom, as Ferry has said, there would probably never have been a Roxy. Simpson died in 2012; he’s the subject of a forthcoming documentary directed by Miranda Little, several years in the making (here is the trailer).
Anyway, just to amuse you, here (pictured above) is the original Roxy demo tape, recorded on May 27, 1971 on Eno’s Ferrograph. Ferry, Simpson, Mackay and Eno were on it, but not Manzanera or Thompson. The guitarist then was Roger Bunn, formerly with Pete Brown’s Piblokto! and Giant Sun Trolley, and the drummer was someone calling himself Dexter Lloyd, a draft-dodging classical percussionist from Chicago whose real name was James Strebing (both would be gone by the end of the summer).
A month later, the demos were dropped off at my flat in Shepherds Bush. “4.30 Brian somebody with tape at home” is the entry in my diary. “Brian somebody” was Ferry. That’s his writing on the box, and his phone number. I just tried calling it, but no one picked up.
I know that formal recognition often isn’t taken seriously but I’m delighted that Roxy are being formally recognised.
The first two albums sound timeless to me. The next three each contained at least half a great album, the live album is boisterous, Manifesto was a great comeback, Flesh and Blood was a let down, Avalon was a wonderfully elegiatic finale.
They were great live band and have sadly been underrated. I hope that the remaining members are recognised further, although I don’t suppose they are worried about that stuff. They have done enough, but it would be intriguing to see them work together on another musical venture.
Go on Bryan get the whip out!
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That first album stands up wonderfully 47 long years later, as does the wondrous Virginia Plain, once seen on TOTP as an awestruck 15-year-old and never forgotten. Sadly I never saw Roxy till the late 1975 tour at Wembley. I would love to have seen them at their 72-3 Eno inspired creative peak.
Great! Maybe we can now hope for an Alan Spenner documentary some day..
An April 1st smile-raiser (mentioned here because I don’t use Twitter): today’s CD reviews at allaboutjazz.com.
Yeah .. those were pretty clever giving me a bit of a laugh first thing in the morning … Especially the Kenny G playing it straight one 😉 Gotta say though … the abject dearth of April Fools jokes on the net today says legions about the state of the world we’re now living in . what with Brexit , Trump , Putin , the rise of New EuroNeoFascism etc – et al – ad nauseam . Sigh .. thank the gods for the diversion provided by the arts
As for Roxy Music . To get just a small clue as to how influential they were .. take a look as the Good Book says at the fruits that sprang from them … what with Brian Eno who’d probably still be living in obscurity had it not been for Roxy giving him a chance .. rather than the icon he’s become .. Manzanera .. especially his work with David Gilmore .. and Brian Ferry … who brought Armani to the land of rock both fashion and music wise .
That phone number, Richard – you tried but you could not find a way…