ROXY MUSIC- A LOOK AT THE PREMIER PROG-GLAM BAND WITH THE VIDEO STORY MORE THAN THIS

Gaze upon the glam! You can with the DVD More Than This, The Story Of Roxy Music. Photo courtesy of Amazon

My long time mentor back in the 80’s (Storkasaurus Maximus) had introduced me to one Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, RDI, mostly through his Ambient works. If you feel like you are harried, unravelling, uncontrollable, put everything you have aside and just listen to any of his Ambeint series, Music For Airports is a particular pulse calmer. A more commercial route to Avant Eno would be his Music For Films, Vol. 1. There are shorter “songs” with equal amounts of signal-mutation, time-altering melody mangling but in three to five minute increments.

So Imagine my shock when I saw my first Roxy Music video (Virginia Plain) and I was hooked. Then, as the shots hop around the band FOLY FUCK THAT’S ENO! A long blond-ish-colored hair, heavy glam make up, and an outfit to rival future co-conspirator, the late David Bowie. And if that weren’t enough, and by gawd it ought to be, every time the song comes to the measure or so of rest, it’s Eno raping a synthesizer unaccompanied!

That was it, I was hooked. To my chagrin, Eno would only rest under the lounge lizard image that was Bryan Ferry for two albums. He was not idle long, churning out more commercially oriented albums (from Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy and Another Green WorldBefore And After Science not to mention his brilliant debut album Here Come The Warm Jets.

Essential Eno! His debut solo album Here Come The Warm Jets sports a touch of lingering glam. It’s the music that matters. Photo courtesy the Internet

Speaking of essential Eno, it is my opinion that this album is the definitive primer for early Eno Ambient music. Photo courtesy the internet

But the two albums that Eno plays on are remarkable pieces that capture a moment in time where it was OK for Bowie to be Ziggy Startdust, and for the artist who shall never again be named in this blog to be made-up to look like a butterfly. These albums stand today as healthy representatives of what the Roxy mission would evolve into.

This cover of Roxy Music’s first album would eventually become a well known piece of art in its own right. In a way, this iconic image would set the stage to let listeners know what they were in for. Photo courtesy of the internet

The follow-up album, For Your Pleasure, to some critics, it didn’t live up to the first. Poppycock! Photo courtesy of the internet

Now it’s not like I had never heard of any of the other band members. Long time ago in the late 70’s I used to watch a program called The Paul Hogan Show (yes, the same Paul Hogan who played Crocodile Dundee!). Then this happened:

 

I had heard of Phil Manzanara on the Eno solo albums. And at one point, I had to get the Ferry solo album Boys And Girls to hear the King Crimson rhythm section (the good one with Levin and Bruford) on the intro track “Sensation”. The next song is called “Slave To Love”.

Those who know me will know why after that title, this album got mega-spin in my CD player.

But the focus on the DVD would be that core of musicians from about 1970 through 2011. There are many configurations of Roxy, from the original (pre-King Crimson induced popularity) to the most recent. The rotating members read like a who’s who in Prog/Rock/Pop. Eddie Jobson, John Wetton, Rick Willis, Paul Carrack and Andy Newmark to name a few. But the core will always remain Ferry, vocals songwriter, Andy Mackay on winds, who was the one who was friends with Eno, Paul Thompson on Drums and Manzanara on guitar.

The disc itself is hefty in features. First, the disc starts off with “Main Show”. I am repulsed at the fact that Bono (or Boner as I like to call him) is the first interview on the disc, but apparently he was influenced as well. Gee, was he all star-struck when Eno came to produce the U2 albums he did? It runs right into video of them performing on the show Top Of The Pops playing what else? Virginia Plain. Many interviews with many people outside the band as well. About how they met the British equivalent of Andy Warhol. Ferry describes his first two bands,

Andy Mackay joins to tell about how he joined in and around 1971, and plays some alto sax before confessing that he brought in Eno. We cut to a clean-cut, conservative looking Eno who reflects back on his art college years and confesses to never imagining he would be in a band (as he calls himself a non-musician) but still loving the Avant music that was circulating, using words like ‘music concrete’ and ‘happenings’. We cut to old School Eno laboring around a collection of reel-to-reel recorders and other feats of Eno engineering.

Next we meet drummer Paul Thomson who joined RM through audition, as did Manzanera and we are treated to some trademark solo by Manzanera.

We graduate to the next scene,”Painting Pictures” by Eno saying the music was akin to painting pictures. They all claimed to be artists with the exception of drummer Thompson, who was a construction worker.

At this point, Ferry’s need for style is addressed as is the cover art. Ferry felt the album cover should have been as stylish as the band’s appearance. John Taylor of Duran Duran sums it up, they were new and different, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols says they were the true first classy glam band and Siouxsie Sioux states they were the first band who weren’t an embarrassment to the music scene. High praises from pretty big names there, before during and after Roxy’s rise to fame.

They cut to an excerpt from Do The Strand performed live. Martyn Ware of Human League/Heaven 17 welcomed this new sound to Sheffield.

Cut to Eno talking about the sophomore jinx, the stigma that follows most bands as they break out. They have their lives up to the point where they get signed to write, work out and rehearse the songs on a debut album for as long as it takes them to get a record deal. Once that happens, you now have record executives (such as the vile David Entoven, one half of the notorious EG bandit group) telling you that you only have a couple of months to eek out another albums. Ferry and Eno embraced this opportunity so much so that Ferry calls For Your Pleasure his favorite Roxy album.

Pretty strong meat there… They cut to a live version of “In Every Dream Home…”. Record producer Chris Thomas states he felt that Ferry was the best lyricist in England at that time. Bono blows more smoke up Ferry’s ass. Love the explanation and how “…Dream Home A Heartache” is about living the perfect life with a blow-up doll wife.

Sorry Andy Summers, Ferry did it first.

Thompson explains the rift between Ferry and Eno. Ferry was starting to get antsy about Eno getting almost as much attention as Ferry. With that termination, and the official announcement in the press that Brian Eno has left Roxy Music.  This causes the band to “Screaming The Future”. At this point Violinist/Keyboardist Eddie Jobson was named to replace Eno. Who says his favorite album by Roxy Music is the first one he wasn’t on!

Apparently Jobson brought a certain audience and appeal to the band. This period would be dubbed “Roxymania”. Images of magazines with either Ferry or the band fill the screen. Nile Rodgers confesses that he stole the cover concepts for Chic albums by stealing the idea of having models half naked on album covers.

Sioux states they are the Benz of glam bands.

The recording of “Love Is The Drug” proves that they could go to America with it. They were right. They show a live performance with Ferry in semi Nazi attire with equally dressed background singers.

Ferry wanted to do solo albums. But he called the band back one more time for the album Manifesto. This album found them reclaiming the glammy rock throne.

We jump ahead to three years later. Manzanara talks about having just signed on with another band (801?) but went with Roxy anyway. Manzanara announces that they were also forerunners of the Punk movement. Really?

Boner talks about how punk is not a music, it is a style, a movement. Mackay regales Steve Jones telling him that he liked RM, but that Ferry was a ‘cunt’, to use his exact words as relayed by Mackay.

From this point forward, the “Post Punk” era of RM is discussed. Gary Tibbs joins the band with his punk appeal. But their first release “Trash” from 1979’s Manifesto. This just narrowly missed the New Wave charts. Producer Rhett Davies resurrects the song “Dance Away” and this started what would be the new RM sound. Lounge Lizard Ferry has arrived.

Nile Rodgers discusses how disco started to infiltrate society, and how Chic influenced songs like “Angel Eyes”. The New Romantic era revives itself by being a club anthem. John Taylor discusses the RM dress code, and Martyn Ware confesses they (Human League and Heaven 17) based their sound on that of Roxy’s overall sound.

The new decade of the 80’s ushered in a clean, even more polished sound for Roxy, with the release of the single “Same Old Scene” from the album Flesh And Blood and would usher in new popularity for the band. Especially with their collection of videos, they were in heavy rotation on MTV, and “Same Old Scene” was right up there with the Buggles, Pat Benetar and even the artist who shall never be named in this column again. All of them submitted videos for the new channel and I even remember seeing “Same Old Scene” on MTV. It was during this era that Roxy would break through and start to break up. Thompson felt the direction was not for him. They cut to the band performing “Oh Yeah (On The Radio)”. Sort of a departure from the hardcore Roxy sound. Manzanara claims that they had some of their biggest hits off that diluted album including the useless cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”.

This would set the stage for the biggest hit the band ever had, every one has heard the title track to “Avalon”. The video for “The Main Thing” is narrated over by Rodgers saying it was the beginning and it was the end. But before that, they scored another hit with “More Than This” (a personal fave of mine) but the video reveals the fragmentation of the band, just Ferry, Manzanara and Mackay are in the video with an not shown drummer. Now we play the big hit. “Avalon” Bob Clearmountain says is his favorite to engineer.

With the success and the touring schedule, the band fractured even more. Losing Manzanara AND Mackay.

“The Legacy” of RM is a more identifiable and influential one. The members of Goldfrapp claim “Virginia Plain” sounds fresh today. Then, the video hits us with the news that even years on, the members want to reunite just to do it. No egos, no pressure, just get together and play and have fun…

UNHEARD OF!

We cut to a live shot of the band in 2001. Manzanara jokes that there are no Roxy tribute bands, so they will have to be their own tribute band. For the reunion tour, they delved back into early hits showing a live version of “Virginia Plain”.

They attempted to write a new album. In a studio in London 2005 WITH Brian Eno. Eno feels it was like riding a bike. They collectively reminisce how the reunion seemed organic enough to play 2005’s Isle Of Wight festival.

It is here that, sadly the video is over (the main feature anyway). After watching this, I can’t help but want to

Then there are the extra features with chapter titles like “The Album Sleeves”. They talked to the model on the first cover Kari-Ann Muller who, even though she wasn’t paid for the gig, felt it would be a good move for her career. Smart woman. She is on of the iconic women of album covers (like the model on the one album by Blink 182, Janine Lindemulder dressed as a nurse pulling on a rubber glove).

Mackay discusses Ferry’s liking of glamour covers. How they would rather have glam girls as opposed to themselves on covers. A very humble approach for a not-so-humble band. Many discuss how the covers were very important to Ferry. A lost art form in the age of the MP3. But what else would we expect from a bunch or art school grads. Taylor states how they nicked things from Roxy. They discuss how Amanda Lear would not be able to hold a panther on a leash, so it was added later. I did not know that. They then go on to talk about all the covers in such detail, that this segment alone might be worth the purchase price (and I imagine you can get this for a couple of bucks on Amazon).

“The Roxy Ingredients” is feebly explained by Boner. Claiming how Ferry was trying to be black, but that Ferry had a white voice. Racists much? I am further disgusted by Rodgers using the phrase ‘a black voice’ in describing Ferry vocal timbre. Yes, black people have a unique tone to their voice. Never in my ears did I interpret Bryan Ferry as black. A lounge lizard, sure. But black? Off the mark there. describing them as sexy cool is closer. The female vocalist of Goldfrapp thinks he sounds like Marlena Dietrich. Now we’re really getting off the mark.

Ware talks of Eno adding his touches. Giving him credit for much of RM’s unique sound and was an influence on him for both his bands. Thomspon is recalled by Tibbs as being like John Bonham. I have no issue with that. Boner wants to explore Manzanara’s influence on Edge from U2. Then we are treated to more solo by Manzanara on his trusty Gibson Firebird.

The male counterpart of Goldfrapp discusses playing oboe (my first instrument I took up with lessons, I quickly moved to drums as no one wanted an oboe player in their band, I had not heard of Roxy Music while I was in grade school). Mackay is then featured making scratching, squeaking noises on the oboe, proving Goldfrapp boy’s point.

There is also a section on “Introducing Eddie Jobson”, who I first heard about with UK, the group he was in with John Wetton and Bill Bruford. With Wetton doing short tenure in the band, we can see how this relationship developed. Jobson is shown playing a digital piano with virtuoso ability. Putting Eno’s limited keyboard skills to shame. Jobson could replicate Eno’s noises with the VCS synth, keyboards or violin. Jobson speaks of his custom plexiglass violin which started out as an art piece and was converted to an electric violin. They would effect the hell out of the violin to fit Roxy’s sound more appropriately.

I had touched on the revolving bass players in this piece earlier, but there is an entire section about the incoming and outgoing bassists called “Who’s Playing Bass For Roxy Music”. Jobson explains they never had a permanent bass player. First they talk to Guy Pratt, about how he was given a book akin to ‘you-are-the-one-thousandth-bass-player-in-Roxy-Music’ spiel. Pratt goes on to name them all. I think this review is long enough. Then we are treated to Pratt and Tibbs playing the original bass part to “Love Is The Drug”. They both play it in different keys with different feels.

Rodgers again detailing how their song “Country Life” and “Love Is The Drug” are the closest you can get to plagiarizing without plagiarizing.

With a click of the remote, we are now treated to three live tracks: “Both Ends Burning” from Siren. Rumor has it, this is the best track off the album. With a harmonica solo, I doubt it.

Next they play “Editions Of You”, a rip roaring version complete with Enoesque synthesizer abuse. But that won’t compare to the bigger hit, “Do The Strand”:

We are treated to this sweaty hit, and the disc is over. It made for a lovely Saturday afternoon viewing. And yes, I would make it a point to find this DVD and own it as your own. I started out with a casual interest in Roxy, a band referred to me by one of my musical co-conspirator, because of Eno’s involvement. Though I always did like tunes like “Stick Together” and “VP”, I always felt the need to keep exploring. But they fell off my radar until I saw this disc and thought, it has Eno on it, maybe it will help me decide if I want to pursue the rest of the catalog.

After this video? I am a Roxy Music maniac…

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