ROXY MUSIC – ” Roxy Music ” Released 14th June 1972 ,Self Titled Debut 45 Years Ago Today

Posted: June 17, 2017 in MUSIC
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Looks can be deceiving. And with Roxy Music, that was the entire point.

Bred mostly in the working-class backgrounds from the industrial outskirts of mid-century London, the core personnel who founded Roxy Music did so as much out of artistic vocation as they did self-image reformation.

The otherworldly personae, the cobbled genre-mutations, the elegantly forged retro-futurism—the look and sound of Roxy Music are the visual and aural reflections of an inflated sense of grandeur cycling between fantastical and romantic. And while it was the unorthodox of art-school training that the band—especially vocalist Bryan Ferry, saxophonist-oboist Andy Mackay and noise architect Brian Eno wore on their sleeve, no environment could inspire such appetites for extravagance as the bleakness of rural England.

Brian Ferry, was the son of a County Durham coal miner, sought escape in the far-off glamour of Old Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley standards while Eno, brought up in Essex, was transfixed with the sonic control of tape manipulation; Mackay’s activities were decidedly avant-garde, partaking in experimental sound performances and the radical Fluxus art movement. Guitarist Phil Manzanera, a virtuoso with particular hankerings for complex prog-rock and psychedelia, was the sole well-heeled Roxy youth, while drummer Paul Thompson the only whose blue-collar origins remained resolutely well-preserved in taste.

It’s not uncommon to hear 1972’s Roxy Music framed as the natural result of Ferry’s elaborate aesthetic vision compounded by Eno’s technical wizardry. Other less prominent, but equally wastebin-bound, interpretations attribute the LP’s glow to either Eno or Ferry alone. Each of these theories, however, offer indefensibly lacking accounts of the gorgeous, alien glamour captured on Roxy Music’s self-titled debut. There’s hardly a more compact tutorial on the world of Roxy than the album’s track-one, side-one. The band’s penchant for glamour was showcased both in the lyrics and in the 1950s-style album cover. The photographer Karl Stoecker shot the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller, who later married Mick’s brother Chris Jagger (a stylised portrait of Kari-Ann Muller also graces the cover of Mott The Hooples album “The Hoople” . The album was dedicated to Susie, a drummer who auditioned for Roxy Music in the early days

EG Management financed the recording of the tracks for their first album, “Roxy Music” , recorded in March–April 1972 and produced by King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield Both the album and its famous cover artwork were apparently completed before the group signed with Island Records. A&R staffer Tim Clark records that although he argued strongly that Island should contract them, company boss Chris Blackwell at first seemed unimpressed and Clark assumed he was not interested. A few days later however, Clark and Enthoven were standing in the hallway of the Island offices examining cover images for the album when Blackwell walked past, glanced at the artwork and said “Looks great! Have we got them signed yet?” The band signed with Island Records a few days later. The LP was released in June to good reviews and became a major success,

The introduction to Roxy Music“Re-Make/Re-Model,” stirs gently before it rumbles. Entering with a musique concrète sound collage abruptly supplanted by a lone Ferry suggestively moving between a pair of two-note piano chords, the song then erupts with the band firing a volley of competing fragments that swell into a formidable art-rock clash. “I tried but I could not find a way,” Ferry bellows through Manzanera’s maniacal noodling and Thompson’s percussive thunder; Mackay’s tenor sax trades blows with Ferry’s vocal intervals as Eno paints a squealing sonic backdrop. Building toward the song’s close, the band repeats a series of breaks, granting a brief solo moment to each member—exploiting the prog-rock bravado of the era to assert their avant-garde idiosyncracies.

“Virginia Plain,” the band’s first single was, consequently, also their first big hit, reaching no. 4 on the U.K. charts. A daring choice for a single, the song spurns the mandatory inclusion of a chorus, coasting instead on a continuous verse, offering only seldom breaks in the dominant melodic motif.

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“Looking back, all I did was look away,” Ferry continues on “Re-Make/Re-Model.” But in terms of Roxy Music’s essence, nothing could be further from the truth. Ferry’s longing admiration for the stilted glitz of Golden Age cinema is transparent all throughout the album, even amid the futuristic imagery and cacophonous experimental penchants.

The track “2HB” is the most glaring example. Discreetly abbreviated from “To Humphrey Bogart,” the song is an unabashed tribute to Humphrey Bogart and his role in the celluloid classic Casablanca in particular. Lyrically, “2HB” incorporates dialogue from the film while the sax melody provided by Mackay is lifted from “As Time Goes By,” a central musical piece in the film.

The band’s appreciation for motion-picture memorabilia is felt where it isn’t outrightly declared. “Chance Meeting” plays like a despairing solo scene following act one of a Depression-era musical, before Eno’s sonic trickery intensifies the lament and drags it into the realm of feverish nightmare. The gang-vocal harmonizing and whimsical ratchet-and-clapper percussion on “Bitters End,” which closes out the record, vaguely evoke a pre-war barbershop setting. The medley “The Bob” inspires a variety-show mood, with each section separated into differing segments, structured in the manner of an orchestral suite.

Roxy Music outlasted the fleeting mania of ’70s glam rock by revising it to fit their image, rather than vice versa. And accordingly, their debut album is a triumph not just for how it shines amid the fad, but also in how it could just as easily be argued with that it belongs nowhere near such a thing.

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