INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Creem FEBRUARY 1976 - by Lisa Robinson
ROXY MUSIC: ALL DRESSED UP WITH NOWHERE TO GO
London, October 1975: Bryan Ferry was obviously in a reflective mood. When you do something that's your life's work, and you just don't get the comeback from it... I mean, I get the financial comeback because I get all the royalties from the publishing. But a lot of people don't realize just how much of me is on those records. They think, 'Oh, he's the singer with the band,' you know... the front image of the band.
Ah... Lonely At The Top? Depressed? Mmmmmmm, Bryan rolls his eyes dramatically. I bravely go further. Is it discouraging for you to have worked at something for five years and get financial reward for your work only to get put down for the way you've chosen to spend your money, your lifestyle, and then for there to be what might eventually be irreconcilable ego differences within the band as well? Maybe I should just give it up, mumbled Bryan. WHAT? Now you're talking in headlines. It's just that the things that go with all of this are so heavy sometimes that they really get you down. I read all these things like 'Since Eno left the band Ferry has manipulated more and more of the media thing to assume more importance in the band, and the music has since been diluted by Ferry's solo efforts'... like that, Bryan said. Those kinds of things hurt me. I mean I wonder if the people who read that stuff know that I basically arrange everything that goes on the records...
• • •
New York, June 30, 1972: Richard Williams handed me the first Roxy Music LP. I knew that they had taken off BIG in England, I loved the album cover. Unlike Slade, T.Rex or god forbid Gary Glitter who were eventual passing fancies Over There, Roxy were talented, complex and ever changing. They have kept me interested since, but for me, Roxy really always was Bryan.
Guilford, England, November 1972: I saw Roxy perform for the first time and wasn't disappointed. Backstage Bryan seemed shy, quiet, but obviously there was a Star inside eager to get out. The next day I interviewed Eno (who didn't stop talking) and Bryan (who seemed hesitant). I had no doubt that these two egos weren't long for the same band.
New York, December 6, 1972: Roxy came to New York for the first time and we all went out to what has since become an increasingly familiar scene; one of these formal Roxy dinners with the band and various guests all lined up banquet-style at some restaurant. This time it was Romeo Salta and in the middle of the meal Eno exploded: This is the first time I've been to New York in my life! What am I doing sitting in this bloody restaurant!!?? So we hustled into limos, visited the Empire State Building, 42nd St., and chez Robinson to watch Lou Reed video-tapes.
Leicester, England, October 1973: There have been some changes made. Eno was no longer part of Roxy Music, he'd been replaced by boy wonder, beauty Eddie Jobson on violin, keyboards, etc. Bryan clearly was the central figure, behind the scenes as well as onstage where I'd always thought he dominated anyway. I recall some doubt that night as to whether Bryan would drive back to London alone in a car or join everyone in the bus so we could talk. He took the bus.
New York, April 29, 1974: Bryan came to New York alone for a brief promotional trip. He had wanted to go somewhere with atmosphere for dinner, and since I refused to go to Elaine's and Ballato's was booked up, we went to Casey's... which was empty that night and I think Bryan was disappointed. We went to the 82 Club afterwards and Alice Cooper (possibly David Bowie as well) showed and I left Bryan there with them. I remember he wore a gray, beautifully tailored suit and he seemed slightly lost. I thought then that Bryan was the kind of man who probably brought out the most protective, maternal instincts in strong, independent women who could then completely take him for a ride.
New York, June 1974: Roxy was really touring here for the first time - with some assistance/powerful backing by Atlantic Records. Bryan seemed really nervous, especially in New York, but the response at the Academy of Music was more than respectable. Artist Larry Rivers gave the band a party at his loft after the concert, and the crowd was like an issue of Interview come to life. For Bryan, who had initially been an artist and probably semi-worshipped Andy Warhol in his younger days, it must have been satisfying. But Howard Stein summed up the evening when he asked when Veruschka was coming and cracked, And when do The Yardbirds smash their guitars?? Following the party, a group of us went down to the 82. Bryan was with Cindy Lang and several other adoring young women and he didn't seem lost at all. We later heard that the kids went wild in Detroit and Cleveland, an important sign.
London, October 1974: I visited Bryan at his Redcliffe Square flat and he showed me the cover slick with the two sexy girls photo that would later be banned in the States. The following night Nick Kent and I ran into Ferry and Amanda Lear at San Lorenzo and the two of them came over to our table to chat. After a few minutes of standing they had to kneel down to continue the conversation. There's never a photographer handy when you need one.
Toronto, February 1975: Bryan looked very sporting in a tennis sweater, again was in a good mood. I had heard rumors that Roxy would break up almost since its inception, so I never really thought to talk to Bryan about the others that much. I think he may have mumbled something about being able to find other musicians to play his music, but I dismissed that as obvious. I realized that for an English newspaper such as NME (which I was interviewing him for), Bryan would want to talk mainly about his Royal Albert Hall solo concert, so we did.
New York, February 21, 1975: The Academy of Music show was just about a sell-out, by now Roxy had achieved a certain stature here. And again there was a supper after the show, this time it was at El Morocco.
London, May 12, 1975: I interviewed Phil Manzanera about his solo album in the morning. Diamond Head was a critical success in England, and Phil was (as always) pleasant and thoughtful about his album - diplomatic about Roxy. I had dinner with Bryan that night and he talked candidly about not getting a certain amount of credit for what he does with the music he writes that Roxy records. He also drove me - in his new black Daimler - to his newly-bought Holland Park manse. I've had the keys for a week, he laughed, and I've been afraid to move in.
London, September 26, 1975: Bryan's birthday. His Holland Park house was beautifully and tastefully furnished... even to the inclusion of Siren cover girl Jerry Hall who answered the door. We went out with an assemblage of his friend's to Morton's. Bryan talked excitedly about Siren; You always think each album is the best, but I really feel that way about this one. No one else from the band was at the birthday celebration.
Wembley, October 17, 1975: Roxy performed what essentially would be the show they'd bring to the U.S. this time. All the new stuff from Siren as well as the hits from the past four LPs. The addition of two female back-up singers expanded the visuals. Backstage Janie Mackay told me Roxy probably wouldn't do a Los Angeles date this time because Andy had to be back in London to work on a TV soundtrack he'd written. What?? Following their second Wembley show Phil and Andy gave a party for their friends at the Savoy Hotel. Bryan Ferry wasn't invited. I don't think Paul Thompson was either. Sunday Mackay and Manzanera held a mini-press conference for European reporters at Island Records. Bryan stayed home and spoke privately to selected journalists.
• • •
You know it's difficult, Bryan told me, because on the one hand you want to make records, have success, and promote the product you've created. Then it becomes increasingly difficult to talk about it. I've gotten to the point where I'd rather say look, here's the record. Period. Especially with me... with this sort of image thing that I've built up... Do you feel that you've created a media monster? Oh, a Frankenstein. Yes, absolutely.
Are you still ambitious, is it still just as important as ever for you to be considered a Success in America? Ummm... I suppose so, really. I think it would be nice. I mean a million selling record there would buy a lot of time. It would also increase the pressure, the ego problems, even more. Plus you'd have to be looking around behind you even more, having to top yourself constantly... I'm not worried about competition in the music field at all, Bryan said.That really doesn't matter. But if I want to develop my abilities in other areas, it would be nice to have a big recording success behind me. Do you know what I mean?
• • •
Reviews... they bother you when you read things. Like I read one that said 'Mackay's brass arrangements are a perfect foil for Ferry's vocals.' And I played, in great painstaking detail, those brass arrangements, I worked them out. It's that thing of not getting credit for what you're doing. Yet if you stand up and say it, it sounds awful. It's like if you designed a whole meal, and then you get reviewed for the main course... but no the starter or dessert. What can you do, it sounds terrible of you say wait a minute, I designed the whole meal...
• • •
We talked about Fame: Can you imagine what it's like for somebody like Sinatra? Bryan asked. Sitting in a restaurant. I know exactly what it's like, or I can imagine what it's like. A guy comes over and he says, 'I'm at this table over there with my wife, we'd like you to come and have a drink with us. We're great fans of yours,' and Frank would say, 'Well, gee, that's very nice, thank you. But I'm sitting here actually having dinner with somebody, I can't really leave the table. Thanks anyway.' And then the guy says, 'Oh come on, just one drink'... and Frank says, 'Well, sorry -'... and the guy says, 'Oh, too big time to have a drink with us??' And the next thing you know... pow! I can see where it gets to that, it really is like that. So that's the unpleasant scene of the night, and you just want to go home...