INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Mirror DECEMBER 1, 2010 - by Louise Gannon
WE HAD TEA WITH SALVADOR DALI, SITTING ON A CROCODILE
With their outrageous clothes, sexy album covers and great songs, Roxy Music were rapidly becoming the coolest and most influential band of the '70s.
Even David Bowie copied what they were wearing and their string of massive hits inspired countless musicians.
The influence lives on with Lady Gaga crediting Roxy as "one of my biggest inspirations", Noel Fielding calling himself a "Roxy obsessive" and Twilight's Robert Pattinson saying "if I could look like anyone it would be Bryan Ferry".
But while Britain's coolest band were red hot in the charts, they were beset by a series of blazing rows.
And the flames were finally put out when they split in 1983 so frontman Ferry could concentrate on his solo career.
Band founder and sax player Andy Mackay recalls: "There has never been a band like Roxy. We were always like a family - a very dysfunctional family.
"It's true there were a lot of tensions but none of us minded because to create great music you need to have a bit of tension. That's what made Roxy work."
They re-formed in 2001 and are now preparing for their first tour in a decade. Whatever happens, things are unlikely to get as weird as yesteryear.
Ferry says: "When we got famous the biggest thing for me was being invited to have tea with Salvador Dali.
"We had to sit on a crocodile then we went out to dinner in Paris in a Cadillac with these six amazing blonde models and ate with a waiter behind each chair. Dali didn't speak any English but it didn't matter. To me, that was just the most amazing experience for a working-class boy from the North East."
He adds: "We were never a typical rock'n'roll band. We were basically a group of art students and my focus was always about creating this theatrical style and look, a really strong image.
"People found it shocking because we'd walk out with green hair and these amazing feathered jackets and all this glitter. Other bands started to copy us so we dropped that look and moved on."
Keyboard player Brian Eno might not be back in the band but he certainly made his mark in the '70s.
Mackay says: "Eno was always the most over the top. He had a girlfriend who was a fashion designer so his outfits were always the best - and even back then Bryan managed to look stylish."
Ferry recalls the days when they got together in London. He says: "Most of us - except Phil Manzanera - were in our late-twenties. We had jobs teaching art or whatever but we had this idea. We were all incredibly focused. We all saw it as our last chance to be in a band.
"We had a Ford Transit van and we'd be up and down the motorway after work and at weekends doing gigs.
"At one point we had an ambulance and we'd stuff Brian Eno in the back on top of all the instruments. Then we had a bit of a crash and he nearly got flattened."
A fight at an early gig between drummer Paul Thompson and a guitarist nearly put paid to a record deal ("that was the end of that guitarist", says Thompson). And it was almost as much of a fight trying to get a terrified Ferry to the centre of the stage to sing.
He recalls: "I was so self-conscious I would perform from the side of the stage behind the keyboards.
"I couldn't stand being looked at which was a problem for a performer. In the end I was just pushed to the front."
Mackay says: "No one really knew why he went. It wasn't really talked about. Brian just went. Obviously it was pretty tough but we had to carry on."
In the charts their biggest rival was David Bowie, who borrowed their idea of wearing catsuits on stage. But Roxy had a great way of fighting back - Manzanera recalls: "We stole his lighting man."
Top Of The Pops was where the real pecking order became clear.
"You'd do Top Of The Pops and find out what your status was," laughs Mackay. "Elton John would get a dressing room to himself and a few for his band. Roxy and Bowie would get squashed into a tiny room. Then there would be a fight over tickets for the free BBC bar."
After hitting it big with Virginia Plain in 1971, Roxy became huge and it brought a host of benefits.
Mackay says: "The best thing about being in a famous band is the girls. We were working-class boys, we were in LA in the same hotel as Led Zeppelin and there were queues of girls and limos throughout the hotel. It was heaven."
And they didn't just have their pick of the usual groupies. As Ferry upped the glamour stakes - using top models in videos and on album covers such as Siren and Country Life - beautiful women began flocking to their gigs.
The band split after their biggest album, Avalon, and Mackay says: "It was tough but Bryan really wanted to make it as a solo artist. He did and we were all very proud of him."
He adds: "The tour is exciting. Bryan looks as good as ever and has got even more stylish. Even though there won't be any feathers or glitter it'll be amazing.
"The songs still stand up and it should be one big Roxy party."