INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Mojo JULY 2007 - by Fred Dellar
THIS MONTH IN 1972 ...ROXY AT FULL SPEED
July 1 - At his tiny terraced house in Battersea, Bryan Ferry smiled as he perused the music press that week in July. His band Roxy Music had only made their official debut at Lincoln's Great Western Festival in May, yet by June 30 they were supporting Alice Cooper at the Wembley Empire Pool, and grabbing much kudos too, one report proclaiming: "Musically they were light years ahead of Alice."
Another pointed out that the sleeve of Roxy's debut album featured a gold record tucked coyly behind model Kari-Ann's evening stole, and suggested: "It may be arrogance but more likely a prophecy."
Yet Ferry was philosophical about what seemed a combination of hype and genuine overnight success: "At the moment, just going up and down the M1 for the first time is very enjoyable."
In truth, the general run of gigs lacked glamour. That week Roxy took their unique brand of electronics and skewed art-rock to Clarence's, Halifax, with the Red Lion, Leytonstone and Neeld Hall, Chippenham to follow. "Most venues in this country are really squalid," Ferry noted. "It makes us sick to think of people spending 50p or more to see something rotten in an overcrowded club in a hot, sweaty and uncomfortable atmosphere. We aim to come on-stage with something to watch and transform it into something big like the Hollywood Bowl." If nothing else, keyboardist Brian Eno's flowing silver hair and gold lamé attire gave a vision of future times, other worlds.
Meanwhile, the Roxy album was picking up good reviews and some airplay. Produced by ex-King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield, it had been backed by E.G. Management and Island records, the label's press handout reading: "Roxy Music, when you've heard them and seen them, the name becomes self-explanatory. The band comprises Bryan Ferry (voice, piano, composition), Andrew Mackay (oboe, saxophone), Eno (tapes, synthesizer), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Rick Kenton (bass) and Paul Thompson (drums)." The LP had been recorded at Command Studios in London, chosen, Sinfield said, "because they had American desks. They had that something when trying to correct drum sounds - it took about three times as long on British equipment."
On Monday, July 10, Roxy's sound again boomed from the studio's Altec monitors as they cut a single, Virginia Plain, for rush release. Along with a B-side, The Numberer, it took just three days to record. "It was an amazing session," said Manzanera. "We were all capering around during The Numberer, shouting silly things that had to be edited out. With Virginia Plain, I got into the studio, set up my amp and hadn't got the faintest idea of what I was going to do. I could've put my fingers anywhere."
Elsewhere, Ferry was attempting to delineate the band's appeal: "Whereas one person, maybe a Hampstead intelelctual, would say, 'How camp!', a kid would probably respond by saying, 'That's weird.' The kid would probably get the bigger kick."
Virginia Plain, based on a painting by former art student Ferry, which in turn was inspired by a brand of cigarettes and a recollection of one-time Warhol superstar Baby Jane Holzer, was released on July 28. The next day Roxy played a Crystal Palace Garden Party headed by Arlo Guthrie and Edgar Winter. Such was the Roxy buzz during the month that inclusion was a formality. On the day of the gig, Roxy Music entered the charts and was heading for the Top 10. Of their meteoric rise, a tired Ferry said, "I feel in a complete void at the moment... very unsettled," and turned to the problem of finding a new abode in Fulham.