INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New Musical Express APRIL 20, 1974 - by Nick Kent
TONIGHT SOUTHPORT, TOMORROW THE... ERRH... WORLD...
In which Nick "Where's da scoop?" Kent boards a fast train Northbound... and Roxy Music play it close to their chests.
So where were all the exclusives then, eh mes braves? I mean, had it not been some five hours earlier when, stalking into the NME office, I'd been grabbed by the lapels and given orders to hasten directly to Southport where, I was duly informed, Roxy Music were holding court at the Floral Hall for two nights.
Never mind the fact that I'd witnessed the live Roxy rantings on numerous occasions prior to this, or that my inclinations towards journeying up to Southport were about as potent as my desire to contract "farmer's lung". This, I was also duly informed, was business.
And exclusive (gasp!) business, at that.
I mean, two Roxy Music gigs performed straight out of the blue in a bleak Northern outpost like Southport? AND NO PRESS ALLOWED???
The telephone wires between the aforementioned and Long Acre were already positively bristling with wild tales much rioting and garrotting among the hooligan audience on the first night, demon saxophones going haywire and strangling young innocents, Matt Monro frantically digging a pipeline from Wrexham to Southport "just to be there", and Bryan Ferry wearing a Lonsdale sweat-shirt onstage!!
"They might even be playing a few new numbers as well, man," said my assistant editor.
"Well - hmmm... I mean, well, it is sort of an exclusive that you're up here in the first place. I mean, no one else from the press is here."
Dapper, genial Simon Puxley is, and let us not beat around the bush at this point, an ace publicist as well as being "a truly wonderful human-being".
But - hmmm - this was not exactly what I wanted to hear particularly after having been informed, upon my arrival at the Floral Hall itself, that no - this was not a new set; no - there were absolutely no new numbers to be featured; and no - the band hadn't really even got any new stage-outfits for the show.
My dander, to say the least, was up. For example, in the words of many renowned existentialists: "Pourquoi Southport?"
Andy Mackay: "Well, we originally wanted a secluded venue as a sort of public rehearsal ground for the American tour. It was sort of a 'Tonight Southport, tomorrow The World' manoeuvre. But then the American tour was postponed so we thought, 'Well at least, tonight, Southport can be ours'!"
Yeah, well that's alright for you, ya svelte greaseball-fop you and your bunch of dilettantes - but an honest journalist has been dragged out into these squalid hinterlands in search of a hot scoop and...
"Well do you want to know about my solo album?"
Oh, a-alright then...
"It's called In Search Of Eddie Riff and should be released any day now, once the vinyl crisis has been settled. Actually I wanted to call it A La Recherche d'Eddie Riff after being inspired by this piece I read which stated that David Bowie was the Jean-Paul Sartre of rock. I decided that I wanted to be the Proust of rock.
Anyway - there's Walking The Whippet which I think is a great dance number, a version of Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted, The Ride Of The Valkyries which is being released as a single and...
Who plays on it? Oh, the stars of tomorrow, like Paul Thompson, Phil Manzanera and John Porter. Oh, and Roger Glover helped produce..."
Hold it, hold it right there, matey. I seem to remember all this being reported well over a month ago in "a rival music paper". "Well I'll give you an exclusive review of the album if you put my picture on the cover of the NME." O.K., O.K., Enough of this wheeling and dealing, Mr. M. What about all these tales of violence that supposedly occurred during the first night up here on the Northern coast?
"Well there was supposed to be a particularly fearsome battle in the audience last night and I was told someone's throat was almost cut. The promoter had blood all over his face when he came backstage. I think it was someone else's though."
"Well I poured half-a-pint of lager down my saxophone by mistake. It just got knocked over - very unfortunate."
Meanwhile, Phil Manzanera is still to be seen in his customary lurex black and silver pencil-striped jacket - a recording union between him, John Cale and Mr. Eno having tentatively been set up; Eddie Jobson in little Lord Fauntleroy curls and that same "eager to please" grin and, of course, the mighty Paul Thompson, this time in a leopard-skin butcher's apron.
Mr. Ferry is togged up in his customary Humphrey Bogart get-up, the remains of a Caribbean tan embellishing the "Hot Nights In Casablanca" image even further.
The ever-present lounge-club sashay breaks into a hint of the Peppermint Twist as Ferry takes to the stage - "Welcome to Southport - the Altamont of the North."
It's quieter tonight in the audience but, ye gods, the Roxies themselves are blasting out at a fair gusto, not to mention volume.
Paul Thompson in particular, is flailing away with the strength of a juggernaut while Manzanera's guitar-work is evermore impressive.
Otherwise the set is exactly the same as before: Street Life, Pyjamarama, Mother Of Pearl, Virginia Plain, Re-Make/Re-Model, etc., with Ferry's face contorting constantly like an anguished gigolo, except at the end, for an encore of Do The Strand, when he dashes on in Lonsdale sports sweater looking like a faintly exotic John Cleese.
All good clean fun of course, even if the volume overspill did directly harm the performance of Ella Fitzgerald and her three-piece combo who were in residence at the adjacent hall.
Still she appears, glowing like a trouper, at the door of the Prince of Wales Hotel where the Roxies, their entourage and numerous impressionable young fans are spread out like jaded fops indulging in idle back-chat.
Ferry is being assaulted by numerous weird bods - first, a girl who proceeds to talk his ear off about this, that and the other - and then some weird guy who suddenly appears...
"He was trying to join the group. He kept asking me, y'know. So I said, 'What can you play?' and he said 'Oh anything, man. Like do you want a lead guitarist?' And when I casually pointed out to him that we had one, he said, 'Well I just got this vibe that you really needed me'."
Ferry also received a visit from two devoted queens who often turn up at concerts to bring him presents. "This time it was two cigars and a very exotic box of matches. Last time it was a full-size mincing machine!"
So the festivities continue and finally Ferry invites us back to his hotel room and plays us his new album.
Boy, and what a powerhouse epic this one is! Kicking off with a salty, bitching version of Woolly Bully, in which Ferry never lets up for an instant.
The sprawling pedal steel riffs of Jerry Garcia on Bryan's own inimitable rendering of She Taught Me How To Yodel, the perfect meeting of Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out Of You and My Boy Lollipop, the fire that burns deep in the soul of the maestro's version of Hanky Panky.
I'm lying, of course, although I was privileged to receive an earful of two of the ten new tracks just recently recorded at Island: a lovely electric-piano dominated version of Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe, plus a commendably fiery respray job on Dobie Gray's middle-'60s mod anthem - The In Crowd, complete with immaculate guitar-playing.
And the musician involved, if I may be so bold?
"Oh, David O'List," replies Ferry.
The rest of the track titles remain a mystery to the outside world although the album will contain one Ferry original. Mid-June is the date affixed to the Island Records' release schedule.
Right now though, it's America that the Roxy conglomerate are setting their sights on. A deal with Atlantic Records has been signed and Stranded is due for imminent release there. These Foolish Things follows a month after.
Messrs. Ferry and Puxley troop out on April 20 to "suss out the vibe" as well as attending to the grand strategy.
Tonight Southport, tomorrow... well maybe next month. You have been warned Tulipville, Arkansas.