INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New Musical Express JUNE 1, 1974 - by Lisa Robinson
SERGE-SUITED SMOOTHIE FOR EXPORT?
"I haven't anything to keep me in Britain really", says B. Ferry wistfully (although actually it's not as sensational as it sounds...)
It's hard to tell from the deadpan expression whether or not Bryan Ferry was having a fun time. But his ink-black hair and matching shirt sure made a fine contrast to the gray serge suit he wore as he toyed with a drink and looked blasé in the Club 82.
All around him there was activity: Harry Nilsson was singing drinking songs, Alice Cooper was proudly displaying his freshly-sprouted moustache, drag queens were gliding by and Wayne County was fondling Roxy publicist Simon Puxley's knee.
Ferry was in with the in-crowd all right, and it didn't phase him one bit.
Earlier that evening, we'd met in the privacy of his lavish Drake Hotel suite and talked about why he had come to New York.
Last time Roxy Music passed through they had a semi-unfortunate experience. They had little support from their record company, they were thrown on bills where the audience had no idea of who they were (their debut in Madison Square Garden in front of a Jethro Tull crowd is a good example), and what had promised to be an exciting adventure left them all with a bitter taste in their mouths.
But this time, with the help of Atlantic Records who recently signed the band (and Ferry as a solo artist as well), Bryan Ferry was here for some good old-fashioned promotion.
That meant shlepping to Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit (where Ferry has an amazing following), Boston and of course Los Angeles for radio interviews, sessions with reporters, and an occasional evening of fun.
Rumours from around the country were that he'd totally charmed everybody.
"I didn't really want to come back," he told me in that quiet way, "but over the last few days everything seems so... different. They seem to know about us. So I'm much more keen on the idea of touring here.
"Last time they tried to tour us as another rock band, which we have never really been. We felt out of place on our gigs, and the audiences felt we were out of place; we just weren't playing places where the people would understand what we were about."
While Simon Puxley fielded people in and out of the suite, fixed drinks, and approved colour slides, Ferry continued:
"I think that when we come to the States to perform - maybe in June - it'll be something quite similar to the British tour, with our lights... quite slick.
"I don't know yet if I'll be doing any of my solo things - I haven't done them as yet. But people are saying that I should over here."
Errrr, is this a problem within the context of Roxy Music? Certainly after the success of Hard Rain and These Foolish Things et al it should be obvious that Ferry has his own fans.
"Well, maybe they wouldn't object so much, especially since Andy (Mackay) has done his own solo album. I haven't heard it yet, although I hear it's light music... sort of like a background to driving... You know, it was funny with Eno's album - that one he did with Fripp. They played a tape of it on the radio backwards once and nobody knew.
"It was quite funny really. It's interesting that that album was just Fripp playing his guitar through Eno's tape machine and synthesizer. I expect people will buy it though."
On the subject of his own songs, he had this to say: "There are thousands of songs that I would love to do, and it's quite difficult to decide which ones eventually get recorded.
"Lots of very good songs get thrown out at the last minute; you say, 'Well - there's no point in doing that - it's too long', or 'Not that one because another one has the same mood', or whatever.
"Basically it comes down to which ones I feel I can interpret. I try to interpret the lyrics and make them as meaningful as possible. Once you find yourself listening to other people's songs with the idea of recording them, you find a lot of them that you thought were great that you just couldn't do live at all."
Like which ones?
"Well - some of The Stones' things, for example. We ended up doing Sympathy For The Devil, which does have some very good lines... But there are a lot of great black songs that when you carefully look at the words you realise they must have been written in five minutes before they went into the studio."
"I chose Hard Rain because of the words. I like pictorial images and there were so many in that one... you know, the roar of the wave... It's a very emotional song. I'm a very emotional person." He smiled shyly, then laughed out loud.
One never does know with Bryan Ferry, does one?
Turning to what seemed to be a more difficult subject, that of How Long Will Roxy Stay Together, he answered slowly.
"A few years at least."
In its present form?
"Well, there'll always be a Roxy Music," he said with some conviction, "even if people tend to drift off to do their own thing from time to time. I don't think it would exist without me, since I created the thing and have been responsible for ninety-nine percent of the music.
"So I'd probably carry on as Roxy Music anyway. It's certainly a separate entity from my solo things, because on my solo albums I mainly do my versions of other people's songs."
"Whether of not Roxy Music stays on as a rock and roll band for a long time depends on films really. I'm interested in films. Cinema has always been the most magical thing to me. You have music and you have people falling down stairs," he laughs and points to a man falling down a flight of stairs on the large colour television set to our right, "and it's also a much more realistic way of getting to a large audience than touring is.
"Although it's nice to be on stage," he smiles. "That's magical too..
"But I did the Cilla Black TV show a few months ago," he said, "and next week the album was back on the charts again - probably because a whole new group of people were buying it."
Ferry had mumbled something earlier (whispered, actually, as opposed to the sexy mumbling that serves as his regular talking) about living in America permanently.
Was this something for us here to seriously look forward to?
"Well... I don't know. I've only been here two days so far this time, but it's been quite pleasant. I base by first impressions on lots of things, and this time it just felt really good to come here.
"It was hard after the last time - because you know in Britain and Europe we've been elevated to sort of star status now, and you just don't feel that you want to go through all that again.
I don't know about other acts who come here and start at the beginning all over again, but I think it's dreadful to have to go through that.
This time it's been very nice however, because everybody is very interested in getting to know me and exactly what we're doing. I haven't got anything to keep me in Britain, really..." he said, wistfully.