BBC APRIL 20, 2007 - by Helen Morgan-Wynne


Once the King of Cool, Bryan Ferry's crown has been badly dented by remarks he made praising the marketing and presentation skills of the Nazi regime.

"My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves," he gushed to the German magazine Welt am Sonntag. "I'm talking about Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and the flags - just amazing. Really beautiful."

The press didn't hold back. "Musings of a Ferry silly man," declared The Daily Express.

His apology came swiftly and unreservedly. But for many it wasn't enough - they implied he was simply worried about the damage his remarks could do to his bank balance.

Knocking the rich and famous is a national sport - and it seems that a man who was once regarded as the height of sophisticated and intelligent fashion is now fair game.

Bryan Ferry mixes with minor royalty, has a country pile in Sussex, sends his children to private school and lists shooting as one of his hobbies. His eldest son, Otis, famously broke into the House of Commons to protest against Labour's ban on hunting.

These are hardly the credentials of the avant garde man of music. The phrase "part of the landed rock gentry" now creeps into nearly everything written or said about him. He is the very epitome of what some see as Britain's new classless society, in which how much money you have is more important than your vowel sounds.

Dance Away

This is all a far cry from his childhood. Bryan Ferry, who's now sixty-one, is the son of a farmer turned miner from Washington in Tyne and Wear. He often reminds interviewers that a tin bath hung on the kitchen wall.

But the young Ferry was happy - he was the only boy and said to be the favourite.

A former neighbour once recalled that Bryan was always "well turned out" and that his mother insisted on high standards - producing proper napkins at teatime and stressing the need for good manners.

He left that life behind when he went to Newcastle University to study fine art. There he developed his interest in music, clothes and girls. It seems he always had the confidence which still gives him such stage presence.

After graduating he moved to London and formed Roxy Music. Teaming up with Brian Eno and the fashion designer, Anthony Price, they combined the look of glam rock with edgy, intelligent lyrics and eclectic musical influences. It all seemed dramatically new in the early 1970s.

Jealous Guy

Ferry and Eno had a highly creative but turbulent relationship. After their first two albums, Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure, Eno left the band. Ten years ago Ferry admitted that he'd wished they'd worked together longer. At the time, he says, he underestimated how much Eno had contributed to the band's sound.

In the years that have followed, Roxy Music have released eleven albums and one is expected next year. Bryan Ferry has also produced a number of solo albums - although several other projects have never seen the light of day, and sales have not always been good.

But his good looks have meant he's always been excellent copy - even when he wasn't producing music. Since his divorce from Lucy Helmore in 2003, his name's been linked with a number of young women. His most famous liaison was in the '70s with the American model, Jerry Hall. When she dumped him for Mick Jagger after a few years, cruel gossips suggest she got bored with the Roxy Music front man, said to be obsessed with work.

Friends admit that he is a perfectionist and many commentators believe his music has suffered as a result - losing the thrill of the less polished early work.

He's also been criticised for playing at country houses and for supporting the Countryside Alliance. When he praised son Otis at an awards ceremony in 2004 he was booed.

His image took another hit among some fans when he signed a contract last year to model a range of menswear for M&S - a company which epitomises middle England. Tom Ford, the US designer credited with turning Gucci into a global brand, once said that Ferry was his ultimate style icon. But is being the face of sensible High Street fashion a comedown for a man once seen as the last word in ironic lounge lizard sophistication?