New Musical Express NOVEMBER 18, 1972 - by Nick Kent


All this - and Eno too. How can they fail? asks Nick Kent

T. S. Eliot, musing upon a takeaway Chinese meal once asked: is true art dead?, while over at the pinball machine Little Richard picked his nose and pouted out an incisive Awopbopaloobopbamboom in reply.

Since that time the twain of conventional art and rock music has rarely met. There were The Beatles, of course, who exercised their very own brand of magic, and the middle-period Beach Boys have all the right credentials - but otherwise the music has always come out strongest when harnessed to the old teenage, cultural vandal image projected by anyone from Mick Jagger to James Dean to Attila the Hun. After all, who needs all that spiritual awareness guff when you can submerge yourself in the established drugs, sex and violence syndrome. I mean, that's what's happening. Right?

But as we journey forth, out to lunch again on another three-chord Louie Louie mutation and our brains soak in yet another potent clothful of irresistible patent banality, perhaps, somewhere in our cerebral hemispheres, there is a question lurking: surely there is something more? What's shakin' then? Well, you can choose from the grandiose Moody Blues/Yes/Emerson, Lake & Palmer syndrome, with their, portentous technicolour voyages into the misty mystic: from the jazz-rock set beating out redundant riffs with the verve of a used car salesman endeavouring to unload a 53 Chevy on some wary victim; or from the Pink Floyd psychedelic Vaughan Williams variations.

Need I go on? Well, yes, because there actually are a few intrepid souls attempting to more intelligent departures from the comfortably aggressive or alternatively mechanical norm. The German bands, particularly Can, are working on some interesting new routes, while England has usually always nurtured a musical eccentric or two under its wings - Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett, for example. Its latest product is the interesting Roxy Music, come to tickle the senses.

However much one may harp upon American influences, whether it be Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground or Sha-Na-Na (the band express great respect for The Velvets' work but deny being influenced at all by Sha-Na-Na), the fact remains that Roxy Music are a profoundly English band. On stage they don't look as pretty and ethereal as Bowie, or rock n' roll star fodder like Bolan. They appear as English gentlemen exuding a statuesque, surrealistic detachment from their audience. Bryan Ferry, the band's songwriter extraordinaire and prime contender for the title of Most Unusual English Composer to come down the pike since Barrett's days with the Pink Floyd, claims Smokey Robinson as his favourite songwriter - yet his style is almost a complete antithesis of the compact, emotional control to be found in the aforementioned's lyrics. Ferry's lyrics range from the throw-away Ladytron to the bizarre and concise American imagery of Virginia Plain, centering around Andy Warhol superstar outrage, Baby Jane Holzer.

Some of my lyrics are pure throw-away, while others are of vital relevance. I think Chance Meeting is of great social importance. Ferry has built a style around juxtaposing clusters of images, both musical and lyrical together - sometimes to great effect, as in Virginia Plain - complete with Shadow Norton motorcycle-revving sounds and sometimes to self-indulgent boredom - as in If There Is Something. Their own thoughts on their first album are generally favourable, though they feel that the production was a mite too clinical on certain tracks, particularly Re-Make/Re-Model.

The next album is going to be the cheapest ever made. We're looking for a really rough sound like on the original tracks we made for Top Gear. One of the great things about speedy, cheap recording is that you keep hearing odd little bits - mistakes and such which surface with each listening and some of them are quite beautiful. Careful recording tends to sterilise sound to a great extent. Half the joy of those early Presley tracks was to be found in the primitive way they were recorded. We are actually using The Velvets' White Light/White Heat album as a fair example of what we eventually want. I'm not saying that we are going to sound like The Velvets in any way, it's just that we will probably use the same conditions they used to record that album. We hope to make it in a single afternoon.

The delightful Eno, electronics expert and poseur, was talking about the next Roxy album - the cover of which threatens to feature a wild animal, a mansion house, a sportscar, a young lady and an expanse of forest. The luscious Kari Ann, a professional model in the Sabrina school of posing, and whose lithesome frame is currently to be ogled at on a monster bill-board overlooking Sunset Boulevard, is not to be used again.

An American tour, possibly with either J. Geils or Edgar Winter, is being set up during December with dates centreing around the East Coast. While at the moment the band are embarked upon a hugely successful tour of this fair isle. A gig in Newcastle, the home-town of local-boys-made-good Bryan Ferry and Paul Thompson saw backstage doors blocked by vast numbers of 14 year-old males in scarves and anoraks, clammering for autographs and a chance to actually touch their heroes of the hour (this was purportedly the first time the band had experienced such hysteria). While at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon, they played two shows in the same night, the first time the venue has made such a move.

Ferry's bout of tonsillitis curbed much rehearsing of new material but the band have now added a couple of new numbers, For Your Pleasure and Bogus Man Part 2 (which was part of the Roxy repertoire at the very beginning of their live career). Action quotes from Messrs. Ferry and Eno about their new found teen adulation. Mr. Ferry: Show business is strange. Mr. Eno: Young girls are wonderful.

With David Bowie currently trying to (and reportedly succeeding in) win the heart of teenage bisexual America (about the Gay Glamour image, Roxy are all self confessed womanisers), and Marc Bolan trying to find a new way of projecting his now well-tarnished image, and only a band like Hawkwind to offer any opposition in this country, Roxy Music are fast becoming the English band, appealing to the public's demand for a glamorous image complete with good old cerebral music which the English kids have been going crazy for since 1967. So they can't really lose. All this and Brian Eno, too.