INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Record Mirror NOVEMBER 11, 1972 - by Robin Mackie
What's her name, Virginia Plain. The record finished to the accompaniment of uproarious mirth from Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay. What, you may well say, Roxy laughing at their own records? Is Britain's most original new band of the year a giant con on the British public?
The real reason is that Phil and Andy have just been subjected to their first hearing of their single hit, as purveyed as one of England's Top 12 Hits, as released by Avenue Records, costing rather less than Roxy's own album, and including among other delights, Love Theme From The Godfather and Four In The Morning, neither of which is about to be covered by Roxy.
The leaden attempt at good copy only adds emphasis to the extraordinary drive and originality of the actual Top 10 single. It's not too difficult for an adequate singer to do a copy of Four In The Morning, but Roxy Music remain stubbornly inimitable. They look about as inimitable as they sound, too - sax player Andy stole the show at our interview by wearing bright green trousers, a jersey with his shirt collar out, and to top the early '50s American student look, a pair of wide-rimmed egghead of the class glasses. Nothing so very unusual about that. Except that his hair, swept back in an early Ricky Nelson, was streaked to match his jersey. Which was duck-egg blue.
"It used to be entirely blue," he explained with a deadpan face. "I decided to put some brown streaks in today, just to be outrageous." One or two members of the band, he noted, had gone as far as to wear their hair brown all over!
Andy's blue hair isn't going to be the only new thing in Roxy's tour, which began again on Friday after the unfortunate interruption of vocalist Bryan ferry's tonsil removal. "His voice sounds even better," Andy assured me. "In fact that was the point of the operation, to improve his voice. We're having his arms done next." The conversation trailed off into a weird surreal fantasy where all of Roxy Music's concerts are performed from a hospital, and the fans are allowed in for a visiting time concert. The Roxy roadies prowl around backstage in white coats carrying anaesthetic. These people with brown streaks in their hair give pretty funny interviews.
Determinedly pulling the whole thing back on the road, we established that all of the group would have new clothes for the rest of the tour. "We believe in putting on a show and having a good time - it adds something to the music. Before the band was formed, I practically stopped going to gigs, it got so dull."
"Putting on a show" is never a cheap business, and it's interesting that the commonly-held opinion that Roxy's startlingly fast success must have made them all very rich is way adrift. Phil explains: "People think it's strange that we've got on so fast, but it had to be that way. You can't put a show on the road that costs £25,000 and then go out for peanuts. We are very heavily in debt - a lot of bands don't like to admit this, but it is like starting a business venture. It's best to work out what you want to happen, and then plan it. The first thing is to get the music straight. We set out to be successful, we knew we had to be a success, and with the benefit of a lot of support in our early days from John Peel and Richard Williams, among others, it's happened."
But being a pop star is more than just a business to both of them. "We enjoy it all, it's new for all of us," says Phil. Ansy, a graduate of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra admits, "I've wanted to be a rock musician since I was at school. And here I am at twenty-five,, still wanting to be a rock musician."
The fact of all the group's members being new to groups proved to be an advantage in the speedy take-off of the group: "Being off the road gave us the time to experiment. We started as a very experimental group, and kept going until we had some music that was definitely worthwhile. now we want to keep people expecting surprise and change, we don't want the old songs being shouted for forever."
Surprise and change are exactly what a rather tepid music scene needs, and doesn't get too much of. Particularly TV pop. Says Andy: "The BBC always plays safe. Top Of The Pops is really depressing these days, and The Old Grey Whistle Test is all a bit too hushed. Neither of them are about what rock is all about - outrageous and spontaneity. At least Gary Glitter puts some life into it - he's been the best thing on there for weeks. Donny Osmond and David Cassidy are just totally negative.
"Music teachers at school always want to take all the spontaneity out of music, and that's where the life is. It isn't well known that in the eighteenth century, classical soloists were expected to ad lib, especially in the slow movements. Mozart did that all the time. But in the nineteenth - I suppose it must have happened then - everyone tried to put the music down to mechanics, they thought an orchestra was like a machine, where the conductor makes an exact movement, and the orchestra follows exactly" Little wonder that Andy and Phil didn't enjoy their music lessons at school too much. "My teacher said: 'Some people have got it - you haven't," Phil recalled.
Fortunately the future Roxys maintained their individuality in the face of the school's attempted processing department - don't expect the school orchestras would go along with blue hair either - and are continuing to joyously kick their teachers' musical judgements in the teeth by proving what music's really about.
"We've been through 1967, with all the strange time structures and long instrumentals, then it got very structured again as a reaction. What we're getting to now is something not entirely free, but not completely tied to the notes." Which is a deceptively simple way of describing Roxy Music. But it's about as close as you can get to describing them.