The Scotsman APRIL 22, 2007 - by Aidan Smith


Me and Bryan Ferry go a long way back, so I was pleased to see his face in the news again last week.

I'm sorry, let me start that again: obviously I was as shocked as anyone to hear him describe the Nazis as "amazing". I sympathised with Jewish groups who took offence at his remarks. And we could but wonder how they went down in the boardroom at Marks & Spencer where, just a few months before, the execs looked at pictures of Ferry in an ad campaign proposal - older, wiser, no more leopard-skin or spacewear, safe - and thought: "This is the man who can sell our suits to fast-rising call-centre team-leaders!"

No, what I mean is, it was good to see him behaving like a rock star and doing something provocative. For a long time, he hadn't even been interesting.

Ferry enthused about Hitler's favourite architect, Albert Speer, and his documentarist, Leni Riefenstahl. But it's doubtful he said what he did to grab a headline and regain the title of the most newsworthy Ferry from his sons, one of whom storms Parliament over the right to terrorise foxes, while another falls out of nightclubs with Sienna Miller.

More likely, he was, as explained in his apology, speaking from the art-history perspective. Ferry, after all, is the artschool rocker who has stayed most in touch with art. It's not as if, when he decided to form a band, that he called them Joy Division. Or New Order.

But there is another way of looking at this and sadly it's one where this fan cannot find much in the way of dispute. In 1973, Ferry's golden year, when Roxy Music recorded two fantastic albums including one song, Mother Of Pearl, that's still unsurpassed in rock... when I queued up for four hours, missing my French prelim, to buy a ticket to see them play Edinburgh's old Empire Theatre... when the delirious decadence of that concert caused me to pretend to faint (it wasn't just girls who did that)... that was the year when Ferry also found time to dash off a great solo record, These Foolish Things.

Examining his career with admittedly high rigour, he's been doing foolish things ever since.

First, he allowed Brian Eno to leave Roxy. He stopped packing his songs with cultural references and started singing non-specifically for young lovers everywhere. He fell for Jerry Hall. He grew a hairy caterpillar moustache. He broke up Roxy.

He stopped making albums called Country Life with send-up covers of the toffs' magazine of that name featuring semi-naked girls (they were German, too) and started living like a squire himself, though his tweed suits were always well cut. He reformed Roxy but - quelle horreur! - allowed the bassist to walk on stage wearing shorts.

He broke them up again and went back to his solo records, obsessing over them until he'd squeezed them of all drama. He played Live Aid but, against the spirit of the occasion, plugged his latest release. Then his normal gigging habitat became the gardens of stately homes. Then fund managers' parties. Roxy's only concert last year was at a motor show.

So all the critics of Ferry's latest gaffe can be as hard on him as they like. Fans like me will always be harder. But the funny thing is, we always come back.

As the old roué crooned, thirty-four long years ago: "Oh how the ghost of you clings / These foolish things / Remind me of you."