INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Select OCTOBER 2000 - by Steve Lowe
ROXY MUSIC: THE EARLY YEARS
At least two tracks on this collection went on to inspire band-names. Current synth-popsters Ladytron took their name from an early Roxy ballad. Back in the mid-'70s The Strand, inspired by the blaring Do The Strand, were never very successful. They did much better as The Sex Pistols.
Emerging in 1972, armed with saxophones, castanets, rockabilly quiffs, leopard-skin vests and bizarre arrangements of guinea-fowl feathers, Roxy Music stole some of Bowie's thunder with music that made being insufferable smart-arses seem like the very finest of ideas. Almost the only people in England wise to The Velvet Underground's sonic revolution, they subverted the era's virtuoso playing with Eno's proud inability to do anything musically except tinker mischievously on new-fangled electronic apparatus. This idea would, in time, catch on.
First single Virginia Plain took its name from a brand of tobacco. Seen performing on Top Of The Pops [surely the best ever justification for TOTP2] to an audience dressed in mismatched Eastern European Terylene shirts, they resemble unfathomably arch aliens. In Every Dream Home A Heartache pledged love to a blow-up doll ["I blew up your body / But you blew my mind!"]. They were, to be blunt, art students.
This doesn't, however, stop this collection's R&B-inspired power-pop core - Virginia Plain, Do The Strand, Editions Of You, Street Life - blasting with almost unparalleled vibrancy. Certainly, the we-are-weird artifice could misfire. The Bogus Man is an endless sub-Can dirge and A Song For Europe is hilariously overwrought. But although earlier songs 2 H.B. and Chance Meeting boast sticky-back-plastic production values, they also naturally combine Cole Porter crooning, avant-garde hooting and driving rock noise.
It's east to see why Eno caused commotions, but Phil Manzanera's wild guitar also, apparently, contains the seeds of subsequent art-punk scrunching from Coxon to Wire. Ferry, meanwhile, prefiguring the mid-'90s musings of Cocker and Albarn, simultaneously lived the life and laughed at it.
Dismissing rock's by-then tedious sincerity, these interlopers resolutely didn't mean it, man, but in such a gloriously involving fashion that they were often more moving than those who did. An ideal summation of perhaps the oddest group to make Britain's teens scream.