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The Telegraph MARCH 29, 2019 - by Alice Vincent
"THERE'S ONLY ROOM FOR ONE NON-MUSICIAN IN A BAND"
INSIDE BRYAN FERRY AND BRIAN ENO'S DECADES-LONG FEUD
Tonight, Roxy Music will peacock their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some would argue it has been a long time coming for the '70s art-rockers, who left much for the genres of glam rock, prog rock and new wave to pillage while evading easy classification themselves. But, notably, the ceremony won't offer an opportunity to bury the hatchet for the band's most potent forces: Bryan Ferry, the group's founder, frontman and songwriter, and Brian Eno, the sharp-witted dandy who grew from Roxy Music's "technical advisor" into being one of the greatest pioneers of modern music.
According to a statement from Ferry, neither Eno nor Paul Thompson, the group's original drummer, will reunite with the band to perform at the ceremony "due to other commitments".
It would, perhaps, be more of a surprise if Eno did return to the band. While Thompson played with the group for a decade after their 2001 reunion, Eno hasn't been seen on stage since 1973, when he left the group in a kind of mysterious silence that turned into an acrimonious fall-out played out in the gossipy '70s music press.
These days, Ferry says, the pair still text one another, and Eno has appeared on Ferry's albums since 2002. But Eno's absence from the Rock Hall celebrations has stirred up all manner of glittery emotions over his departure from the band forty-five years ago. In hindsight, Roxy Music was probably never going to be big enough for both Bri/yans. Ferry was the son of a farmer from Washington, County Durham, with ferocious ambition and the kind of haughty glamour that ekes from high cheekbones and a laconic gaze. Eno was of similarly modest stock - his father was a postman - but his swift wit (he named himself Brian Peter George Jean-Baptiste de La Salle Eno Eno while in secondary school) and enigmatic creativity saw him compete for Ferry's spotlight in spite of being both 5'5" and thin of hair by his mid-twenties.
"Some guys, like Brian Eno, are completely remarkable," Ferry wistfully recalled in 2014, traces of envy still lingering forty years on. "Eno could talk to anyone and he was amazing with women. That's never been me. Ever." And Eno made good use of his talents: his sexual appetite was considered voracious even within the context of being a rock star in the '70s. Eno once exhausted himself so thoroughly in the company of groupies he wound up in hospital.
But it was on stage that the trouble really brewed. Ferry was the frontman, Roxy Music was his band, and he took to the stage in the authoritative tailoring of tuxedos, cravats and riding breeches. Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter once described him as a "Dracula-type Presley". Eno, meanwhile, emerged from the back of the touring van (in one case, a former ambulance, in which he was, Ferry recalled, "stuffed in the back on top of all the instruments") looking otherworldly; glitter smeared around his eyebrows, fur and animal-print across his slim shoulders, peacock feathers tucked into his collar.
Glitzy and small, Eno courted the limelight wherever he went. He also lured in the media. "Because I was visually so bizarre-looking, I got a lot of press attention. I made good photographs," he explained in The Thrill Of It All, David Buckley's biography of the band. Furthermore, Eno was as loquacious in front of a dictaphone as he was with women he was trying to seduce - Ferry, meanwhile, struggled. "I didn't really like the interview process, I used to be really tongue-tied," he said in Buckley's book. "Brian, of course, had confidence in spades."
Tensions bubbled during the making of Roxy Music's second album, For Your Pleasure, but the Bri/yans did well to keep them from interrupting studio time. "If Eno said something to Bryan or Bryan said something to Eno, I thought, 'Well that's a bit strange', I just thought one of them was probably moody," remembers Chris Thomas, the producer whose work on the record marked the beginning of a long relationship with the band.
But when the group embarked upon their maiden tour of America, in the last few weeks of December 1972, the fissures started to show. Within six months, Eno had been made into such a star by the British press that, at his final Roxy Music show in York, fans screaming for him drowned out Ferry's vocals. Eno left the stage in an attempt to incite calm, but Ferry was furious, and said - behind Eno's back - that he would never appear on stage with the other Brian ever again.
Between Ferry, Eno and the management (whom guitarist Phil Manzanera said pushed Ferry to reclaim centre stage), it was clear there was no longer room for both of them. The stories differ. Some say that Ferry fired Eno, telling him: "There's only room for one non-musician in a band". Eno, however, claims he saw no such courage - and that he departed after hearing whispers: "I was pissed off at the subterfuge and wanted Bryan to actually say it to my face. But he didn't. So eventually I just said, 'OK fuck it, I'm leaving.'" Eno's departure was officially announced in Melody Maker on July 21, 1973.
Less than a week later and Eno was back on form in the NME:
It's very hard to know just how honest I should be about the reasons for my demise from Roxy. The problem is that when it gets printed, it all seems to look much more meaningful and serious when unqualified by that chuckle at the back of the throat. My thirsting for revenge has died down somewhat over the last few days, anyway. People who do great hatchet-jobs on the members of their old band usually come out looking like losers when it all appears in print. I started off by wanting to call a press conference so that I could state my case, but that's all so pointless.
Actually the real truth is that Bryan Ferry and I are secretly breaking away, and we're going to form a duo called the Singing Brians. Does that sound like it could be true? I dare you to print it. An affected sigh. I don't know. I think I'll probably just give up music altogether and become a full-time poseur.
Eno didn't, of course, give up music altogether. By November 1974, as Phonograph Record marvelled, he was involved in a clutch of projects with John Cale, Nico and Kevin Ayres, among others, having remained within the safety net of Island Records, who cleverly held onto him after his Roxy departure.
Ferry took the band to great heights - among them their platinum-selling swansong Avalon - but would later remark that the records he made with Eno, were his favourites. "We stopped on a very high note," he said a few years ago, artfully glossing over the acrimosity.
It took a while for them to get there. Producer Thomas recalls being stuck between the two at one of Elton John's Christmas parties: "Eno was going to go in, and Bryan was going to go out, but they were sort of like you know (fists together, head on face off). I suddenly saw Eno, I suddenly saw Bryan, and I just went screaming up the stairs going 'hello, hello, hello, hello!' and rushed into the party. They would not pass."
In 1979, Ferry sneeringly told the New York Times that "It's too easy to make music like [Eno's]", who had continued on his ascent to avant garde God. The pair's separation had set them on the different orbits that would define their careers for decades. Now, Ferry still tours, luring crowds to hear hits that he made without Eno. Eno remains an untouchable giant of ambient music. Of course we couldn't expect them to share a stage.