Uncut DECEMBER 2009 - by Damien Love


Solid, says-what-it-does biog. A teaser for that new LP, possibly?

In 2001, after an eighteen-year hiatus that had looked like the end, Roxy Music surprised everyone by getting back together to play live. Whispers began that that almost unthinkable thing, a new Roxy Music album, was in the offing. The rumour reached fever pitch in 2005, when it was confirmed that after fleeting cameos on Bryan Ferry's intermittent solo albums, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and Paul Thompson were indeed back in the studio with him under the Roxy flag. Not only that, they had Brian Eno dropping in, too.

Since then, of course - nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Manzanera has had a lonely spaceholder promising "ROXY MUSIC 2009 COMING SOON" on his website for what seems a very long time now, but it's safe to say that deadline has been blown. And now there's the news that Ferry has a solo album coming early in 2010, which surely kicks the chances of a Roxy record appearing any time soon even further into touch.

All of which lends this documentary, originally broadcast on BBC Four in 2008, a curious aspect. There is the obligatory wealth of incredible archive clips - those early Old Grey Whistle Test and Top Of The Pops appearances, when Roxy went off like a weird, hard Technicolor collage of Pop, sci-fi and tomorrow amid a sea of denim and hair. But, as that new album becomes more of a phantom, the most poignant footage here now is actually the most recent: a few Camcorder seconds captured in 2005, showing the original Roxy in the studio again, actually working on the damn thing.

Otherwise, clocking in at sixty minutes, this is a solid, if slightly too-succinct biography, laying out Roxy soup-to-nuts, from art-school beginnings to the post-Avalon dissolution in 1983. Ferry, Eno, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson are all interviewed, in good moods, along with later conscripts Eddie Jobson and Gary Tibbs and Roxy's design-guru Antony Price, and they are by far the best at telling their own story. Two quotes from Ferry sum up the whole affair: "Treating music like we were making paintings"; and "You don't go on stage looking sloppy. That was a rock'n'roll idea."

Elsewhere, the celebrity fans assembled are rather a mixed bag. Bono and Duran Duran's John Taylor don't offer much insight; certainly, Bono's discourse on Roxy's relationship with punk ("punk rock is not a sound, it's an idea...") is of far less value than Andy Mackay's deadpan retelling of a discussion he had with Sid Vicious, in which Sid offered the most concise piece of rock criticism ever recorded. "He said, 'Yeah, I really like Roxy. But I think Bryan Ferry's a cunt.'"

Still, this offers something you'll find nowhere else: that agonising glimpse of the new Roxy record in process. There's Ferry at piano; there's Thompson at the drums; there's Manzanera with a guitar part that grows from ghostly shimmer to fuzzy electric storm; there's Mackay drawing breath at his sax; there's Eno twiddling knobs; there's veteran Roxy producer Chris Thomas wandering in. "Eno? The tempo's ninety-two." "Ninety-two, right..."

It's maybe unrealistic to think it could live up to expectations. But when they put something like this out, they can hardly blame us asking: When are you going to finish the new Roxy Music album?

EXTRAS: Interview outtakes: the best section covers Roxy's album covers; three live tracks - Both Ends Burning, Editions Of You and Do The Strand - from 2006.