Roxy Music is an English art rock group founded in the early 1970s by art school graduate Bryan Ferry (vocals and keyboards). The other members are Phil Manzanera (guitars), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe) and Paul Thompson (drums and percussion). Former members include Brian Eno (synthesizer and "treatments"), and Eno's replacement Eddie Jobson (synthesizer and violin). Extant from 1971 through 1983, they reunited for a concert tour in 2001, and have announced that they are recording a new album for a yet-to-be-confirmed release date.
Roxy Music attained mainstream popular and critical success in the UK and Europe through the 1970s and early 1980s, beginning with their Top 10 debut album, Roxy Music, in 1972. The band proved to be a significant influence on the early English punk movement, as well as providing a model for many New Wave acts and the subsequent New Romantic and experimental electronic groups of the early 1980s. Ferry and co-founding member Eno have also had broadly influential solo careers, the latter emerging as one of the most significant record producers of the late 20th century, with credits including landmark albums by Devo, Talking Heads and U2.
Andy MacKay replied to Ferry's advertisement, not as a keyboard player but as a saxophonist and oboist; however, he did possess a VCS3 synthesiser. Andy met Brian Eno during university days, as both were interested in avant-garde and electronic music. It was some time later that they met again; although Eno was a self-confessed non-musician, he could operate a synthesizer and owned a Revox reel-to-reel tape machine, so Mackay convinced him to join the band as a technical adviser. Before long Eno was a performing member of the group. After Dexter Lloyd, a classically-trained timpanist, left the band an ad was placed in Melody Maker magazine saying wonder drummer wanted for an avante rock group. Paul Thompson responded to the ad and joined the line-up in June 1971. Soon after, guitarist Phil Manzanera replaced former Nice guitarist David O'List, making Roxy Music a six-piece band. With this line-up, their first album, Roxy Music, was recorded in March and released in June 1972 on Island Records, receiving good reviews and reached number one on the UK charts in late 1972. The group's name was partly an homage to the titles of old cinemas and dance halls, and partly a pun on the word rock. Ferry had first named the band Roxy, but learning of an American band with the same name prompted the alteration of the name.
Simpson was sacked and replaced with Rik Kenton.
To garner more attention to their album, Roxy Music decided to record and release a single. Their debut single was "Virginia Plain", which reached #4 in the British charts. The band's eclectic visual image, captured in their debut performance on the BBC's Top of the Pops, became a cornerstone for the glam trend in the UK; the TOTP video of "Virginia Plain" was later parodied by the British comedy series Big Train. The single sparked a renewed interest in the album.
Soon after "Virginia Plain", Rik Kenton departed the band.
The next album, For Your Pleasure (recorded with guest bass player John Porter), was released in March 1973. It marked the beginning of the band's long, successful collaboration with producer Chris Thomas and recording engineer Bill Price, who worked on all of the group's classic albums and singles in the 1970s. The album was promoted with the non-album single "Pyjamarama", but no album track was released as a single. At the time, Ferry was dating French model Amanda Lear, who was photographed with a black jaguar for the cover of For Your Pleasure (Ferry appears on the back cover as a dapper driver standing in front of a limousine).
Eno was replaced by 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson, formerly of progressive rockers Curved Air, who played keyboards and electric violin. Although some fans lamented the loss of the experimental attitude and camp aesthetic that Eno had brought to the band, the classically-trained Jobson was a dynamic and accomplished musician. His arrival reinvigorated the group, with his keyboard expertise freeing Ferry from his keyboard duties on stage, as well as lending greater refinement to the group's studio recordings. His dazzling electric violin skills added an exciting new dimension to the band's sound, as showcased on the song "Out of the Blue". Eno himself later acknowledged the quality of the two albums that followed his departure, Stranded (1973) and Country Life (1974), and they are widely regarded as being among the most original and consistent British rock albums of the period. Rolling Stone referred to the albums as marking "the zenith of contemporary British art rock". The songs on these albums also cemented Ferry's persona as the epitome of the suave, jaded Euro-sophisticate. Although this persona undoubtedly began as a deliberately ironic device, during the mid-1970s it seemed to merge with Ferry's real life, as the working-class miner's son from the north of England became an international rock star, an icon of male style who had love affairs with many beautiful women, among them Playboy playmate Marilyn Cole (who appeared on the cover of the Stranded album) and fashion models Amanda Lear (who would later date David Bowie) and Jerry Hall (who later became the common-law wife of Mick Jagger).
On the first two Roxy albums, all songs were written solely by Bryan Ferry. Beginning with Stranded, Mackay and Manzanera began to co-write some material. Gradually, their songwriting and musicianship became more integrated into the band's sound, although Ferry remained the dominant songwriter; throughout their career, all but one of Roxy's singles were written either wholly or jointly by Ferry. Stranded was released in November 1973, and produced the top-10 single "Street Life".
The fourth album, Country Life, was released in 1974, and was the first Roxy Music album to enter the U.S. Top 40, albeit at #37. Country Life was met with widespread critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone referring to it "as if Ferry ran a cabaret for psychotics, featuring chanteurs in a state of shock". Their fifth album, Siren, contained their only U.S. hit, "Love is the Drug". (Ferry said the song came to him while kicking the leaves during a walk through Hyde Park.) At this time Ferry was involved in a high-profile relationship with Texas-born supermodel Jerry Hall. The song "Prairie Rose" directly inspired the Talking Heads song "The Big Country". "Prairie Rose" was later covered by the Scottish rock group Big Country as a B-side to their single "East Of Eden" in 1984. Hall is also featured on the cover of the Siren LP and in the video for Ferry's 1976 international solo hit, a cover of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Stick Together".
Following the concert tours in support of Siren in 1976, Roxy Music disbanded. During this time Ferry released two solo records on which Manzanera and Thompson performed, and Manzanera reunited with Eno on the critically acclaimed one-off 801 Live album.
The changed line-up reflected a distinct change in Roxy's musical approach. Gone were the jagged and unpredictable elements of the group's sound, giving way to smoother (some would say blander) musical arrangements. Rolling Stone panned Manifesto — "Roxy Music has not gone disco. Roxy Music has not particularly gone anywhere else either — as well as Flesh + Blood ("such a shockingly bad Roxy Music record that it provokes a certain fascination"). Later, with more sombre and carefully-sculpted soundscapes, the band's eighth — and, until their 21st-century reunion, final — album, Avalon (1982), was a major commercial success and restored the group's critical reputation (Rolling Stone: "Avalon takes a long time to kick in, but it finally does, and it's a good one.") The trio toured extensively until 1983, when Bryan Ferry dissolved the band and band members devoted themselves full time to solo careers (see below).
Roxy Music returned to the stage for a live performance at the 2005 Isle of Wight Festival on 11 June 2005, their first UK concert since the 2001-2002 world tour. On 2 July 2005, the band played "Jealous Guy", "Do the Strand", and "Love is the Drug" at the Berlin contribution to Live8; only "Do the Strand" was available on the DVD.
In March 2005 it was announced on Phil Manzanera's official site that the band, including Brian Eno, had decided to record an album of new material. The project would mark the first time Eno worked with Roxy Music since 1973's For Your Pleasure. After a number of denials that he would be involved with any Roxy Music reunion, on 19 May 2006 Eno revealed that he had contributed two songs to the new album as well as playing keyboards on other tracks. He did, however, rule out touring with the band. The record will also be the first since Manifesto on which original drummer Paul Thompson performs.
In early 2006, a lesser-known Roxy track, "The Main Thing", was remixed by Malcolm Green and used as the soundtrack to a pan-European television commercial for the Opel Vectra. The film featured legendary football referee Pierluigi Collina, whose sartorial elegance somewhat echoed Ferry's. The remix was immediately popular across the continent and the United Kingdom, bringing Roxy to a new generation of viewers and fans.
In July 2006, the band toured Europe. They concentrated mostly on places they had never visited before, such as Serbia and the FYROM. Roxy Music's second drummer, Andy Newmark, performed during the tour, as Thompson withdrew due to health issues.
In a March 2007 interview with the Western Daily Press, Ferry confirmed that although the next Roxy Music album is definitely in the making it will not see light for another "year and a half", as Ferry had just released and toured behind his twelfth studio album, Dylanesque, consisting of Bob Dylan covers.
In June 2007 the band hired Liverpool based design agency to develop their new website supporting their new album. Early in the year, Phil Manzanera revealed that the band are planning to sign a record contract. In an October 2007 interview, Ferry said that the album would include a collaboration with Scissor Sisters.
Manzanera and Mackay undertook solo projects, both of them with Thompson drumming, and Manzanera also played guitar on many of Eno's solo and collaborative recordings of the mid-1970s. Manzanera and Mackay, along with Thompson and Jobson, also took part in various of Ferry's solo recordings (some of which included reworkings of old Roxy material), and Manzanera regularly played with Ferry on his solo tours.
After their last album and tour, Mackay, Manzanera, and Ferry all released solo albums. Ferry's solo career has continued uninterrupted. Andy Newmark participated on all of Ferry's subsequent records and tours. Thompson worked as a session drummer for various artists; his post-Roxy session work included such diverse acts as a punk band The Angelic Upstarts on their 1983 album Reason Why and blues-rocker Gary Moore on his Emerald Aisles Live In Ireland tour in 1985, which was released on video. In 1990-91, Thompson replaced Harry Rushakoff as the drummer in Concrete Blonde, during which time they had their biggest hit with the single "Joey".
In 1984, Manzanera and Mackay teamed with vocalist James Wraith to form The Explorers. Signed to Virgin, the band released a self-titled album and a number of singles (among them "Venus de Milo" and "Falling for Nightlife", the latter of which was not included on the LP version), but none of their material charted in England. Virgin dropped the band while they were in the studio recording a second album. This eventually emerged in 1990 under the name Manzanera / Mackay. In 1987, Manzanera teamed with former Roxy and King Crimson bassist John Wetton for the LP Wetton/Manzanera.
The album artwork for the first five Roxy LPs imitated the visual style of classic "girlie" and fashion magazines, featuring high-fashion shots of scantily-clad models Amanda Lear, Marilyn Cole and Jerry Hall, each of whom had romances with Ferry during the time of their contributions (as well as model Kari-Ann Muller who appears on the cover of the first Roxy album but who was not otherwise involved with anyone in the band, and who later married Mick Jagger's brother Chris). The title of the fourth Roxy album, Country Life, was intended as a parody of the well-known British rural magazine of the same name, and the visually punning front cover photo featured two lingerie-clad models (two German fans, Constanze Karoli — sister of Can's Michael Karoli — and Eveline Grunwald) standing in a forest. As a result, in many areas of the United States the album was sold in an opaque plastic wrapper because retailers refused to display the cover.