The thrill of it all began fifty years ago this year – 1972.
The wail of an oboe, unique then on a pop record especially on John Peel’s radio show, followed by a voice echoing up from some lounge wonderland and I was electrified. A week later, I bought their first album right off the press and all the songs, the glamour and the sheer exuberance blew me away. Roxy Music had taken off and I have stayed in their orbit ever since.
Timing means everything for a music fan. A new band captures you at a certain moment, a certain age, and you are hooked for life. It happened for millions all over the world with Elvis in the 50s, with the Beatles in the 60s, Springsteen in the 70s into the 80s, right up to the rappers of today. Hear the sound, feel that emotion, second, third and fourth that emotion, lock it away in your heart and keep it there with your soul.
That first Roxy Music album changed the way I listened to and felt about music. From a boy, I had loved all sorts from my parents’ eclectic and finger-daubed collection on our gramophone – Sinatra, Some Enchanted Evening, Herb Albert, Mantovani, all the Beatles early albums up to Abbey Road and a selection of old 45s from The Shadows to Tony Newly, Adam Faith to Connie Francis.
Roxy Music's first album - 1972
Roxy was different. Totally different. The clothes, the spectacle, the album cover – that beautiful lady leaning up to you. But most of all the new sound, the lyrics from heaven and the beating, vocal heart of it all, Bryan Ferry.
All the boys were like alien gods crash-landed on Earth – Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Graham Simpson, Paul Thompson, Brian Eno – but Bryan was The Man. Sleek, Cheetah lithe, glinting eyes, a pout Monroe would have killed for and a wire-tension voice like no other I had ever heard.
Inside spread of Roxy's first album - the boys in the band
Watching the band on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test was like sex for the first time. No idea what to do or say but something was taking over your body and life wasn’t going to go back into its box ever again.
And the wonderful music and the lyric-luxuries kept on coming. Virginia Plain, bopping on my late-teen horizon and topping the charts, For Your Pleasure, the incredible second album, Stranded, Roxy’s third and Country Life, their fourth. Stunning songs, new tempos, breaking moulds, crossing boundaries, creating dreams. Take me on a roller coaster…
It’s true but crazy to believe here in 2022 it all began 50 years ago. How can such a long time ago seem so near? I listen to a Roxy track now – any one of them from those early albums – and I am back in my room, at school, at my first jobs or doing any of the thousands and one things I was doing and those old sensations are recaptured in an instant.
Author’s signed books don’t usually mean much to me. I have a few because they are special – David Niven, Donna Tartt and some others – but I accidently hit on one in a London bookshop recently and bought it immediately. It was meant to be. Lyrics by Bryan Ferry. The words from all his songs. I was holding all the magic in my hands. Signed by Bryan himself. The Thrill of it All.
There was always so much about Bryan and Roxy. The music - harsh, smooth, driving, tender, chaotic, unexpected, catchy, all at any time or all the time. The album covers – so sexy. The creativity – no-one sounded or looked like them, they were unique. Bryan didn’t sing in some Brit-tongued American accent. He sang like a Brit, singing Brit songs for all the world. But, Roxy had an yet another extra dimension. The lyrics.
Bryan’s ingeniously crafted words flew out of the music and into your bloodstream. They floated out of the speaker, into your brain and planted their roots. Reading Bryan’s recent book with all those beloved words on the page, their power is as strong as ever…
Make Me a deal and make it straight… (Virginia Plain)
Shake your head round with your pony tail… (If There is Something)
They’re playing out tune, By the pale Moon, We’re incognito, Down the Lido, And we like the Strand… (Do The Strand)
Don’t play yourself for a fool, Too much cheesecake too soon (Editions of You)
Weekend starts Friday soon after eight… (Street Life)
Try on your lover, like a new dress (Psalm)
So if you’re feeling fraught, With mental strain, Too much thinking’s, Got you down again, Well let your senses skip, Stay hip, Keep cool to the thrill of it all (The Thrill of it All)
Don’t want to know, About one-night stands, Cut-price souvenirs, All I want is the real thing, And a night that last for years (All I Want is You)
Bryan Ferry's book - Lyrics
It is true that by Roxy’s fifth album, Siren, in 1975 when the group soon disbanded (for the first time), the initial power of the Roxy experience was waning but, as the intervening years have demonstrated, Roxy and Bryan went on to create amazing music in all sorts of guises as a collective and individually – Bryan excelling in many solo albums including the brilliant In Your Mind (1977).
It is also true that my love of Roxy Music was not monogamous. I developed equally close relationships to other bands and artists, with equally strong feelings and memories. 10cc, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, John Denver to name but a few. But Roxy were my first. That first Roxy Music album on vinyl, which I still treasure, was the first in my personal record collection and I will be playing their music for the rest of my life.
Lyrics by Bryan Ferry - Published by Penguin Random House