Melody Maker AUGUST 7, 1971 - by Richard Williams


Roxy In The Rock Stakes

A curious feature of modern rock music, is the way it's taken potential artists away from other spheres. Men who might have become poets, painters, or even classical musicians have instead found an outlet for their creativity in the new medium, which also offers the chance of wide exposure - not to mention bags of loot.

Five years ago, for instance it would have been unthinkable for Bryan Ferry to have entered rock and roll. Fine Arts graduates from Newcastle University just didn't do that sort of thing. But now, in 1971, Bryan is leading a band called Roxy which has produced one of the most exciting demo tapes ever to come my way. Although it was recorded on a small home tape machine in what sounds like a Dutch barn it carries enough innovatory excitement to suggest that Roxy may well be ahead of the field in the avant-rock stakes.

As some have already realised, Roxy will have to change their name when they find a manager and a record company. Elektra already have a (rather duff) American band with the same name, so Bryan's looking for something fresh, but with the same connotations: Essoldo, Ritz, Plaza something like that.

Bryan sang with a soul band called Gas Board at Newcastle five years ago, and since then he's been teaching, truck-driving, and sculpting in London. Musically he was practically dormant until, a year ago, an old friend called Graham Simpson arrived in London. Graham dropped out of university to play bass with a band called Cock-A-Hoop, which was managed by Terry Ellis, and when he came south, he and Bryan began to work together.

Before last Christmas, they added Andy Mackay from Reading University on electric alto and oboe, and he brought with him a VCS3 synthesizer, which is operated by electronics wizard Brian Eno. Andy played in the National Youth Orchestra, and is currently teaching while Eno has given performances of his own electronic pieces.

The drummer, Dexter Lloyd, also has symphonic experience. An American, he played with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, and of him Bryan says: He was the only drummer we tried who could play anything creative on the slow numbers. He also plays vibes and teaches percussion.

Finally there's the guitarist, Roger Bunn - whose background is very unlike the others. He's done the whole Wee Willie Harris/Star Club bit, and still does a lot of session work.

To date, Roxy have done no gigs at all, but have been concentrating on rehearsing as a unit for about four months. The next step is to find a large hall in which to rehearse, and then do some quiet gigs to shake it down.

We've got a lot of confidence in what we're doing, says Bryan, and we're determined to make it but in as civilised a way as possible. The average age of this band is about twenty-seven, and we're not interested in scuffling. If someone will invest some time and money in us, we'll be very good indeed.

The band's influences stretch from Ethel Merman to The Velvet Underground to jazz and they want to bring all these elements into the music creating a very diverse approach. The electronic thing is important to them, but they are also interested in the flash and style of rock - like wearing outrageous clothes and having some kind of act. We don't want to come on like the MJQ, says Bryan.

All it needs, then, is backing. Because from what I've heard, Roxy - or whatever they eventually decide to call themselves have a whole gang of potential, and the first manager/agent/record company to realise it will have got themselves something really worthwhile.