Reflex AUGUST 1991 - by Robert Conroy


In the dictionary of pop, under the term "seminal", there should be an illustration of Roxy Music, for no pop group (except maybe The Beatles and Velvet Underground) has had such an impact - both good and bad - on the notion of the art form. Indeed, Roxy ranks on the old chain of importance higher than even the dear, dead Sex Pistols, because the latter wouldn't have been possible without the former.

Occupying the position of Holy Ghost in Britain's glitter/avant-rock trilogy (T.Rex being Father, and Bowie, Son) Roxy Music invoked the time warp/reality cut-up, pointing out the finer points of the future to a generation dazzled by their act of precognition. Dig the footage here - the bemused, neo-Jane Austen/hippie-chick types frugging to Virginia Plain on Top of the Pops. Confused/disturbed kids? Well, why not? Suddenly time sped up from 1972 to 1980 (or 1990 or 2003; the song still sounds three decades ahead of the rest of the world). Ferry, Manzanera, McKay, and Eno achieved that rare balance of sonic inspiration and teen appeal, running further than either Bolan (already showing stretch marks from the fast lane) or Bowie (who was, at that time, more a conceptual revolutionary, not hitting his innovatory stride until Station To Station). Watch the live (probably from Old Grey Whistle Test) rendition of Ladytron and you can see that moment of satori that lit up the collective noggins of a generation (Johnny Lydon, Colin Newman, Siouxsie Sioux, Kate Bush, David Sylvian, Howard Devoto, Danielle Dax, Kim Gordon and so forth). Even in their creative decline (everything post-Manifesto, most of it being very good, but in reality it's mainly Bryan Ferry with Manzanera and McKay portraying session folk), there is an undeniable power and style.

Total Recall is a must for that new crop of youngsters unfamiliar with the punch of the wigged-out, gold lame interplay of media-happy clichés and bleak European alienation that marked Roxy Mach 1, or unaware of how radical it was to front a band wearing a tuxedo in 1974. Seeing the visuals here should be a revelation for many. Indeed, that's what this video is - a series of TV clips, videos and stills that give the facts about Roxy and its attendant solo projects/offshoots. Herein lies the only problem with the project: Things begin incredibly detailed and grow progressively less so. Now, since the early footage is the most interesting stuff here, this fact is not too troubling, but there are some surprising gaps in the timeline. Where is any mention of the live Roxy LP Viva!, or Ferry's The Bride Stripped Bare (the critical and commercial failure of which probably had a great deal to do with Ferry reforming Roxy in 1978)? Still, these are quibbles. Total Recall will be totally earthshaking to Roxy fans old and new.