"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Uncut SEPTEMBER 2005 - by Marc Almond
ROXY MUSIC: ROXY MUSIC
Former Soft Cellmate still starstruck with glam' rockers' eponymous debut album.
When Roxy Music emerged at the beginning of the '70s, they were received with mild derision or, at best, amused curiosity. For me, though, they were a revelation. I loved them before I'd even heard them. I played truant one afternoon just so I could get an NME as soon as it arrived at the local newsagent because it was to feature an article on them.
I thought if they sounded like they looked they would be fantastic and, as it turned out with the release of their first album, they sounded even better. That album was to form the final part of my unholy trinity - Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Bolan's Electric Warrior - and together they would sweep the once beloved Free, Purple and Tull albums out of my record collection.
To call them glam rock would indeed be doing them a disservice. Right from the cover: a beautiful model stares out with lustful expectation, teeth bared, framed in frosted deep pink lips. She half reclines on a counterpane of silvery satin in a low-cut swimsuit. A gold LP nestles up beside her. The music was startlingly original. Soundscapes, part nostalgia, part sci-fi, songs about Hollywood glamour, screen queens, languid ladies, after-party malaise and Ladytrons. It beautifully displayed echoes of almost every style of pop and rock, but remained too self-aware to be truly camp.
Each member was an individual, contributing their element to the Roxy sound, but there were two figures who stood out more than the others - the sneering tiger-skinned lounge lizard that was Bryan Ferry, and the pouting plumed bird in full make-up and leopardskin, Brian Eno. Both with different keyboards creating a unique visual symmetry. Ferry hitting his electric piano like Jerry Lee and Eno turning dials and twiddling knobs and plugging wires with a synthesizer - once only the gimmick of progressive rock giants such as ELP and Yes. Eno was personally responsible for making the synthesizer accessible and - more importantly - sexy. Their sound was personified in an Old Grey Whistle Test performance, introduced by u bemused Whispering Bob Harris. Roxy played Ladytron - a song so good they named a band after it - and ended it with a freak-out of synth and acid guitar.
But it was too good to last, and eventually the volatile chemistry between the two exotic frontmen exploded. After the also seminal For Your Pleasure, Eno was gone! There was only a spotlight for one. Even before his departure he seemed marginalised, omitted from the TV appearances, the occasional jewelled hand shot, a bird plume there. Even in the ambisexual '70s, perhaps he was just too much for TV. He went off to record surreal pop of his own with Here Come The Warm Jets, and inevitably hooked up with that other space oddity Bowie.
Though Roxy would continue making excellent albums with 'treated instruments', in my eyes they were never quite the same again. Their first album still sounds fresh and contemporary - timeless. They Remade and Remodeled pop music, and to hear the opening piano chords on Roxy's first album sets my hair on end as much as it did in 1972.