Even after all these years, listening to those early albums produced by Roxy Music is like hearing music from an as yet to be imagined future. The shocking originality of their debut single “Virginia Plain” through to “Pyjamarama,” “Street Life,” “Do the Strand,” “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” and “Mother of Pearl” are fresher and better than nearly everything pumped out today.
At the heart of Roxy Music is Bryan Ferry, the chief song-writer and lead singer, a working class lad, born in Washington, Tyne and Wear in the north of England. His father was from a farm and his mother from the town, and as he once explained in an interview with the Nottingham Post, his father:
“...used to court [his mother] on a plough horse for ten years before they got married. It was very old-fashioned.”
Music was just a noise to his father, but to his mother it was a passion. She had her favorites and a liking for some rock ‘n’ roll, even taking her young son to see Bill Haley and The Comets in the 1950s. But Ferry preferred jazz and soul, and after hitch-hiking from his home town in 1967 to see Otis Redding perform in London, he decided that he had to become a singer.
At school Ferry had felt that he was “an oddity” but wasn’t until he started studying Fine Art at Newcastle University that his creative ambitions came into focus. Under the tutelage of noted British Pop artist Richard Hamilton, Ferry became more confident in his own talents and began writing songs. These were at first influenced by Hamilton’s pop aesthetic, best heard in songs like “Virginia Plain” which was inspired by a painting Ferry had made of a packet of cigarettes (Virginia Plain was a brand of cigarette).
After a few false starts with The Banshees and then Gasboard, Ferry formed Roxy Music with friend Graham Simpson in 1970, being quickly joined by saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay and Brian Eno on tapes and synthesiser. By the summer of 1972, Roxy Music had their first top five single, and Ferry’s teenage hopes of pop success were sealed,
This compilation of concerts from German TV’s Beat Club and Musicladen captures Roxy Music at their height of their powers in the mid-1970s, with the suave tuxedoed Bryan Ferry leading the band through hits like “Street Life,” “Virginia Plain” and “Mother of Pearl.” Close you eyes and you’ll think this is tomorrow calling…