Boston Prepares to Party: Out of the blue, Roxy Music is back - Sun 15th Jul

Boston Prepares to Party: Out of the blue, Roxy Music is back
15 July 2001

Thank you David in Boston for sending the link to this article that appeared in the Boston Globe.

By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff, 7/15/2001

After blazing a dazzling art-rock trail during the early 1970s, after establishing themselves as the epitome of pop elegance through the early 1980s, and after an absence of 18 years - six more than their existence - the British group Roxy Music is with us once more.

Begging the question: Why?

''I guess it seemed the time seems right,'' offers guitarist Phil Manzanera. ''It also happens to be the 30th anniversary, so that's a neat little thing. I sort of always felt there was a bit of unfinished business to be done.''

''We'd been in touch,'' adds saxophonist Andy Mackay. ''Phil was best man at my second marriage. We talk. We talked about it in the early '90s, and it didn't happen. Then this coherent offer was made with a certain number of dates and a set [financial] guarantee. So we knew we could do the technical side of it. It's quite expensive to put a band together, to look good, sound good, have that all in place.''

''There seems to be a lot of good will about, as far as I can make out,'' muses singer Bryan Ferry, who kept active with solo work over the years. ''I'd just done quite a long tour in the last year, and as the tour developed, I was adding more and more Roxy tunes to the repertoire. I enjoyed singing them very much. And I felt really huge waves of appreciation from the audience. Coupled with the fact that I've always been asked [to reunite Roxy] over the years - people almost pleading for just one gig. And this time it just made sense to do it.''

Much like the Velvet Underground, Roxy Music is one of those bands whose acclaim and influence far exceeds their record sales. Cofounder Brian Eno, of course, put a stamp on many a group - directly through production (U2, among others), and indirectly in his own music through his jarring juxtaposition of sound and words.

But the band also inspired England's ''New Romantic'' movement in the early '80s, which spawned Duran Duran, among others. They were the blueprint for Boston band the Cars. They brought a sense of irony and style to the pop realm. And with the tuxedo-clad Ferry, they suggested rock 'n' roll need not be a blue jeans and T-shirt affair.

Fans still remember.

''You go to get the milk in the morning, and there's a guy delivering it to you who says, `When are you getting back together with Roxy?''' says Manzanera, who has established a career as a producer of Spanish-language rock 'n' roll and has played as a sideman with Joe Cocker and Bob Dylan.

The three key Roxy Music members - all wrote songs together or separately for the band - are speaking from London during a pretour rehearsal break. The tour brings them to the FleetBoston Pavilion Tuesday and Saturday.

After 12 days together, Ferry says, ''There seems to be nothing but a good feeling toward the music. So far I've encountered no negatives.''

He says the breakup wasn't contentious. ''Every band has its flare-ups, but I think we would go through frosty silences from time to time. But no, there was never a case of `musical differences' or any of that. I think at the end of the `Avalon' tour I just wanted to try different things and did that.''

The Roxy music - from the early chaotic retro/futuristic glam days to the more sophisticated and soulful later era - stands the test of time. Virgin Records released a compilation, ''The Best of Roxy,'' July 3, after issuing remastered CDs of the band's catalog last year. And on the UK label Pilot, there is a new live double CD, ''Concerto,'' originally recorded in Denver in 1979.

A while ago, Ferry was driving in the car with a couple of his children. The song ''Out of the Blue'' was playing quietly on the sound system. ''They said, `That was really good, that one, you should put that one out next!''' recalls an amused Ferry. The kids didn't know that was a key tune on Roxy Music's 1975 album, ''Siren''; they thought it was a recent demo.

''That was reassuring,'' says Ferry, who told the kids, ''Yeah, maybe I'll do that.''

A revelation dawns: A generation or two of rock fans who've heard Roxy's albums and heard them praised as being pioneers have never seen them live. ''But they do listen to the music,'' says Mackay, whose early inspiration came from the treated sax sounds of King Curtis.

The band was in the midst of assembling potential set lists for the shows when we talked. Asked which period he is closest to and wants to play in concert, Ferry says, ''Obviously the early period. The two early albums [`Roxy Music' and `For Your Pleasure'] are very close to my heart, so I want to draw heavily from those. On the other hand, `Avalon' was the most successful album, so I think I owe it to the audience to represent that period as well. Those three albums. And the middle period, there's always `Love Is the Drug' and those songs from `Siren.'

''So I [have] about 40 songs on a wish list that I want us to run through, and we'll see which ones we're going to finalize from that. It'll be a mixture from all of them, so all are represented. The hits will be catered for. The most fun for me will be doing the obscure ones, like `Every Dream Home a Heartache.'''

This is an eerie, slow love song to ... a sex toy, a blow-up doll. And how does it feel for a respected crooner of a certain age to be singing a song to a polyethylene partner?

''Just like falling off a log,'' Ferry says with a soft laugh. He cherishes that music, which he terms ''interesting and dark.''

''You have to be careful not to take yourself too seriously,'' says Mackay, who echoes Ferry's take on the early days. ''It's kind of tricky.''

Ferry expresses a bit of regret about Roxy Music's shift after those first two albums, a move made after synthesist Eno left the group to pursue a solo career, reportedly after an ego clash with Ferry.

Roxy's third album, ''Stranded,'' retained much of the experimental essence - the mix of whimsy and poignancy, spoof and sincerity - but, clearly, Roxy was headed toward smoother seas and a somewhat more conventional image; the singer perceived as suave, debonair, a roue-cum-romantic. Semi-hits from that era: ''Oh Yeah,'' ''Dance Away,'' ''Angel Eyes.'' Ferry also did resplendent solo covers of John Lennon's ''Jealous Guy'' and Neil Young's ''Like a Hurricane.''

''I think we did tend to straighten out,'' Ferry says of Roxy's evolution. ''Possibly too much, when I look back now. But at the time, we felt, `We've done that; let's try doing this.'''

Roxy Music 2001 will be fleshed out by three players from Ferry's last solo tour, two other musicians, a backup singer, and original drummer Paul Thompson, who signed on late in the game.

Eno, though on friendly terms with Roxy players, wasn't asked to join. Now a top-shelf producer, he has long stated his aversion to touring. ''No ill feelings,'' says Ferry. ''And we'd be doing a lot of songs outside'' the period during which he was in the band.

Any fears about lack of chemistry?

''No,'' says Ferry. ''I'm pretty confident that it's all going to sound great, because we have the main elements in place - in Andy, Phil, and now Paul - and I found I could still sing the songs as convincingly as I've ever done.''

Is there a future for them as a recording band?

''There's a slim chance,'' says Ferry. ''We really haven't thought of it yet. We just thought we'd do this tour, and if we're still on cordial terms at the end, we'll take it from there and see what happens.''

This story ran on page W3 of the Boston Globe on 7/15/2001.

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