Jonathan Rigby - - Both Ends Burning - Sun 18th Sep

Thumbnail - Click for a larger version

Jonathan Rigby - - Both Ends Burning
18 September 2005

With only one biography of Roxy Music written in over 20 years (1994 Paul Stump's Unknown Pleasures) the rise in interest in the band over the last few years is replicated in that Both Ends Burning, in less than a year is a second biography joining David Buckley's 'The Thrill Of It All' on the shelves of our bookstores. I recently spoke to author Jonathan Rigby to discuss the book.

VRM What inspired you to write this book?

JR My older brothers were big Roxy fans and as a boy I heard these albums played at home and I got into the music through them. My publisher had some success with music biographies in the past (Nicholas Pegg - - The Complete David Bowie) and they knew I was a big Roxy fan and asked me if I could do a book on Roxy Music.

VRM The book has had several release dates, was this in part due to the fact there was another biography 'The Thrill Of It All' due to be released and you didn't want to compete?

JR It was more due to just finding the time to complete the book. I was playing Kenneth Horne in the West End production of
'Round the Horne ... Revisited'. This became a huge success and ran on longer than intended which took up a lot of the time I had set aside for the book. I was aware of 'The Thrill of It All', which is a fine book, but I was confident there would be no competition between them as they cover the same story but from entirely different angles. So I felt there was room for both books.

VRM Did you have any help or interviews with any of the band members while writing the book?

JR In 1981, I met and interviewed Andy Mackay at length in his Clapham home; this was just after 'Jealous Guy' had got to Number One. I also had a delightful chat with Phil Manzanera at Christmas 1989. But these are the only times I've had direct contact with the band members

VRM Out of all the Roxy Music songs why did you choose Both Ends Burning for the title of the book.

JR Apart form being a great title in itself, and on top of that one of my favourite Roxy tracks, I felt that 'Both Ends Burning' was a useful way of indicating where I stood on the early Roxy/late Roxy debate. Though each end of Roxy's career was very different, each was very strong in its own way and I thought that 'Both Ends Burning' was a good way to describe that."

VRM What would you say your book has to offer that other Roxy books don't.

JR As well as taking Roxy's career from the begining right up to their recent dates in the summer, I have given Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno's solo work equal billing to Bryan Ferry's, which I think is unique in book terms. I was very keen to do this as I feel the unerring spotlight on Ferry has helped to obscure the amazing work done by the others. There is also a song-by-song analysis of each album track, single & B-side from the Roxy canon, which is also a 'first' among Roxy books as far as I'm aware."

The book is certainly well worth a read. There is a chapter on each album and tour as well as all of Bryan, Phil, Andy & Eno's solo work. The song by song analysis is something I found myself going to all my favourites and least favourite songs to see how the opinions on the songs differed. Each analysis is informed and fairly accurate even if I didn't always agree but then that is down to personal favourite tracks etc. The song by song essays describe the work in detail in layman’s terms and not in the unnecessary muso fashion of Paul Stump's 'Unknown Pleasures'. There are many interesting details that the author has mentioned in the book that has made me go and listen to the albums in a different way. This book is an interesting read for new fans who want to learn more about the band and their music but for long term fans who already know a lot about their history, there is still plenty things in the detail that should make the cognoscenti think.

In comparing 'Both Ends Burning' with David Buckley's 'The Thrill Of It All' I would say that each book obviously covered similar ground but there are parts of each book that are unique to their own publication. Buckley's book has some great interviews with people who were close enough to the action but detached enough to say it 'how it was'. The testimonies of Johnny Gustafson, Eddie Jobson & Gary Tibbs to name a few brought us behind the scenes with a fascinating insight on the creation of these records whereas 'Both Ends Burning' has great observations on the music as we know it from this side of the studio. There is room on the shelf for both books.

Previous Article | Next Article