brent johnson digs up another lost treasure, this week from Roxy Music …
Their lead singer crooned with a Dracula-like vibrato. Their lyrics were about fictional dance crazes and blowup dolls. Their songs sounded like futuristic mixtures of doo-wop and punk. And behind it all were squealing synthesizers played by a long-haired man in makeup and feathers.
Roxy Music were the musical equivalent of a Picasso painting. Strange, colorful, jagged. But always interesting.
They arrived in 1972, two years after The Beatles broke up, a time when David Bowie and T. Rex were pumping fashion and fantasy into music. Roxy championed the same ideals — albeit with a sound that was more art-school, yet just as catchy. Their earliest incarnation was the most riveting, led by suave frontman Bryan Ferry and oddball keyboardist Brian Eno. The latter left the band after only two records, but went on to invent ambient music and find greater fame as the producer of albums by Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay — after he cut his hair and started sporting a more professor-like appearance.
In the U.K. — where popular music is often more offbeat than the U.S. — Roxy had a string of whacked-out hits and are about to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a British tour. In the States, they’re largely cult heroes, having briefly hit the charts in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when Ferry started wearing tuxedos and de-clawed their sound by writing smooth synth-pop.
But for the true Roxy experience, watch this live clip of their 1973 song ‘Editions Of You’ — a chugging rocker with lyrics about badgers, cheesecake and how old money’s better than new. It’s when Ferry was still waltzing across the stage with manic charm and Eno was still squeezing out alien noises from his giant synthesizer.
P.S. — This particular performance always reminds me of two things:
1. That Roxy is among my Top 3 favorite artists of all time (along with Elvis Costello and The Smiths).
2. That there is nothing more enthralling to me than stepping on stage and throwing yourself into a live musical performance.