CULTURE

Veteran dandies sing substance with style

They are responsible for a major chapter in rock music history, and, 35 years after the release of their first album, are making efforts to convince us that this fabulous story has not yet ended. Roxy Music, alive and well with the act’s original members on board, will be performing two shows in Greece this week, beginning with a night in the capital tomorrow at the Karaiskaki Stadium in the seaside Neo Faliron district, followed by Thessaloniki’s Gis Theater on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if frontman Bryan Ferry, the eternal dandy who is now 61, can still woo the women. On a more serious note, Roxy Music represent something far more important than a good-looking singer. It was 1970 when the hippy culture had spread across the Atlantic to also conquer the UK. Long-haired youngsters dressed in scraggy attire had become ubiquitous. For Bryan Ferry, who had just completed a degree in fine arts in Newcastle, aesthetics and good taste meant a great deal. He did not like what he saw around him. Prompted by the idea that musicians like John Lennon were the era’s heroes for young people, Ferry decided to form a band. Ferry and co-student Graham Simpson placed a classified ad and began receiving calls. Saxophonist Andy Mackay, who studied with Ferry, was hired as an intriguing prospect. Brian Eno was an even hotter prospect. Phil Manzanera was an accomplished guitarist. Drummer Paul Thompson also settled in after several others were tried. The band’s first single, «Virginia Plain,» reached number four on the British charts and the act’s self-titled debut album was being played all over. A year later, in 1973, Eno departed due to artistic differences with Ferry right after the release of the follow-up, «For Your Pleasure.» Ferry’s focus was on appearance, as well as sophisticated lyrics and music. Suits and ties were a must. Eno, who chose to dress like a transvestite with tons of makeup, preferred, musically, to experiment. Manzanera’s profound and sophisticated guitar skills rated him as an art-rock pioneer. A pure rocker, Thompson, simply wanted to bang on his drums. Just years later, he ended up in a punk band called Angelic Upstarts. The band’s ensuing albums, 1973’s «Stranded» and 1974’s «Country Life,» products of internal friction amid the band’s ranks, are considered to be among British rock’s best. Roxy Music’s members were dissatisfied by Ferry’s leadership. He wasn’t happy with their continual disobedience. To appease things, Ferry released a debut solo album, 1973’s «These Foolish Things,» a tasteful covers-only project with Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson all on board. Manzanera and Mackay also put out solo releases around the same time, while also contributing to Eno’s solo efforts. Though Eno and Ferry remained estranged, the former has collaborated with his former Roxy Music band mates on some 59 albums he has released during his post-Roxy Music days. Evaluating Roxy Music’s body of work requires more than just an assessment of the eight albums they released, the last of which was 1982’s «Avalon.» The band’s level of influence on others should be taken into consideration. Pioneers of the glam-rock scene, without plunging into the movement’s excesses, as championed by T-Rex, Roxy Music also ranked as the main inspiration behind the so-called «New Romantics» of the 80s, featuring fashion-conscious acts such as Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. Ferry’s insistence on smart appearance proved that a potent public image, not just good music, can take musicians places. Roxy Music disbanded in 1976 before reuniting two years later. They split again in 1983 and reformed in 2001 for live performances that year. The veteran act will soon release new material, 24 years after its previous effort. It will include two songs by Eno, who has opted to skip touring with the band. But the rest will all be there for the act’s two shows in Greece this week.