It should come as no surprise that the members of Roxy Music spent time in art school. The band’s interests went far beyond creating the seminal music for which they are known. Attention was paid to every detail of their presentation, including the clothes, and the look of their album covers.
Bryan Ferry had a vision for Roxy Music while he was at school at Newcastle, and it’s that vision that has sustained the band through the ensuing decades. Sax player/oboist Andy Mackay responded to an ad that Ferry ran in 1971. Mackay had already met Brian Eno, and convinced Eno to join the band despite the fact that Eno admitted to being a non-musician. He did know how to use a synthesizer though. Guitarist Phil Manzanera and drummer Paul Thompson also answered ads. There has never been a permanent bass player in Roxy Music, as Ferry has opted for something of a revolving door policy for this position.
The documentary More Than This: The Story of Roxy Music (Eagle Rock Entertainment) originally aired on the BBC in 2008. The film delivers exactly what its title promises, and does so in high style. All of the original members are on hand for interviews, as is Eddie Jobson, who replaced Eno after the band’s second album. We also get to hear from musicians who were influenced by Roxy, including Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, John Taylor of Duran Duran, Siouxsie Sioux, Nile Rodgers of Chic, and the ubiquitous Bono. Behind the scenes input comes from audio engineer Bob Clearmountain, designer and stylist Antony Price, original manager David Enthoven, and producers Chris Thomas and Rhett Davies.
More Than This uses the Roxy Music albums as touchstones to trace their career. They were as responsible as any band for glam rock, and later, they were the role models for the New Romantic movement. We learn how the band took three years off in the late ’70s as Ferry pursued his solo career. While they were gone, punk happened. When they came back with Manifesto in 1978, it was feared that they would be fodder for the punk guillotine just as many of their contemporaries had been. As it turned out, the punks had been heavily influenced by Roxy. In fact, Steve Jones opines that Roxy was the most influential British band other than the Beatles. In 1982 the band released what is to date their last album, the hugely successful Avalon, which featured the enormous hit single, “More Than This.” After touring extensively, Ferry dissolved the band in 1983.
Roxy Music reunited in 2001 to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Extensive touring has included high-profile performances at the Isle of Wight, and Live 8. Among the bonus features on this disc are three songs from the band’s appearance at London’s “Dock Rock” in 2006. Other bonus material includes an extensive review of how the album covers were created, and a look at the musical ingredients that make Roxy Music a great band.
New albums have been rumored, in fact expressly confirmed, but recently Ferry has said that there will be no new Roxy Music album. Let’s hope he changes his mind again. He does hold out hope for future Roxy concerts, albeit without Eno’s involvement. Until then, More Than This is an excellent primer on the history of this great band.
After watching the film I found myself wondering whether Roxy Music deserves a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’d like to hear your opinions on the matter, so please leave them in the comments.
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