Roxy Music’s serious fun
¬† Roxy Music was too slippery and evasive to comfortably fit into any of the usual niches of their time or ours. They flirted with glam and skirted art rock without fully committing themselves to the conventions of either. They were avant-garde and pop. The voice of Bryan Ferry was at once ironic and romantic. American audiences were baffled, at least until a touch of Roxy seeped into the mainstream through their influence on The Cars and other new wave acts.
¬† Roxy Music was at least five years ahead of their time when their debut LP appeared in 1972. They remain one of the most interesting, intriguing rock groups ever.
¬† At least one superb book has already been written on Roxy Music, British critic Paul Stump‚Äôs Unknown Pleasures, which submits their music to cogent analysis. A newer book, Michael Bracewell‚Äôs Re-Make/Re-Model: Becoming Roxy Music (Da Capo), presents the origin story. Bracewell, an accomplished English novelist and essayist, focuses primarily on the formative experience of Ferry, whose vision for the band set the tone for the collaborations to follow. Re-Model ends its chronicle with Roxy‚Äôs first album, as the group‚Äôs retro-futurist image coalesced on concert tour.
of Bracewell‚Äôs account is derived from original interviews with band members
and their associates. Re-Model‚Äôs
overarching theme is the influence of art school on Ferry, a farmer‚Äôs son who
dreamed of rising above the pinched circumstances of his childhood through a
sharpened sense of style. Bracewell identifies the primary influence of one art
instructor, Richard Hamilton, whose Pop Art ideas seemed to permeate the
¬† What Ferry and his cohort derived from Hamilton was ‚Äúa connoisseur‚Äôs appreciation of the rhetoric of signage and the allure of popular culture,‚ÄĚ a blending of the sensual and the mechanical, a blurring of high and low culture, of the esoteric and exoteric, a refusal to dismiss any creative strategy out of hand. It was the stew-pot of ideas that gave rise to postmodernism.
¬† Roxy Music could lay claim to the distinction of being rock‚Äôs first postmodern band. What lifts them well above any latter day, irony-laden, arty alternative act was the grandeur of Ferry‚Äôs vision. His songs and staging evoked a glamorous world at once unknown and familiar, an Art Deco cabaret infused with rock ‚Äôn‚Äô roll urgency. It was serious fun.