Disc - Sat 26th Oct

26 October 1974

Bryan Ferry
The much maligned maestro of Roxy Music talks to Fox-Cumming about his solo plans and 'his 'secret fear'

Roy Fox-Cumming for 'Disc'

POOR BRYAN FERRY, people really are too cruel to him. I mean, if you believed only half the things that are written about him, you'd think him a nasty, vainglorious egomaniac. That's why reporters and photographers have become his secret fear. His more dedicated detractors will tell you he loves nothing better than to while away hours alone with his reflection. They'll tell you he's paranoid about his photographs to the extent of believing the camera invariably lies. They'll tell you he can't take a joke at his expense - no, not even a harmless little itsie-bitsie one. They'll also tell you he's awkward, fussy and a whole lot of uncomplimentary things besides. But unless this boy can't suss a blatant Jekyll and Hyde at ten yards, Bryan Ferry has to be the most disarmingly charming chap you could wish to meet - far more sinned against than sinning. True, it took a month of pledging, hand on heart, that all intentions were honourable before being granted an audience, but that's understandable. How would you feel if you'd sat down for one cosy chat after another only to see your words adroitly arranged to stab you in the back some days later?

The time has surely come, with tea and sympathy, to persuade the unhappy gentleman that not all us scribes are ogres? But while the sympathy may be in order, the tea isn't, for at the time with which that drink is associated Ferry is not partial to chatting - especially with a concert to follow. Thus it was that, long after Roxy Music's first of two Liverpool concerts was over, this encounter eventually took place in the bowels of the city's Adelphi Hotel. Ferry and his league of gentlemen had done their concert and, well-pleased with the way it went, returned to base. Ferry retired immediately to his room to wash-up, brush up and change before feeling ready to face what was left of the evening. He emerges wide awake, spruce as a young conifer and bowls across the bar lounge with a cheery "Hello old boy, sorry to keep you waiting."

The fellow is in such high good-humour that it seems a shame to plague him with questions on the somewhat touchy subject of his alleged vanity, but he's delightfully understanding about the whole matter. Dispensing with his reputed nigglements over photographs, he says: "Out of a normal photographic session you can usually hope to get, say, three shots that are excellent, about fifty that are mediocre and three or four more that are really awful. "Now I don't mind people using a silly picture if they want to, providing they print a sensible one as well - but they don't do that." Tales of Bryan's disgust over pictures peaked last week with a rumour that, having seen a picture in one paper of himself in his new-famed gaucho costume, he vowed that, since the costume came out looking ghastly, he'd never wear it again. This story recounted; he bursts into gales of laughter and swears blind it isn't true. "I'm still, alternating that outfit with the military one. "That picture of me in the gaucho outfit was the worst they could possibly have dug out. The reason I object to it is that someone spent a lot of time designing and making that costume for me and I think it's unfair on them when someone deliberately sets out to make it look silly."

But Bryan's learnt now not to get too uptight about his more unfortunate encounters with the Press. "It seems that they like you one day and not the next. Sometimes I think they set out to have a go at the publicist rather than the artist - like "Let's teach Puxley (Simon Puxley, Roxy's PR man) a lesson. One reviewer on this present tour complained that I talk too much between numbers and another protested that I scarcely talked to the audience at all. You can't please everyone."

No, of course not but (changing the subject) couldn't you have made The Rockin' Berries happy for instance by letting them use Street Life as they wanted to for their recorded spoof on you? "Funnily enough I heard that record for the first time this afternoon on the radio. I don't think it's very funny at all and I don't really see why I should invite people to do spoofs on me. Frankly, I didn't give the matter more than five seconds thought. People are always ringing up and saying 'so-and-so wants to do such-and-such' and 'we think it would or wouldn't be a good idea'." And so, from spoofs on to rip-offs and plagiarism.

What about this cheeky Gary Shearston fellow, who's tackled Cole Porter's 'I Get A Kick Out You', obviously with the intention of making himself a little elbow room in Ferry's pet corner of the market? "Actually I quite like his record although it's pretty dreadful in a way. The violin playing is interesting. But," he adds with a slight, self-denouncing smirk, "you can't expect me to be too pleased about it because I had my eye on that song. It's been on my list for a long, long time." What, is there actually a piece of paper lying around somewhere bearing titles that will one day appear on solo Ferry albums? "Well, if you worked your way through my apartment and pillaged my files, yes, you might come across one." What's on it? Here, ladies and gentlemen, accompanied by an apologetic smile, comes a blatant lie - "I've forgotten."

While still on the subject of Ferry as a solo artist, many illustrious persons these days are lauding his work to the skies while at the same time asking "Can he really be serious?" "Ah," says the man in question, "the thing is to keep them guessing." Then, mustering his best poker face, he adds "You know perfectly well I'm totally serious about everything I do." Pschaw, what a tease this man is! The solo Ferry, by the way, will, he promises, be seen in concert sometime in December. Where he will not say, though he points out we can't expect too many shows. "There are just not enough days in the year for me to be able to tour with Roxy and on my own."

And that answer leads to the oft asked question: "How much longer will Roxy exist?" One mutters vague apologies appreciating that he must be well bored with the question. "But," says he helpfully, "you're going to ask it anyway . . . or do you give it a novel twist?" No such luck, so out comes the answer. "As long as I'm touring, there'll always be a Roxy Music." Touring though, is not something Bryan numbers among his first loves. "Before the tour started I was dreading it - all that travelling, all those hotels, it's not like being at home. But corny as it may sound, once you get onstage it all becomes worthwhile." He says that it would have been nice to have the new Roxy album out before the tour began, but the fact that it isn't is just something that can't be helped and he's not unduly concerned about it. He is, however, ever so slightly peeved that this time the album doesn't have a gatefold cover. "But to make up for only having an ordinary single cover we've got two girls on it instead on one." And where do they come from? "Germany."

The record itself, he says, "is much better than the last album . . . but then I say that with every album. I think, though, that the playing has showed a marked improvement and we've got some interesting textural collages. 1 think too that it's a more direct album than the last." Once the present Roxy tour is finished, the group will busy themselves promoting the new album in Europe before going to America and The Far East early next year. Ferry's already almost resigned to finding himself in the same hectic situation next summer as he was in this year's - that of having to do a Roxy album and a solo album almost at the same time. "I might try and avoid that," he muses mournfully, "by giving up my holiday in January."

The interview comes to an end and someone suggests that Bryan might like to have a peek at the hotel's discotheque and some of the girls inside it. The mere hint that he might find a groupie there to his fancy appears to displease him. "I'm not really into that kind of thing," he mumbles, but goes there all the same. Anyone following in the hope of scenting a breath of scandal in the making, however, would be sorely disappointed. For most of the time he sits alone watching eveyone else making whoopee. Yup, definitely more sinned against than sinning.

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