The Thrill Of It All (Book) - Sun 22nd Aug

Thumbnail - Click for a larger version

The Thrill Of It All (Book)
22 August 2004

The Thrill Of It All (David Buckley)

By Richard Mills

It's always good but a rare pleasure to read a biography on living music legends that combines an almost scholarly knowledge of the subject, an overview of the life with valid opinions AND a readable style. But they're all here in The Thrill Of It All.

In 30 years or so, Roxy Music has not been well served when it comes to accompanying reading material. None of the members of the band have been tempted yet to chronicle their own careers, save Manzanera's online group history. The Rex Balfour biography of Ferry was a thinly veiled press release by Dr Simon Puxley and flimsily researched books by Johnny Rogan and Paul Stump have left a dissatisfied taste in the mouth.

Now after three decades, while managing to keep the book completely up to date (and even looking forward to next year and - gulp - Ferry's 60th birthday and beyond), David Buckley breasts the tape of the finishing line just ahead of two other books due soon from Jonathan Rigby and Michael Bracewell. Like buses, reading material on the Roxy legend seems to take an age, then come in spades.

The Thrill Of It All is a lively read, but is almost at pains to demonstrate the work that went into verifying facts and allegations. Buckley constructs a biographical record of the various members (although Bryan Ferry is afforded perhaps rather more than his fair share of the detail). In so doing, he also makes a compelling case for the opportunities that Ferry has failed to maximise in his professional life.

As previously stated, this is a book that celebrates the lives and work of Roxy Music, but Bryan Ferry is not alone in looking winsomely at his own life's work and wondering where did the time go. And possibly the money also - one album alone has cost Ferry the best part of a million of his own money, took five years to complete and he sold a home in New York ostensibly to finance the project.

Given the ability in leaner times to knock out three classic albums in one year, the reader is left asking the question that Roxy fans have become tired of asking: "What if...?". Or, possibly, "Why didn't...?".

Buckley can't conceal (and doesn't try) that David Bowie is his favourite artist, frequently setting Ferry's work in context by making comparisons that don't always favour the subject of this book. Clearly, when set against the careers of contemporaries like Bowie (or Eno, Elton and Rod, for that matter), Ferry himself is left openly wondering about the missed chances. But the author's admiration for the individual Roxy members and at times the same
excruciating frustration that is shared by any long-serving fan of the band are there for all to see.

The Thrill Of It All is upbeat too about the wonderful releases that have made up the Roxy canon with fascinating insights into the recording sessions and live shows. Buckley's access to musicians and producers who have worked with Ferry, as well as a wealth of informed journalistic sources who remain Roxy fans first and foremost, brings alive the music and has the reader reaching for a CD collection to relive this or that track.

The author has remained faithful to the memories of the figures that loom large in the Roxy story, even if there must be some doubt as to their complete accuracy. Both Eddie Jobson and Johnny Gustafson seem to have forgotten the aspect of collaboration that goes into a band like Roxy, each claiming to have picked up a disparate bunch of musicians following the harrowing split with Eno and holding it together through their own virtuosity and sage-like experience respectively. Notwithstanding their own valuable contributions (such as Jobson's "orchestrations" and Gustafson's bass line on "Love Is The Drug"), the overriding design of Roxy was always Ferry's and this is why he needs to take the brickbats as well as the plaudits for the failures and successes of the group.

A book by a writer who knows his subject as well as Buckley is never going to present the material in a way that matches every opinion of the informed reader. I would quibble with Buckley's tendency to almost write off Ferry's early solo albums as unnecessarily lightweight in comparison to the band albums (before, with perhaps more rationale and the odd exception, writing off the 90s altogether). But the opinions are almost always vindicated by the quotes from those that were there, a fondness for the subject and a clear logical reason that frankly makes them damned hard to question.

It's not a glamorised version of the band and anyone overly protective of Ferry might want to steer clear of this warts-and-all portrait. But, as a long-time fan, I enjoyed the book enormously and put it down feeling I understood more about Roxy Music than I did before. A better than decent job and a book that most Roxy fans have waited the 30 years it has taken their story to unfold to read.

Previous Article | Next Article