NME - The Sting of El Ferranti - Sat 13th Jul

NME July 13th 1974
13 July 1974

The Sting of El Ferranti
Nick Kent
Joe Stevens

Alright, you vicarious scandal-suckers, step up and collect your weekly shot of scuzz from Starsville. Its all here, shamelessly revealed: Fury and Death, Fury and Success, Fury and Love ("An affair with Ursula Andress? I'd prefer a chauffeuresse wearing black leather gauntlets.")
Steve Harley, Russell Mael, Tony Tyler-all the giants of today's (and, possibly, next week's) pop scene- slit up a treat by the rapier wit of The Man With The Staccato Vibrato.
And, for fashion fans, a few tips-fresh from the sardonic lips of rock's Mr Heart-throb-on what will constitute the living end in Satorial Eleganza for '74.....what's left of it...

"THE GRAND EXIT is a very appealing prospect, isnt it. It's really down more to how you devise it though. The motorcycle accident and the plane crashes have all been done so that it tends...I'm quite in favour of the 'pile of clothes on the beach' one myself. That hasn't been done in rock yet, has it? With not a note but a little cassette tape containing the last pained message to the world laying on a well-pressed tuxedo carefully folded."
Having beforehand, of course, made provision for one's continued thriving legend by leaving carefully stored-away mounds of unfinished tapes that the record company will continue to release as the years drift on. Y'know Bryan, like Buddy Holly....
"Oh, but of course. Except that in my case they'd have to be finished mixes. After all, one has to keep up one's standards at all times".

WHAT AN impressive figure of a man! There he stands, "St. Moritz" smouldering wispishly between the second and third fingers of his left hand, the torso fitted perfectly into a tuxedo and full dinner ensemble, the face taut, the eyes-limpid pools - pleading "Love me or i'll kill myself"....Oh, alright, you've seen the album cover too - and if you've perchance found yourself sauntering through the streets of London of late, you're probably already sick to death of this particular version of La Ferrari's tastefully rugged elegance set against the mutted swimming pool blue of Bel Air.
Ferry advertised on buses, the ever-familiar mug and torso lavishly spread around tube stations - there's even a hige billboard of 'is lordship staring out at all the Chinese restaurants and grey-faced dis-chevelled inhabitants of Gerard Street. Very winning. The Bryan Ferry Conspiracy, it is only to be concluded, has now reached the "deluxe" (the Big F's word, not mine) stage of its strategy where 'exotic rock star' has now to transcend himself into becoming 'household name'. The props are all there - well-oiled, with the secret weapon - "Another Time, Another Place" - having just been launched on a public who will find themselves hardpressed not to be totally seduced by its utterly calculating languid excellence.
Ferry knows the score exactly. "'These Foolish Things' was the prototype. This is the deluxe model," he states, allowing for a slight glow in his cheeks to display his own pleasure at the extent of the achievement, pointing out merely in passing that it cost 23,000 pounds to make.
When mention is made of the critiscism meted against the album by, uh, one who will be nameless, that the album lacks a certain...
"Warmth, wasn't it? Well thats absurd. That person (sic) was obviously in the wrong queue when ears were being handed out."
Oooooch! Rock critic slain by enigmatic superstar. In one sentence, already.
"I suppose you'll call that a counter-thrust.....a parry.....of the Sting of l Ferranti(laughs)?"
O.K., O.K., lets get serious.
"But i mean the warmth has to be there from the start in order for one to actually approach a number, any number like that. I though that would be obvious."
No ifs and buts. Ferry wont even concede to a brief own-up about the cluttered mixes that blemish the album's sheen a tad. Why should he? "Another Time, Another Place" is old history for him. Already ten backing tracks for the next Roxy Muisc album have been recorded - all in one week - and here's Ferry ensconced in a suite in the Ritz ("the TV broke down at home so......Also i need some inspiration to write the lyrics. I only have a few isolated couplets to work on at the moment") playing them back "for my own benefit".
They sound like.....well they dont sound like anything to specific beyond basic piano-rhythm guitar-bass-drum tracks motivated around Ferry's ponderously laconic chord prgressions. Occasionally old melodies are given a new twist - the chord progression from "Just Like You" is spruced up with a couple of interesting 'fifths' thrown into give it a more spiralling quality at one point. Also somewhere throughout the proceedings two Mackay and two Manzanera melodies are played - "Part of the new policy (pause)....actually its been incredibly easy how straight-forward doing these sessions. No anti-vibes whatsoever."
All this plus Paul Thompson going from strength to strength everytime he positions himself in front of the traps, plus John Punter performing acts of might wizardry behind the control panel. "He's a veritable titan amongst engineers/big-time producers....please print that. He's always complaining about the lack of press he recieves".
Ferry must have now reached a point where the whole process of recording is about as effortless as greasing an olive. Still its not all champagne and roses being the Laurence Harvey of Rock. Go on break our hearts, Bryan. Y'know the one about the restriction of time.
"Well the process is very weaving. It's like the tide going in and out except there's currently too much need to give out and no time in-between for it to build up. I do feel rather...I miss that balance. One has to remain in control at all times and.....but then," he adds suddanly aknowledging the surroundings, "its hardly what you would call true suffering is it?"
Qite so.
"Self fulfillment is still very much the prime incentive, with financial rewards a very potent second. I'm too proud to let myself slip, and anyway it has to be that way because otherwise I'd get even more paranoid and be currently tearing around America like a lunatic, exhausting myself to make it.
The inevitable follow-up.
Surely then, its getting time to break down the two separate careers thing and blend them together as one?
"It does appear to be going that way because I've put more of myself into this album.....it's more of a Roxy Music album, dont you think? And anyway, the time has come to do a couple of solo concerts, which are being set up for Decemeber."
Why not now, you dear reader ask, considering that the album has just been released?
"No time, I mean, these things have to be planned, and right now im committed to the new Roxy album, and then it's a European tour in September. I mean we intended to release "Another Time, Another Place" later this year, but it was going so well....."

ALL OF which temporarily nullifies Feery's current grand preoccupation - the movie career. Surely you've noticed how the image is taking a certain wide-screen ambiance of late, as if events presage a calculated swan dive onto celluloid in the none-too distant future.
"I think all the time about moving into that region, but, well at the moment one just has to cool it. Right now I'd really love the Roxy thing to penetrate the States, and that requires a perserverance which i feel capable of up to a point. November sees another American tour which i would have otherwise used as time off to involve myself in amovie thing. That's what I'd like to do next year now.
"I mean," he free-associatie, "'Gatsby' - now there was a part I always felt a great kinship towards. Seeing the finished product was one of the great all-time tragedies, watching an utter lightweight like Robert Redford stumbling through the part of the heaviest character ever written. I always had this great desire to play Gatsby. Actually I've no time for the so-called 'new breed' of American actor - the Redfords and Steve McQueens.
"I've always been more enamoured by the old hands....Montgomery Clift - he was supposed to be an incredible paranoid....Jimmy Stewart......Bogart obviously. All the anit-heroes. Bogarde and Laurence Harvey. Really though, the best are American because the English ones are too domestic, dont you think?"
Hey, but Bryan, I've got the perfect image for you. Why dont you become the lounge lizard's James Dean? You've got the pained glare down pat, and you're always posing in front of big cars. Grunt abit more, and have an affair with Ursula Andress and you're made!
"Oh but that's more of an updated Zorro thing though isn't it? I'd prefer a chauffeuresse wearing black gauntlets."
Ah, your no fun. Just wait until Steve Harvey picks up on it, you'll be eating crow. Talking of....
"Well i thought their song "Catch a Falling Star" was interesting, though i thought Perry Como's version had the edge."
Zounds! Are there no bounds to the wit of this man? But, Bryan, Mr Harley is a self-deigned misunderstood artist like yourself.
"Well, I think he's trading on a parody of that stance. (Pause) Also they need a good tailor."
Another career ruined. And while we're at it, howzabout a quick paraffin-and-match number on Sparks? The man behind the overcoat backs down, but not without a few barked innuendoes.
"Oh, i thought you said Sharks for a moment. No, I wouldn't put them down. They've worked very hard for their success - Island have donw a magnificent job I think. Actually I'm very flattered by them.......that's the way I look at it anyway. I think what they're doing is very obvious but.....actually i like Ron Mael's voice very much. He's very funny. (Pause). The singer's got a good falsetto too."
It's almost as if you've got to be a father figure to all these witty new.....
"Except that we're much younger at heart than they are." A sprightly rejoinder.
"Also we try to put over a more potent sexual image - both on stage and on record. I think actually we're more successful at achieving that on record."
Ah, Bryan "Beefcake" Ferry - the haggard playboy and a devil with the ladies. How many hearts did you break in the States then, Bryan?
"I didnt stay around long enough to count them (smirk)."
But those photographs of you surrounded by hordes of bedazzled "femmes"?
"It compensates. I mean, anything's an improvement on reality (Pause). Actually i dont think I'm so much of a smoothie, I'm more of a rough diamond-type, really. I mean, on the new album 'The In Crowd' isn't smooth, nor is 'Fingerpoppin'. 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' is, naturally.....but it's just that people are so attuned to the obvious - their idea of an aggresive rough-look begins and ends with a black leather cat suit with heavy metal studs, which I find hilarious."
So what are your current thoughts on the state of womanhood?
"I don't know what I think about women.....I don't think they know either....Oh! Self Analysis is the most boring of all activities....."
Makes good copy though.
"I suppose so. Like - 'The Lonely Genious Behind Mother of Pearl. Or 'The Mother behind the Pearl'. That would make a good title wouldn't it (laughs). Um......(to young lady present) Would you like an olive?"
That would make an even better title.
"Well, I just hope I'm getting the cover."
(Thinks) Who does he think he is? Rod Stewart? Still no matter. Back to the Bryan Ferry sex image.

"OH ONE shouldn't take it too seriously, or eat out on it or trade on it. If it helps an audience to get to the essence of what I'm about, then it's served it's purpose. One should never underestimate one's fans because they do appear to be smarter.....at least my fans or the group's fans are. They're the 'creme de la creme' which is a very fortunate thing. That's why i did 'The In Crowd' - as a kind of gift to them really. So they could play it at home....."

And glow with the knowledge that 'Bryan understands'. And you wonder why we at the NME have always thought Bryan Ferry a truly wonderful human-being! Still, back to the toned-down syndrome.
"It appears that everyones trying to cut back a bit, doesn't it? Bowie's even weaing suits on stage now. Not to mention (subtle dig here - Ed.) trenchcoats!"
Marvellous. O.K., Bryan, so let's have a dapper stomp over the whole Bowie apocalypse obsession bit then.
"I just dont listen to it. I mean, he's a nice guy.....perhaps a little misguided in some ways......Um.......you're Trying to get a quote out of me aren't you, so you can splash over the cover - 'Ferrari Slams Bowie'."
Exactly. Continue if you would be so kind.
"Well how about......'Punk Rock - I Eat it for breakfast, quotes the Baron' instead?"
Nah - Punk Rock was last year's thing, and anyway I'm interested in your thoughts on Bowie.
'Yeah, well so am I, but.......(pause) I've met him and his......um.......lovely wife and they're......um.....charming(he bursts out laughing - then quickly regains his cool). He sounds very close to Jagger these days doesn't he? Was "The Laughing Gnome" ever a hit in the States?"
This Ferry's a devious wag and no mistake. O.K., Bryan, so what were you doing in the Summer of '67'?
"Well my soul band days were a thing of the past by that time. Actually there's a photo of me in a midnight blue mohair suit standing next to a Studebaker - you see, I was posing in front of cars even back then.
But I was more into other things at that point......like smoking tea and painting."
Doesn't Ferry still have a secret desire to make it as an artist?
"Not any more, simply because I was a dreadful artist. I express myself much better in music, and anyway I get far more of a fulfillment rush from seeing, say a poster on a bus......something I've worked with a team of people on."
Ask about the artists he felt a distinct kinship with and in his apprenticeship, and a swarm of names appear covering a multitude of centuries. "Oh Maurice Lewis.....Vermeer - I've always considered them the true romantics in that they sidestepped the obvious, unlike De La Croix and his Arab stallions, which is just a compouding of boguesness."
When writers are mentioned, he names Proust and F.Scott Fitzgerald. His favorite poets appear to b T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath, with John Donne taking pride of place. His admiration of the metaphysical strain made me remember a conversation I once had with Eno, when the latter stated his contention that our Mr F. would reach a peak of creativity and then crack and become totally committed to some organised religion. Ferry after all could be seen as a direct inheritor of the whole John Donne school of hedonistic wit which consequently turned to religious fanaticism as the years took their toll.
"It's a very interesting process isn't it? All these gay blades getting up to the incredible hanky panky when they were young - but who at the same time wrote very moving love poetry until they ultimately approached religion with the same fanatical zeal. I could see myself perhaps falling into that."
But, Bryan, isn't it lovely up there in that tuxedo by the centrally heated swimming pool, grappling with your destiny and musing over the soup stains on your sash? Particularly when all your friends tend to emanate from that bitchy fashion world.
"Oh I find that whole fashion scene quite 'sympatico'. I've always liked attractive people - I mean, they're the greatest bitches in the world. It's incredibly paranoid on one level - all those love-hate relationships......I'd like to think that in time I will gain some sort of doctrine."

BRYAN FERRY is thirty years old. His favorite colour is blue. He favours champagne and white wine. He has no pets, but loves his parents. When asked for his professional and personal ambitions, he stated - "To find true happiness."

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