The Thrill Of It All Reviews - - UNCUT-Q-Record Collector - Sun 9th Dec

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The Thrill Of It All Reviews - - UNCUT-Q-Record Collector
09 December 2007

The Thrill Of It All: A Visual History 1972-1982

A brilliant archive of famous and obscure TV appearances (and those shockingly bad promo videos), this double-disc set lays out Roxy's original career in chronological order, from art-school spacerockers to wine-bar phantoms. The Eno years rock hardest, but the highlight might be a five-song concert for Swedish TV in 1976, with Ferry, in his moustachioed mincing military fly-boy incarnation, offering a creepily arch edition of himself.

The Thrill Of It All: A Visual History '72-'82

ARCHIVE ROUND-UP OF POP'S GREATEST POSEURS. What a spectacularly arch band Roxy Music were; this 2CD package proves the image was as essential as the pioneering music. Footage from 1972-73 suggests a cross-dressing alien theatre troupe, though guitarist Phil Manzanera always kept his manly beard. Despite Bryan Ferry's lounge-lizard shtick, Roxy never completely lost those spiky edges. So, while '79's Angel Eyes finds Ferry flanked by nubile harpists, the same year's Manifesto has them playing the sort of bleak rock that could clear a French Riviera nightclub in seconds. By '82's Avalon, they've used up the world's supply of dry ice, but it was fun while it lasted.


It's been 25 years since Roxy Music were first filmed live, performing Re-Make/Re-Model at London's Royal College Of Art. It was the beginning of a singular musical journey, from art rock to MOR, which was made to be seen as well as heard. Their idiosyncratic visual flair is captured perfectly on their forthcoming DVD collection of live performances and promo videos, The Thrill Of It All: A Visual History 1972-1982. Saxophonist Andy Mackay and guitarist Phil Manzanera spoke to Jason Draper about their once-in-a-lifetime group...

What Roxy era are you most satisfied with on the DVD?
Andy Mackay: The great treat is the stuff from Montreux, which none of us have actually seen for 25 years. It was one of the best recorded performances of the original band, as it were. The first phase of our touring. That is fun to see, not least because there were fewer of us on stage. In the early days the assumption was always that, if I wasn't playing saxophone I played keyboards, rather than have the big, later line ups with lots of backing singers and things. We were all doing things. It has an energy and exuberance about it. Having said that, I think the Frejus footage is very impressive. That's the most sophisticated of our tours: the one that had that late 70s/early 80s gloss to it.
Phil Manzanera: There's almost three phases of Roxy. They all have their good and their bad points but, because the first lot was with Eno, and you're beginning and it's very, very exciting, there's that energy there. You're freaking everybody out because they've not seen anything like it before [laughs]. Then you've got the middle period where you're dealing with the departure of Eno and what's gonna happen to Roxy. You're trying to formulate a sustainable career, so that's another set of challenges. The whole thing is a journey that ends up with Avalon, because this finishes at that point. I look at myself in that first lot, when I was about 21, and I can't recognise that person.

You must have had loads of footage. How did you pick which to use?
Mackay: Obviously anything that hadn't really been seen, or hadn't been seen very much, was going to be on. A lot of the early Old Grey Whistle Test, Top Of The Pops stuff-we've seen a lot. I think we thought that all of the official promos should be on there just for completeness, although I think they vary in quality a lot, and I actually don't like Avalon. It's too ambitious and it just doesn't come off. I'd rather see the band performing the song, to be honest. Then it was a question of juggling different eras, really: one performance from here, and one from there. There are some curious things there. That version of Psalm, it's a very odd song to... it's interesting, that one.
Mazanera: There is some lost footage. We filmed Wembley in '75 on proper film, and we've never been able to find where that is. There are things we're looking for for the future. There's more stuff from the Golden Rose Festival at Montreux, which I'd like to see come our on a separate thing. I find the live stuff much more interesting, even for its faults. This is warts'n'all: some things are a little bit dodgy. It just shows how fragile the band was, for instance, in '72. But when you get to the Montreux Editions Of You, in '73, in one year of solid touring we'd gotten a lot better. We used to say we were inspired amateurs, and we bloody well were! We were trying to be as professional as possible. When we started people were a bit sniffy about us because hadn't been up and down the motorway for years. We thought, "Well, yeah, but we've got some ideas. We'd better try and practice and get better, 'cause we're gonna get some serious stick."

What was the idea behind your look?
Manzanera: We had friends who were great fashion designers who were just beginning to make their mark in London. We went and spoke to them individually, but never as a coherent, co-ordinated thing. The first time that we'd see what each other was wearing was literally just before going on the first gig of the new tour. So you go into the dressing room, say, "Go on, show us what you got." "No, no, no. You show me." We'd put on those outfits which you see on the DVD, and we'd go, "My god! Where did that come from? That's ridiculous!' And then Eno would come out with two feathers. "Jesus Christ!" But there was a lot of humour involved. It wasn't like, "Ooh, let's try and get a certain look," or something like that. [It was] that wonderful coming together of random elements - but behind those random elements were people with a lot of learning, because we came from art colleges and fashion colleges and fine arts places and things like that.
Mackay: Basically we all had our own ideas and kind of our own designers. Carol McNichol would be doing Eno's stuff and Anthony [Price] was doing Bryan's. Mostly the stuff I liked was from Jim O'Connor and Pamla Motown, who used to be designer for Mr Freedom. They did the pop arty clothes, really, the boiler suits and stuff like that.

Your early work seems to be like organised chaos...
Manzanera: Yeah, that's a very good way of putting it. I like that. I'd never thought of that. I should have thought of it. It was a collision of all sorts of styles. I would be standing there thinking, "Oh, this is like being in the Velvet Underground." So I'm pretending to be the guitarist in the Velvet Underground, Whereas Bryan's probably thinking, "Oh. this is a bit Elvis and a bit Otis Redding.' Eno would be saying, "Oh, this is a bit of John Cage and Stockhausen, and we'll throw in a bit of systems music." If you had a bubble coming out of each others' head, it was probably thinking something totally different.

Did you have to jam to find something that worked, or was it all pre-arranged?
Mackay: It changed. When I first met Bryan he had about four or five songs, a bass player and that was it. I think he had a piano and harmonium in his flat, I can't remember. So we worked on that and --occasionally John Porter, the bass guitarist, would be around. But, by and large, we then developed those songs - Bryan had the chords, he had the words - and gradually added to that until we did what you might call the proto-Roxy tour in 1971, before we signed our deal with EG. We played those songs - we did about 30 or 40 gigs, I think - so when we finally went into the studio, we just recorded more or less what we'd been playing, with a bit of extra studio stuff.
The second album, we were much more aware of wanting to be involved in the arrangement. We didn't actually do any writing because - it's always been a slightly sore point - Bryan wanted to do all the writing. We wanted to be involved in that as well. That didn't really happen until the third album, and from then on I think the balance has been about what one would expect. You know, Bryan writes lyrics and he writes great songs, bur, I think after two albums you begin to need a bit of help on some things.

What's the weirdest thing Eno wanted to do?
Manzanera: Eno was always pushing the boundaries, and we were probably tempering. The thing about being band is saying, "Yeah, that's great, but it's probably too much of one thing. Let's put a little bit of Memphis soul stew in there." When we first started, We didn't really have amps on stage. I know it sounds ridiculous, but there was a point where we used to just be DIed [Digitally Imported] through his synths, a mixing desk, and he'd be out in the audience mixing. It was incredibly unsatisfying, because you couldn't really hear what you were doing. And then what you were doing bore no resemblance to what was coming out, so we soon abandoned that. That was probably the most extreme. That was pretty far out for 1972.

What was the main shift in the band after Eno left?
Mackay: I suppose with Eddie [Jobson, keyboardist after Eno, 1973-76] it became more conventional, keyboard-orientated in terms of writing. Whereas previous songs, although Bryan and I both played chords on piano and played a few bits and pieces, it wasn't really a keyboard-based thing. With Eddie everything was pushed more into standard musical boxes, I think, and then we did stuff on top of it. That's the way I'd see it. There's also a shift because Chris Thomas was producing by then, and Chris had quite a big influence on the way things went in the studio.
Manzanera: There was a recognition that me and Andy should contribute more of our music, so we started writing songs and contributing. From then onwards quite a few of the hits were co-written. Initially we were just arranging Bryan's songs. From then onwards it changed to being more collaborative.

How much did band members' work outside of Roxy impact on the band?
Mackay: I think our hand was forced a bit by Bryan, because he went off and did These Foolish Things very early, and it was obviously something he'd had in mind. 1 suppose it shifted people's perception of the band. It made people see him as a particu ar type o
wasn't necessarily to his advantage in Roxy. People tend to think of Bryan as a more conventional singer than he really was. I think he was more original and stranger but, because of that covers album, I think people saw him as a more conventional singer.
Manzanera: It actually was a good way of diplomatically saying you don't like that. "Yeah, that would be brilliant on your solo album." [Laughs].

After a few years away, you got back together in '79. What was your plan?
Manzanera: I guess we never really split up in '76. It was just assumed that we would go off and do our different things. After a few years I think Bryan decided he wanted to get us back together again, and rang up. But then we came to a period where punk was happening, and we thought, how do we fit in here? Funnily enough, our original concept of being inspired amateurs - anyone can do it if they had a good idea - was the whole ethos of the punk period. Andy bumped into Johnny Rotten at a club in London at the height of Sex Pistols and thought, "We're gonna get trashed here." He said he loved Roxy! In fact, they used our producer, Chris Thomas. So we thought, "Hang on, I think we can get back in this, but let's get in a bass player who's really young to lower the average age of the band." We found Gary Tibbs, who'd been in a band called The Vibrators, and made an attempt to do a punky sort of number called Trash, which was a complete flop. Then suddenly Dance Away, which is on the same album, was there and became a hit. That sort of set us off on another little period of three albums ending in Avalon.
Mackay: We were kind of in our 30s. At that age you think of yourself as perhaps older than you really are. We could see different directions to go when we were working in New York, particularly on Flesh & Blood and some of Manifesto. Chic, for example, picked up on Roxy as a band that they admired, so there was an element of things coming to us from other musical directions.

Did you ever really Feel part of "glam rock"?
Mackay: I don't think anyone ever felt part of glam rock, really. It was just a useful journalist' term. Glam rock proper was really singles: it was The Sweet and Gary Glitter. Art school rock is al slightly more useful term, even though it's a bit misleading. We were more conscious of artiness than glam. Glam seemed a bit silly. Glam rock bands picked up on what we did, but glam was always intended to be shallow.
Manzanera: In the beginning of the 70s, when that period evolved where people were dressing up and I harking back to the 50s, we were definitely one of the originators of a certain type of glamour. Bur then once we saw what became of it within a year of being gobbled down by general society and spat out in a very sort of cheapened form, we moved on to suits. By the time we came out with Stranded, Bryan was in his dinner jacket and the glitter had all gone. We were definitely on the move, stylistically and visually.

Did you see yourselves in terms of a Roxy/Bowie/ Bolan triangle?
Mackay: I don't think we did. Bolan had come and gone as a force by the time we got the second album going. I think there was a sense of some rivalry between Bowie and us, or between Bowie and Bryan, in that they were kind of covering similar areas.

How's the new Roxy album shaping up?
Mackay: It's in progress very slowly. Yes, we did do some work on it and it sounds good, but Bryan's been busy with his Dylan album and tour for the last year. I've just recorded a new album with my own band, called Andy Mackay & The Metaphors, which will be touring next year. We will fit in a new Roxy album, but I'm not quite sure...
Manzanera: To tell you the truth, we haven't actually worked on it this year at all. Bur the year before we did 18 tracks, including at least about 15 with Eno. There's some very good tracks there. They need to be finished off. If you look historically, this seems to be what we've always done. Instead of having some masterplan, how we effect world domination, we just bumble along doing our own thing. When it feels right we will release it. Obviously there's a bit pressure to match up to the earlier stuff, so we don't want to put any old rubbish out [laughs].

Does it have any stylistic link to older Roxy?
Manzanera: Just being in the studio with Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera. Andy Mackay and Paul Thomas it's going to sound a certain way. It'll just sound like Roxy. Now whether it's the Roxy any particular group of fans want is another matter, but you just get on and do it. You do your best, really.


THEIR song The Thrill Of It All couldn't have put it any better. The glamour girls. The out-landish outfits. The glitz. The hits. We had Bryan Ferry's sleazy good looks. Brian Eno's synths and sounds, duck-walking sax player Andy Mackay, hairy guitarist Phil Manzanera, strongman drummer Paul Thompson and too many bass players to mention. When Roxy Music fully arrived on the scene in 1972, there was a tangible buzz about these art school types who did things differently. Remember, this was the era of sweaty rock gods Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Over eight studio albums between 1972 and 1982, Roxy carved a special sequin-spangled place in our hearts. To mark a new two-DVD set cov-ering the period, called, naturally, The Thrill Of It All, Manzanera and Mackay give SFTW some fascinat-ing insights.

How have you found watching the DVD of those early Roxy years?
Well, I don't really recognise this 21-year-old person that's meant to be me. It's like looking at a clone of yourself thinking "What was going on in my head then?"

How did you come to join Roxy?
I failed the audition but got on with them incredibly well and then one thing led on to another. They hired a guy called David O'List but then he had a punch-up with Paul Thompson in front of the manage-ment. I was there with Richard Wil-liams of Melody Maker in this empty Bingo hall in Wandsworth. Our jaws dropped. Then they said, "Get rid of that guitarist" and "Well, what about Phil?" It was complete chance.

Did you have to adapt your guitar style for Roxy?
They'd played some gigs and had a good idea of the guitar parts. I wanted to fit in but luckily the peo-ple who'd influenced me like Velvet Underground, psychedelic stuff and just my mad guitar playing clicked and they liked it. Also, it was great being able to work with Eno which was like hav-ing your own human effects box. My guitar got treated with the most sophisticated treatments which they're still yet to invent!

What made you so distinctive?
There's a wonderful visual side which you see in that DVD. You see an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm. Reckless playing, reckless abandon. One of the last performances with Eno is a bunch of people dressed in the most bizarre, amusing and impractical way.

What about your personal look?
I had to be the token hippie. "You're not cutting your hair and your not doing it because we need somebody with one foot in the past." The bug-eyed glasses were the genius of Anthony Price.

How did Eno's departure affect the band affect the band, because the next album Stranded was great?
Stranded went straight to Nol. In true Eno style, he now says if peo-ple ask him, that it's his favourite Roxy album. The one after he'd left!

What are your favourite Roxy moments?
It's very difficult to pick out one really. I loved For Your Pleasure. I loved Stranded. As a sort of cameo, Virginia Plain to me has all the ingredients and I do love those long tracks where Bryan has a chance to be very lyrically interesting like in Every Dream Home A Heartache and Mother Of Pearl.

Do you have a particularly fond mem-ory of one Roxy period or another?
I have fonder memories of the beginning. When you first start out. it's so exciting. All you want to do is make a record and all you want to do is to do one tour. If I could only do a tour of America. I'd be happy. I could go off and become a baker or something.

We're expecting the first Roxy Music album since Avalon. How's it going?
The other day, I thought I'd play my son, who's 24. a couple of the tracks just to see what he thought. After one of the tracks I played, he said: "Oh. that sounds like Roxy of this period and that sounds Roxy of that period". Then he said "that one's a complete surprise". I thought. "Let's not rush to get it all done. Let's do it properly". Bryan's off touring. Personally, I think his voice is fantastic. And Andy's playing his saxophone. He's done instrumentals. I'm chipping away doing all my guitaring. I think we're in good nick and fingers crossed it will transfer itself into the finished album. A short, really good album would be what's needed.

Where did the visual side of Roxy Music come from?
It was a mixture of things. For Bryan, it was soul music, rock 'n' roll, you know the saxphones, the quiffs, etc. We also took Thirties and Forties visual images. The early Seventies was that time of washed-out denim and blues and roots. We just felt that it wasn't us.

Was there was an element of glam rock?
That really came into being after we'd started. It was applied retro-spectively to Marc Bolan, early Bowie and Roxy. Glam rock proper was Sweet and Gary Glitter. The other thing for us was that we were all really quite shy people. I found it much easier on stage that if you couldn't hide, you might as well go for it. There's no point in trying to skulk in the shadows. It gave us a certain amount of pizzazz. There was a funny mixture of nostalgia and modernity about Roxy Music. Yes, there was a futuristic element to it, partly because we put our own looks together. There wasn't really a master co-ordinator. We all had our own stylists. I liked science fiction at that time. I don't any more but I had this science fictiony top made. We all went for our own fantasies.

Not many bands had a full-blown sax and oboe player in those days. Did you feel quite distinctive?
They were just what I played. The saxophone obviously has a long history in rock 'n' roll but I'd actually been struggling for a few years putting rather sad little ads in Melody Maker - "Oboe player seeks progressive band". All I got were a few jazzers would ring me up. That's why in the end I thought I'd form my own band really and we sort of collided with each other.

You knew Brian Eno first?
We met when I was at university and he was at art school and we'd done some work together, avant garde, very weird.

What was Roxy's break-through moment?
Our first album had great reviews but was seen as kind of odd. It still made a big impact on a lot of people but it wasn't selling huge numbers. Then our single Virginia Plain got picked up and that changed it from being a slightly art schooly band playing to people we knew. Suddenly we were playing to kids, getting mobbed outside venues and the whole thing very quickly developed.

How did Eno leaving after second album For Your-Pleasure affect you?
With Brian, it wasn't so much what he actually did musically but just the fact that he was there. Groups work in a funny way. Sometimes a bit of grit is needed to produce a pearl.

You disbanded in 1976 then reformed for Manifesto, Flesh + Blood and Avalon. How do regard that smoother period?
The production values had changed. We were working in New York some of the time and we were spending longer on albums. The times had changed and Roxy were successful over a 12-year period because we did something different. After Stranded (1973's third album), my next favourite is Avalon because it has a melancholy feel.

How's the new Roxy album?
Two years ago, we recorded eight tracks in a very short period of time. We went back to the way we used to work, we all went in the studio. We set the drums up for Paul Thompson. Brian Eno was involved in some of those sessions and then it kind of stopped dead because Bryan was having trouble writing and then he decided to finish his Dylan album. I've just completed an album by a new band called Andy Mackay And The Metaphors. I hope the new Roxy album will be finished next year.

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