Graham Simpson was one of the original members of Roxy Music. Born 13th October 1943. He grew up in Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. He was taught to play violin and cello, and he also learned to play the guitar and bass.
Whilst studying English at Newcastle University he and Bryan became friends and he played bass in the band the Gas Board along with Ferry. It has been said that Graham taught Bryan to play the piano properly before they formed Roxy Music. However, soon after they began playing as Roxy Music,and had recorded their first album, Graham was left the band in April 1972 just before the release of the first album.
Graham has been more or less out of the scene since then and lost contact with the band. However in 2010 Graham became the subject of s short film documentary regarding his life to shown at the Portobello film festival.
Graham Simpson 1943-2012
Born: Manchester 13th October 1943
Father : Radio operator for the Merchant Navy
Mother: Daughter of a Scottish shepherd
First musical memories:
Aged around six, Simpson encountered the power of music for the first time: "I was exposed to a 12" acetate recording on HMV of Jascha Heifetz playing Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D, and the crescendo on that blew me away. I've never forgotten the sensation. I was lifted to extraordinary heights at a very early age."
“I remember sitting in bean bags at primary school in Bristol listening to ‘ In the Hall of the Mountain King’ by Edvard Greig
Elvis Presley, Big bill Broonzy and Lonnie Donegan , Ledbelly, Chris Barber jazz Band, The Everly Brothers, Pat Boone, Frank Sinatra, Dave Brubeck.
Graham used some of his first university grant of £120 to buy a bass guitar plus a Selmer amp and speaker. He had a room in the same house as Bryan Ferry. He played along with some Beach Boys records teaching himself to play bass guitar. “It was something I felt I had to do and I played bass to occupy myself with”
First Met Bryan Ferry:
Graham first met Bryan Ferry in Newcastle 1964 and went on to play together in The Gas Board which also included onetime Roxy Music producer John Porter. They were a Newcastle Student band: with a Horn section and played Blues, Bobby Bland Chuck Berry, Wilson Picket, Otis Reading in night clubs hotel dance halls. “I had no idea that I would be playing in a band with an album sold for 40 years”
The origins of Roxy Music:
Bryan Ferry left the Gas Board when at university and moved to London. He teamed up again with Graham Simpson when Bryan began writing songs. Graham would play bass along to the songs Bryan was writing and being Bryan’s soundboard for these songs at this embryonic stage. As Ferry at this time was an unknown singer and writer with no musical history, Graham’s role was not just to confirm that his songs were good but to convince Bryan could write songs and to encourage him to pursue this as a career.
Graham Simpson with Bryan Ferry then auditioned the members of Roxy Music:
Andy Mackay November 1970, Brian Eno soon after, Roger Bunn (guitar left September 1971,) Dexter Lloyd (Classical Percussionist left November 1971), David O’List (Sep ’71 – Feb ’72) before settling on Paul Thompson (November 1971) and Phil Manzanera (February 1972)
Graham Simpson recordings:
- Graham played bass on an unreleased demo tape with Ferry/Mackay/Eno/Bunn and Lloyd in June 1971
- John Peel Sessions recorded on 4th January 1972
- Roxy Music’s debut album, recorded March 1972
Graham's last live performance with Roxy Music:
Bristol University on Friday March 3rd 1972. This would be the band's final live performance before they go to the studio to record their first album. This show would prove to be Graham Simpson's last live performance with the band
Leaving Roxy Music in April 1972:
Graham's mother died of cancer in February 1972.
He was suffering from mental problems and depression.
(quotes from Graham in 2010)
“I was not compos mentis I couldn’t concentrate or appreciate anything they were doing at the time but I now do. “
- “The last words Bryan said to me where “get well and come back but I never did”.
- “I ran out of imagination but Bryan never did”
Graham’s summary of Roxy Music:
"Roxy Music were not so much a hybrid of musicians with different influences but were independent musicians with their own individual voice that work well together."
Post Roxy Music
Graham’s remained in London for 18 months after leaving Roxy Music. His then girlfriend Maggie worked in the music industry and had set up an audition for Graham to play with Steve Hillage but Graham felt “I was just not ready or in the right frame of mind for it”
When Graham got his first Royalties cheque for his work on ‘Roxy Music’ he left UK to study various cultures and religions and was involved in Sufism. The next 10 years would find him in Morocco, Greece, Mexico, India, back to Africa. He even did a six month jail sentence for safe cracking in Marakech.
Graham came back to London in 1982 and lived a quiet unassuming life since then, living a modest life from the royalties of the Roxy Music album.
He came into the public eye for the first time in 38 years when a short film called ‘Nothing But The Magnificant’ which explored the disappearance, re-emergence and ultimate path to redemption of Graham Simpson.
Bryan Ferry said of Graham in ‘Re-make/Re-model’, Michael Bracewell’s biography of the formation of Roxy Music
“he was a bit of a character, I liked Graham and Roxy Music would never have happened without him”
Graham Simpson died on Monday 16th April 2012.
(Thanks to Stephen Thrower for the use of extracts from his interview with Graham Simpson)
Graham Simpson is credited on the following Roxy Music and Solo Albums
- Roxy Music
- The Thrill Of It All
- Tokyo Joe
- The Early Years
- The Best Of Roxy Music
- Essential Roxy Music
- The Complete Roxy Music