Andy Mackay - From '72 to being 72.

23 July 2018

I had intended doing a tribute to Andy Mackay on his 70th birthday but I had lost a close friend the same day and couldn’t get my head round writing something on Andy and left it for a while.

I chose today to do this as 72 is such a significant number in planet Roxy Music. In January 1972, anyone cool enough to be tuning into John Peel’s Sounds Of The 70’s would hear the honking sax and haunting oboe of Andy Mackay coming from the wireless. One month later Andy & Roxy Music are signed up and the following month they record the seminal album Roxy Music. May 1972 sees the return of Roxy to do more sessions for John Peel and the album is released in June with major TV slots over the next 2 months on The Old Grey Whistle test and Top Of The Pops. Those radio broadcasts and two TV performances beamed into the living rooms of many a bewildered home witnessed not just something like a space ship landing on earth with some other worldly sound and look but it was like a whole planet coming to settle here sector by sector, ’72 ….what a year.

Today Andy Mackay is 72 years old and still giving us music  not just from his writing pen but live on stage too. Most men his age will have retired by now but Mr Mackay is still doing live performances and releasing new music showing his desire to continually make music and connect with his audience as later in the year Andy will do some live shows as well as releasing some new music.

In the late 70’s I was a 14 year old boy discovering what a stylus and a piece of vinyl could do for you. It entertained me, it educated me, it moved me and it made me dream of another world. I was doing ‘catch up’ with Roxy Music as they had released 6 albums by the time I started buying and listening to music. My wee bedroom became Glasgow Apollo with me being Brian Eno/Eddie Jobson playing A Song For Europe and Editions Of You on my window sill.  I used my hairbrush (I had hair then) and became Bryan Ferry crooning Beauty Queen as if Valerie was in the front row of my makeshift Glasgow Apollo. My tennis racket doubled up as John Gustafson playing Love Is The Drug or Phil Manzanera playing Serenade but my specialism was being Andy Mackay. I was already playing a brass instrument by then and I was playing Andy Mackay’s sax lines on a real instrument that was normally used for playing Colonel Bogey and The Radetsky March.

Andy Mackay was the ’musician’ in a band of non musicians. He had studied music and English literature and brought to Roxy Music a certain level of musicality in a traditional sense and an extra dimension not just with his very distinctive sax sound but also brought a plaintive edge with his oboe playing, an instrument usually only found in an Orchestra.

Andy’s first compositional releases were on the b-side of the first two Roxy Music singles that brought another dimension to what were  within the first album an already multi dimensional band. One of my personal highlights of seeing Roxy Music or solo shows was in 2008 in The Pigalle when Andy Mackay & The Metaphors performed the Pride And The Pain, etched in my memory for ever.

Andy’s compositions were not just for b-sides. Andy is responsible for the music to many of Roxy Music’s albums and singles. A Song For Europe is my all time favourite song by anyone and that has come from the music of Andy along with Three And Nine. Bitter Sweet, Love Is The Drug, Angel Eyes, While My Heart Is Still Beating, Tara all form a serious part of the Roxy Music canon.

His distinctive style and approach to playing sax and oboe are an essential part to what makes the unique Roxy sound and this can be heard throughout the various stages of Roxy Music.

Andy didn’t just keep his writing and playing for Roxy Music. His solo album In Search Of Eddie Riff is a standout in the many solo and off shoot projects that came from the core members of Roxy Music, a personal favourite of mine. Four years later came Resolving Contradictions an album a 1000 miles from Eddie Riff or Roxy Music. This is the sort of album that no one had ever made prior to that time and no one has since. He worked on various other solo projects and collaborations over the years, teaming up with Roxy cohort Phil Manzanera with their band the Explorers. His album of well known Christmas melodies have a new take on his album Christmas by The Players and Samas Music For The Senses was an album that took us all by surprise in 2004. In 2008/9 he teamed up with Roxy’s drummer The Great Paul Thompson with their album London! Paris! New York! Rome and some live shows too with that album. 

Andy has written a lot of Music for TV including the award winning Rock Follies TV series where one of the soundtracks went to number one in the album charts, the first Roxy Music solo project to do this. Along with the many TV themes that he has written Andy was an in demand session player with everyone from The Pet Shop Boys to Paul McCartney. There is no doubt he was hired not just for the notes he would play but for the distinctive sound that he would give to his hirer’s recording and adding another dimension to them too.

Andy Mackay the musician and Andy Mackay the gentleman (as that is exactly what he is) are etched in the fabric of my musical life and no doubt the lives of many Roxy Music fans around the world whether they are musicians themselves or not.

On behalf of myself and all those fans far and wide we wish Andy Mackay a happy 72nd birthday and we all look forward to many more years of his music.

I am sure we will never tire of hearing Bryan Ferry say on stage "Andy Mackay on Saxophone"

Like I said earlier, Andy hasn’t put his feet up now that he is well into his free bus pass years. This was announced on his website yesterday (22nd July 2018)

“You will have guessed that lots of new activity is afoot. My new recording project 3 Psalms is now about to be released and although the Metaphors have been resting for a few years, there are also plans for more activity soon. Please stay in touch and look for exciting developments in the near future.”

Andy Mackay Solo Discography & Session Work

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