Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ferry and Eno - 40 years on....

Far removed from the leopardskin and bacofoil beginnings of Roxy Music in 1972, Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno are now advertising luxury brands. It seems their rivalry stretches down the years in mysterious ways.
Viewed from a passing taxi in the Central district of Hong Kong this week, there, on giant billboards are the two Roxy rivals vying for our attention as they have done ever since Roxy's breakthrough. Across the road from the hotel itself, Ferry is one of the featured 'fans' in a billboard ad for the Mandarin Oriental, while a matter of yards further along, Eno is seen beseeching us to consume Dunhill's wares.
In 1972, Roxy were a publicist's dream, with their exotic costumes, slicked-back hair and distinctive musical hybrid. They played up to that other-worldliness to the extent I can vividly recall a Radio 1 'Newsbeat' report that the band's synth wizard Eno was actually from Mars. Although by his own admission he was only semi-literate in a musical sense, Eno's flamboyant costumes were the focal point for the band. Look at any photo of them in their early days and Eno is at the forefront. The picture here of them on stage in 1972 shows how the audience's attention was drawn towards Eno.
Bryan Ferry is a fan of the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
It worked to their advantage when they were trying to establish themselves, but ultimately, it threatened to steal the spotlight away from Ferry, the band's undeniable leader since he wrote and sang all the songs. In retrospect, given their phenomenal output, Eno's departure from Roxy was inevitable. It is arguable which of them has had the more lasting influence, and frankly it doesn't matter, they have both produced great work over a long and, certainly in Eno's case, varied career. Roxy Music couldn't hope to contain two such big musical egos, and over the years we have been fortunate to hear what each of them, unfettered by the other, has been able to produce. In spite of his musical limitations, Eno must have added something to the Roxy sound, because those first two albums on which he appears have a distinctive vibe. And he proved his worth in his subsequent solo career, right from the off with his first album Here Come The Warm Jets and the hit single Seven Deadly Fins. His early ambient records, the Berlin albums with David Bowie, the collaborations with Robert Fripp, David Byrne, Daniel Lanois and others are all major landmarks in recorded music. Ferry has the edge in terms of being a traditonal songwriter and live performer, as well as being the pioneer of a distinctive style with Roxy that was quite unique. He still tours and although I haven't seen him live since 2005, at that time he delivered a surprisingly rocking show, driven on by the ever-dependable Paul Thompson on drums (announced by Ferry in time-honoured fashion as 'the Great Paul Thompson') with a twin guitar line-up of Chris Spedding and Mick Green, Lucy Wilkins on violin playing the Eddie Jobson solo from Out Of The Blue note for note. It was a fantastic gig, but the most remarkable thing about it was that Mick Green, the veteran guitarist from The Pirates, having just played a blistering solo,
And a few yards along the road, Brian Eno endorses Dunhill
collapsed, just fell over, like a tall tree, guitar still strapped to him. At first we thought it must be a joke, but after a few moments road crew appeared and a couple of doctors from the audience ran down to the front. Green had suffered a heart attack, from which he recovered (he's since died). Green was dragged off-stage and Ferry gave the scene a quick glance but the show carried on without missing a beat. No mention was made of it. On with the show, eh?
So cast your mind back to that wonderful period in 1972 when Glam was the new sensation and Roxy appeared on Top Of The Pops. One of the most exciting TV music moments ever.

Virginia Plain - Top Of The Pops, 1972

Re-Make Re-Model - Royal College of Art, 1972

Ladytron - Old Grey Whistle Test, 1972

Do The Strand - OGWT, 1972

Editions of You - Montreux, 1973

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