Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Inside Roxy Music 1972-1974

Gearing up for the release of the double disc THRILL OF IT ALL collection that is getting ready to hit American shores, I was finally able to catch up with the near hour long INSIDE ROXY MUSIC 1972-1974 last night.
I have read a lot of complaints about the British INSIDE series, that has profiled everyone from Syd Barrett to Kate Bush, but I must admit that I am quite fond of it for the most part. While it is true that these are essentially unauthorized low budget productions with limited archival material and no input from the bands themselves, there is something so refreshing about the fact that they really are about the music and not the artist’s personal lives. I find them all really welcome in our age of sick and draining tabloid journalism run rampant.
INSIDE ROXY MUSIC 1972-1974 follows the pattern set up by the other shows in the series where we see a group of musicians, fans and critics being interviewed (talking head style) about just what it is that captivates them so much about the artists in question.

The Roxy Music panel is fairly strong although I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with most of them with the exception of late period bassist Mark Smith and the Roxyrama founder. Still, despite not knowing them, I found them all to be compulsively watch-able, well spoken and intelligent.
The show starts with a discussion of the band’s legendary first single, the blazing VIRGINIA PLAIN, and how unique Roxy Music were from the get go. Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground are correctly mentioned throughout the show as being one of the pivotal influences on Roxy, especially in relation to that first single and STREET LIFE. Interesting comparisons are drawn throughout including an interesting talk on A SONG FOR EUROPE’S connection with David Bowie and why Roxy continue to impress and be talked about long after most bands from the period have faded into obscurity.
Much is made of the dynamic between Ferry and Brian Eno, and the disagreements on Eno probably provide the documentary with its most bracing moments. Particularly telling are the differing views on Eno’s replacement Eddie Jobson who is viewed as musically more sophisticated but perhaps not as creative…an interesting but not totally accurate view as I have always found Jobson’s work to be quite extraordinary especially on the majestic COUNTRY LIFE album.
My favorite aspect of the disc is the serious discussion on how incredibly inventive and original Ferry is. I have stated before that I consider Bryan Ferry as important as any rock artist from the past forty years and seeing his often undervalued work treated with such respect and care was extremely satisfying.
Archival clips from the BBC are spread throughout and even broken up into pieces like they are here, they still show Roxy as one of the most visually and musically astonishing bands of this or any other age. One critic notes that it was like they were aliens who had fallen to earth and viewing these clips, that seems absolutely true.
Like I said, this isn’t a program at all interested in the personal lives of these artists. So no Jerry Hall, no information on the fights between Ferry and Eno…just an hour of serious discussion on why the songs and albums of Roxy Music remain so absolutely essential and vital.

The main problem with the disc is how short it is and the fact that it just covers the first half of Roxy Music’s career. I would love to see a volume two on the underrated second half, a period which is in many ways even more confrontational and interesting than the first. Also looks at the solo careers of Ferry and Eno would be absolutely essential and are hopefully in the works.
Fans of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno should absolutely take a look at INSIDE ROXY MUSIC 1972-1974. While it is no way definitive and just contains a smattering of performance clips, it will remind you of the undeniable triumph this band was and why their music continues to prosper to this day.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

I would love to see this. I think it's great to see programs that deal more with the music of an artist and not necessarily their personal life. I love Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry. I do feel like they haven't gotten the recognition that they deserve. They've made some really amazing music over the years. I love their early stuff, but it's actually their latter stuff that has been what I've mostly been into.

Steve Langton said...

As you say, there are many gaps in their story but this is well worth viewing. Thanks for a nice piece on a truly great band.