You might have read a fair few old punk and post-punk rockers and new romantics stating that Roxy Music were the seminal influence for them, more, even than Bowie and the New York Dolls etc. This might be hard to understand if your introduction to RM was their later era sublime pop songs for grown-ups like Dance Away. Ground breaking in their own way, this late period string of hits could hardly sound further away from punk rock.
There’s relatively little of the earlier ‘more influential’ Roxy live available online, so it’s exciting to watch a newly uploaded, whole set mainly built around tunes from their second album For Your Pleasure but also including a couple of tracks from their debut, using the ‘classic’ line up, that includes Eno’s warbling EMS Synthi noises and John Porter’s bouncy bass playing. Played in front of a politely bemused crowd of rich hippies at the Golden Rose Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, initially it still remains baffling to me that the UK hipsters didn’t see what I see and hear: a stylised prog rock band with, admittedly, a singer with a unique voice - and Bryan Ferry sounds at his best here, vocal chords ripping, the effort squeezing half a gallon of sweat from his forehead - at least, that’s what I’m thinking as they start with the sublime Beauty Queen and meander around the stage, reminding me more of Can than young punk rebels.
Then, a few songs in, we get to the manic ending of Ladytron and suddenly I understand. And am jealous. Too young to search them out live in London at the time (I also missed Bowie in his Ziggy stage, dammit). I would have heard something not captured on the early studio albums, the fabled connection to the Velvet Underground - there it is, as the suffocating discord emerges from the noodling.
On a brightly lit stage (think Euro TV variety show) Roxy still manage to create, against all odds, and surrounded by hairy roadies twiddling echo units and pitch knobs on analog keyboards, and amid a sea of cheesecloth, the essence of a dangerous night out in a late night cellar at the end of the 20th century. Not fun, exactly, something more essential.
And weird. That they later soundtracked the rolled up suit jacket sleeved, aspirational slurp-fest of Thatcher’s early premiership makes this, short, couple or three years even more extraordinary. As if The MC5 transmuted into The Eagles. Or Jerry Rubin became a stockbroker…
Bonus review comments:
The studied campness of Ferry, Eno and Mackay in their hands on hip poses and calculated comments.
The sax and guitar both fed through Eno’s EMS synth sound like no other instrument, to this day.
John Porter’s stage persona as a yob.
Paul Thompson’s impossible C shaped posture behind the drums.
Editions Of You is punk rock.
Phil Manzanera obviously reigning in the guitar heroics (thankfully).
The heavily ironic, corny, cack-handed Sha Na Na semi-coordinated ‘dance moves’.