hey are quite simply one of the greatest rock groups ever. Roxy Music were more than just another pop act from the 1970S and 1980s, defining their era as much as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones did in the 1960s, and as Oasis did in the 1990s.
Now singer Bryan Ferry, Saxophonist Andy Mackay, drummer "the great" Paul Thompson and guitarist Phil Manzanera have reformed for a world tour.
Though these one-time pop radicals are now greying fiftysomethings, they remain as sharp as ever. Ferry especially, has always been regarded as something of a style guru. One of the enduring images of him from the '70s pop scene is of him sporting a white tuxedo, his hair cut into a trademark floppy fringe. Ever since, his clothes have created as much of an impact as his silky voice.
And last Christmas, the 55-year old crooner proved that he doesn't just look cool. Ferry, along with his socialite wife Lucy and their four sons, was caught up in a near air-disaster when gunman Paul Mokonyio went berserk on a British Airways flight to Nairobi. News pictures depicted chaotic scenes of terrified passengers diving for cover. Ferry meanwhile, snapped sitting upright in his Club Class seat, shaken but still immaculately groomed.
"The plane was going to crash," he says casually, as he pours me a cup of coffee. "I do feel glad to be alive, but it was difficult to make out exactly what was happening until it was all over. I just had this thought that everything was going to turn out all right. And, no, I wasn't really shaken by it."
Neither is he shaken by the prospect of embarking on a 50-date world
tour with the band he left 18 years ago.
"The promoter was very persuasive," explains Ferry of his decision to reform Roxy Music. And when I was touring my solo album, As Time Goes By, last year, I found myself singing more and more Roxy songs. The audience seemed really hungry to hear them. And people were forever asking me when Roxy are reforming. So I decided to do it again.
"I hope to make some money. But it's also about going back to a period I loved and resurrecting that material and bringing it to a whole new audience who would otherwise never hear it."
Ferry left Roxy in 1983. "A lot of bands just peter out, but we stopped right after Avalon, our most listened-to album," he recalls. "So we definitely finished on a high note.
"Splitting up then was the right thing to do. I'd just got married and didn't want to carry on with the excesses of touring and that whole lifestyle. It is very intense being with each other all day, every day. Being in a band is an unnatural state. It is far better to just be fluid. So that is why we have spent long periods of time not seeing one other at all and concentrating on being with our families, doing the things you need to do in life. We all built lives outside of Roxy."
While Manzanera and Mackay have kept fairly low profiles over the past 18 years, Ferry has remained in the headlines, cultivating a successful solo career and continuing to impress with his dress sense. From the outset, Roxy Music were notorious for their glam-rock clothes (typical stage outfits were silver jumpsuits, gold lamb trousers and leopard print suits). At a time when most rock stars wore little more than jeans and a T-shirt, their attention to sartorial detail was little short of a revolution and inspired everything from punk to the new romantics. And although by Roxy standards, Ferry's appearance is toned down today (he is in crisp chinos and a perfectly fitted dark sweater), his clothes - and his manners -remain polished to perfection.
"We've always had fun doing very visual things," observes Ferry. "It is all part of the Roxy look - the suits, the haircuts, the glamorous women on the album Covers. But certain things that we used to wear just wouldn't look right any more. "We are not going to be wearing retro gear on tour. The music will take you back, but our appearances won't. We are all middle-aged fathers now and we've toned our images down. A lot." Is it stressful being a style God? "Not in a ridiculous way," he says. "I have 20 or maybe 30 suits. But it's not like when I started out."
Mackay adds with a snigger, "A lot of people are interested in what Bryan is going to wear next, actually, and he likes that."
The band formed in 1971, taking their name from the cinema chain. "Plaza or Odeon didn't have the same ring to them," says Ferry. "But Roxy didn't mean anything other than being a great place to go."
Originally the line-up included Brian Eno, but he quit in 1973 to follow his own, extraordinary musical path. He has since become a world famous producer working with such bands as U2, and he declined the offer of being involved in the world tour.
As the group notched up one chart hit after another, the focus turned on Ferry's private life and his relationship with model Jerry Hall. He was to be the loser in an extraordinary love triangle when Hall publicly dumped him for Mick Jagger. These days Ferry says little of the leggy blonde Texan other than that She is "addicted to publicity".
Three decades on, Roxy Music are still cited by the likes of Radiohead and Moby as the band who have influenced them most. And the classic hits such as Love Is The Drug and Street Life, that appear on the forthcoming Best Of album, Sound as though they could have been recorded last week.
Yet Ferry maintains that there is no secret formula to the band's enduring appeal. "What we- did was just weird, but brilliant,"
he says. "Now I love Eminem - that's what my son listens to. And have you seen that Nelly video? They get these girls off the street and they all dance like this..." He gets to his feet and gyrates in slow motion. "Such fun. Perhaps I'll put out a rap album next."
Is this tour a proper comeback or just a one-off pension-booster?
"It's not just for the money. Some of our songs would otherwise never be heard live again. But it is hard to say what we will do next, if anything," says Ferry, sweeping back that famous fringe. "We will just have to see what happens."
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