Roxy Music 2001



New York Post
Sunday, July 22, 2001

ryan Ferry's charm easily traverses the miles of twisted phone lines that carry his smooth-operator voice from London to New York.

During an interview with The Post, the suave solo artist and frontman of Roxy Music sounds a bit relieved. He's finished the European half of the Roxy Music reunion tour - which comes to the Theater at Madison Square Garden tomorrow and Tuesday - and so far, so good.

"There hasn't been any like, weirdness, criticism or people saying, 'Why are they doing it?' - all the negative press that you might imagine might come from somewhere," he says. "There hasn't been any of that. It's all been very positive and life-affirming."

There's really no rhyme or reason to Roxy's reuniting now, 18 years after the influential English glam art-rock band broke up. Except that Ferry finally wanted to.

During last year's tour for his Tin Pan Alley standards album, "As Time Goes By" - in which he fully indulged his cabaret-pop side - Ferry began adding a few Roxy covers to the mix and quite enjoyed it. So did audiences.

Today's audiences have been Roxy receptive, he thinks, because the band left them wanting more, breaking up after its stellar romantic pop effort, "Avalon."

"Some fans have been waiting a long time to see the band on stage again," Ferry says.

But it's not just nostalgia-seeking baby boomers in the audience. Younger fans are discovering Roxy.

"We played a festival in Brussels for about 60,000 [people]. It was mainly a very young audience," says Ferry. "Luckily, it went down very well."

On tour, the band will stick to Roxy tracks, skipping over Ferry's fine solo career, which included hits such as "Slave to Love" and "Kiss and Tell" - a song about Jerry Hall, who broke Ferry's heart when she left him for Mick Jagger.

"We're trying to keep it pure," he says. "We do songs from all the various albums and the different periods because, you know, early Roxy is quite different from late Roxy."

If young pop-music fans aren't familiar with Roxy Music, they should clue in. After forming in 1971, Roxy Music became one of Britain's most influential rock groups of the decade, with hits like "Love Is the Drug" and "Virginia Plain." Echoes of the group can be heard in contemporary bands such as Radiohead and Pulp. Even Ferry's four sons - two teenagers and two "sub-teenagers," as he calls them - enjoy Roxy's music, though typically they gravitate toward Eminem and Outkast.

"They seem to be very into it, unless they're just pretending," he says, laughing.

Pre-Roxy, Ferry - a coal miner's son from Durham, England - was the vocalist for cover bands the Banshees and Gas Board, which featured trumpet player Mike Figgis (who later directed "Leaving Las Vegas").

At the University of Newcastle, Ferry studied under pop artist Richard Hamilton, then moved to London, where he worked as a van driver, antiques restorer and ceramics teacher. He lost his teaching gig because he constantly turned his classes into music sessions.

Ferry taught himself to play piano and wrote songs, then formed Roxy Music to play them. Joining him were electronics guru Brian Eno on keyboards, bassist Graham Simpson and Andy Mackay on the sax. Drummer Paul Thompson and guitarist Phil Manzanera joined in 1972.

Eno, who became a whiz producer working with bands such as U2 and the Talking Heads, worked with Ferry on Ferry's upcoming solo album, but he isn't part of the reunion tour (only Ferry, Mackay, Thompson and Manzanera are on the road).

"Two years ago, when we were writing together, I was asking him about it. He said, 'No, I never want to go on stage again,'" says Ferry.

Once he decided to do the reunion tour, Ferry even put his new guitar-based rock album, on hold until next spring.

The 55-year-old aging hipster, who still wears leather pants, sometimes matched with a white jacket, will never be too old to rock 'n' roll - in his eyes, at least. He points out that one of his musical heroes, the blues great John Lee Hooker, performed until his recent death at age 83. Ferry looks to the jazz greats, too - not just for the music, but for their style.

"Jazz musicians were always cool dressers," he says.

Reports from the European leg of his tour describe him as a fashion model - his windswept hair, his smartly knotted ties, his silver suits.

The ways he's portrayed, one expects him to wake up in a crisp dinner jacket.

"That's a nice idea - on the floor somewhere, surrounded by martini glasses," he says. "It's very Gatsby."

It's actually very Ferry.

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