Making the Breaking ThroughWhilst the band plays for groups of tipsy art lovers and crowds of drunken students, the fight for recognition continues. The band is having trouble making ends meet. Bryan works part-time as a teacher. Paul becomes a building site brickie. Andy, not content with playing in the evening, does two jobs: teaching music in the day and driving the group's van at night. Life stays tough but all is not lost.
The record industry may not yet be ready for Bryan's fledgling but two men have the vision to see into the future of rock music.
Richard Williams is a tall, quiet but passionate writer about music for the Melody Maker, then the biggest selling pop weekly in the UK. Richard is the champion of the under-dog, the spokesman for the unconventional. He craves originality, musicianship... so long as the music too is good. Every week, tapes from musical hopefuls land on his desk. Unusually, he is the sort of man who gives every one a chance to make an impact. He doesn't hand these painstakingly (and, only too often, painfully) wrought works out to the secretaries and the tea boy to see what they think. If musicians have taken the trouble to send him their music, he takes the trouble to listen. In short, a man with integrity, a word not often used in the music business.
Richard has listened to the Roxy demos. As with Targett-Adams, something strikes a chord. This is a band with an indefinable something, a quality that shines through the somewhat muddy sound and anarchic playing.
He has interviewed Bryan at home in Shepherd's Bush. The article appears on 7th August 1971. Then, in December, Williams watches them play at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, a dingy, cramped, sweaty, jazz watering hole that is to become famous when Punk hits the scene. He is convinced. They are more than good, more than stylish, more than different. More than this, they are important. A radical change in the direction of music. A significant move forward. They will be big.
Within weeks another breakthrough comes their way. For years, John Peel has been (still is) the most vital force on British radio. His ground-breaking programme 'The Perfumed Garden' brought a new music to many thousands of kids in the sixties. Now, his is a voice with some weight in the industry. If a band appears on his show this has meaning. If a band without a recording contract, without a management contract, without a publishing contract appears on his show then Peel is saying "watch these guys, you should be signing them".
On the 21st January 1972 Peel plays a Roxy Music session on Top Gear.
Things start to happen in a rush. First, David O'List decides that Roxy is not for him. Step forward Philip Targett-Adams from behind the mixing desk. He is re-auditioned. He knows the songs. He's been listening for rehearsal after rehearsal. He knows the parts. He's got some new angles, a different perspective. They keep auditioning, keep auditioning and then... he's offered the job. Targett-Adams accepts with alacrity. His first action is to adopt a stage name. His mother is from Colombia in South America. Her maiden name sounds suitably charismatic and exotic. Philip Targett-Adams is transfigured. From tall, bespectacled ex-public school boy to cool and mysterious (and spectacularly bespectacled) Phil Manzanera.
Then comes an act that will secure their immediate future. EG are a heavyweight management company. They represent British avant gardists King Crimson, pomp rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer and popsters T Rex. David Enthoven (E) and John Gaydon (G) know the sound of money when they hear it and Roxy Music sound like a million dollars (and more!). They are signed after an audition in a South London bingo hall later described in a Melody Maker article by Williams. They now have high powered management and publishing. Studio time is booked. Some low key gigs are arranged:
Friday 18th February - The Hand and Flower, Hammersmith
Saturday 19th February - Leicester University
Friday 3rd March - Bristol University
Then it is back into the rehearsal rooms for four more hectic pre-recording day's work.
On Tuesday 14th March, Bryan and the boys push open the door to a building in Piccadilly. They go up the stairs to the rear of the building. Their equipment has already arrived. Roadies and engineers arrange amps, mikes and instruments. Peter Sinfield, their producer is waiting in the control room. This is Command Studios. It is noon.
Tentatively, they begin to lay down the first track of their first album. Paul Thompson starts it all - bass drum, snare and bass drum again. The strains of 'Would You Believe?' drift down the stairs and out into the streets of London.
It has started. Where will it end?
|The Shock of the
The Making of Roxy's first album