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Roxy Music
English Mystique Mystifies America

Contributing Author: P.R. Birk

David Bowie. T. Rex. Elton John. Slade. The Sweet. Roxy Music. Each name, an integral part of the early ‘70s English rock scene. These artists, all part of the ‘glam’ scene, were part of an essentially English phenomenon combining Hollywood glamour, sexuality, spice, androgynous wardrobes, kitsch and sophistication. Glam peaked in about two years, and began to disappear by 1973. Almost no parallel, or appetite, for glam existed in America, with few exceptions - Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls, and eventually, KISS.


35 years later, these English artists landed in many different places. David Bowie sold an estimated 136 million albums worldwide. Elton John sold nearly twice that many, and recorded 50 hits that climbed into the Top 40. On the other hand, the Sweet’s decline began in 1976, shortly after they peaked with “Fox on the Run.” Only one of the Sweet’s two remaining members even tours - as “Andy Scott’s Sweet.”


Curiously, Roxy Music’s landing place is not nearly as clear. Magically appearing in late 1972, Roxy Music emerged at approximately the same time Bowie released Ziggy Stardust. The early ‘70s offered the opportunity for combinations of music, art and clothing that seemed contradictory. Appearing as part glam and part lounge, Roxy Music mixed sophistication, camp and retro, along with sport jackets, glitter make-up and feathers.


Roxy Music’s strange musical experiment excited England, but was ignored in the U.S. Singer and lyricist Bryan Ferry, known for matinee-idol good looks, captured a continental audience with his 007 flair. Co-founder Brian Eno, adding his enigmatic touches with synthesizer and electronics, magnified the incongruous madness by looking otherworldly.


Their debut album went into the Top 10 in the UK music scene. Their first single rose to #4, although their success received little recognition in America. Three years later, the 1975 release of their album Siren, featuring model Jerry Hall on the cover, allowed Roxy Music to crack the U.S. Top 40 with their only state-side hit, Love is the Drug. While Roxy Music became enormously popular in the UK and Europe, America never quite ‘got it.’


Nearly 12 years later, Roxy Music’s shuffled personnel line-ups and musical direction changes resulted in their eighth and most successful album, Avalon. This became the band’s only platinum record in the U.S. The album launched a single, More Than This, which was a Top 10 hit in England and much of Europe. Inexplicably, it failed to gain a foothold in the U.S.


Snippets of Roxy Music in America still remain. Bryan Ferry’s relationship with Texas model Jerry Hall was once national news. Martin Scorsese’s Casino soundtrack includes Love is the Drug. 10,000 Maniacs scored a radio hit with their cover of More Than This. Bryan Ferry’s video Will You Love Me Tomorrow featured Anna Nicole Smith. Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner, Alien, and Gladiator, also directed a Roxy Music video that was occasionally seen in the U.S. on MTV.


All is not lost or forgotten…Look for a Roxy Music album in June of 2007.

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