Roxy Music – Re-Make/Re-Model (Roxy Music)

16th June 1972 · 1970s, 1972, Glam, Music

Roxy Music’s debut album was not a huge success. It was way too ahead of its time. Almost half a century later it sounds strange and futuristic and experimental. For me it’s one of the greatest debuts ever.

At a time when everyone else wore denim or glitter they must have seemed like something from another planet.

Ferry the louche lounge lizard, Manzanera a kind of alien guitar god, Andy Mackay straight off the spaceship and Eno the otherworldly creature they encountered on that distant planet, communicating through abstract electronic noises.

The band had been together for 18 months and recorded the album over the course of a week, produced by King Crimson’s lyricist Peter Sinfield, at their own expense as they had no record deal until it was completed.

Everything about it was different, from the band name (chosen by Ferry in tribute to New York’s iconic Roxy Theatre) to the Fifties-style glamour of its cover shot, by fashion photographer Karl Stoecker, of former Bond girl Kari-Ann Muller (she was in the 1969 Lazenby effort, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).

She was paid £20 for her work and would later marry Mick Jagger’s brother Chris.

Prefiguring the New Romantic era of a decade later, the band members’ idiosyncratic high-fashion look, co-ordinated by a team of stylists including ‘art director’ Nick de Ville, designer Anthony Price (clothes and make-up) and hairdresser Keith Wainwright, was memorably described by Eno as “the sort of thing the president of the Galactic Parliament might have worn in a sci-fi movie.”

Most different of all was the sound, an avant-garde amalgam of five musicians with readically different influences and agendas: Manzanera “pretending to be the guitarist in The Velvet Underground” with Ferry fusing a bit of Elvis with a bit of Otis, while Eno was channelling Stockhausen and Cage.

I was once quite friendly with Brian – one of the nicest and politest people I’ve met in the pop world – and I remember telling him I had a bootleg of one of Roxy’s earliest gigs (from before this) on which there is an extended version of Sea Breezes from this debut album.

“I love it because it’s so experimental and abstract,” I told him. “It sounds as if you’ve just got hold of a machine with many knobs and buttons and dials and sliders and you’re just randomly trying them all out to see what kind of noise each one makes.”

Eno smiled quietly and nodded, before replying: “That’s pretty much what I was​ doing.”

This is the opening number of the album. Around three minutes into Re-Make/Re-Model, each band member steps into the spotlight for a pastiche of the archetypal ‘solo spot’ so beloved of jazz musicians, unleashing a mind-boggling array of sounds that sum up their diverse influences.

There’s a cascading free jazz piano flourish from Ferry, a fuzzed up Eddie Cochran guitar riff from Manzanera, sci-fi squalls straight out of a B-movie soundtrack by Eno on his then state-of-the-art VCS3 synth, an improvised squealy sax solo from Andy Mackay and a spot of The Beatles’ bassline for Day Tripper from Graham Simpson, all of it anchored by Paul Thompson’s no-nonsense drumming.