May 23 – Change Was Only Roxy Music Constant

Ever-morphing and ever-popular in Europe, Roxy Music put out their seventh (and penultimate) studio album, Flesh + Blood this day in 1980. The album was surprisingly the first of their records to go platinum in the UK and the second one to top the charts there; it cracked the U.S. top 40 which they’d only done once before.

Roxy was down to just a core trio of Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera by this time but were well-supplemented with a raft of studio musicians including Paul Carrack on this one. The album was a little uneven and focused largely on love lost and also included a couple of ’60s cover songs – Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and the Byrds “Eight Miles High.” That marked the first time the band had recorded cover songs, although Bryan Ferry had put out a couple of solo albums in the ’70s consisting of nothing but coves.

Critics weren’t impressed; Rolling Stone called it “such a shockingly bad Roxy Music record” while years later would upgrade it to a 3-star rating saying “good – but lacked the spark that made some of the earlier albums so good.” Allmusic similarly gave it an unusually bad 2-star rating, surprising in that the review wasn’t all that bad really. They suggested that at its best, it was “effortlessly suave and charming”, that “Oh Yeah” was one of their best singles ever, but that the cover songs were superfluous and showed the band was running low on ideas. Ferry’s own website says of it “a record of grace and graciousness, sense and sensuality” and while top 10 singles “Oh Yeah” and “Over You” are good enough, it’s “Same Old Scene” that steals the show. Biographer David Buckley notes it was the band’s “most perfect dance record” and that a year later “the charts would be full of songs with a similar musical trajectory.”

Roxy Music came back two years later with their North American breakthrough, Avalon… then promptly broke up for years. They’d now back together for the first time in years getting ready for a 50th anniversary tour, kicking off Sep. 7 in Toronto.

14 thoughts on “May 23 – Change Was Only Roxy Music Constant

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    I like the song Oh Yeah but I’m not a dance guy so Same Old Scene doesn’t get me as much… it’s too bad they didn’t break through earlier…their mid-seventies music is great.

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    1. Ahh well, can’t agree on every last thing! Well, I do agree on their mid-70s stuff being great, it definitely was, and someone at Atlantic/WB screwed up in that they only had one hit over here in the 70s (“Love is the Drug”)… a few of their Brit singles might have been too “out there” for American audiences but there were plenty of less-daring songs on the albums which could likely have caught on well here… similar to Bowie in that way. For me, “Same old Scene” was the first thing I’d heard by them besides “Love is the Drug” and I just loved it, bought the album, it was good, some of the bits were excellent but some did begin to sound like filler after a few years, especially when I got deeper into their whole catalog.

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    1. well, it’s not for everybody. I kind of compare them to DAvid Bowie because they hit the scene (in terms of being widely known) around the same time, started as experimental glam rock then turned to more mainstream pop by the ’80s, and both were acquired tastes. For me, I really like almost all the Roxy records, honestly more so than Bowie’s 70s collection, but I’m in a minority at least on this side of the Atlantic.

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      1. I agree… gotta be a record company thing, I think because they certainly did put out some songs in the 70s (besides ‘Love is the Drug’) that could have fit easily into American top 40 sounds.

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  2. My my my I love the idea of a 50th Anniversary Tour. You know I really wish they would tape the concert so I could be vicariously thrilled by watching it. Certain body parts can’t even consider concerts anymore unless they are small theaters with reserved seating.

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    1. Maybe they will…in fact, I’d be kind of surprised if they don’t release one show from the tour on CD/digital, maybe as a video too. I get ya on the concerts… I am vaguely…vaguely considering going to the Austin show, but honestly probably won’t . Not big on crowds now (especially in the Covid age) and my ears are more and more sensitive to really loud noise… although I did see them in the 80s and seem to remember them not being loud as concerts go.

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      1. they were very good in ’83, very good sound, simple understated stage show with curtain-like things behind them that changed colors. Their shows from the early 70s looked quite wild though with the costumes and all.

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    1. Indeed! I’m a bit surprised because it seemed they had a huge European following in the ’70s, 1980 before they kind of hit the bigtime here with Avalon. I think you’re now the 4th person to comment on ‘Oh Yeah’… I do like the tune but it’s not a ‘standout’ to me, but it seems all the more surprising it didn’t catch on here then. It was big in Britain but I never heard it on radio here.

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