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Roxy Music - The BBC Sessions

by Simon Galloway


The following article is copyright 2001 Simon Galloway and Roxyrama, and may not be reproduced in part or full without express written permission.

Roxy Music - BBC SESSIONS

Between January 1972 and March 1973, Roxy Music recorded several sessions, plus an In Concert programme for BBC Radio One . These sessions included versions of songs that were to appear on their first two albums plus their first two single releases, and also featured a variety of line-up changes. Over the years these recordings have been extensively bootlegged, and such is the nature of these illicit releases, facts and details have been changed, omitted or are simply incorrect. An official release would hopefully rectify this situation, but until that time here is an attempt at a detailed Roxy "sessionography".

The basic line-up of the band is the same for all sessions - Bryan Ferry (vocals and keyboards), Andy Mackay (sax, clarinet and oboe), Eno (synthesiser and electronics) and Paul Thompson (drums), with Phil Manzanera (guitar) making his BBC debut with Roxy Music on their second session. Other personnel changes are noted on a session-by-session basis.


Session date: 4 January 1972


Transmission date: 21 January 1972, except *18 February 1972, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: Re-Make/Re-Model, If There Is Something, The Bob (Medley), Would You Believe, Sea Breezes*.

Featuring former Nice guitarist Davy O'List and original bass player Graham Simpson, this session demonstrates how much Roxy had developed their sound and songs in the short time since forming. This session was recorded before the band had secured either management or record deals, but a demo tape given to John Peel's producer John Walters was sufficient to get them their first national UK radio exposure. Peel's programme was (and still is) one of the most prestigious programmes on Radio One, and has played a part in giving much needed and valued coverage to many budding music careers. In the three part radio series "The Bryan Ferry Story" (BBC Radio One, 1994), Walters recalled how the session came to happen:

"Well it was a rather strange business because Bryan Ferry turned up at the John Peel office, stuck his handsome head around the door. It turned out he knew me because I'd played with this jazz band in Newcastle, The Monty J. Young Jazz Men, but apparently Bryan had been in the audience so he sort of knew me (and) also because he had been in the same University which was by that time Newcastle University The Fine Art Department. (I'd) just left y'know and then he joined a couple of years later.

So it turned into one of those kind of "whatever happened to Old Chalky White" kind of conversations, y'know. So I felt, well, y'know sit down, like, y'know cup of coffee and so on and then he produces the tape and he said "It's this band we've got, I'd like you to hear it, it's called Roxy". I said "Hang on there's an American band called Roxy, you can only get sort of one". He said "Yes we know that, we're going to have to change it, we're going to have to call it Roxy Music" so I said "Oh well I'll have a listen", put it on, and it was quite impressive because it was very different.

I didn't know what Bryan did y'see, because I didn't ask him that, and he came back about a week later, stuck his head back around the door again, and I said "Oh yeah come in, come in". I said "Well it was quite impressive". I said "The vocalist with that kind of, sort of atonal kind of "aieeeeeooooeiiooo" sort of strange Larry the Lamb kind of things and leaping about I said "That was really interesting, made it stand out". He said "Oh good because, well actually I'm the vocalist". I thought "Oh God good, that's a relief."


Recorded in the BBC's T1 studio at Kensington House, Shepherd's Bush and produced by John Muir, it was probably Roxy's first experience of a professional (albeit basic) recording studio. Engineer Bill Aitken recalled "despite the strange lashed-up control room, the band seemed happy with this session. I remember Eno asking us about phasing effects machines. He was really into gadgets." At that time BBC sessions were recorded "as live" with a few overdubs here and there (and usually mixed in mono) so it's fair to assume that had you witnessed Roxy live in early 1972 it would have sounded pretty much like this. The arrangements are very much how they would eventually be for the album versions, all the elements are there but the sound is basic. However, there is an air of uncertainty to the performance, particularly on If There Is Something and Sea Breezes. These two songs break away from the other tightly structured songs in the session and feature extended soloing from Davy O'List. Although a fluent musician (and not forgetting, the only professional musician in the band) his bluesy style appears sloppy within the Roxy sound, he becomes lost within the songs and drops many a bum note. Producer Muir recalled that "when the band came into the control room to listen back to the mix, I asked "Where's Dave?" "In the studio" they said, and there he was, lying flat on his back."

Re-Make/Re-Model
is very similar to the official version, The Bob (Medley) prominently features Eno's electronic soundscapes and Would You Believe is a perfectly captured rock 'n' roll throwback - the slapback echo on Ferry's voice and Thompson drums, the flamboyant 1950s style sax and O.T.T. doo-wop backing vocals from Eno and Mackay.

Of all Roxy's BBC sessions this particular one is probably the most important, not only for the band at the time, but also in retrospect - it is the only recorded evidence in circulation of the early line-up. In Ken Garner's excellent and invaluable book 'In Session Tonight - The Complete Radio One Recordings', he highlights Roxy's BBC debut as a 'Classic Session'.


Session date: 23 May 1972


Transmission date: 23 June 1972, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: Bitters End, 2 H.B., Chance Meeting, Ladytron.


With the debut album in the can and about to be released, Roxy returned to the same studio as their first session, with John Muir producing again. This session marked the BBC debut of Phil Manzanera on guitar, and another personnel change was bassist Peter Paul replacing Simpson. Immediately noticeable is the confidence which runs high through this session, so much so that they actually improve on the album versions. A fuller sound with more dynamic arrangements, Manzanera's guitar blending perfectly within the songs.

A rare outing of Bitters End is taken at a faster pace, with an extended sax break from Mackay leading into the "raven of October" bridge. Ferry's singing is clear and precise, the words really coming through and the backing vocals more prominent. The keyboards in 2 H.B. are more heavily treated than on record with Thompson's drumming holding the song together. Manzanera's eerie guitar on Chance Meeting is far more effective than on it's official counterpart and threatens to take over the end of the song. Finally, on Ladytron the whole band excel themselves, Eno sets the scene with his space-age electronic drone, which also sees the song through to it's logical conclusion (instead of the early fade as on record).


Session date: 18 July 1972


Transmission date: 1 August 1972, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: Virginia Plain, If There Is Something.


Recorded at the BBC's famed Maida Vale studios in west London and produced by Pete Ritzema, this session was broadcast just as the 'Virginia Plain' single was released. Now featuring Rik Kenton on bass, this particular version of Virginia Plain is a far more energetic take than the single and lasts almost a minute longer, due to Manzanera taking an extended guitar break, starting out as the usual rock type solo then veering off towards Velvet Underground style atonal string bending! If There Is Something is stretched to a dramatic 12 minutes, Mackay's sax is distorted and treated by Eno, and the climax is a duel between Mackay and Manzanera, as their distorted notes merge, the guitar and sax become almost indistinguishable. At this point Paul Thompson's rock steady beat picks the song up and drives it on in his best John Bonham style, whilst Eno sends electronic lashes across the sound. Of all the songs recorded for the BBC, this particular version of If There Is Something is simply outstanding.


'In Concert', August 1972

Exact recording and transmission date unknown.
Tracks: The Bob (Medley), The Bogus Man Part 2, Sea Breezes, Virginia Plain, Chance Meeting, Re-Make/Re-Model.


August 1972 was a very important month for Roxy. Along with this 'in concert' show and the Peel session broadcast at the start of the month, 'Virginia Plain' was climbing the UK charts and they had been invited by David Bowie to support him at two special shows at the Rainbow theatre in London. However, exact details of this 'in concert' recording are sketchy, except for the fact that it exists in the BBC archives. These recordings were organised by the BBC and took place at a variety of venues across London in front of a live audience. A fair guess is that it was recorded at the Paris Theatre, Lower Regent Street as were many other 'in concert' shows around that time. It's also possible that it may have been at the Golders Green Hippodrome in North London, both were BBC owned theatres. This particular show was produced by longtime BBC producer Jeff Griffin and presented by Bob Harris.

This recording is a great example of the live Roxy experience of the time, as these shows were recorded 'as live', which meant no overdubs and no retakes. It's a very raw and energetic performance, with Eno and Manzanera pushing themselves to the fore, Eno in particular being very prominent in the mix throughout the performance with his various manipulations. Re-Make/Re-Model can only be described as a 7 minute freakout, as Manzanera and Mackay whip up a storm whilst Eno processes the sound into a frenzy. A couple of interesting points to note - The Bogus Man Part 2, which Harris introduces as being performed live for the first time, is better known to us now as Grey Lagoons. He also comments that Virginia Plain has just been released as a single.


Session date: 6 November 1972


Transmission date: 9 November 1972, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: The Bob (Medley), For Your Pleasure, The Bogus Man Part 2.

It is doubtful whether this session still survives in the BBC archive, over the years many tapes have been lost and destroyed, and this is the only one of Roxy's sessions that has not been repeated by the BBC. Recorded at the Corporation's Langham studio and produced by Beeb veteran Bernie Andrews, we can only speculate how the session may have sounded. The 'in concert' show recorded in August probably gives a fair indication of how The Bob (Medley) and The Bogus Man Part 2 (Grey Lagoons) may have sounded. The only other point of reference for the latter song and For Your Pleasure is a performance for BBC television on a show called 'Full House' transmitted the same month. On this show the performance of The Bogus Man Part 2 (Grey Lagoons) is rockier than the album version, and For Your Pleasure is very similar to the official version, with subtle differences on Ferry's vocal phrasings and Manzanera attempting the solo two octaves higher. If the BBC sessions are ever granted an official release it will be interesting to see if this particular session makes the final cut.


Session date: 5 March 1973


Transmission date: 8 March 1973, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: Pyjamarama, Do The Strand, Editions Of You, In Every Dream Home A Heartache.


Roxy's final session for the BBC was again recorded at Langham and produced by Bernie Andrews and basically acted as a preview for the 'For Your Pleasure' album which was released the same month. Sal Maida replaced Kenton on bass and toured with Roxy in support of the album (as he did with 'Stranded').
Just as there is an incredible difference between the debut album and FYP, so there is between the sessions of 1972 and 1973, with the band exercising great control over the dynamic of their performances. Pyjamarama is a far more intimate take than the single version, showing something of it's Beatles influence until Eno brilliantly wreaks havoc on Andy Mackay's sax break. Both Do The Strand and Editions Of You move along at a rapid pace with a few minor but interesting variations to the studio versions which were obviously developed for live performance. In Every Dream Home A Heartache starts out almost identically to the album, with less of the drama but more of Mackay's subdued improv and Manzanera's psychedelic arpeggios. When it hits the "but you blew my mind" freak out section, Eno takes hold of Manzanera's guitar and renders it almost unrecognisable, shifting the whole pitch of the instrument in extremes. Repeat to fade...


COLLECTING Roxy Music'S BBC SESSIONS


Owing to numerous repeats since their original broadcasts, the majority of Roxy Music's BBC Radio sessions are quite easy to come by for collectors. Notable repeats of the above sessions happened in the late 1970s and late 1980s, and tapes still exist in fans' private collections. These repeats have also provided source material for many bootlegs, and the most comprehensive collection to date has been the First Kiss 2 cd set. This release contains (mostly) reasonable quality versions of all the sessions Roxy recorded for the BBC, with the exception of the November 1972 session. The following bootlegs also contain songs recorded for the BBC:

When We Were Young
Original Members
Better Than Food
Champagne And Novocaine
Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fondle
Re-Make/Re-Model
Chance Meeting
Bittersweet

And to clear up a little bit of misinformation. At least two of the bootlegs listed above feature a version John Cale's 'Fear Is A Man's Best Friend' and claim that it was recorded in 1972 with Roxy Music as his backing band. This is not true. Cale did record a version of this song for a BBC radio session on 1 May 1975, which was transmitted on John Peel's show a week later, and although featuring no members of Roxy, the line-up did feature Chris Thomas and Chris Spedding.


Other Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry BBC recordings


Although Roxy did their last session for the BBC in 1973, the Corporation has still been present at several Roxy and Ferry concerts over the years, recording them for posterity.

Roxy Music - Hammersmith Odeon, London, 18 May 1979.


Recorded on the final night of the 1979 world tour, this show has been extensively bootlegged over the years. An excellent performance.


Roxy Music - Wembley Arena, London, August 1980.


50 minutes of Roxy's set was broadcast by the BBC and also syndicated throughout the USA via the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show.


Bryan Ferry - Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, London, 13 July 1985.


Bryan Ferry's four song set was part of the marathon broadcast the BBC mounted to support Live Aid.


Bryan Ferry - Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 8 February 1995.


An hour of Ferry's show from the Mamouna tour was broadcast on BBC Radio Two in late 1995. An excellent show.


Bryan Ferry - Golders Green Hippodrome, London, 6 December 1999.


This concert was organised by the BBC for their 'In Concert' series on Radio Two, and was Ferry's first UK show on the 'As Time Goes By' tour. An hour of the show was broadcast in December 1999 and two further songs were featured on 'The Best Of In Concert' in 2000.


Roxy Music - Glasgow SECC, 11 June 2001.


An hour of highlights from the first UK show of the Roxy Music reunion tour was broadcast in June 2001.


Other Roxy Music related BBC Radio Sessions


ENO AND THE WINKIES


Session date: 26 February 1974.
Transmission date: 5 March 1974, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch, Baby's On Fire/Totalled, Fever.

Personnel: Eno (vocals and synth), Mike Desmarais (drums), Guy Humphries (guitar), Philip Rambow (guitar), Brian Turrington (bass).

This session is available on the bootleg Dali's Car which also features 801 live at the Reading festival 1976.

ANDY MACKAY


Session date: 24 June 1974.
Transmission date: 16 July 1974, Sounds Of The Seventies with John Peel.
Tracks: The Hour Before Dawn, Ride Of The Valkyries, Walking The Whippet.


Personnel: Andy Mackay (saxophone and clarinet) plus four unknown musicians.
It is possible that the tracks from this session are the same as the three bonus tracks included on the 1992 cd reissue of In Search Of Eddie Riff, which claim to be from a live rehearsal for the BBC 'In Concert' show.

PHIL MANZANERA AND 801


Session date: 14 November 1977.
Transmission date: 22 November 1977, John Peel.
Tracks: Law And Order, That Falling Feeling, Remote Control, Out Of The Blue.


Personnel: Phil Manzanera (guitar and vocals), Simon Ainley (guitar and vocals), Bill MacCormick (bass and vocals), Dave Skinner (keyboards and vocals), Paul Thompson (drums).
The first three tracks of this session were released on Phil Manzanera's rarities compilation Rare One.

THE EXPLORERS

Session date: 8 June 1985.
Transmission date: 4 July 1985, Into The Music with Tommy Vance.
Tracks: Lorelei, Venus De Milo, Prussian Blue, You Go Up In Smoke.

Personnel: Blair Cunningham (drums), John McKenzie (bass), Nick Graham (keyboards), Andy Mackay (sax and oboe), Phil Manzanera (guitar), James Wraith (vocals).

The Explorers were also featured as part of the 'In Concert' series in 1985.

Session details from 'In Session Tonight - The Complete Radio 1 Recordings' by Ken Garner, published by BBC Books, 1993.

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