This morning on Art of the Song, legendary British rocker Bryan Ferry (formerly of Roxy Music) is featured on the show with jazz stylings courtesy of his newest lineup, The Bryan Ferry Orchestra.
About the artist:
Bryan Ferry, CBE (born 26 September 1945) is an English singer, musician, and songwriter known for his unique vocal style. Ferry came to prominence in the early 1970s as lead vocalist and principal songwriter with the band Roxy Music, who enjoyed a highly successful career with three number one albums and ten singles entering the top ten charts in the United Kingdom. Ferry began his solo career in 1973, while still a member of Roxy Music, which continues to the present day.
Ferry formed Roxy Music with a group of friends and acquaintances, beginning with Graham Simpson, in November 1970. The line-up expanded to include saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay and his acquaintance Brian Eno, who owned tape recorders and played Mackay’s synthesiser. Other early members included timpanist Dexter Lloyd and ex-Nice guitarist David O’List, who were replaced respectively by Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera before the band recorded its first album (early Peel Sessions for the UK’s BBC Radio 1 feature O’List’s playing).
Roxy Music’s first hit, “Virginia Plain“, made the UK Top 5 in 1972, and was followed up with several hit singles and albums, with Ferry as vocalist and occasional instrumentalist (he taught himself piano in his mid-twenties) and Eno contributing synthesiser backing.
For many years, Ferry has collaborated with fashion designer Antony Price for clothing and image consultations. Price is famous for his shop on London’s Kings Road. He created suits recognised worldwide for their elegance, and gained fame when celebrities and rock stars dressed in his designs. Indeed, Nicky Haslam commented that Ferry was more likely to redecorate a hotel room than to trash it as a typical rock star might.
After their second album, Brian Eno left Roxy Music, leaving Ferry its undisputed leader. Ferry had already started a parallel solo career in 1973, initially performing cover versions of old standards on albums such as These Foolish Things (1973) and Another Time, Another Place (1974), both of which reached the UK Top 5. After the concert tour in support of their fifth studio album, Siren, Roxy Music temporarily disbanded in 1976 though bandmembers Paul Thompson, Phil Manzanera and Eddie Jobson took part in recording Ferry’s subsequent solo material. In 1976 Ferry covered a song by The Beatles, “She’s Leaving Home” for the transitory musical documentary All This and World War II. He went on to release three solo albums during this period, Let’s Stick Together (1976), In Your Mind (1977) and The Bride Stripped Bare (1978). All three albums reached the UK Top 20, but by this time his career had begun to wane.
Roxy Music reconvened in 1979, with Ferry, Manzanera, Thompson and Mackay (Jobson was no longer a member). The band recorded the albums Manifesto (1979), Flesh + Blood (1980) and Avalon (1982), the latter two reaching number one in the UK album charts. The band also achieved their first and only UK number one single, “Jealous Guy“, released in 1981 as a posthumous tribute to its author John Lennon who had been murdered some months earlier. It was the only one of their singles not to be written or co-written by Ferry.
After lengthy tours to promote the Avalon album in 1982, Ferry decided to put Roxy Music on hold and continue as a solo artist.
Ferry continued to record, and released his sixth solo album, Boys and Girls, in 1985. The album reached number one in the UK, his first and only solo recording to do so, and also became his biggest selling album in the US.
In July 1985 Ferry performed at the London Live Aid show, accompanied by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.He was hit with technical difficulties on sound, the drummer’s drumstick broke at the start of the first song “Sensation” and Gilmour’s Fender Stratocaster went dead, so he had to switch to his candy-apple red Stratocaster for the rest of the performance.The difficulties in sound were overcome for “Slave to Love” (featured on the soundtrack to 9½ Weeks) and “Jealous Guy”. As with other successful Live Aid acts, his current album, Boys and Girls, remained in the UK chart for almost a year.
After the Avalon promotional tours, Ferry was rather reluctant to return to life on the road; however, a change of management persuaded him to try touring again in 1988 to promote the previous year’s Bête Noire release. Following the tour, Ferry teamed up again with Brian Eno for Mamouna (collaborating with Robin Trower on guitar and as producer). The album took more than five years to produce, and was created under the working title Horoscope. During production, Ferry simultaneously recorded and released another covers album, Taxi in 1993, which proved to be a greater commercial and critical success than Mamouna would be when it was finally released in 1994. In 1996 Ferry performed the song “Dance With Life” for the Phenomenon soundtrack, which was written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page. In 1999 Ferry appeared with Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan) on BBC’s Comic Relief.
After taking some time off from music, Ferry returned in 1999. He began to perform a mix of 1930s songs and songs of his own, including several from the Roxy collection, and recorded them on the album As Time Goes By, which was nominated for a Grammy.
Ferry, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson re-reformed Roxy Music in 2001 and toured extensively for a couple of years, though the band did not record any new material. In 2002 with the help of Manzanera and Thompson, Ferry returned with his next studio album, Frantic, which featured several tracks written by David A. Stewart as well as a collaboration with Brian Eno. The album was a mix of new original material and covers – something that Ferry had not attempted on a solo album since The Bride Stripped Bare in 1978.
In 2003 Ferry provided the entertainment for the Miss World contest. In 2004, Ferry starred in the short film The Porter. In 2005 it was confirmedthat Roxy Music (Ferry, Eno, Mackay, Manzanera and Thompson) would be performing further shows at that year’s Isle Of Wight festival and that they would also be recording a further album of new and original songs, with no indication of when such a project would reach completion. Brian Eno confirmedthat he has worked in the studio with Roxy Music once more and has co-written songs for the new album. However, Ferry later debunked the idea of a new Roxy Music album and stated that the material from these sessions will most likely be released as part of his next solo album,and that “I don’t think we’ll record as Roxy again.”
In October 2006 Ferry signed a contract with the British retailer Marks and Spencer to model their “Autograph” men’s clothing range. In March 2007 he released the album Dylanesque, a tribute album to Bob Dylan with backing vocals from the McDonald sisters Tara McDonald & Anna McDonald. The album charted in the UK Top 10, and Ferry undertook a UK tour. On 7 October 2008 Ferry was honoured as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards. He joined past Icons including Peter Gabriel, Ray Davies, Steve Winwood, and Van Morrison, amongst others.
In 2009 Ferry provided vocals on DJ Hell‘s record, U Can Dance. A new version of the track was recorded for Ferry’s new studio album, Olympia, released in October 2010. The album contained the material he had been recorded with his former Roxy Music band members, and also featured an impressive cast of other musicians such as Nile Rodgers, David A. Stewart, Scissor Sisters, Groove Armada, Michael “Flea” Balzary, Johnny Greenwood and David Gilmour, and also featured model Kate Moss on the front cover. Despite this, and being released in multiple “deluxe” editions (one including a large format hardback book), the album was not a commercial success in comparison to Ferry’s previous studio albums, barely making the UK Top 20 and dropping out of the chart altogether after only three weeks.
In June 2011 Ferry was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his contribution to the British music industry.
On the 26th November 2012, he released a new album The Jazz Age with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra. The album features new jazz renditions of some of Ferry’s older hits (from both his solo discography and with Roxy Music).