Laborious exploration of a great English rock band’s art-school roots.
British novelist and cultural writer Bracewell has managed to write a book about a musical group that evinces virtually no interest in music. His purported subject is Roxy Music, which emerged in the early 1970s with an unpredictable sound and flashy look to become, with acts like David Bowie and T. Rex, the leaders of glam rock. Bracewell allows more than 300 pages to elapse before getting to the band’s first London rehearsal and closes with the release of its first album. The author marches lugubriously through his subjects’ education at various provincial English art schools during the ’60s, piling up mountains of detail while making obvious points about the confluence of art and style references in Roxy Music’s presentation. The central figure is lead vocalist Bryan Ferry, who studied visual arts in Newcastle with Pop Art figurehead Richard Hamilton (later to design the Beatles’s White Album). Saxophonist Andrew Mackay and keyboardist Brian Eno were similarly instructed at Reading and Winchester, respectively. Looking beyond the obvious influence of artists-provocateurs like Duchamp and Warhol, Bracewell considers the impact of such members of the Roxy orbit as clothing designer Antony Price and hair stylist Keith Wainwright. Ferry, Eno and Mackay are extensively interviewed (without benefit of judicious editing), as are Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera, drummer Paul Thompson and a host of art-scene types. Ultimately, the author fails to connect the dots for the reader—his voluminous research never pays off with a deeper understanding of ’70s British pop.
Those with an endless interest in English art movements of the ’60s may find Bracewell’s work endlessly fascinating. Anyone who wants to learn something about the band will be swiftly exhausted by this unsifted lode of dead-end minutiae.