MORE THAN THIS – THE ROXY MUSIC STORY (2009)
Featuring Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Brian Eno, Paul Thomson, Eddie Jobson, Gary Tibbs, Chris Thomas, Rhett Davies, Bob Clearmountain, Siouxsie Sioux, John Taylor, Martyn Ware, Steve Jones, Nile Rodgers, Goldfrapp and Bono.
Directed by Bob Smeaton.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 54 minutes. Not Rated.
Though they were a legendary band in their native England, Roxy Music was essentially a musical footnote in the US during their short life span.
Their biggest American hit, the sublime and wonderfully decadent dance/rock song “Love is the Drug,” just barely scratched its way into the US top forty. A few other songs danced in the lower reaches of the charts and their 1982 swan-song Avalon eventually went platinum in the US – years after the band had broken up.
Therefore despite about a decade in which they released eight acclaimed studio LPs and arguably gave birth to the glam rock and new wave movements, Roxy Music never had more than a devoted cult following in the US – mostly made up of musicians and rock journalists.
This concise (maybe a bit too concise – it runs less than an hour) documentary does a very pretty good job of tracking the band’s relatively short history.
Starting in working class England art colleges in the early seventies, Roxy Music was a different kind of band from day one. Sort of glam, but not really, kind of soul, kind of rock, very fashionable and oh so cool – Roxy was born of two musical geniuses. One was Bryan Ferry, a former teacher who loved soulful crooning. The other was the much more experimental musical artiste Brian Eno.
The band took a long and complicated trip through musical styles over the years – play someone who is not a fan of the band the songs “Virginia Plain” and “More Than This” back-to-back and I’ll bet you they would never guess they were the same band.
Of course, when there are two such strong musical personalities in a band there will be friction – particularly when the two have such different musical outlooks. Eno left the band after the second critically acclaimed Roxy Music album, but it was mostly an amicable parting. In fact, Eno freely admits here that he personally feels that Roxy’s greatest album was Stranded – the next album recorded after he left the band.
As Ferry took more and more control of the band, they moved into more dance and soul-oriented directions – and yet they retained their sense of musical experimentation that always drove the band. Ferry became fascinated by tone and nuance, creating wonderful albums and classic singles like the nostalgically yearning “Oh Yeah,” the bossa nova vibed heartbreaker “Dance Away” and the just plain sublimely gorgeous “Avalon.” Plus, Roxy’s cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” – recorded soon after the former Beatle’s murder – may be the finest cover ever of that ultimate songwriter.
Finally after a nearly two-year trek supporting Avalon, the band members all decided to go their own ways – not to play together as a band again for eighteen years.
The post-reunion section of the film feels a little rushed – though it is thoroughly welcome because it gives some little tastes of the studio sessions for the band’s long-threatened reunion album, with Eno back in the fold! Nearly five years later, who knows if those tapes will ever emerge anywhere else?
My biggest complaint would have to be that More Than This pretty much ignores the side projects that individual members of the band took on – both during the group’s 1973-1983 lifespan and in the many years after the breakup. I understand that the group dynamic is the main focus here, but it seems like a huge narrative hole ignoring the two decades or so between Roxy’s breakup and their eventual reunion tours. During that time (and even before), Ferry had a pretty respectable solo career. Eno became even more inventive a musician, while also working as a producer with some of the great talents of rock such as U2 and David Byrne. Mackay and Manzanera worked together (and separately) on some very interesting projects. Even Eddie Jobson had a minor MTV hit in the early eighties.
I know the group is the main thrust of the film – as it should be – however, they could have touched on these things. It would make the jump from Avalon to the 2001 reunion a little less jarring.
That said, if you are a fan of Roxy there is much to love here – rare performances, old video snippets, interviews with every band member and many famous fans. If you haven’t been initiated into the cult of Roxy Music yet, then here is a good place to start. I’ll bet you will seek out more Roxy music.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 31, 2009.