Search This Blog

Bryan Ferry

October 2013

IT is a career than has spanned over 40 years, with both Roxy Music and as a solo artist. And Bryan Ferry says he owes it all to a Nottingham man.

“He was the first guy to ever write anything about me and Roxy Music, so he discovered us in a way,” says Ferry on former Post reporter Richard Williams.

“I owe all my success in music to him really,” he adds, generously.

Williams, who until recently was a senior sports writer for The Guardian, was working at the now defunct music weekly Melody Maker when he first heard Roxy Music.

“I sent him a tape of the first Roxy demos and he called me later that day and said it was the best thing he’d heard since... God knows when.”

They are still friends.

“I saw him the other week when I went to Booker T and the MGs. He played with Otis Redding and I’d seen him when I was a young lad, so I went along to see him at Ronnie Scott’s and Richard was there. We had a good talk.

“Richard is a great writer; he wrote a great book about Miles Davis,” he says of one of his jazz heroes.

Williams wrote the sleeve notes for Ferry’s latest album, The Jazz Age, an unusual collection of instrumental versions of past Roxy/Ferry songs in a 1920s jazz style.

“My relationship with jazz goes back to when I was ten years old,” says the 68-year-old, who grew up in the north-east.

“When I started buying my first records they were all jazz.”

This was the mid-fifties, just before rock’n’roll exploded and the young Ferry was listening to the likes of trad jazz revivalists Chris Barber and Ken Collier.

“Listening to them you would naturally go back to the originals, so I began investigating Louis Armstrong and the like.

“That quickly developed my interest in other periods and great players like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

“I really was into it big time for a few years, then the demon of rock music took over,” he says with a faint chuckle.

Jazz concerts were his first experience of live music.

“My family would take me to see Chris Barber, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and people like that at the City Hall in Newcastle. It was pretty powerful stuff.”

His dad would stay at home in County Durham.

“My dad wasn’t into music,” says Ferry, who is softly spoken and free of any accent.

“He was brought up on a farm and worked as a farm labourer, then in the depression he worked, still looking after the horses but, down the pit.

“So he was a country man. Music was all a bit noisy for him. He was used to the quiet of the farm and down the mine; I imagine that was pretty quiet.

“But my mother was into her music as were my big sisters. They used to have friends round the house playing records.”

His parents were different personalities, he says.

“He was from the farm, my mother was from the town. He used to court her on a plough horse for ten years before they got married. It was very old-fashioned.”

The young Ferry was exposed to the burgeoning music scene, taken to see Bill Haley on the first rock’n’roll tour of England but the realisation that music was his calling didn’t come until 1967 when he saw Otis Redding in concert.

“It was just before he died and I hitchhiked from Newcastle down to London to see him, Sam & Dave and all the others on the Stax Roadshow.

“It was an amazing concert and was when I felt that I really wanted to do this.”

He admits to being “an oddity” at the local grammar school after being consumed by art and literature.

It wasn’t until he went to university in Newcastle, where he studied fine art, that he met like-minded people.

While there he played with local bands The Banshees and Gas Board. When he graduated, Ferry moved to London and put Roxy Music together with Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and Paul Thompson.

Their second bass-player, one of more than a dozen over the years, was Nottingham-born Rik Kenton. Lasting just eight months, Kenton played on the group’s first hit, Virginia Plain.

Roxy Music became one of the most influential groups of the decade, combining glam looks with rock, electronic and dance music.

Virginia Plain, a No. 4 hit in 1972, was the first of a total 17 hits before the group split in 1982. They included Over You, More Than This and their only chart-topping single, their cover of John Lennon’s Jealous Guy. Ferry continued with the solo career he’d been running alongside Roxy Music and scored hits Let’s Stick Together, Slave To Love and A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.

The band has since reformed for arena tours including two visits to Nottingham.

There are no plans for another one and Ferry is focussed on the An Evening With... tour that comes to Nottingham next week.

“I’ve got to point out that I will be singing,” he says, aware that The Jazz Age is all instrumental.

“I have to stress that. I won’t just be on stage conducting.”

The show will feature a few songs from the album with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra but the majority of it will be what he calls “rock music.”

He says: “We’ve got quite a big band. We’ve got the jazz guys and the rock players from my band. We start off with some of the jazz things but the main show is the rock music.

“There’ll be a lot of songs from Roxy and solo albums; all the different periods, to get a good cross section of what I did.”

An Evening With Bryan Ferry is at the Royal Concert Hall on Monday, October 28. Tickets are £35 to £65, from the box office, call 0115 989 5555 or go to

No comments:

Post a Comment