Loveboxx Is The Drug: Proxy Music Say Roxy Aren’t Poxy

Last weekend saw Roxy Music headline Loveboxx. We decided to send our favourite tribute group Proxy Music, who were playing a Festival afterparty that same night, to attend and deliver their verdict

2010 – Grove Road, E3 9PM

It ain’t the most glamorous place on earth for Roxy Music to be playing.

But then of course, neither was the Marquee, where John Peel witnessed ’em supporting Genesis. Nether was Wembley Arena, where, Siouxsie met Severin for the first time. It would be true to Roxy’s mythos that they’d always stand out from their surroundings like emissaries from another more glamorous and perverse dimension. Yet whether they can manage this in their sixties is what we’re here to find out. As the members of Proxy Music, in the finest lurex-heavy and glitter-strewn threads we can muster for our stage garb, wander up the hill to Victoria Park, through the gates, and across a darkening metropolitan Hierornymous Bosch tableau, we’re magnetically drawn to the same band that’s done the same for freaks and outsiders through the ages and beyond, a band we’ve even spent more hours than we care to remember rendering ourselves in the image of.

1964 – New York City

Susan Sontag writes ‘On Camp’.

“11. Camp is the triumph of the epicene style. (The convertibility of "man" and "woman," "person" and "thing.") But all style, that is, artifice, is, ultimately, epicene. Life is not stylish. Neither is nature”

1970 – Kensington High Street, W8

Graham and Bryan are practicing in Viv’s flat with a recent acquaintance called Andy. They realise it’d be nice to tape what they’re doing so they can hear it back, and Andy mentions a lad he’s met at an art performance in Reading, another Brian, who’s got a tape recorder.

2010 – Victoria Park 9.10PM

Striding urgently though a neon blizzard of drinks advertising. Mark Ronson has just finished. Men in shorts are staggering, voices are slurring, and the ladies are in regulation head-to-toe Top Shop. Groove Armada’s party simply won’t do at all.

1986 – Gateshead, Tyne & Wear

Whiling away yet another hour sifting through my parents’ record collection, I have a chance meeting with a copy of an album called ‘Stranded’. The sleeve is glamorous, kitsch and raunchy. At first I’m not sure exactly what this ‘Roxy Music’ jive is all about, and wonder whether it’s some kind of retro-glamour orientated compilation, or some slightly lofty art statement whose reference points I won’t be able to understand . Yet even then I’m intrigued enough to stick the needle on the scratchy vinyl . An eerie, atmospheric noise rings out loudly and beguilingly atop the swaggering opener. I can’t make out a word of the lyrics, but once more there’s a raunchy, louche quality to their drawl that keeps me sticking that needle on time and again .

1964 – Newcaste-Upon-Tyne

Mark Lancaster, very much the ‘it boy’ of the Fine Art Department at Newcastle University, has just returned from New York. He presents a lecture on his experiences there, where he participated in Warhol’s Factory and immersed himself in the glamour of a city he was fascinated by. Lesley Gore, Dionne Warwick, and ‘Moon River’ ring out across the room, as slides of fire escapes and yellow taxi cabs reflect in the eyes of the assembled. Rapt in the audience sits an undergraduate named Bryan.

2010 – The Victoria, Grove Road. 11.15PM

We round up the troops, and march onto the small black stage of this black-painted East-end boozer. By design, we’ve attempted to doll ourselves up as much like the Roxy Music of 1972-5 as is reasonably possible\The first number of this particular set is ‘Street Life’. And try as I may, it’s a devil of a job conjure up that eerie screaming noise at the start of the tune.

2010 – Victoria Park, 9.30PM

With a relieved roar from the crowd and a barrage of cover art images on the backdrop, Roxy Music saunter onto the stage. To our delight, they kick off with ‘Re-Make/Re-Model’. Bryan Ferry is playing piano and singing, and is appearing to find the effort of doing both a decidedly flustering experience. When he finally staggers forward, his quiff slightly dropping in the summer breeze, his jowly countenace rather resembles the actor Tom Wilkinson, Paul Thompson, always the bedrock that held together the more wayward and aerated aspects of the band, appropriately now looks like an ageing brickie. Mackay, like a trendy university lecturer. Manzanera is trim, beaming and well-turned out, the experience of an entire world tour as rhythm guitarist to David Gilmour apparently not having had the soul-sapping effect on him one might have imagined. No matter how hard I try to detach myself, my eyes are on his fingers checking whether he plays the songs the same as I do. The audience is initially ecstatic, but quickly seem to be falling prey to gadfly attention spans, prone to bellowing into mobiles, updating twitters and wandering back and forth looking for either more drinks or anything more pulse-racing going on elsewhere.

2008 – Pitfield Street, N1, 2AM

The first ever Proxy Music band practice, which involves only four of us, takes place without a drummer, and naturally after several hours in the pub. And although to all other ears this might just sound like a caterwauling glitter cacophony, it’s no small revelation to hear that we can actually conjure up some kind of inept but just about tolerable facsimile of the band whose elusive magic has haunted us for so long. Oddly, we never really seemed to discuss the idea of sticking to pre-‘Country Life’-era songs: it just seemed like a fait accompli, there being an unspoken agreement that thereafter was a gradual slide in charisma and allure, as Ferry’s ego blossomed, Eno’s anarchic sensibilities were slowly forgotten, and the band began to metamorphosise into the sleek, radio-friendly incarnaton of the post-‘Manifesto’ era. But this, as it turns out, doesn’t stop us being asked if we’re going to play ‘Oh Yeah’ or ‘Avalon’ at pretty much every show we do.

2010 – Victoria Park, 10PM

All attention is temporarily drawn away during ‘Out Of The Blue’ by a blitzkrieg of a solo from the band’s violinist, who’s wearing a killer silver catsuit and later turns out to be Anna Phoebe, something of a poster-girl for prog rock fans, for her sins. Is it our imagination, or are the six or so backing singers covering for all Ferry’s high notes? ‘If There Is Something’ despite the pavlovian joy of its intro, descends into a plodding swamp of ponderous noodling, like the band’s artrock youth is a truly distant memory they’re struggling to piece together .’Ladytron’, however, is as skyward a trip as ever, and Phil’s avuncular presence is suddenly ursurped by the guitar hero of yore. Then we yo-yo-back to boredom again., with an oboe and violin duel that lasts long enough for Ferry to wander backstage to resurrect his quiff and lose all momentum in the process The realisation dawns: this is not a band, especially as tonight, when they’re playing the stuff that members of Proxy actually want to hear, who are an ideal festival headliner. And especially not a festival like this one populated by folk who’d rather not actually take the plunge of a proper three-dayer in the countryside. Roxy aren’t too old, they’re too odd.

2004 – London, Oxford Street W1

Just having returned from a gig I was playing in Brighton, I remark on the evening’s events to a friend. ‘Yeah, I met this ace lass while I was down there. She knows which band Eddie Jobson was in before he joined Roxy Music’

2010 – London, The Victoria Grove Road, 11.45PM

The place is filling up now with the post-Lovebox punters wandering down to the tube and grabbing a last drink to prolong the evening’s frolics. They stare aghast and/or amused as they enter the door at our tarty exuberance, We remember the meandering ‘If There Is Something’ as a cautionary tale as we weave our way through its serpentine avant-country strains. I try not to think of Manzanera’s professorial grin as I try to wrench an appropriately shrieking solo out of the ‘Ladytron’ outro.

2010 – London ,Victoria Park, 10.15PM

‘A Song For Europe’ has rather split the vote here. Two of our number, including myself, are rather partial to its mawkish melodrama and Franglais declamation, whilst two are indifferent and antsy. Whichever, its epic strains temporarily make these eldritch environs more like pre-war Berlin and less like a big field overhung by tower blocks and populated by party-hearty sunburnt hipsters in flip-flops and straw hats. ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ is weirder still: The long, strange Ballardian drift of its first section naturally constituting festival suicide, the band have spruced it up to something with nominal beats and a slick sheen the like of which one might have heard on ‘Avalon’, and the effect is like meeting a degenerate ex-girlfriend ten years on and finding she’s become a merchant banker.

‘Jealous Guy’. Right, we’re off. As we walk down the hill back to the Victoria, Roxy Music strike up ‘Virginia Plain’.

2010 – Victoria, Grove Road, 12AM

We hammer through ‘Virginia Plain’ and the place erupts, this being always the Roxy song the most people always recognise. Girls dance down the front, boozed-up festival-goers pogo around the back, while outside around London Lovebox punters moan that Roxy were boring and slow, and in some cases that they weren’t as good as Mark Ronson.

1972 – BBC Television Centre, W12

Roxy Music’s performance of ‘Virginia Plain’ takes place, and is summarily beamed into millions of homes via Top Of The Pops, spinning a thousand lives into orbit, confusing another thousand to brow-furrowing extremes, and lighting the blue touch paper on another thousand teenage dreams.

But then, Roxy wll always be more than this, a band who exist in a world of the imagination, in dreams and ideals and hallucinations more than anything we can pin down to a bunch of sixtysomethings in front of a load of jittery thirtysomething festivalgoers, or a bunch of thirtysomethings in front of a load of pissed-up pub punters. And so shall they always be, far beyond the pale horizon, some place near the desert strand.

You Don’t Ask Why.

(With apologies to Remake/Remodel the excellent book by Michael Bracewell)

_Proxy Music are the Quietus’ party band of choice. For more information on them and their mysterious ways click here.

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