Get Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry vinyl and collectibles at the Goldmine shop
By Joe Matera
First breaking out of the Glam rock scene of the early 1970s, English art-pop-rockers Roxy Music continued exploring the boundaries of sonic experimentation throughout the decade. By 1980 they had arrived at the point in their career where their almost decade long electronic twiddling and mish-mashing had morphed in a much slicker concisely structured format. By the time of the band’s seventh album Flesh + Blood in 1980, Roxy Music had firmly set into place the synth-pop and atmospheric template of what was to follow two years later with their hugely commercially successful swan song Avalon.
Flesh and Blood ushered in a transitional point for Roxy Music in regards to what had come before and what was to come, blending elements of disco with the emerging synth-pop sounds of the new romantics. Their approach to making music had also evolved to. With an ear always pointed towards the future, the band were one of the first artists to use the newly developed LinnDrum introduced that same year, which was to afford the band a different approach to making music.
The making of the album also coincided with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera having just had his own studio built. Aptly named The Gallery Studio, it set the stage for work to begin on the next album.
“We got used to having my studio as our base and using the equipment almost as new instruments” recalls Manzanera today. “It became easier to experiment and we could all play in the control room which was enormous. As the Linn drum hand just been invented it helped with tracks as by then Paul (Thompson, drummer) had left the band.”
With Thompson gone, the band were now down to the core trio of Manzanera, Bryan Ferry and saxophonist Andy Mackay. Along for the ride, too, were an interchanging lineup of session players that included Paul Carrack on piano and organ, Andy Newmark and Allan Schwartzberg on drums, Alan Spenner Neil Jason and Gary Tibbs on bass, Simon Phillips on percussion and Neil Hubbard helping out on additional guitar duties.
With the writing and recording process, the core trio built the songs from the ground up pooling together all their ideas. “It was a mixture of the same method of all the previous albums from Stranded onwards” explains Manzanera. “We had demos Andy and I, that had music for Bryan to write his lyrics to. And Bryan also had some with chords and an idea of a melody but no lyrics. We then built them up with session musicians playing bass and drums. Some were done in New York, and some were done at my new studio, The Gallery.”
Aside from the band originals, the band also chose to record two covers; Wilson Pickett’s "In The Midnight Hour" and The Byrds' "Eight Miles High." “'In The Midnight Hour' was my idea” explains Manzanera on why the band decided to include the two covers. “Kenny Everett (English TV presenter and radio DJ) had asked us to play a track on his New Year’s Eve TV show so I chose that one. And because we all loved Motown and also some songs from the embryonic Psychedelic period, Bryan suggested 'Eight Miles High,' which was always one of my favorite songs and which showed the two sides of the '60s that we loved.”
The album opens with the soulful a cover of Wilson Picket’s "In The Midnight Hour" where Ferry croons and sways. The track very much echoes his later work. "Oh Yeah" is a majestic slice of synth-pop while the synth laden and delay stabs of "Same Old Scene" would prove influential on bands such Duran Duran that followed in Roxy Music’s footsteps with jabs of guitar punctuating the track supported by a killer bass groove which echoes the Roxy of old. Title track "Flesh and Blood" with its edge-y guitar and bass vamp, is a cool mid-tempo rocker. The driving "My Only Love" shapes and shifts before some gorgeous and tasteful guitar lines from Manzanera elevates it to the next level and closes Side A.
Side kicks off with the infectious radio staple "Over You" – with Manzanera on double duties of guitar and bass – and is Roxy Music at its most melodious best. The cover of "Eight Miles High" mixes new wave with a disco beat and a psychedelic guitar wig out. Especially check out the song’s main motif played by Manzanera on guitar and Andy Mackay on sax in union together. "Rain Rain Rain" is a moody slow burner, while the funky sparse "No Strange Delight" builds to a crescendo before the lush "Running Wild" beautifully closes the album proper.
Released on May 23, 1980, the album found commercial success in the U.K., reaching the No.1 spot for a total period of four weeks and spending 60 weeks on the U.K. album charts, giving the band its first No.1 since 1973's Stranded album. In the USA, it was a different story, though, as the album only managed to climb to No. 35. Four singles were released off the album, the first "Over You" b/w "My Only Love" was released in July (in the U.K. it was released on May 9 ahead of the album’s release there on May 23 and peaked at No.5) and peaked at No.80 on the Billboard Top 100, garnering the group their third Top 100 and also their last.
"Oh Yeah" b/w "Rain Rain Rain" followed as the second single issue and it too reached No.5 on the U.K. chart though failed to chart in the U.S. as did the third single "Same Old Scene" issued in October (a No. 12 in the U.K.). A fourth and final single, "In The Midnight Hour" b/w "Flesh and Blood" was issued in November.
The band embarked on tour in support of the album starting May 29, 1980, and wrapped up the tour in February, 1981. Upon completion of the tour, the band would later regroup and begin work on what would become their eighth and final studio outing, Avalon.
In The Midnight Hour
Same Old Scene
Flesh And Blood
My Only Love
Eight Miles High
Rain Rain Rain
No Strange Delight