In 1972, alien invaders conquered rock and roll. Armed with gender-bending theatrics and raucous guitar riffs, the likes of David Bowie and Marc Bolan invented otherworldly characters, uprooted musical conventions, and inspired a generation of adolescents to follow in their footsteps. But while Bowie looked to an apocalyptic future and Bolan sought liberation in the present, their contemporaries in Roxy Music fused disparate styles of the past into a curious melange. Blending the sophistication of black-and-white cinema with the kitsch of Pop Art and the decadence of fin-de-siècle Europe, Roxy cultivated an aesthetic too heady to be ignored. Now that the band has embarked on an arena tour of the United States and United Kingdom in support of its 50th anniversary, its allure clearly endures.
If coolness could be distilled into an individual, it would resemble Bryan Ferry, Roxy’s debonair frontman who was seemingly born in a finely tailored suit. Blessed with a rich head of hair and a seductively dynamic croon, he danced breezily before his microphone on stage, warbling lyrics that expressed the frenetic energy of youth—“Learn from your mistakes is my only advice, and stay cool is still the main rule. Don’t play yourself for a fool. Too much cheesecake too soon”—and the travails of romance as if they were plucked from some postmodern alternative to the Great American Songbook—“If you’re looking for love in a looking glass world, it’s pretty hard to find.”