Roxy Music and the superb Viva!

Roxy Music - Live 1975/76 (youtube.com)

Roxy Music – Live 1975/76

Introduction

This article is dedicated to 1976’s The Live Roxy Music Album, the fantastic Viva! Roxy Music, which is part of my favorite live albums and my personal top 50 albums of all time.

Before Viva!

In June 1972 Roxy Music’s debut album, simply called Roxy Music, was released. An impressive album by the English art-rock band which was led by Bryan Ferry, who was also responsible for the music and lyrics. Within 9 months the follow-up For Your Pleasure was released. After the departure of the flamboyant Brian Eno, who was deemed an integral part of the band with his urge for experimentation, Roxy Music delivered the magnificent Stranded in November 1973. One year later Country Life was released, regarded as their best by many. Late October 1975 album Siren was released, which contained the huge hit Love Is The Drug.

In just over 3 years the group had recorded and released 5 (!) classics. In the meantime the band tirelessly toured, bringing the Roxy Music outings to life. The band was a ‘must see’ sensation.

During the same period singer Bryan Ferry managed to release two solo albums: These Foolish Things (1973) and Another Time, Another Place (1974), albums filled with covers.

After finishing the tour for Siren in early 1976, the band decided to take a time-out. Quite understandable after those hard working and demanding years. On June 26th, 1976, the band announced their temporary recess: “We have all decided to go our separate ways, for the rest of the year at least, to have a rest from Roxy Music for a while”.

Roxy Music - Viva! Roxy Music (discogs.com)

Viva! Roxy Music

Viva! Roxy Music

During the spring of 1976 the band had reconvened to listen to and mix a huge amount of live recordings for a proposed live album that was set to be released in 1976. The album was compiled in April 1976. It is said that the album was originally slated to be a double album, but I haven’t found any confirmation on it.

The result, Viva! Roxy Music, was released in the month of July in 1976 in order to cover the time of the band’s recess. It turned out to be much more than just that: it has become the ultimate live document of the classic Roxy Music era (1972 – 1975).

It’s immediately obvious upon hearing the first sounds on the album, an ecstatic audience that is waiting impatiently for Roxy Music. The first drum beats announce the arrival of Out Of The Blue, played in an energetic raw version. Within one minute of the album it’s glaringly clear that this is going to be a great ride.

Each song confirms that even more. A pumping Pyjamarama is followed by the alienating funky The Bogus Man. Chance Meeting is the first, and truly enchanting, pause. This is quickly followed by a truly phenomenal Both Ends Burning, with the band giving their all and the euphoria of a live concert is hurled into the listener’s living room. An impressive experience, time and time again.

Both ends burning
Burning
Burn!

Roxy Music - Bryan Ferry - Live Stockholm 1976 (chrisgoesrock.tumblr.com)

Roxy Music – Bryan Ferry – Live Stockholm 1976

Side B of the vinyl contains ‘just’ three songs, with the first two taking up to 20 minutes. If There Is Something is a beautiful musical journey, with the song evoking different atmospheres and feels several times. The imminent, beautiful, classic and moving In Every Dream Home A Heartache, about an inflatable doll, pulverizes the studio version. This is the only version that matters.

Inflatable doll
Lover ungrateful
I blew up your body

Followed by a kick on the snare drum.

But you blew my mind

Bursting the song open with a compelling riff, accompanied by Phil Manzanera, who solos like his life depends on it.

Oh those heartaches
Dreamhome heartaches

The closer Do The Strand drives the point home one last time and ends with a echo filled drum beat.

Roxy Music - Viva! Roxy Music ad - Algemeen Dagblad July 8, 1976 (apoplife.nl)

Algemeen Dagblad July 8, 1976

Date of release

In many online sources August is labeled as the month of release. This is wrong; relying on Dutch and British sources for chart information, the album was definitely released in July.

The Dutch dutchcharts.nl cites July 17, 1976 as the date of entry in the Dutch album charts. Some additional searching yielded an ad in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad dated July 8, 1976 (selling price ƒ 12,-!). The date for the Dutch date of release probably lies within the week of July 5 and 9, 1976.

The English officialcharts.com cites July 31, 1976 as the date of entry in the English album charts. Following the same logic as with the Dutch release, the English date of release probably lies within the week of July 19 and 23, 1976.

Roxy Music - Viva! Roxy Music - UK ad (picclick.co.uk)

Viva! Roxy Music – UK ad

Reception

Viva! Roxy Music received some rave reviews, which live albums rarely got. However, the success the band had earned in the US with predecessor Siren, could not be continued.

Below the most important remarks from two American, one English and two Dutch reviews can be found. For those who want to read the full reviews, see the sub article Viva! Roxy Music – The reviews.

But the music has the fire of Roxy’s best shows, and that’s as good as any English rock I’ve heard in the last couple years.
(Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, June 1 1976)

This isn’t bad, not for a live album issued in lieu of current studio product.
(Robert Christgau, 1976)

It’s a genuinely exciting, often thrilling record, which captures precisely the flash and bravado of an impressive and intelligent band.
(Allan Jones, Melody Maker, July 3 1976)

Roxy Music receives a warm welcome on this live-record, and rightfully so. The living rooms can’t fall behind.
(Jim van Alphen, Het Parool, July 24 1976)

On ‘Viva!’ it rocks and swings all over the place, music is made with more zeal and passion; as far as I’m concerned, the seventh Roxy Music-record may also be a live album, because I remember much more fine music from their shows.
(Wim Jassies, Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, July 30 1976)

Roxy Music - Viva! Roxy Music - American ad (thatevenspotblog.blogspot.com)

Viva! Roxy Music – American ad

Review

As stated in the article on Stranded my father was a big Roxy Music lover. He had all albums up to Viva! Roxy Music. I went over the covers time after time and stared at the images for hours. Eno was prticularly fascinating.

My love for Roxy Music started with Viva! Roxy Music, which was the first album I consciously heard. My reaction to and my opinion on this album is probably clouded by nostalgia, but that doesn’t change the fact that Viva! Roxy Music is one of the most exciting live albums of all time.

This album puts the ‘art’ in art-rock into the background. From the very start the band sounds heavier than on their studio albums, but also more immediate and forceful. Vocally, Bryan Ferry is at the top of his gamer. It’s also a great album to drum along to, which I used to a lot.

I vividly remember, especially being younger, that the start of the album fascinated me hugely. I felt audience’s tension, that was filled with anticipation, waiting for the moment the band would emerge on stage. That was something special, a concert. I wanted that as well! (*).

But the fact that truly stands out is just how good the band really is. The rhythm section especially, since the album gives room to three different bass players, recorded during the Stranded, Country Life and Siren tours. Despite the different sources, band line-ups and tours, the songs possess a unifying sound, coming from one show, giving the album a coherent feel.

Roxy Music translated the excitement experienced at live shows perfectly into vinyl and made listening to the record almost the same as actually being at the venue. And the band plays, indiviually as well, at top level and the songs are great as well. What more can you ask for?

Okay, well, one flaw. It should have been a double album. The only thing I want after listening to this album is more, much more Roxy Music.

Viva! Roxy Music is placed at position 23 in my personal top 50 albums of all time and is part of my favorite live albums.

(*) In reality Out Of The Blue was played as the fourth song during the Country Life tour.

Roxy Music - Viva! Roxy Music - Gatefold (discogs.com)

Viva! Roxy Music – Gatefold

Songs

All song written by Bryan Ferry, except Out Of The Blue, written by Bryan Ferry and Phil Manzanera.

  • Out Of The Blue (#, †)
  • Pyjamarama (*, Θ)
  • The Bogus Man (#, ¤)
  • Chance Meeting (*, φ)
  • Both Ends Burning (±, ψ)
  • If There Is Something (#, φ)
  • In Every Dream Home A Heartache (#, ¤)
  • Do The Strand (#, Θ)

Recorded at/on
* Glasgow, Green’s Playhouse (Apollo) / November 2, 1973
# Newcastle, City Hall / October 27 or 28, 1974
± London, Wembley Empire Pool / October 17 or 18, 1975
Coming off the album
φ Roxy Music
Θ Single (August 1972, not released on an album, later added to the Roxy Music album)
¤ For Your Pleasure
¢ Single (March 1973, not released on an album)
† Country Life
ψ Siren

For Your Pleasure was also recorded live at the 1975 Wembley Empire Pool show and was released as the B-side to the Both Ends Burning single.

Roxy Music - Viva! Roxy Music - Back cover (discogs.com)

Viva! Roxy Music – Back cover

Musicians

Roxy Music

  • Bryan Ferry – vocals, keyboards
  • Eddie Jobson – electric violin , synthesizer, keyboards
  • Andy Mackay – saxophone, oboe
  • Phil Manzanera – guitar
  • John Wetton – bass
  • Paul Thompson – drums

Complementary

  • John Gustafson – bass on Both Ends Burning
  • Sal Maida – bass on Pyjamarama and Chance Meeting
  • The Sirens (Doreen Chanter and Jacqui Sullivan) – background vocals on Both Ends Burning

Rick Wills is also mentioned as bass player, but he doesn’t play on the album.

Roxy Music - Greatest hits (1977) (postpunkmonk.com)

Roxy Music – Greatest hits (1977)

After Viva! Roxy Music

Bryan Ferry continued his solo career, which almost instantaneously spawned a huge hit with the single Let’s Stick Together. The accompanying album was once again filled with covers, but the 1977 In Your Mind album consisted of original material written by Bryan Ferry. In 1978 The Bride Stripped Bare was released, a mix of original and cover material. Roxy Music members Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson guested on the solo albums.

Phil Manzanera reunited with Brian Eno using the moniker 801 and released 801 Live. Eddie Jobson initially left for Frank Zappa (Jobson can be heard on the fantastic Live In New York) and subsequently formed the band UK with former Roxy Music bass player John Wetton.

In the meantime the June 1976 announcement of a yearlong recess seemed to turn out longer and longer. To keep the name alive the band released the compilation Greatest Hits in November 1977. The single Virginia Plain was re-released and became a hit again.

Late 1978 the four core members of Roxy Music decided to reconvene. Early 1979 Manifesto saw the light of day, which was preceded by the single Trash. It was a flop, but I distinctly remember buying it in a bargain sale for only ƒ 1,- from the defunct warehouse Vroom & Dreesmann. I loved the song! After the albums Flesh + Blood (1980) and the beautiful Avalon Roxy Music was over.

Roxy Music 09/13/2001 concert ticket (apoplife.nl)

Roxy Music 09/13/2001 concert ticket

Well, over until the band decided to do a reunion tour in 2001. It brought the band to The Netherlands as well, so I had to go. On September 13th, 2001, the time had finally come, at long last I witnessed Roxy Music live and they were good, great even. Very happy to have witnessed them. Rumors about a new album were confirmed (even Brian Eno was involved), but the band decided against the release. in 2011 the band went on hiatus. Roxy Music was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

In closing

Viva! Roxy Music is a classic live album that is deserving of a re-release, including extras. At the time there were plenty of recordings to choose from. Wouldn’t it be great if the band would release an entire show of each 1970s tour? Viva! Deluxe? Yes, please!

What’s our take on Viva! Roxy Music? Do you like it as much as well? Let me know!

Video/Spotify
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Roxy Music and the superb Viva!. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

2 comments

  1. There is an excellent bootleg 2CD set ( Soundboard ) of Roxy Music at Newcastle City Hall 1974.

    1. Thank you so much for replying. I will look out for that one!

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!