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Roxy Music Belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Updated on December 7, 2013
Roxy Music, circa 1972.
Roxy Music, circa 1972. | Source

The early and mid-1970s was a distinctly bleak time for Rock music. After the creative explosion of Rock and Roll in the late 1960s, Rock had settled into a bloated, formulaic morass of pre-packaged, disconnected arena-rock and pampered supergroups producing pap pop. It was the era in which The Eagles, America, Jackson Browne, Elton John, The Carpenters, Linda Ronstadt, and The Doobie Brothers dominated the charts, much of it with music that was influenced by nostalgia from previous decades of Rock.

In the post-Beatles era, Ringo Starr put out original junk and remakes of late 1950s/early 1960s rockabilly like “Back Off, Boogaloo,”“Photograph,” and “You’re Sixteen,” which shot immediately to the top of the charts in the absence of anything else; George Harrison had a hit with “My Sweet Lord,” which was judged to be a rip-off of the Chiffons’ 1963 hit “He’s So Fine.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney also descended into the treacle with fluff and half-assed nostalgia product like “My Love,” Lennon’s Rock and Roll album, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” and even McCartney doing a version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (yes, really!).

Even great, legendary Rock and Roll bands that managed to stay together during Rock’s soulless days-- like The Rolling Stones and The Who-- succumbed to the prevailing trend and cranked out inane junk like “Angie” and “Squeeze Box.” Rock’s mid-1970’s creative void was so pervasive that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album remained on Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 album list for 741 consecutive weeks from 1973 to 1988.

“Imagine it's 1973, you're looking for something to do, school isn't really working for you, and a band like Roxy Music comes along. You'd say, 'That's what I want to do.' What else could compare to making that kind of noise, wearing those kinds of clothes?" -- John Taylor of Duran Duran, quoted in Rolling Stone Magazine

Yet in the breach, there were a few rays of light that provided a truly creative bridge from Rock’s 1960s glory days to what was to come next. In the United States, there was The Velvet Underground, Iggy and The Stooges, and Frank Zappa. In the UK, there was David Bowie, T. Rex, and what would ultimately, undoubtedly become the most influential band of the early and mid-1970s, Roxy Music. According to music critic Tim de Lisle in a 2005 article in The Guardian newspaper, Roxy Music is second only to The Beatles in terms of their influence.

Perhaps one of the first rock groups to grow out of a formal art school education, Roxy Music burst on the scene in 1972 featuring wild glam-rock costumes, and deliciously challenging, provocative lyrics. The band was cobbled together with an urbane lead singer, an oboe and saxophone player, a castoff guitarist with Latin roots, a working-class drummer, and a flamboyant synthesizer and electronic effects player (a first?) named Brian Eno.

"We didn't go to art school, like so many bands. We went to Brian [Eno]." -- U2’s Bono

“I explained this whole concept of Roxy Music [and] we started hiring people to be in our Black version of Roxy Music… “ --Nile Rogers on forming Chic

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine conducted an extensive survey of 271 artists, producers, industry executives and journalists to pick the 500 greatest albums of all time. Four Roxy Music albums made the cut—Avalon, Siren, Stranded, and For Your Pleasure. In the magazine’s revised Top 500 list-- which included many compilation and greatest hits albums—two Roxy Music and two Brian Eno solo albums made the list, plus several seminal albums produced by Brian Eno: More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads at #383, Devo’s Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo! at #442, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light at #129, U2’s The Joshua Tree at #27.

"I was, and am, a huge fan. I was president of the Roxy Music fan club at the University of Wisconsin. We used to hold Roxythons once a month where we would play their albums non-stop." --Butch Vig, drummer and co-founder of Garbage, producer of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Foo Fighters albums

On Pitchfork Media's 2004 list of The Top 100 Albums of the 1970s, Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure came in at #87, with Country Life just missing the list at #101. Yet three Brian Eno solo albums made the Top 100, with Before and After Science at #100, Here Come the Warm Jets at #24, and Another Green World at #10. Pitchfork's #1 album of the 1970s-- David Bowie's Low-- featured Eno as a songwriting collaborator and multi-instrumentalist. Additionally, three Eno-produced albums made the list, at #89, #45, and #31. In other words, nine of Pitchfork's Top 101 albums of the 1970s featured original members of Roxy Music as performers or producers-- accounting for 9% of the best musical output of an entire decade.

Music critic Tim de Lisle of British newspaper The Guardian wrote in 2005 that Roxy Music is second only to The Beatles in terms of influence among British rock groups. Also in 2005, Roxy Music was named to Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “Immortals”—the Top 100 artists of all time.

"The early 70s were kind of boring apart from Roxy Music." -- Legendary British Disc Jockey John Peel

"The Sex Pistols, Television, Roxy Music, Patti Smith - these people are in our Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Thank you." -- U2 drummer Larry Mullen, speaking on behalf of U2 in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction acceptance speech

In terms of sales, the Roxy Music influence might not be readily apparent in the United States. The band had only one hit that made the US Top 40, 1975’s “Love Is the Drug,” which peaked at #30. But in the UK, they had ten Top 10 hits and 17 Top 40 hits. Of their eight studio albums, all eight reached the Top 10 on the UK album chart, with three hitting #1. Four Roxy albums made the Top 50 on the US album chart, and another eventually reached Platinum status. Around the world, Roxy Music had multiple Top 20 hits in Canada, Germany, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and Australia.

It’s hard to imagine the triumph of many other classic albums without the influence of Roxy Music. Talking Heads, U2, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Sex Pistols, Chic, Kraftwerk, Spandau Ballet, David Bowie, Robert Fripp, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Devo (including the many film Soundtracks by Mark Mothersbaugh), Magazine, Pet Shop Boys, Cabaret Voltaire, the list goes on and on.

Given the purported criteria for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-- influence, impact, longevity (and let's be frank, sales)-- how in the world is is possible that Roxy Music has not been inducted in their 16 years of eligibility for the honor?


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