Duran Duran Celebrate Roxy Music’s ‘Pulp Science Fiction’ in Rock Hall Speech
Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and John Taylor remembered the seismic shift of watching Roxy Music make their British TV debut and described their lifelong affinity for the band while inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In a recent interview, Taylor recalled being mesmerized by Roxy Music after seeing them on television in the early Seventies. “They were just like nothing we’d ever seen before,” he said. “They were from outer space almost.”
Years later, Duran Duran would cover the Roxy Music cut they watched on that fateful BBC broadcast, “Virginia Plain,” using it as an intro for their own hit, “Rio.” Taylor would also go on to cover Roxy Music’s “Just Another High” on Dream Home Heartaches… Remaking/Remodeling Roxy Music, a tribute album he also produced.
Read Duran Duran’s induction speech below.
Simon Le Bon: The 24th of August 1972; an evening in late summer. It’s almost the end of the school holidays — one of those days when it felt like England was about to choke on its own nostalgia; nostalgia for the war years, for the finest hours while we, the teenagers, were screaming inside for something, anything, to happen, and music was where we were looking for signs of life.
David Bowie and the Spiders had made their debut earlier in the year; Queen’s was just around the corner. It was into this atmosphere that Roxy Music dropped their pop-culture bomb on the British public, performing their first single, “Virginia Plain,” on prime-time BBC television.
The sound was a shock to the system — a psychedelic Sinatra, crooning pop-art poetry over driving drums over oboes and saxophones, heavily treated electric guitars and the most out-there synthesizer parts you’d ever heard. The musicians themselves were dressed outrageously, each one with an individual, well-defined look.
Put it all together, and what you got was pulp science fiction.
John Taylor: Their wildly exciting self-titled debut album was just as cinematic. It took the listener to burnt-out battlefields, sunlit beaches and darkened movie theaters. There was funk, country & western, rock & roll, German experimental music, doo-wop. all hybridized into something entirely new. But this was more than just music; this was all-encompassing, pioneer lifestyle branding. This was an entire genre unto itself. This was Roxy Music!
Nick Rhodes and I went to see Roxy in 1974, when they came to Birmingham. I was 14. On a Saturday afternoon we found ourselves in the lobby of the Odeon, where we made the acquaintance of two fans. They told us that if we hurried down the alley alongside the building we could hear them rehearsing. This is where I learned about the secret world of the soundcheck.
There were a dozen kids standing around, all wearing Roxy T-shirts and scarves. We listened as they warmed up on songs from their latest album, Country Life.
Suddenly the music stopped, and on cue, a black Mercedes rolled up to the backstage door — I’d never seen a black Mercedes in my life. In a sudden frenzy of activity, the band rushed out into the light and piled into the car, which took off at speed. A girl shouted, “They’re staying at the Holiday Inn!” So off we ran, at full pelt across Birmingham City Center. When the car pulled up at the hotel entrance, we were already there. I remember thinking [guitarist] Phil Manzanera was the tallest person I had ever seen, although knowing him now, it must have been the platform boots.
At the show that evening, I recorded Roxy on my portable cassette player — you could do that back then! And the next night, in my darkened, suburban bedroom, I listened back, and realized what I wanted to be. I knew my destiny.
Le Bon: The subsequent journey of Roxy Music, piloted by the open-heart surgery that was Bryan Ferry’s lyric writing, would take us deep into emotion and romanticism. As listeners, this was not what we had expected. We came to party, but what we learned, was to feel.
Over a 12-year span, they recorded eight studio albums, each one a masterwork, each one filled with moments that defy the dry eye. Always the experimentation, the drive, the humor, the articulate, versatile musicality. A body of work that fulfilled every promise of the electric rock era.
After leaving the group in 1973, Brian Eno would become the world’s most innovative studio musician: a one-man zeitgeist. Eno helped shape some of the most significant artists of our time. He also has the distinction of being the musician most frequently cited as the answer to clues in the New York Times crossword. “Musician, Brian, three letters.”
Taylor: Eno once said of the Velvet Underground, “They didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one formed a band.” Roxy sold many more records than the Velvet Underground, and they influenced the life choices of everyone who came into contact with them. The name Bryan Ferry has become a synonym for cool. He is like Cary Grant, another Englishman, whose phenomenal drive and determination lay behind an image that was made to look so effortless. Aspirational, but strongly grounded in his working-class roots, Bryan is one of the most restless spirits in 20th-century art.
In his memoir, Nile Rodgers wrote that after seeing Roxy in London he tapped into what he called the “Deep Hidden Meaning” that would fuel the concept for his own band, Chic. The Sex Pistols were also heavily influenced by Roxy, so indirectly they helped to ignite the punk-rock revolution. And, of course, I am always proud to say that without Roxy Music there would be no Duran Duran. Along the way, in the early Eighties, we were inadvertently able to introduce Roxy’s music to our young American audience when radio stations like WLIR started to play both bands back to back.
Le Bon: Our musical paths finally crossed in ’85, when Nick [Rhodes] and I invited Andy Mackay to perform with us on Arcadia’s “So Red the Rose.” Andy’s unique style of playing saxophone and clarinet proved to be the crucially lush element in the sound that we were aiming for.
Roxy Music’s influence is immense and impossible to calculate. We are happy to see them here tonight, and honored to be the ones to bring them into this hallowed institution.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Roxy Music!