Bryan Ferry became one of the leading figures of the glam rock movement when he and his art-rock band, Roxy Music, released their eponymous debut in 1972. Roxy Music, of which future ambient father Brian Eno was a part, quickly became associated as one of the frontrunners of the more cerebral side of glam rock.
Acts like David Bowie and Roxy Music were considered part of this more ‘intellectual’ strain of glam rock, while other acts such as T-Rex and The Sweet were on the more ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ side of glam, the shimmying hips of the movement. That’s not to say Roxy Music didn’t know how to ‘rock out’; it’s just that their approach to the medium was more avant-garde and artistically nuanced than the cut and thrust of traditional rock music.
Roxy Music became known for their iconic album artwork, featuring beautiful female models plastered in poses on the front of the cover. This established Ferry as a kind of womanising figure — a lounge lizard of class and sophistication. Ferry was, and still is, seen always well-dressed and well-mannered, inhabiting the more sartorially elegant side of the rock paradigm. Ferry’s performance style is equally reserved and well-calculated — he never seemed to be ‘too drunk’ or too strung-out on anything, suggesting more pristine aesthetic and searing attention to detail — as opposed to, let’s say, The Sweet’s singer, Brian Connolly, who supposedly had ten heart attacks in one day because of his obscene alcoholism and drug problem.
While Connolly had a real rough edge to him and an impressive rock ‘n’ roll range, Ferry was on the other side of the spectrum; his voice was delicate, soft, mysterious and croon-like. This is not a comparison piece, but more so an example of how much Ferry contrasted the majority of singers of his time. He truly stood alone in his vocal stylings.
Ferry’s ‘lounge lizard’ image was solidified in the 1980s with Roxy Music’s Avalon, which would be the last record Roxy Music did before Ferry broke the band up. However, the singer’s solo career began in 1973 while he was still working with Roxy Music. After he broke the band up, his 1985 record, Boys and Girls went on to be number one, truly establishing Ferry as a solo artist.
While he remains a prolific songwriter in his own right, Ferry has always been a great interpreter of songs, covering a slew of artists including The Beach Boys, Carole King, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and has frequently covered Bob Dylan. His debut solo record, These Foolish Things were made up entirely of covers. It opens with Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ which lands like a heavy dose of charismatic homage.
In 2006, Ferry even dedicated an entire album to Dylan songs, titled Dylanesque. Before that, his 2002 record, Frantic opened up with another Dylan cover, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’. It’s clear that, like a lot of his contemporaries, Ferry can be considered a true fan.
Ferry has always existed in an area somewhere between sophisticated art, grassroots Americana, and elegant lounge music. He is an interesting patchwork of weird and seemingly stark colours, sometimes it misses and sounds dangerously too close to MOR music. Frantic, however, rides the border masterfully, and when it hits, it becomes familiar to everyone but in an everlasting way.
Ferry’s rendition of ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ is a perfect example of how Ferry takes a Dylan song and makes it completely his. This particular Dylan song has been covered many times, but rarely has it been presented in this beautifully enigmatic way as Ferry did.
When the single came out, he performed it on Top of the Pops in 2002. Listen to it here: