Bryan Ferry’s live cover of The Rolling Stones song ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ that almost never happened
We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at a very special performance that almost never happened. It sees Roxy Music frontman, Bryan Ferry performing The Rolling Stones track ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ at the Royal Albert Hall in 1974.
The 1974 tour was a big deal for Ferry and, in fact, the Albert Hall itself. Fresh off a self-enforced rock and roll hiatus, the Royal Albert Hall welcomed Ferry at the swashbuckling beginnings of his solo career. The first shows of his soon-to-be glittering solo career would see him travel to meet his fans across the nation culminating in this famous gig in the capital. A gig, that just a few years earlier, was blocked by the board.
The venue, after suffering some form of an incident in 22 out of the 23 rock and pop shows they held in the year of 1972, decided to halt all rock and roll shows and enforce a ban on the performances.
It was an attempt to curtail the new influx of big musical acts capable of filling the venue but not matching their values off stage. The Who and their ionic rock opera Tommy was also affected by the ban from ’72 and the venue refused to budge.
Ferry’s request for a show on 31 January 1974, followed the release of These Foolish Things, his debut solo LP, and at a time where he was still experiencing huge success with his band Roxy Music. Despite this even he wasn’t immune from a ruling which would label all rock and pop as “unsavoury”.
Albert Hall policy at the time asked the concert promoter to send over the artist’s latest release along with the request to book the venue for the show. Only then would it be checked by staff to see if it avoided the restrictions. However, on this occasion, the record was considered to fall within the rock/pop category and therefore Ferry’s event was blocked.
With the January 31st date quickly scrapped the promoters went about finding a more suitable date or at least a new recipient of their request. Luckily, the restrictions that were begin enforced by the Hall wouldn’t last as long as first feared and Bryan Ferry (one of the last acts to be blocked by the board) was later granted use of the venue for a show on December 19th 1974.
And boy did he use it to devastating effect.
The singer’s set was littered with the classic covers from These Foolish Things as well as his immeasurable contribution with Roxy Music, all of which was delivered in his incredible style. While many knew Ferry as the lead singer of the glam outfit, in these shows the suave man with the mic showed that he was so much more. He was a showman, through and through, and he didn’t need anyone on stage to help him with that.
His bravado would see him not only take to the stage without his band (though he was backed by a 15-piece orchestra), at the mammoth venue but also come out to perform a polished and slinky version of one of the most successful songs in recent memory. True, his solo record was full of covers of different artists and bands but it was the approach taken on The Rolling Stones’ smash that really caught our eye.
This is the beginning of Ferry transcending from the enigmatic frontman to the only name on the bill. He was moving away from the band that spawned him and was beginning to find the value in his voice.
Charismatic and cultured, Bryan Ferry is the thinking man’s crooner and, some decades later, he still is. Listen below to Bryan Ferry’s live cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ from the Albert Hall in 1974. The show was so iconic that Ferry released the entire thing on CD this year.
Typical Ferry setlist in 1974:
‘Sympathy For The Devil’ ‘I Love How You Love Me’ ‘Baby I Don’t Care’ ‘It’s My Party’ ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ ‘Another Time, Another Place’ ‘Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever’ ‘You Are My Sunshine’ ‘Fingerpoppin’ ‘Tracks Of My Tears’ ‘You Won’t See Me’ ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ ‘A Really Good Time’ ‘The ‘In’ Crowd’ ‘These Foolish Things’