Bryan Ferry, CBE (born 26 September 1945) is an English singer, musician, and songwriter known for his unique vocal style. Ferry came to prominence in the early 1970s as lead vocalist and principal songwriter with the band Roxy Music, who enjoyed a highly successful career with three number one albums and ten singles entering the top ten charts in the United Kingdom. Ferry began his solo career in 1973, while still a member of Roxy Music, which continues to the present day.
Born in Washington, Tyne & Wear, England into a working class family (his father, Fred Ferry, was a farmer who also looked after pit ponies), Ferry attended Washington Grammar-Technical School (now called Washington School) on Spout Lane from 1957 and achieved nine O levels, among his classmates was former Everton football club manager Howard Kendall. Ferry later studied fine art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne under Richard Hamilton. His contemporaries included Tim Head and Nick de Ville. Ferry became a pottery teacher at Holland Park School in London. Ferry formed the band The Banshees, and later, together with Graham Simpson and John Porter, the band the Gas Board.
Roxy Music and solo years (1971–1983)
Ferry formed Roxy Music with a group of friends and acquaintances, beginning with Graham Simpson, in November 1970. The line-up expanded to include saxophonist/oboist Andy Mackay and his acquaintance Brian Eno, who owned tape recorders and played Mackay's synthesiser. Other early members included timpanist Dexter Lloyd and ex-Nice guitarist David O'List, who were replaced respectively by Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera before the band recorded its first album (early Peel Sessions for the UK's BBC Radio 1 feature O'List's playing).
Roxy Music's first hit, "Virginia Plain", made the UK Top 5 in 1972, and was followed up with several hit singles and albums, with Ferry as vocalist and occasional instrumentalist (he taught himself piano in his mid-twenties) and Eno contributing synthesiser backing.
For many years, Ferry has collaborated with fashion designer Antony Price for clothing and image consultations. Price is famous for his shop on London's Kings Road. He created suits recognised worldwide for their elegance, and gained fame when celebrities and rock stars dressed in his designs. Indeed, Nicky Haslam commented that Ferry was more likely to redecorate a hotel room than to trash it as a typical rock star might.
After their second album, Brian Eno left Roxy Music, leaving Ferry its undisputed leader. Ferry had already started a parallel solo career in 1973, initially performing cover versions of old standards on albums such as These Foolish Things (1973) and Another Time, Another Place (1974), both of which reached the UK Top 5. After the concert tour in support of their fifth studio album, Siren, Roxy Music temporarily disbanded in 1976 though bandmembers Paul Thompson, Phil Manzanera and Eddie Jobson took part in recording Ferry's subsequent solo material. In 1976 Ferry covered a song by The Beatles, “She's Leaving Home” for the transitory musical documentary All This and World War II. He went on to release three solo albums during this period, Let's Stick Together (1976), In Your Mind (1977) and The Bride Stripped Bare (1978). All three albums reached the UK Top 20, but by this time his career had begun to wane.
Roxy Music reconvened in 1979, with Ferry, Manzanera, Thompson and Mackay (Jobson was no longer a member). The band recorded the albums Manifesto (1979), Flesh + Blood (1980) and Avalon (1982), the latter two reaching number one in the UK album charts. The band also achieved their first and only UK number one single, "Jealous Guy", released in 1981 as a posthumous tribute to its author John Lennon who had been murdered some months earlier. It was the only one of their singles not to be written or co-written by Ferry.
After lengthy tours to promote the Avalon album in 1982, Ferry decided to put Roxy Music on hold and continue as a solo artist.
After Roxy Music (1984–2001)
Ferry continued to record, and released his sixth solo album, Boys and Girls, in 1985. The album reached number one in the UK, his first and only solo recording to do so, and also became his biggest selling album in the US.
In July 1985 Ferry performed at the London Live Aid show, accompanied by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. He was hit with technical difficulties on sound, the drummer's drumstick broke at the start of the first song "Sensation" and Gilmour's Fender Stratocaster went dead, so he had to switch to his candy-apple red Stratocaster for the rest of the performance. The difficulties in sound were overcome for "Slave to Love" (featured on the soundtrack to 9½ Weeks) and "Jealous Guy". As with other successful Live Aid acts, his current album, Boys and Girls, remained in the UK chart for almost a year.
After the Avalon promotional tours, Ferry was rather reluctant to return to life on the road; however, a change of management persuaded him to try touring again in 1988 to promote the previous year's Bête Noire release. Following the tour, Ferry teamed up again with Brian Eno for Mamouna (collaborating with Robin Trower on guitar and as producer). The album took more than five years to produce, and was created under the working title Horoscope. During production, Ferry simultaneously recorded and released another covers album, Taxi in 1993, which proved to be a greater commercial and critical success than Mamouna would be when it was finally released in 1994. In 1996 Ferry performed the song "Dance With Life" for the Phenomenon soundtrack, which was written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page. In 1999 Ferry appeared with Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan) on BBC's Comic Relief.
After taking some time off from music, Ferry returned in 1999. He began to perform a mix of 1930s songs and songs of his own, including several from the Roxy collection, and recorded them on the album As Time Goes By, which was nominated for a Grammy award.
Roxy Music reunion 2001 and after
Ferry, Manzanera, Mackay and Thompson re-reformed Roxy Music in 2001 and toured extensively for a couple of years, though the band did not record any new material. In 2002 with the help of Manzanera and Thompson, Ferry returned with his next studio album, Frantic, which featured several tracks written by David A. Stewart as well as a collaboration with Brian Eno. The album was a mix of new original material and covers - something that Ferry had not attempted on a solo album since The Bride Stripped Bare in 1978.
In 2003 Ferry provided the entertainment for the Miss World contest. In 2004, Ferry starred in the short film The Porter. In 2005 it was confirmed that Roxy Music (Ferry, Eno, Mackay, Manzanera and Thompson) would be performing further shows at that year's Isle Of Wight festival and that they would also be recording a further album of new and original songs, with no indication of when such a project would reach completion. Brian Eno confirmed that he has worked in the studio with Roxy Music once more and has co-written songs for the new album. However, Ferry later debunked the idea of a new Roxy Music album and stated that the material from these sessions will most likely be released as part of his next solo album, and that "I don't think we'll record as Roxy again."
In October 2006 Ferry signed a contract with the British retailer Marks and Spencer to model their "Autograph" men's clothing range. In March 2007 he released the album Dylanesque, a tribute album to Bob Dylan with backing vocals from the McDonald sisters Tara McDonald & Anna McDonald. The album charted in the UK Top 10, and Ferry undertook a UK tour. On 7 October 2008 Ferry was honoured as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards. He joined past Icons including Peter Gabriel, Ray Davies, Steve Winwood, and Van Morrison, amongst others.
In 2009 Ferry provided vocals on DJ Hell's record, U Can Dance. A new version of the track was recorded for Ferry's new studio album, Olympia, released in October 2010. The album contained the material he had been recorded with his former Roxy Music band members, and also featured an impressive cast of other musicians such as Nile Rodgers, David A. Stewart, Scissor Sisters, Groove Armada, Michael "Flea" Balzary, Johnny Greenwood and David Gilmour, and also featured model Kate Moss on the front cover. Despite this, and being released in multiple "deluxe" editions (one including a large format hardback book), the album was not a commercial success in comparison to Ferry's previous studio albums, barely making the UK Top 20 and dropping out of the chart altogether after only three weeks.
Ferry also provided vocals for the song Shameless on Groove Armada's 2010 album Black Light. The album received a nomination for the 53rd Grammy Awards in the category Best Electronic/Dance Album.
In June 2011 Ferry was made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his contribution to the British music industry.
On the 26th November 2012, he released a new album The Jazz Age with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra. The album features new jazz renditions of some of Ferry's older hits (from both his solo discography and with Roxy Music). However, the album was a commercial failure, peaking at #50 on the UK Albums Chart, the lowest peak of Ferry's career.
Several of the women Ferry had been involved with have appeared as cover models on the Roxy Music albums. Ferry dated the French singer and model Amanda Lear, who was photographed with a black jaguar for the cover of the For Your Pleasure album. She later went on to date David Bowie.
Ferry then began a relationship with model Jerry Hall. Ferry first met Hall when she posed for the Roxy Music album cover for Siren in Wales during the summer 1975. Hall's autobiography Tall Tales (1985) describes the photo session, and she elaborates on how the blue body paint she wore to look like a mythical siren would not wash off; Hall says that Ferry took her back to his house, claiming he would help her to remove the paint. Her stay at Ferry's Holland Park (London) home, following the album cover photo shoot, marked the start of their affair. Hall and Ferry lived together, sharing homes in London and in the ritzy Bel Air district of Los Angeles, and Hall also appeared in some of Ferry's music videos, including "Let's Stick Together" and "The Price of Love" (both 1976). Their relationship ended when she left him for Mick Jagger in late 1977. To this day, Ferry rarely speaks about Hall, but fans often speculate that his song "Kiss and Tell" from the Bête Noire album (1987) was Ferry's response to Hall's tell-all book about their relationship published a couple of years earlier. Additionally, Ferry's 1978 solo album The Bride Stripped Bare is widely believed to contain allusions to his break-up with Hall - particularly the song "When She Walks in the Room". Ferry's original songs on the album were in fact written some time before the relationship ended, although it was recorded afterwards.
On 26 June 1982 Ferry married London socialite and model Lucy Helmore (14 years his junior), who had become pregnant with their child Otis (b. 1 November 1982). Although her face is not seen, Helmore was the model on the front cover of Roxy Music's 1982 album Avalon, released a month before their wedding. The couple went on to have three more sons, Isaac, Tara and Merlin. After they married, Helmore helped Ferry to kick a cocaine habit, and she herself attended Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in the mid-1990s.
In recent years Otis Ferry has become known in the British media for his pro-hunting political activities. He has been arrested and charged several times for activities relating to hunting, one of which led to a conviction. Otis' most famous activist stunt was to break into the chambers of The House of Commons during a protest against the ban on hunting. Otis is also a joint master of the South Shropshire hunt. Ferry's second son, Isaac, was suspended from Eton College for sending abusive e-mails to an anti-hunting campaigner. By 2008, Tara was performing in a rock band called Rubber Kiss Goodbye and was about to start studying at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. By 2008, Merlin was studying for "A" Levels at Marlborough College, and now plays guitar in his band Voltorb. Ferry's children have also contributed to his 2010 album Olympia. Tara played drums on several tracks, Merlin played guitar on one track, and Isaac was the producer of the album's artwork. Tara also toured with Ferry (and Roxy Music) on the band's 2011 For Your Pleasure tour, performing additional drums.
In 2000 the whole Ferry family were on a British Airways flight to Nairobi when a deranged passenger forced his way into the cockpit, attacked the pilot and caused the plane to lurch downward. Maintaining his composure in a frantic situation, Ferry took the time to berate one of his sons for using bad language during the incident. A crash was prevented when the assailant was eventually overcome.
Ferry and Helmore split in the early 2000s following an affair she had, and they divorced in 2003. After their separation, British newspapers photographed Ferry with Katie Turner, 35 years his junior, naming her as his new 'girlfriend'. Ferry and Turner met while she worked as one of the dancers on Roxy Music's concert tour in 2001 (and is featured on the DVD of the 2001 Hammersmith Odeon Show). She went on to appear with Ferry on several TV shows to promote the Frantic album, and also performed on the Frantic tour in 2002. After their break-up, Ferry had a relationship with British socialite Lady Emily Compton. In 2006 he resumed his relationship with Katie Turner for some time.
Ferry began a relationship with Amanda Sheppard, one of his son's ex-girlfriends. Sheppard worked in public relations until she quit her job in 2009 after Ferry offered to support her financially. In early January 2012, Ferry married Sheppard in a private ceremony on the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Ferry was estimated to have a fortune of £30 million in the Sunday Times Rich List of 2010.
In 2007 a controversy arose after Ferry praised the imagery and iconography of the Nazi régime in an interview with the German newspaper, Welt Am Sonntag. Ferry stated
In the same interview Ferry was also reported to have referred to his West London recording studio as "The Führerbunker" (Adolf Hitler's bunker during World War II).
Ferry's comments caused considerable controversy in the media and, the following month he made a public apology, stating
At the time of the controversy, Ferry was contracted to the British retailer Marks and Spencer to model their "Autograph" menswear line. However, despite Ferry's public apology for his comments, Marks and Spencer opted to sever their ties with him.
In 2008 Ferry alluded to support the Conservative Party, referring to himself as "conservative by nature," but essentially apolitical. Without elaborating, he stated he was "proud" of his son Otis and declared the ban on fox hunting "futile." He also alluded to an opposition to "left-wing bitterness" and the spectre of "political correctness," but the model of free speech he cited was the anarchic 1970s and not the Thatcher era or a more distant past. In a 2009 interview, Ferry stated:
Ferry is a supporter of the Countryside Alliance and has played concerts to raise funds for the organisation.
In other media
In 1985 Ferry contributed the song "Is Your Love Strong Enough" to the Ridley Scott-Tom Cruise film Legend. The song (featuring guitar work by David Gilmour) plays during the end credits of the U.S. theatrical release, and was released with the Tangerine Dream version of the soundtrack on CD (although this is out of print and rare). A promotional music video was created, integrating Ferry and Gilmour into scenes from the film; this is included as a bonus in the 2002 "Ultimate Edition" DVD release. The song was later covered by How To Destroy Angels for the soundtrack to the 2011 US version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
In 2005 Ferry appeared in Neil Jordan's movie, Breakfast on Pluto, starring Cillian Murphy as a young Irish transvestite who goes to London in the glam 1970s to find his mother. Ferry, appearing in a bit part as Mr. Silky String, played a suave but creepy punter who picks up the sexually ambiguous young man and, after a short conversation, attempts to strangle him in the front seat of his car.
Ferry is referenced in the comedy show The Mighty Boosh in the episode "Hitcher", as Vince Noir's adopted father and King of the Forest. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that 'Bryan Ferry' actually resembles Terry Wogan. Noel Fielding, half of The Mighty Boosh is a big fan of Ferry, referencing him in his later series Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy and many of his paintings and other artworks.
Ferry is mentioned in Farkas Berci széjjelfagy, a paraphrase-parody of the Hungarian folk tale A kismalac és a farkasok, the plot of which is very similar to Three Little Pigs. Little pig, the hero of the tale, who is portrayed as a music fan in the parody, claims he wouldn't let the wolf enter his house, even if he were Bryan Ferry himself.
Ferry is mentioned in the musical comedy series Glee. Blaine Anderson is seen dancing to Roxy Music before making a comment about how he'd like to build a time machine, visit the 1970s, and give Ferry a high-five.
Ferry is also in a H&M Holiday 2011 campaign series with his son, Tara. The campaign also features supermodel Karen Elson with her twin sister Kate, Jerry Hall with her daughter Georgia May Jagger and models Sui He and Ming Xi. Several other musicians were also included. Singer Lykke Li with her sister Zara, and top model Abbey Lee Kershaw with her musician boyfriend Matthew Hutchinson.
In 2012, Ferry's version of the Cole Porter song "You Do Something to Me" (recorded for his 1999 album As Time Goes By) was used in an Oreo television commercial.
Ferry's version of "The 'In' Crowd" was used for a 2012 U.S. DSW commercial. The song was originally recorded for his 1974 album Another Time, Another Place.
Ferry was listed as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by the Guardian in March 2013.
- These Foolish Things (October 1973, UK #5)
- Another Time, Another Place (July 1974, UK #4)
- Let's Stick Together (September 1976, UK #19, US #160)
- In Your Mind (February 1977, UK #5, US #126, Aust.#1)
- The Bride Stripped Bare (April 1978, UK #13, US #159)
- Boys and Girls (May 1985, UK #1, US #63)
- Bête Noire (October 1987, UK #9, US #63)
- Taxi (13 April 1993, UK #2, US #79)
- Mamouna (5 September 1994, UK #11, US #94)
- As Time Goes By (15 October 1999, UK #16, US #199)
- Frantic (18 May 2002, UK #6, US #189)
- Dylanesque (5 March 2007, UK #5, US #117)
- Olympia (26 October 2010, UK #19, US #71)
- The Jazz Age (26 November 2012, UK #50)
- Bracewell, Michael Roxy Music: Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Art, Ideas, and Fashion (Da Capo Press, 2005) ISBN 0-306-81400-5
- Buckley, David The Thrill of It All: The Story of Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music (Chicago Review Press, 2005) ISBN 1-55652-574-5
- Rigby, Jonathan Roxy Music: Both Ends Burning (Reynolds & Hearn, 2005; revised edition 2008) ISBN 1-903111-80-3
- Stump, Paul Unknown Pleasures: A Cultural Biography of Roxy Music (Quartet Books, 1998) ISBN 0-7043-8074-9
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Image from Discogs