Roxy Music's 15 greatest songs, ranked

26 June 2024, 10:50

Roxy Music were one of the most influential bands in British rock music. (Photo by Brian Cooke/Redferns)
Roxy Music were one of the most influential bands in British rock music. (Photo by Brian Cooke/Redferns). Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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Ever-stylish, and ever-influential.

When Roxy Music arrived in the charts for the very first time in 1972, it was as though they were transplanted from futuristic fashion magazine covers on our television screens.

Merging elements of glam rock with their artistic avant-garde ambitions, they're widely considered to be the first popular 'art rock' band since the dissolution of The Beatles, later going on to influence punk, new wave, synth-pop, and more.

Founded in 1970, Roxy Music has seen many band members come and go - of course, Brian Eno left the group shortly after their initial success in pursuit of his own electronic music meanderings.

The sartorial elegant singer Bryan Ferry and saxophonist Andy Mackay are the only members to have been with Roxy Music from beginning to end, though guitarist Phil Manzanera and drummer Paul Thompson made up their iconic lineup.

Adored by David Bowie, artists as diverse as the Sex Pistols, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers, Talking Heads, U2, the Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Radiohead have cited Roxy Music as a major influence on their output.

The cult band - who achieved mainstream success around the world after their reformation in 1978 - were eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019, and rightly so.

That said, we've ranked the fifteen greatest Roxy Music songs from top to bottom. Here goes:

  1. 'All I Want Is You'

    TOPPOP: Roxy Music - All I Want Is You

    Schmoozer Bryan Ferry often wrote songs about playing the playboy when it came to the opposite sex, though with 1974 single 'All I Want Is You', the Roxy Music singer showed a tender side to his affections.

    Co-written with Phil Manzanera, Ferry recalled in 2022: "It's a guitar-based track so it has a different flavour from most of my other songs which are usually written on piano. I was beginning to enjoy songwriting collaborations within the band."

    Released as the first single from 1974's Country Life, 'All I Want Is You' peaked at number twelve on the UK charts.

  2. 'Pyjamarama'

    Roxy Music - Pyjamarama (Live, 1974)

    The inspiration for Roxy Music's 1973 single 'Pyjamarama' came from Ferry's then-girlfriend, Amanda Lear, who would go on to feature on the cover of their next album, For Your Pleasure.

    The French model - who kept the company of Salvador Dali and The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones - was an enigmatic, mysterious character who influenced Ferry to write a song about her, which reached number ten in the UK charts.

    However, Brian Eno wasn't happy with the song, feeling it was hastily released after their back-to-back UK and US tours that year, saying that year: "We should never have put it out as a single." Eno departed the band only months later.

  3. 'Over You'

    Roxy Music - Over You

    Channeling Buddy Holly-esque bubblegum energy on the first single from 1980 album Flesh and Blood, 'Over You' sees Bryan Ferry struggling to move on from his ex-girlfriend.

    'Over You' was the first Roxy Music song written in Phil Manzanera's new recording studio, with the guitarist later revealing: "We decided to have a jam together, Bryan on bass and me on guitar with a rhythm box. Within five minutes we had written this track and it reached number three [sic] in the charts."

    It technically only reached number five in the UK charts, but was also the third and final Roxy Music song to make its way into the Billboard US Hot 100, despite only making it to number eighty.

  4. 'Re-Make/Re-Model'

    Roxy Music - Re-Make/Re-Model (Live At The Royal College Of Art)

    Painting the picture of a glamorous party scene, the propulsive piano, shambolic saxophone, and jittering guitars on 'Re-Make/Re-Model' proved to be enormously influential for rock music as much as their avant-garde stylings.

    Quite typically, the inspiration for the lyrics came from Ferry's admiration for a girl he met at Reading Festival.

    "I went with a friend and I was very attracted to this girl backstage who was wearing a fluffy jacket," Ferry later said. "I then saw her when we were driving home in the terrible slow queue to get out of the site, and she was in the car in front. And I memorised the number of the car. So it was a kind of cry in the wild... I never met her."

  5. 'Same Old Scene'

    Roxy Music - Same Old Scene

    A former love - namely Jerri Hall who left him for Mick Jagger - preoccupied Bryan Ferry on Roxy Music's 1980 album Flesh and Blood, with 'Same Old Scene' emphasising the impermanence of relationships.

    "Nothing lasts forever," Ferry laments on the sauntering number which saw the band increasingly experiment with electronic music amid the synth-pop explosion that they partly inspired.

    The music video for the number twelve UK single was directed by David Mallet, who also directed iconic videos of the time for Queen's 'Radio Ga Ga', Billy Idol's 'White Wedding', and David Bowie's 'Ashes To Ashes'.

  6. 'The Thrill Of It All'

    The Thrill Of It All

    Clocking in at over six minutes - truncated to three minutes for the single - 'The Thrill Of It All' was an epic introduction to Roxy Music's 1974 album, Country Life.

    Tackling Ferry's limbo between his newfound rock-star status and wanting more modest trappings in life, he addressed the song's backstory to Melody Maker in 1975, revealing: "Well, you have to forfeit certain things if you're indulging in the sort of work that I do. You don't have time for domestic comforts - like being happily married. Domestic life is something I don't seem to be able to get together at the moment."

    Though the single didn't quite make an impact, the album cover for Country Life certainly did - featuring two lingerie-clad models in Eveline Grunwald and Constanze Karoli in front of a lush tree, the US audience found it too controversial so replaced it with an alternative shot of the tree minus the models.

  7. 'Street Life'

    Roxy Music - Street Life (1974)

    Describing the surrounding city and its beautiful occupants, 'Street Life' is an ode to loving life in a metropolis.

    "I wanted it to be a high-energy, fun song – buzzy and vibrant – and I hope the words convey some of that joie de vivre," Ferry explained to Uncut magazine in 2012. "Each verse seems to have its own character, like blocks on a street."

    'Street Life' was also a marker for Roxy Music's career post-Brian Eno, with the experimental keyboardist having left that year due to creative differences with Ferry, which broke the UK top ten peaking at number nine in the charts in 1973.

  8. 'Avalon'

    Roxy Music - Avalon

    'Avalon', Bryan Ferry later revealed, was Roxy Music's swan song. The lyrics to the gorgeously serene song make it very evident in retrospect.

    "Avalon is part of the King Arthur legend and is a very romantic thing, when King Arthur dies, the Queens ferry him off to Avalon, which is sort of an enchanted island," Ferry explained to NME in 1982. "It's the ultimate romantic fantasy place."

    After reaching number thirteen in the UK charts, Ferry retired from Roxy Music, wanting to settle into a domestic environment with his soon-to-be-wife, Lucy Helmore, who featured on the album cover of the 1982 album of the same name.

  9. 'Angel Eyes'

    Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music - Angel Eyes

    Anticipating the club scene that would permeate live music culture the following decade, Roxy Music scored a dance hit with 1979 single 'Angel Eyes', having re-recorded the rockier album track with a disco-indebted remix.

    Released on 1979's Manifesto, the album was the band's first in four years after an extended hiatus, which saw them embrace the sultry, shoulder-shimmying dance music that they'd helped inspire.

    Fun fact: Luther Vandross lent his vocals to the recording, being a sought-after backing vocalist before eventually achieving fame himself as a solo artist.

  10. 'Oh Yeah'

    Roxy Music - Oh Yeah (On The Radio) Live on TOTP

    Sipping from the pool of nostalgia that songs from the radio offered up, 'Oh Yeah' sees Bryan Ferry hark back to a previous relationship via the power of music.

    "This is a song about a song, and in particular the concept of 'they're playing our song' – in this case on the radio, and in our car," Ferry revealed in 2009. "I was trying to create a picture of Americana, and long hot summer evenings at the drive-in movies."

    The wistful mid-tempo track wooed the band's on the other side of the Atlantic, reaching number five in the UK charts and catapulting their 1980 album Flesh and Blood to the top of the album charts too.

  11. 'Jealous Guy'

    Roxy Music - Jealous Guy

    Roxy Music transformed a song from a little-known artist called John Lennon into a worldwide smash with 'Jealous Guy' in 1981, which remains their only ever number one single.

    Lennon originally wrote the song as a quasi-apology about his often aggressive behaviour when he felt inadequate to Yoko Ono, due to her creativity and intelligence.

    Covering the song as a tribute to Lennon - who was murdered on 8th December 1980 - the sentiment of 'Jealous Guy' also mirrored Ferry's personal strife.

    He was haunted by Jerri Hall, his model ex-girlfriend, who left him for The Rolling Stones' notorious lothario Mick Jagger, which served as the basis of much of his lyrical output throughout the second half of the seventies.

  12. 'Virginia Plain'

    Roxy Music - Virginia Plain - Top Of The Pops - 24th August 1972

    'Virginia Plain' was the song that started it all for Roxy Music, their debut single which broke them into the UK charts on their first try in 1972.

    It was inspired by Bryan Ferry's own artwork of the same name, who was an art student taught by British painter Richard Hamilton when he painted it.

    "I was up in Newcastle, living with a guy who'd helped Warhol to make the Marilyn Monroe silkscreens. It's a whole American Dream thing, living up there yet constantly thinking about Warhol's Factory and Baby Jane Holzer."

    After their theatrical first performance on Top Of The Pops that year, John Lydon admitted it made him want to pursue music: "It was just so damn original. It was in your face and it was over-the-top grandiose. It was a mad amalgamation of things and its image was many, many images. But it allowed you to use your mind inside the song and work it out to be whatever you wanted. That was fantastic."

  13. 'Dance Away'

    Roxy Music - Dance Away

    After several years pursuing a solo career, Bryan Ferry returned to Roxy Music at his crooning best with the sad, swaying disco-tinged number 'Dance Away' in 1979 which finds the singer grieving the loss of love after witnessing his former lover "hand-in-hand with another guy."

    'Dance Away' was intended for a solo album, but Ferry "felt it was too much of a pop hit" without the backing of his former bandmates.

    Bringing into the fold with Roxy Music was an inspired decision - it became the band's biggest hit Stateside and reached number two in the UK charts.

    Fun fact: the music video was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the American filmmaker behind The Beatles' divisive 1970 documentary Let It Be.

  14. 'Love Is The Drug'

    Roxy Music - Love Is The Drug

    The off-kilter guitar funk of Roxy Music's 1975 single 'Love Is The Drug' is undeniable. It was arguably the band's first foray into the dance music that they'd flirt with for the remainder of their time together.

    Ferry even later admitted that 'Love Is The Drug' was an attempt to get more spins in discotheques at the time, telling biographer David Buckley:

    "It was really irritating that when we went out anywhere, there was never any of our music played in any clubs, because it wasn't really dance music. I wanted to introduce something. I always wanted to do something where you'd see people actually getting up to dance, rather than sitting down when it came on. And to an extent, 'Love Is the Drug' was good for that."

    With its theme of street-strutting and dabbling in casual, no-strings-attached sex, 'Love Is The Drug' became somewhat of a nightlife anthem, reaching number two in the UK charts. It's been spinning in clubs ever since.

  15. 'More Than This'

    Roxy Music - More Than This

    Innately nostalgic, the heady synth-driven single 'More Than This' is absolutely Roxy Music's greatest achievement. It's certainly their most evocative composition.

    The song's mood was influenced by Ferry's surroundings during recording, a place he said had directly inspired the music.

    In 2009 he recalled: "I like to think that some of the dark melancholy of the album comes from that place. After the record was finished I returned to the west coast of Ireland to photograph the album cover."

    Later in 2022, Ferry told Vulture why he thinks 'More Than This' is the band's most enduring hit: "It uses very few words, but it seems to get them in the right order."

    "It's introspective. It's great when that type of emotion strikes a chord with people. Some of the other songs that I've done with the band and on my solo records have been a bit more obscure, but 'More Than This' really appealed to people."

    Though it was a slow-burner in the US - peaking at just number forty-four - it later became a cult success like most of Roxy Music's output.

    On home turf 'More Than This' fared much better, reaching number six in the UK, which would become the band's final top ten hit ahead of their dissolution just a year later.

    They ventured into more sophisticated sonic ground throughout the eighties, leaving behind their experimental tendencies for good. 'More Than This' more than justifies their decision.