Because the band existed for only the first two or - charitably speaking - three years of the decade, it may seem like a stretch to count down the top '80s songs from '70s art rock band Roxy Music. In fact, frontman Bryan Ferry himself is arguably more often recalled for his two '80s solo records than his work during the decade recorded with his band. Nevertheless, the quality of Ferry's songwriting and the unbelievably lush, melodically inviting sound of Roxy Music's '80s tunes are simply more than notable enough to spotlight without apology.
1. "Over You"
Roxy Music's lead-off single from 1980's Flesh + Blood set the bar incredibly high for intoxicating, sophisticated pop of the period and also managed to fit fluidly into the growing genres of new wave, synth pop and New Romantic. The keyboards are gentle and lovely, the saxophones from Andy MacKay bright and inviting, and Phil Manzanera's guitar work manages to shine right through the plentiful orchestration. What stands out ultimately, of course, is the tremendous quality of Ferry's songwriting, which is as apparent here as it has consistently remained throughout the singer's illustrious career. American audiences unfortunately took little notice of this song, but U.K. fans were justifiably loyal.
2. "Oh Yeah!"If "Over You" sets an impressive tone for Roxy Music's '80s splash, then follow-up single "Oh Yeah!" absolutely shatters any previously existing ceilings for pop music transcendence. I've waxed many times both poetic and idiotic about this song, but it simply reaches levels of joy and heartache that shouldn't be humanly possible. From the opening piano strains and Manzanera's tasteful guitar licks directly into the lovely verse, this track captivates, and if listeners are not appropriately careful, the chorus may just topple them right over where they sit or stand.
disco-tinged foundation of bass guitar but dominated by inspiring piano riffs and swells of orchestration, this track just continues to elevate and surprise throughout. Manzanera's muscular guitar solo and well-chosen fills blend seamlessly with Ferry's crooning delivery and then complete the course of a staggering slow burn with Mackay's saxophone. The crafts of songwriting and studio synergy have never thrived together as well as they do here.
If possible, Roxy Music's 1982 LP Avalon sounded even more sumptuous and alluring than its predecessor, and lead-off track and initial single "More Than This" certainly was as responsible for that as any other tune on the record. But not only is it based in a lovely melody; the song simply ebbs and flows in as mesmerizing a fashion as pop music ever has. That's the magic of Ferry's songwriting and, of course, his distinctive vocal style, but there's more here than immediately meets the ear. The song's unmistakable introductory guitar and synth strains grow in magnitude with each listen.
Elegant '80s Roxy Music tunes can begin to seem beyond superlatives after awhile, in a very good way. Ferry's compositions and arrangements display such a light touch at this point of his career that listening to them is an ethereal experience best enjoyed while leaning back and feeling pensive. This tasty soft rock track, another successful single from the LP of the same name, perhaps feels boring to fans of the band's more lively, adventurous early '70s sound. But the melodies are so sturdy and the instrumentation so precise that it seems ungrateful to complain.
Ferry clearly enjoyed the early-'80s new wave emphasis on synthesizers, applying them to his gentle melodies to great effect on this memorable tune. However, even before the endorphine-inducing chorus kicks in fully with its lovely keyboard riff, Manzanera's nimble guitar arpeggios create an incredibly strong and affecting atmosphere. This can work perfectly fine as background mood music, but it has plenty of potential to be far more than that thanks to its highly memorable qualities. Hearing this and almost any of Roxy Music's relatively few '80s originals remains a lasting, even permanent pleasure.