When Roxy Music recorded their first album during 14th -29th March 1972, London and much of the world’s radio-listening public was in the grip of a Rock n’ Roll revival. The Beatles and pop/rock had kicked be-bop and jazz off the world’s charts during the mid-sixties, and as beards grew longer and more unruly there was a contrarian interest in dressing up and looking smart (a trend that Roxy/Bowie/Glam capitalized on). Nowhere was the signifier of fashion more clearly felt than in the drapes n’ duds of what was to become known as the Teddy Boy style, a play on the “Edwardian” style enjoyed years before by the wealthy young men of the Brit establishment. The younger generations of the 50s adopted the Edwardian long jackets, but added the striking tapered trousers and fancy waist coats. By the early 70s a Rock n’ Roll revival was in full swing and the Teds kept upping the ante by wearing more outlandish versions of the old idea, culminating perhaps with the addition of the most extreme shoes anyone could ever be expected to wear outside of a fancy dress ball.
A month or so after Roxy released their first album in June 1972, The London Rock and Roll Show was held at Wembley Stadium on August 5. Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Bill Haley and His Comets, Chuck Berry, and others were flown in to perform an exelerating show in front of the Greasers, Teds and future punks of London. (Malcolm McLaren is shown in the concert film selling t-shirts and ‘Let it Rock’ gear five years before his own fifteen minutes of fame). Excellent performances are given, particularly by Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry, with Jerry hammering his piano keys with drop kicks and heel jabs. Watching the film gives the viewer a keen sense of London’s grit and style in the early 70’s, and reminds us of the impact Glam must have had on the collective psyche: stealing the best moves from its Rock n’ Roll masters, Glam (just rock n’ roll with lipstick! said John Lennon) was colourful, exciting, danceable and great back-drop for drinking, fighting and sex. (One supposes).
For Roxy, recording the rock n’ roll pastiche Would You Believe? and including it on the first album was just another one of their “12 different possibilities” of musical adventure. Unfortunately, doo-wop as a form is slight and repetitive and can be bit tedious after a few listens, and this track is no exception. Bryan Ferry himself did not find the rock n’ roll or vaudville styles the band were offering had much sticking power beyond the flash modernism of the first album: “What we’ll probably do is start making the changes fewer, because some people in the audience can’t really take sudden changes every 30 seconds or so. I quite like confusing people, but there are limits I suppose.”(Sounds, July 1, 1972).
Shackled by the form, the lyrics in Would You Believe? were intentionally written tongue-in-cheek, the rhyming scheme the poetic outcome of twelve year old girls in love:
Would you believe in what I do
When the things that I make are all for you?
Oh honey say you do
And in a while I’ll come to you
Showing showing why
What I think will all come true
And so on. Ferry is on the joke, of course, but it is clear why he and his listeners opted for the lyrical and musical possibilities of the more interesting album cuts (Ladytron/If There is Something/Chance Meeting) to go on their journey further into the seventies. Would You Believe? was scrapped as a live staple, not performed by the band after early 1973.
Credits: Little Richard at Wembley Stadium, The London Rock and Roll Show, August 1972; a Teddy Boy creeper shoe, courtesy EBay; film poster London and Rock and Roll Show; Andy Mackay, geezer style, cover of Best magazine, issue #65.
Live Peace in Toronto, Plastic Ono Band. A few years before the London Rock and Roll Show, a hastily assembled Plastic Ono band (John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, Yoko Ono, and Alan White) played at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969. 50s standards were played (nervous, drug-fuelled and scrappy), and the subsequent live album sold well, ensuring the street cred of the rock n’ roll revival into the early 70s.
Never Mind the Bollocks: Malcolm McLaren poses outside his shop on the King’s Road early 70s; by chance, London and Rock and Roll Show film still captures Malcolm and Vivienne Westwood selling Let it Rock gear at the Wembley Show August 1972; five years later Mr. J Rotten (John Lydon) proves that good duds never go out of style.