:: Article

The Velvet Gargle

By Graham Bendel.


[Pic by Toby Amies.]

The last time I saw a tribute band: I think I was disappointed. Not as disappointed as the time I watched Marley and Me, expecting a docudrama about Bob Marley (instead of a romcom about a dog!). But still disappointed. You see, tribute bands, invariably and ultimately, leave me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. That feeling of regret for not having seen the real thing, the feeling of mild embarrassment for, well, just being there.

Most tribute bands don’t do it for me.

And tribute bands, these days, can’t even come up with a decent name: the Stoned Roses, being a case in point. I reckon I’ve come up with a list of tribute band names that might have people (without jobs/personalities/lives) a little hot under the collar, but more of this later.

I’m here now to speak of a tribute band that I have seen, and am 100% at home with. In fact, they’re more of a draw than many of the so-called bands I keep being told about (a recent gig in Hackney had the distinct atmosphere of how-gigs-were-in-the-80s — and not a Shoreditch twat in sight!). And they do have a good name. They are called Proxy Music, and they play *fanfare* — Roxy Music covers. But here’s the deal closer. They just play the Roxy tunes that Brian Eno played on: the first two LPs (Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure). AND if that wasn’t enough, they squeeze in some Eno solo stuff too (‘Baby’s On Fire’, etc).

So does Ferry mind sharing a stage with Eno these days?

Thogdin Ripley (Ferry) pauses and admits that there is an animosity, a loathing between them that is “quite special”. And explains how words have been said that have led to both Ferry and Eno storming off stage. (‘Egghead’? ‘Coldplay’? ‘Cradle-snatcher’? ‘Cocaine’?)

Bryan Ferry is played exquisitely by Ripley (who co-runs the excellent Night Of The Long Swords night in Old Street) and his performance, vocally, is stalker-faithful. It’s delicious to hear that velvet gargle, the aural finesse — without actually having to be in the same room as Ferry. Close your eyes and you are most certainly starting to ‘dance on moonbeams’, ‘by the pale moon’, and ‘in Quaglino’s’, etc. It’s that good. It’s sometimes a little rough round the edges, which (still with eyes closed, plus drugs) makes you actually believe you are witnessing one of Roxy’s first-ever gigs.


[Pic by Toby Amies.]

Do they look like Roxy Music, I hear someone ask? Erm, not unless Andy Mackay had been a cross-dresser and bassplaying duties were left to a vampish lady who, on occasion, might dress like a glam fascist cheerleader (Heidi Heelz, that is). That’s right, they break the rules of tribute. Come to think about it, they even include a song by Lene Lovich, which should seem wrong. But done Ferry-style, somehow, it just makes perfect sense.

I try to tell Bryan Ferry (Ripley) about my definitive list of ‘imaginary’ tribute band names. But squinting his eyes, he seems displeased; and with a (slow-motion) swivel of the hips, he is finally gone — returned to that dream home by Grey Lagoons. Or maybe Norwich. It’s his loss.

THE DEFINITIVE LIST OF IMAGINARY TRIBUTE BAND NAMES (or having too much time on one’s hand and needing to get out more).

1. THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS — The Killers (Almost German in its precision and functionality. A nod to the Chow Yun-Fat film. Brilliant!)
4. I’M NOT IN LOVE — Love.
5. BLACK HOLE — Hole (Imagine Courtney Love, braids and an added Afro-Caribbean influence).
7. THE 39 STEPS — Steps (What could be better than four members of Steps? ANSWER: thirty-nine Steps fans trying to be them on one stage!)
8. ROXYMORONS — (One for Proxy Music, if they ever tire of their name.)
9. PULP FICTION — Pulp (Bring on the geek gimps!).
10. THE DIFFERENT STROKES — The Strokes. (I think this has been used, but let’s pretend it hasn’t.)
11. CHASING PAVEMENT — Pavement (a reference to that song by Adele.)
12. EARLY DOORS — The Doors (Like Proxy Music, a stipulation that this tribute band would only play the first few LPs.)
13. NAUGHTY STEPS — Steps (I leave this to your imagination.)
14. DISPOSABLE RAZORLIGHT — Razorlight (Self-delusional, turgid crap for a future generation?)

Proxy Music are playing at the Buffalo Bar on 13 February 2010.


Graham Bendel is founder of Fortune Teller Press, the director Of Billy Childish Is Dead and writer of the much revered A Nasty Piece of Work. He is currently working on two new (hush hush) projects. Catch him DJing at The John Moore Rock & Roll Trio album launch party, Horse Hospital, on 6 March 2010.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, January 28th, 2010.