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Andy Mackay

One of the nearly men of glam-rock and music in general, the image of quiff ’n’ sideburns sax (and oboe) player ANDY MACKAY has been embedded in many a mind since his halcyon days in the early half of the 70s as an integral part of the iconic popstars ROXY MUSIC.
Born 23rd July 1946 in the Cornish parish of Lostwithiel, but raised in central London, Andy embraced the limelight after a few years stuck in a rut as a member of nowhere acts The Nova Express and Sunshine. A throwback to the rock’n’roll era of the 50s and as much a fashion buff as any of the Roxy lads, FERRY, MANZANERA, ENO, et al, Andy could at least boast to co-writing a raft of group hits, including `Love Is The Drug’, `A Song For Europe’, `Three And Nine’, `Bitter Sweet’, `Sentimental Fool’ and re-formation classic `Angel Eyes’.
While all three Roxy affiliates were moonlighting or defecting to other projects (ENO was first to become a fully-fledged solo act in his own right), MACKAY, too, sought out solace by way of a self-indulgent solo set. IN SEARCH OF EDDIE RIFF (1974) {*4} was a myriad of muzes: Motown, classical and even C&W. Augmented by former and present-day Roxy acolytes Lloyd Watson, John Porter, MANZANERA, Eddie Jobson and Paul Thompson, the record was cut to shreds by the critics. On reflection and boosted by a “version 2” of the set released a year later, it was probably a tad unfair to compare it with anything Roxy were doing at the time. Arrangements of Wagner’s `Ride Of The Valkyries’ and Franz Schubert’s `An Die Musik’ were at least better suited to Andy’s smooth saxophone, while covers of standards such as `What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’, `The End Of The World’ and the novelty `A Four Legged Friend’ were best left in the can.
Gladly picking up the challenge to write the music for TV’s “Rock Follies” – and with Howard Schuman behind the clever lyrics – it was down to MACKAY and regular session players, Brian Chatton (keyboards), Tony Stevens (bass), Ray Russell (guitar) and Peter Van Hooke (percussion), to augment the girls in the confines of a studio. Never intended for commercial release, the mono recordings were turned into proper stereo cues after the mighty success of the TV series. The “Little Ladies” were a powerhouse of vocal talent, headed by Evita/`Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ chart-topper, JULIE COVINGTON, Rula Lenska (future wife of singing actor Dennis Waterman) and Charlotte Cornwell (sister of best-selling author John Le Carre). There’s was a three-way cocktail of SUZI QUATRO-style retro-rock that actually topped the UK charts; `Rock Follies Of ‘77’ followed on and was also quite popular in Britain and beyond.
With ROXY MUSIC on a prolonged hiatus, MACKAY was up for another stab at solo stardom. RESOLVING CONTRADICTIONS (1978) {*4} – with a cover designed by his wife of four years, Jane – was described as an instrumental concept album, taking in the post-Cultural Revolution of China – one understands. With his main band back on “The Same Old Scene”, Andy would concentrate on resolving ROXY MUSIC’s own musical contradictions; he had time to write the themes to late 70s television series, Armchair Theatre and Hazell.
A raft of session work behind him, including a stint with PAVLOV’S DOG, GODLEY & CRÈME and 801, MACKAY and MANZANERA formed their own post-ROXY MUSIC outfit, The Explorers; complete with FERRY-clone James Wraith on vox. A few sets under their proverbial belt, Andy retired in ’88 to study for his Bachelor of Divinity degree at King’s College London; he briefly resurfaced with folkies The Players a year later as part of a “Christmas” album. The lure of a post-millennium ROXY MUSIC reunification was too good to turn down, and in 2001 (and a few other occasions), he performed live with the band. Of late, he and old mucker Thompson (namely pianist/vocalist Hazel Mills, harpist/percussionist Julia Thornton and guitarist TJ Allen), were the talk of the town as the mildly press-friendly jazz instrumentalists Andy Mackay + The Metaphors. For 2009’s LONDON! PARIS! NEW YORK! ROME! {*5}, nostalgia – whether filmic or from his “Roxy Music” heyday – re-treads of `Three Coins In The Fountain’ and `Love Is The Drug’, respectively, were barely recognisable.
Nearly a decade down the line, a solo ANDY MACKAY opened another chapter in his sax-meets-classical manifesto. Together with an array of musicians, including singer Harry Day-Lewis, guitarist Ray Russell, bassist George Baldwin, keyboardist Colin Good and drummer Percy Mackay (PHIL MANZANERA was a guest), 3 PSALMS (2018) {*6} centred on Nos. 130, 90 and 150. The recently departed Kevin Colson (28.8.1937 – 18.4.2018) provided the spoken word elements to the adventurous project; a worthy effort if one was still searching for that elusive Eddie Riff.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2012-Jun2019

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