Official proof: if you overdo the elephant tranquiliser, it will turn your brain into a turnip. Selected highlights from a Davy O'List June 2004 interview. The full transcript can be found here at Viva Roxy Music, from whom this is reprinted.
Mr O'List speaks to the world. Or his world, at any rate...
On joining Roxy Music:
During the late summer of 1971 I ran an advertisement in the Melody Maker music magazine saying: ‘Well-known guitarist seeking image conscious, progressive, rock group with recording contract and agency.’ Bryan Ferry replied to my advertisement. I told Bryan who I was. Bryan got very excited saying that he had been looking for me for months to complete the line up of Roxy Music (they were called Roxy Music by this time). Bryan said he would be most excited and grateful if I would play for and produce Roxy Music and make it commercial enough for a recording deal. I said although I was a record producer and produced hits by The Nice for Andrew Loog-Oldham and Immediate Records I really had advertised for a name group with a recording and agency deal and needed to earn top money straight away. I had just been filming with Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton.
Ah, right. Being grateful AND excited at the same time must have caused some nasty stains on the Ottoman. But still - rock'n'roll, eh?
On being a Svengali:
Realizing Bryan was a fan I asked for the line up of Roxy Music. He told me about the Avant Gaurde percussionist, VSC 3 synth player, oboe/sax player, with himself on electric piano and vocals and Bryan wanted me to complete the line up. It began to sound interesting especially for a group in 1971. I had produced The Nice into recording stars from nothing and perhaps I could produce and transform Roxy Music into a hit group, too.
Most kind of you, sir, most kind. Ooh arrh (tugs forelock).
On auditioning Roxy Music (sic):
I told Bryan I would like to audition Roxy Music with the intention of producing and writing for it. I ensured him that with my press, agency and record company contacts I could obtain a recording deal for Roxy Music if they were good enough and if I liked them. Bryan was overjoyed to hear this. I asked Bryan to guarantee royalties for my writing, performance and production work once Roxy Music had a recording contract if I did join. Bryan agreed and then I agreed to meet Bryan Ferry with current members, Andy MacKay, Brian Eno and Graham Simpson at Andy’s house in Battersea the next evening.
Not content with grateful and excited, they are now also overjoyed that they have come this far! Quick, nurse, the screens!
How is it for you, sir?
I assessed the material (which evolved into the first album) was needing new arrangements/more chords/chord progressions/more melodies with more interesting mood changes in order for it to become commercial. They heartily agreed. Roxy Music needed to be directed by a successful commercial writer to succeed.
Oh yes, well spotted - absolutely no point in having more chords unless you have more chord progressions to go with them, quite correct. It would be like having baked beans without toast, or fish without chips. We all agree heartily.
On the strong collective pleading of Roxy:
Bryan, Andy, Eno and Graham pleaded with me strongly to join the group. It was up to me to take them on and I decided to become their producer. I explained that after I had done this I wanted their assurances that I could make solo albums through the deal I got them. I made it transparent (as I had to Bryan previously on the telephone) it would also be on condition that I received royalties and credit for all my work as a writer/arranger/performer/producer in Roxy Music. Roxy Music knew I had a great deal of music business contacts and that my name could obtain all their aims and objectives. They were aware I could transform the group. My job was to ensure commercial success for Roxy Music. Once they had agreed this I said I would join Roxy Music amid loud cheers from Bryan, Andy, Eno and Graham.
Hurrah! Hurrah (loudly)!! Now we can obtain all our aims and objectives!!! And seize control of the means of production!! And so on!!! Possibly.
Just couldn't get the help, those days:
The material we began rehearsing became the group's first album release. I wanted to be involved with the writing that was part of my deal. I selected two songs to start with which I was intending to release as solo singles but had not found the right calibre of musicians to record them.
It's a hard life being a visionary genius, as any fule kno.
I completely rearranged the songs, rewrote parts of them and added new melodic sections to make the songs sound more fashionable. I added new beginnings, new middles, new endings and generally beefed up the sound as Bryan wanted me to. You can hear the evidence of all my work on Roxy Music’s first album. It was all kept in of course otherwise Roxy Music would not have got their contract with Island Records. Phil did not add anything to the guitar parts or arrangements when he recorded the songs, the new producer did not add anything new either. Phil replicated note for note and chord for chord what I recorded for the Roxy Music John Peel Show even buying the same Fender guitar to obtain the same sound, he was a big fan of mine.
Pay attention at the back! Name one other part of a song aside from the beginning, the middle and the end. That's not funny, Simkins!
Word had got around that Davy O’List had a new group called Roxy Music. Record company and press awareness was raised on the group. My name/reputation obtained The John Peel Show, a gig at John Peel's club Perfumed Garden supporting Genesis and the Richard Williams article in the NME. I confirm that the taped John Peel Show which I produced for Roxy Music in December 1971 secured the record contract with Island Records.... E’G complimented me for changing the music style of Roxy Music. They had turned down the group before but were now very interested.
After Roxy Music split up I contacted Bryan Ferry and said let's rejoin forces and produce a stunning hit. Bryan seemed excited about the reunion and we produced ‘The 'In' Crowd’ which I earned my first gold disc for. I was only to play on The 'In' Crowd, Chance Meeting and Let's Stick Together (though I am not credited for LST on the sleeve). The recordings were a good experience and I wish to do more with Bryan Ferry including live stadium appearances.
Did Roxy Music know that they had split up? Someone should have told them. Anyway, a very generous offer, especially the bit about stadium appearances. Any particular size of stadium in mind, sir?
As for the rest of the world:
David O'List and Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry have not received their just deserts in the annals of pop music criticism as the true story of how Roxy Music made it has never been told publicly until now.
I was approached by four musicians who were desperate to make it and needed me to play the guitar and get them a contract. Well, I was talked into it and got them a deal with CBS Records (now Sony Music) in 1975. We called the group Jet. However the personalities in the band were not good. I was burgled because of them, my guitar and recently acquired effects units, amps and cabs was stolen. The record company hastily got rid of them when it became evident they had no intention of being serious, they were just there to rip everybody off.
Exactly - there's no point in being a burglar unless you take it seriously and don't rip anybody off. (Is this right? Ed).
When I re-met John Cale in London in late 1977 he complimented me on my work on ‘The ‘In’ Crowd’ and offered me a tour of Europe as his guest star! The fans in Europe were very, very happy to see me at last. I had to sign original copies of my first album ‘The Thoughts Of Emerlistdavjak’ in Berlin when the wall was up. It was very exciting being on John Cale’s tour and to experience so much fan adoration, something I had not experienced since leading The Pink Floyd on the Jimi Hendrix tour.
I wonder what Messrs Gilmour and Waters were up to at the time when their band was being led... probably being excited, grateful and overjoyed, in that order...
And even later:
After the John Cale tour I formed a new group called Nice Music but a recording deal fell through as the fixer asked for too much of a cut from our advance. At this time I was producing for Island Records and playing keyboards for a psychedelic reggae outfit called Urban Shakedown. This unfortunately ended badly as the bass player, who was very temperamental, stole my equipment.
Temperamental bass players from Mars stole my equipment. You just can't get serious thieves these days. Anyway, it was probably that bloke from Jet, the not good personality one. Fortunately the handbag was left behind... Nice Music.. geddit?
Blimey. If anyone wants any more of this guff it is, as noted, at Viva Roxy Music.