Jazz is the drug for pop music's most debonair crooner

By EW Staff
Updated September 23, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

I’m thinking of calling the Guiness Book of World Records,” says lounge-lizard guru Bryan Ferry, 48. ”I must have set a record for number of children born during the making of an album!”

In the past six years, Ferry may have done more than produce little Merlin, 3, and Tara, 4, with his wife, British socialite Lucy Helmore. But not much more. Since 1987’s Bete Noire, the former Roxy Music frontman, known more for his rico suave reputation than for his equally striking bouts with writer’s block, has struggled to complete an original record. In the interim, he’s released an album of covers (1991’s Taxi), sold his Manhattan loft because of crippling studio fees, and split from his U.S. label (Warner) ostensibly for a lack of what he calls ”chemistry.” Finally — collaborating with Roxy veterans Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Andy Mackay — he’s released a full-length LP of new material, Mamouna (originally titled Horoscope). One thing this martini- sipping icon of ’70s high life hasn’t done, though, is to keep abreast of ’90s music. That’s an assessment based on running him through the stacks at Tower Records’ downtown Manhattan store, which elicited the following observations:

*Pearl Jam ”I don’t really know them. I’m sure they’re great, though.”
*Forrest Gump soundtrack ”Wow! They really put soundtracks together now, don’t they?”
* Neil Young ”His voice is so soulful and plaintive. And he looks as if he’s quite uncompromising, which is difficult.”
*Boz Scaggs ”I think he’s great. He once bought me dinner, which is always all right by me.”
*Jimi Hendrix ”I like him. I thought he was the only one who looked good in that hippie, gypsy clothing.”
*Combustible Edison ”Are they good? They’ve been mentioned as an opening band for my tour (November and December in the United States). Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that song, ‘Cry Me a River.’ And this one, ‘Surabaya Johnny.’ They like Kurt Weill, so I guess we have something in common.”
*Billie Holiday ”Hmmm, 16 Most Requested Songs. By whom?” * Roxy Music (Viva! Roxy Music) ”I never liked that one. I suppose we had to have a live album at the time. It was part of the contract or something.”
*Counting Crows ”I haven’t heard them. They’re like R.E.M., right? I’ve heard very good things about them from my wife, and she likes R.E.M.”
*Tony Bennett ”I never liked him. I like Sinatra much more.”
*Steve Miller ”I always thought he was good, very old-fashioned sounding. My 11-year-old (Otis) really likes that song ‘The Joker.”’
*Rolling Stones (Voodoo Lounge) ”Nice cover.”

”We don’t have MTV at home; it’s too expensive,” Ferry apologizes as we pass out of the store with $93 worth of jazz CDs. ”Maybe in the next few years I’ll get caught up.”