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Phil Manzanera: Records that changed my life

Phil Manzanera: Records that changed my life

3 min read

Roxy Music guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera has written his memoir Revolución to Roxy, and we asked him about the records that changed his life
Shooting to fame in the early 1970s with the seminal band Roxy Music, guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera looks back on his incredible life in his new memoir Revolución to Roxy.
Talking about the memoir, Phil comments, "I’ve written this memoir for my English and Colombian family, dear friends and music fans, who’ve followed my musical twists and turns for over half a century.  
"It’s a memoir that spans my 1950s childhood in Cuba, Hawaii and Venezuela, when everything seemed in the brightest technicolor, to monochrome but very cool 1960s London and the start of a music career that continues to enrich my life. 
"Roxy Music is an important part of the story but I hope the reader will find my family history every bit as fascinating as my music adventures:  I’m proud to be related to the most famous 17th century Sephardic Jewish pirate of the Caribbean, a British spy and an Italian opera musician.”
We asked Phil what records changed his life.

Elvis Presley—Jailhouse Rock 

I was born in London in 1951 and wasn’t really aware of music except Disney tunes and music from tv shows like Davy Crocket. In Havana aged seven, my mother started teaching me Cuban/Latin songs on a Spanish guitar but when this Elvis album turned up, I was excited by Jailhouse Rock. I still treasure the same copy.
"I was excited by 'Jailhouse Rock' and I still treasure the same copy"
We left after the revolution and moved briefly to Hawaii then Venezuela, where I begged my parents to send me to boarding school in London. I arrived in September 1960 and the music I heard changed my life over the next ten years.

The Shadows—Apache 

When I came to the UK, I was already following these guys. The good thing about EMI was that they had a good distribution system globally and you could buy this in Venezuela. It was also good that it was all instrumental and was all on the electric guitar. I thought the photo made them look like rock 'n' rollers and very different but not too rebellious.
I love the sound and the playing was very precise but not too difficult to copy. When I came to London other boys at Dulwich College had learned how to play this and we all helped each other to learn chords and lead parts.

The Who—My Generation 

the who
Released in 1965, this album caused a sensation. It had an energy and iconoclastic dimension which we hadn’t heard or experienced before. It was incredibly exciting to see them perform on television and the mod and rocker confrontations were in the press.
"It had an energy and iconoclastic dimension which we hadn’t heard or experienced before"
Mods preferred The Who and the context they played in—the clothes and Lambrettas—symbolised a new tribe emerging with their distinctive look, which was different from the Beatles and Stones but still in keeping with the expanding Swinging Sixties. Pete Townshend’s hard rock sound and auto-destructive way of playing the guitar, Keith Moon's drumming, John Entwistle’s strident bass and Roger Daltrey’s brutish vocals spoke to me. The track "My Generation" encapsulated it all in 3.18 mins.

The Beatles—Revolver 

Since the age of 11, The Beatles were even more exciting than Elvis and I was smitten. Revolver marked a pivotal moment in their development and in my being influenced by them in a new dimension of resonance, and it opened my mind to their musical influences and thus my own personal musical development.
It provoked endless discussions as a 15-year-old with the fellow members of our school band about the innovative directions they were heading into: electronic music, psychedelia, using the studio as an instrument/use of classical octet, combining traditional song writing in a modern context. It all blew our minds.

Jimi Hendrix—Hey Joe 

I have a visual memory of exactly where I was when I first saw Jimi Hendrix.
I was sitting in my mother’s front room in Clapham in London. He started playing "Hey Joe". Noel Reading on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The sound coming out of his guitar was like nothing I had heard before. It was a style of playing I hadn’t heard before. There was a unique technique, and the strings were upside down as he was left-handed, but played guitar like a right-handed player. The use of the tremelo arm was new—his volume was louder than before. He looked incredible and could also play the guitar using his teeth! 
"Seeing Jimi Hendrix on TV and then live fuelled my desire to become a professional musician"
Seeing Hendrix on the television and then at the Saville theatre in London, where the Beatles watched from a box as he played a version of "Sgt Pepper", made me delirious and fuelled my desire to become a professional musician.
phil manzanera book
Revolución to Roxy (Wordzworth Publishing) by Phil Manzanera is out March 22
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