Andy Mackay

Andrew "Andy" Mackay (born 23 July 1946) is an English multi-instrumentalist, best known as a founding member (playing oboe and saxophone) of the art rock group Roxy Music.

Andy Mackay
Mackay with Roxy Music, LG Arena, Birmingham January 2011
Background information
Birth nameAndrew Mackay
Born (1946-07-23) 23 July 1946
Lostwithiel, Cornwall, England
GenresRock, glam rock, art rock, classical music, R&B
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer, educator, author, film scorer
Instrumentssoprano saxophone, Alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, keyboards, oboe, lyricon, Yamaha WX7, vocals
Years active1971–present
LabelsIsland, Polydor, Virgin, Reprise, Warner Bros., EG, ATCO
Associated actsRoxy Music

In addition, he has taught music and provided scores for television, while his CV as a session musician encompasses some of the most noteworthy and recognisable names in the music business.

Life and career

Mackay was born in Lostwithiel, Cornwall, England, and grew up in central London, attending Westminster City School where he was a chorister in the choir of St Margaret's, Westminster.[1][2] A classically trained woodwind player,[3] he studied music and English literature at Reading University. While at university, he played with a band called The Nova Express and, together with future Roxy Music publicist Simon Puxley, formed part of a performance art group called Sunshine. He also struck up a friendship with Winchester art student Brian Eno.[4]

In January 1971, Mackay became a member of the art rock band Roxy Music (formed November 1970) after answering a Melody Maker advertisement placed by singer Bryan Ferry; he soon brought Eno into the group to handle "Synthesiser and Tapes". Prior to signing with EG Management, Mackay taught music full-time at Holland Park School and part-time at Bishop Thomas Grant Catholic Comprehensive to support himself. Initially, guitarist David O'List (from The Nice) was part of the group, but he was replaced by Phil Manzanera in February 1972, just as the band's first album was about to be recorded. Drummer Paul Thompson completed the band's line up.

Mackay played oboe and saxophone in Roxy Music, becoming known for his Chuck Berry-inspired duckwalk during saxophone solos, notably on the raucous track "Editions of You". With his pronounced quiff, Star Trek sideburns and outlandish Motown-inspired stage costumes, Mackay made a vital contribution to the unique Roxy Music "look"—much of which functioned as a retro-futurist throwback to 1950s rock and roll performers.[5]

His songwriting credits for Roxy Music include the Top Five hits "Love is the Drug" (1975) and "Angel Eyes" (1979), plus "A Song for Europe", "Three and Nine", "Bitter-Sweet", "Sentimental Fool", "While My Heart is Still Beating" and "Tara", together with the early experimental B-sides "The Numberer" and "The Pride and the Pain".

He released two instrumental solo albums in the 1970s: In Search of Eddie Riff (1974), an exploration of his musical roots and Resolving Contradictions (1978), based on his impressions of a trip to China. Both albums featured guest appearances from Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music.[6] He also composed and produced the music for the hit television series Rock Follies and Rock Follies of '77, with lyrics by playwright and screenwriter Howard Schuman. Both series sired specially recorded soundtrack albums, the first of which reached Number One in the UK Album Chart in March/April 1976. The second contained a hit single in the form of "OK?", which reached Number Ten in the UK Singles Chart in May/June 1977. Schuman and Mackay reunited in 1983 for the BBC one-off TV drama 'Video Stars', with Mackay again providing music.[7] He appeared onscreen in cameo roles in both Schuman projects.

Mackay has also worked with Duran Duran, Mott the Hoople, John Cale, Pavlov's Dog, John Mellencamp, Mickey Jupp, Yukihiro Takahashi, Paul McCartney, Godley & Creme, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Tomoyasu Hotei, Arcadia and 801. He also played saxophone on several tracks of Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).

In 1981, his book Electronic Music: The Instruments, the Music & the Musicians was published by Phaidon.

After Roxy Music's dissolution in 1983, Mackay joined with Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera to form the Explorers, featuring Bryan Ferry-soundalike James Wraith on lead vocals. The group released a self-titled album in 1985 and three years later resurfaced as Manzanera and Mackay. Under this name, they released a further two albums which combined new material with reissued tracks from the Explorers album.

From 1988 to 1991, Mackay largely abandoned music to take a three-year Bachelor of Divinity course at King's College London. During this time, he played on and produced a Christmas album with The Players, a group of English folk musicians.

He has written several themes for British television and radio, such as the memorable theme music for the late 1970s series Armchair Thriller and Hazell.

With Ferry, Manzanera and Thompson, he took part in the Roxy Music reunion concerts of 2001, with further scattered live dates in 2003, 2005/6 and 2011.

In 2014, he became a founder member of Clive Langer's new band, The Clang Group, playing 2 live dates in London in October 2014 and recording an EP for Domino.[8][9]

2018 saw the completion of his setting of '3Psalms' which started as an experimental project in the mid 1990s, aiming to be a synthesis of Mackay’s varied influences, from his classical training to his rock and roll, avant-garde electronica and even his years as a boy chorister. Picking up in 2012, Mackay went back into the studio, scoring strings, choir, synthesisers, guitar and some other rock elements. Fellow Roxy Musician Phil Manzanera guested on both the album and the London concert premiering the work, which also featured orchestral reworkings of several Roxy Music tracks under the banner 'Roxymphony'.[10]


Solo albums

Rock Follies

Explorers/Manzanera and Mackay

  • The Explorers (1985)
  • Crack The Whip (1988)
  • Up in Smoke (1988)
  • The Explorers Live at the Palace (1997)
  • The Complete Explorers (2001)


  • Christmas (1989)

Andy Mackay + The Metaphors

  • London! Paris! New York! Rome! (2009)


  1. Michael Bracewell (2011). Re-make/Re-model: Art, Pop, Fashion and the making of Roxy Music, 1953-1972. p. 180. ISBN 9780571276707.
  2. Madeleine Davies (21 November 2018). "Rock Psalms to be heard on South Bank". Church Times. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  3. DeRogatis, Jim (2003). Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-634-05548-5. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  4. Sheppard, David (2008). On Some Faraway Beach: The Life And Times Of Brian Eno. Orion. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-4091-0593-0. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  5. Roxyrama Official Website Andy Mackay Biography
  6. Kaye, Ben (16 September 2008). "Icons of Rock: Andy Mackay". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 24 July 2014.


  • Rigby, Jonathan Roxy Music: Both Ends Burning (Reynolds & Hearn, 2005; revised edition 2008) ISBN 1-903111-80-3

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