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Brian Eno answers a fan’s question about his makeup 1973
09:30 am


Brian Eno
Roxy Music

Too much blusher, Bri?
The question came from Brenda in Barnwood, Gloucester, who asked:

What make-up does Eno use on and off stage and does he sing on any tracks of “Roxy Music”?

Brenda was one of three readers who sent in questions for Brian Eno to Melody Maker, April 21st 1973. Eno was more than happy to share his favorite makeup tips:

My make up is the same both on and off stage to a greater or lesser degree. It consists of a large selection of things including Quant, Revlon, Schwarzkopps and Yardley. I just choose whatever colour appeals to me at the time.

On my eyes I use six different colours by three different makers. I’m using Quant crayons quite a lot at present

His favorite crayons by Mary Quant.
Quant crayons came out sometime around the late 1960s—dates vary between 1966 to 1969. These make-up accessories were de rigueur for many a young girl and ambitious glam rocker. According to those who used and liked Quant’s crayons—they were “really high quality, the colors were great and they blended incredibly well.”

Alas, these exotic crayons are no longer available, but questioner Brenda Merrett is still a fan of Eno.
As for singing with Roxy Music Eno replied:

I don’t sing lead vocals at any time—only backing vocals. These are nearly always done by Andy MacKay and myself. Examples are “Would You Believe,” “If There Is Something” and “Bitter’s [sic] End.”

Eno joined Roxy Music after a chance meeting:

As a result of going into a subway station and meeting saxophonist Andy Mackay, I joined Roxy Music, and, as a result of that, I have a career in music. If I’d walked ten yards further on the platform, or missed that train, or been in the next carriage, I probably would have been an art teacher now.

After the jump, Brian Eno singing his debut single “Seven Deadly Finns” on Dutch television…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
This is ‘What the Future Sounded Like’: Meet the pioneers of ‘music without frontiers’

If you’re British and of a certain age then Doctor Who was most likely your first introduction to the sounds of electronic music. Apart from its famous theme tune, Doctor Who used an electronic soundtrack composed by Tristram Cary to underscore the arrival of the Daleks onto TV screens in 1963. At the time, most people considered electronic music as weird, alienating noise. Using it in a primetime TV series like Doctor Who was—as one commentator explains in the fascinating documentary What the Future Sounded Like—a rather subversive act.

Tristram Cary struck upon the potential of tape and electronic music while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The son of the Irish novelist Joyce Cary (The Horse’s Mouth), Tristram was one of the earliest pioneers of electronic music during the 1950s. A classically-trained composer, he had scored such movies as The Ladykillers and Town on Trial but found traditional music inhibiting. Reasoning that music was just the organization of sound, Cary began to experiment with electronic sounds, tape recordings and musique concrète, in a bid to create “music without frontiers.”
At the same, two other electronic music pioneers, the aristocratic Peter Zinovieff and engineer David Cockerell were separately testing out their own ideas. The three eventually came together to form the Electronic Music Studios in 1969. Their intention was to produce a versatile monophonic synthesiser, which could be cheaply produced for public use. While this proved tricky, Cockerell did manage to design one of the first British portable commercially available synthesizer—or Voltage Controlled Studio—the EMS VCS3. This once futuristic-looking “suitcase synth” is what Brian Eno was seen using during his tenure in Roxy Music.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Greatness of Brian Eno
04:50 pm

Pop Culture

Brian Eno
Bryan Ferry
Roxy Music

The term “genius” has been so devalued by its inanely ubiquitous overuse by the media one can no longer be certain what it means. Read any music review, film critique or general piece of hagiography typed by some blogger and you’ll stumble over the word “genius” as frequently as a drunk stubs a toe against furniture in the dark.

For example, Kim Kardashian apparently has “a genius” for clothes. Her husband Kanye West is, of course, a self-confessed genius. What the word genius means in these two examples I’m not really sure. Unless, of course, it means “tasteless” and “delusional.”

Genius once meant something exceptional. It was the laurel crowned on the head of only the greatest talents. A friend once suggested there was greatness and then there was genius. His example went something like this:

Genius pervades all aspects of an individual’s life. The talent, the taste, the originality of thought. For example, David Bowie was once asked by Coldplay to collaborate on a song. He declined claiming the song on offer wasn’t very good. David Bowie had genius.

Brian Eno produced Coldplay’s fourth album. Brian Eno has greatness.

Whether this is a fair or even correct assumption to make—docking Eno for deigning to associate with that lot—who am I to say?

When I first heard of the multi-talented polymath Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno—the man with a name for every day of the working week—he was being hailed as “the genius” behind Roxy Music. I demurred. It was always Bryan Ferry the chief singer and songwriter who I thought of as “the genius” of that band. When Eno left Roxy—the cry went up that they were not the same without their impish knob twiddler. I couldn’t see it and wondered what the fuss was all about. Then came Eno’s first solo album Here Comes the Warm Jets and I began to appreciate what some of that fuss had been about.

By the end of the seventies as Roxy became less pop art and more soulful tunesmiths, Eno was still seeking out new projects—moving on, discovering, producing, creating, testing the parameters of music. He seemed unstoppable.

In all respects, Eno is more than the sum of his parts. He sets an example as a creator, an artist, a musician—of what it means to be alive and to do as much as possible. As he suggested in the profile of his life and career Another Green World:

All of the encouragement from modern life is to tell you to pay attention to yourself and take control of things.

Whether Eno’s merely great or a genius is immaterial. He’s a concept, an exemplar to do things better, to try them differently, to learn more, to do more.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Watch ‘Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell to Earth’ a terrific doc on Eno’s early years
03:33 pm


Brian Eno
Roxy Music

Appropriating its title from Nicolas Roeg’s mid-‘70s masterpiece starring David Bowie, Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell to Earth, 1971-1977, directed by Ed Haynes, also unmistakably asserts that the high points of Eno’s career fell within the stated years. So that includes the first two Roxy Music albums, Eno’s first five solo albums (Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, Discreet Music, and Before and After Science), his early work with Robert Fripp, and a few other projects. If that weren’t enough, it also includes his “Oblique Strategies” project with Peter Schmidt.

There’s little question that this body of work represents a very, very high bar, and it’s certainly an interesting strategy to focus on exclusively the very best section of Eno’s career, leaving out most notably his production work on David Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” as well as multiple albums for Talking Heads and U2, DEVO’s first album, and many others.

As rock critic George Starostin has written, “If there is anybody in this world who could really penetrate into the very nature of SOUND itself and analyze it with the sharpest scalpel, yet leaving no traces of rude treatment upon its delicate soul, it is Mr. Brian Eno.”

This lengthy (157 minutes) documentary is an engaging look at one of the singular figures of 1970s music.

This video, which is on the SnagFilms website, will begin playing automatically if it is embedded in this page, so this link will have to do.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
This Brian Eno-Stephen Stills mashup will flush your mind down the toilet
09:10 am


Brian Eno
Stephen Stills
Adam Payne

Adam Payne, the prodigiously talented solo artist, leader of Residual Echoes and proprietor of Pacific Coast Editions, has discovered a shocking fact no one else dared suspect: “St. Elmo’s Fire” by Brian Eno and “Love The One You’re With” by Stephen Stills are two halves of the same song. As the primeval “man-woman of the moon” Aristophanes describes in Plato’s Symposium was once cut in two by Zeus “like a sorb-apple is halved for pickling,” so these two recordings must have been sundered since time immemorial. Now, at long last, Payne has restored them to their original union.

“One Love The Fire, You’re With St. Elmo” may sound merely surprising at first blush, but it’s really going to fuck you up the next time you hear “Love The One You’re With” at the local CVS. The feeling that the song is somehow incomplete will gnaw at you until, on the drive home, you realize what you thought was missing: Robert Fripp’s quicksilver solo from “St. Elmo’s Fire.” And the next time you give your tear-stained copy of Another Green World a spin, you’ll wonder where those big, open, Laurel Canyon, Joni Mitchell acoustic guitar chords went. It goes downhill for you from there, cognitively speaking. Have you seen Videodrome? That’s your life a few months after hearing this.

Of the two artists, Stills is the one I imagine being touchier about intellectual property rights. But in this case, he would be hoist with his own petard! For how could he object to being paired with Eno, when he has so lately enjoined the listener to love whatever damaged, smelly person fate thrusts in his or her lap?

A related point: would Stills’ song also have been a hit with the title “Fuck The Date What Brung You”?

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Are you in the market for a pair of ‘professionally done’ Brian Eno custom Converse?
09:53 am


Brian Eno
Chuck Taylor

Well, this is what they were going for.
The Converse “Chuck Taylor” All-Star has, for half a century, been the official shoe of “cool.”

In recent years, it’s become commonplace for shoe companies, including Converse, to issue limited edition pairs in homage to pop culture figures or bands. For example, these spiffy Clash kicks:

Earlier this year Dangerous Minds told you about a badass collection of Andy Warhol-inspired Chucks.

It’s also become commonplace for individual artists to paint “blank canvas” Chucks and offer them up for sale on Etsy or Ebay, which is where we found these Brian Eno Ambient 1 shoes.

Certainly Ambient 1:Music For Airports is an album worthy of homage. Eno’s landmark minimalist sound sculpture holds a place in history as one of the most influential albums ever recorded. Indeed it should be celebrated.

So, here they are. One artist’s, uh, struggle at capturing the subtle majesty of Eno’s masterpiece:

“Hi. These are new and unused beautifully professionally done unisex custom all star converse size 8.5 in acrylic waterproof paint . Thanks.”


Starting bid is ONLY 50.00 GBP (approximately US $75.24)! Who could resist, right?

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Krautrock legend Michael Rother talks about the new Harmonia box set, plus exclusive footage!

Of the so-called Krautrock bands, Harmonia’s music is the most beautiful. It often sounds as if they’re playing colored lights rather than musical instruments. As Julian Cope writes of Harmonia’s first album in Krautrocksampler:

Each piece was a short vignette of sound which faded in, filled the room with its unearthly beauty, then left just as quickly.

Formed in 1973 by guitarist Michael Rother, who had founded NEU! after leaving Kraftwerk, and electronic musicians Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, who played together as the duo Cluster, Harmonia lived and recorded in a communal setting in the rural town of Forst, where Rother still lives. Brian Eno, who believed Harmonia was “the world’s most important rock band,” traveled to Forst to record with the trio in 1976, after the group had already agreed to break up; he described what he found there as “a small anarchic state.”

Harmonia only released two albums during their brief career, both essential: Musik von Harmonia and Deluxe. Tracks and Traces, the album resulting from Harmonia’s collaboration with Eno, did not come out until 1997; a decade later, the release of Live 1974 brought the total number of Harmonia records to a slim but sturdy four. On October 23, Grönland Records will release Harmonia’s Complete Works, a five-LP box set that supplements all of the above with a new archival release, Documents 1975, a poster, a pop-up, and a booklet with photos from Forst and an enlightening essay by Geeta Dayal.

I spoke with Michael Rother about Harmonia’s remarkable career early one morning in September.

It strikes me that you have a really distinctive guitar tone. I feel like if someone was playing a recording of yours that I’d never heard before, I could identify that it was you. Do you have any insight into how your tone developed?

Of course, this is a compliment. Actually, it should make me happy. It makes me happy—and maybe it’s also true, to a certain degree—but there is no real secret about the guitar. I think it has to do with the way I play guitar.

I used to, in the sixties, when I was still a copyist, a copy guitar player, copying heroes like Harrison, Clapton, Hendrix, Page, and whatever [laughs], I tried to play the rock’n’roll, rock type of guitar. But I stopped that in the late sixties, and the idea was to throw away the fast fingers and concentrate on one note, and then gradually find out what I can express on the guitar without being a copy of someone else.

And, of course, maybe you’re right, the fuzztone is special. I have a fuzz—the original was built for me in the seventies, but not NEU! so, see, it can’t be the only explanation—that was built when I was with Harmonia, by some people in the vicinity, music fans and also musicians. And this guy built a copy of, I think it was a copy of a Big Muff or something like that for me. In recent years, I was lucky that a real audio guru, a real, very talented, experienced studio electrician—electrician, maybe not; like, he knows all about studio technology, and he can build stuff—so I asked him to rebuild that fuzz, and to build it in a slightly smaller case, so that I can carry it around the world. And he laughed when he looked at the original copy from the seventies, and said “Ha, ha! These people have made a mistake!” And I asked him to stick to that mistake, because maybe the mistake is partly responsible for the special sound.

But I think—that is probably one aspect, but the idea behind the guitar playing, how I build up several guitars in one track, I think that’s also a very important factor, creating some individual sound. When I started with NEU! I remember I had this vision of making my guitar sound like an oboe, you know, the wind instrument? Like, fading in? So I had these two volume pedals, and if you listen to tracks like “Neuschnee,” for instance, you hear an example. And by EQing the guitar, and then also, of course, adding delays, et cetera. But the idea of a guitar not sounding like a guitar was something that was, from the beginning, in my head. It was supposed to sound different.

I have to admit that I always pictured Harmonia’s music coming out of the city, in more of a laboratory setting, so I was really surprised to see in the booklet that comes with the box set that it was more of a communal situation with dogs and families… there’s one picture of a guy named Jerry Kilian lying on a couch with a beer bottle underneath. What can you tell me about life at Forst?

That’s an interesting thing, what you say about how you imagine the music to come from the city, because sometimes people say the opposite, and they ask me questions like, “Do you think the music by Harmonia could have been the same if you had, for instance, lived in Berlin, and recorded music in an underground studio without fresh air, without any windows?” Of course, it’s hypothetical; I have no real explanation. But what I try to say to those questions is: I believe that Roedelius, Moebius and I already had some kind of vision for the music which would have been independent of the place where the music is played. But, of course, partly the wonder for this magical place—because it’s not only the communal aspect, it’s also looking out of the window and seeing a river and fields, no human structure in sight, and to have this kind of open space—at least, it was something that appealed to me straight from the beginning, this feeling of being at home, sort of, hasn’t left me since.

You know, I still live here. My studio was the Harmonia studio, where you see the three work spaces of Roedelius, Moebius and mine—I think it’s also in the book—you see the gear set up. That room is still my studio. Of course, it has changed; the gear has changed, and recently, since the arrival of the computer, that has significantly changed again, because I can work, I don’t know, I can work in a closet! [Laughs] All I need is a computer and a guitar, like I work live, you know. That setup which I carry around the world is what I basically need, and of course if I have some more gear, that’s also welcome.

I can’t part with Forst. I used to have a flat; my former partner, she let me use that flat in Hamburg when, in the wintertime, it gets rather dark and gloomy and muddy in Forst, but it’s different from city life, of course. In spring, summer, and also autumn, it’s beautiful. Today, I was up, I went into the toilet and I saw a beautiful sky with fog on the river, and I immediately grabbed my camera. I make photos all the time, because with each light—like daylight, bright sunshine, or dark atmosphere—you always have new impressions of the landscape.

Coming back to your question, apart from the beauty of the landscape, which really impressed me, of course, the thing was the lifestyle of the people and the lifestyle that was possible in this environment, which was, for me, a new experience. I came from Düsseldorf; I’d been living in cities with normal flats, and when I came to Forst, at the time—it’s really a funny anecdote—there was only one tap in the staircase with cold water. There was no sewage, nothing. There was just a pipe going through the wall, and everything went down just outside the house [laughs]. What I’m trying to say is, there was so much freedom to create your own living space, you know? Install heating, install proper sanitary things, and also, something I really enjoyed, I took a sledgehammer and just removed a wall that divided the space I could use, and just took out the wall to have a large room instead of two small ones. Try to do that in a flat in Düsseldorf! [Laughs]

So, the positive side was, we were really free. We could make music whenever we wanted to, nobody complained. We didn’t create much noise, but we had space, very much space to leave our gear. There were other people in Forst with whom we exchanged—like the people you see in the photos, you know, that was the kind of people, musicians came to visit. The basic thing is the freedom, really; it all comes down to the freedom.
The interview continues after the jump, plus the ONLY known footage of Harmonia, a Dangerous Minds exclusive!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Brian Eno’s ‘short tribute film to Can’
09:33 am


Brian Eno

The treasure-trove Can DVD set from 2003 included this one-minute movie, A short tribute film to Can by Brian Eno. It’s only slightly less goofy than the gut-busting 2010 film in which Eno interviewed himself as the long-winded “Dick Flash of Pork Magazine.” At one point, as he evaluates Can’s contributions to the arts with a series of striking antitheses, Eno illustrates the true German spirit by wearing what appears to be a colander on his head.

After the jump, another treat from Can DVD

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘The world’s worst orchestra,’ featuring Brian Eno on clarinet
09:34 am


Brian Eno
Portsmouth Sinfonia

Do orchestral musicians really have to practice four to six hours a day? Yes and no. It’s true that groups like the Chicago Philharmonic expect their members to know “notes,” “chords” and “scales.” If you don’t, they won’t let you join, and they won’t even let you play along with them during their concerts. But not all classical musicians are such fucking snobs. If your body temperature is in the neighborhood of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, congratulations! You’ve just passed the audition. You’ve got all the chops you need to play in Gavin Bryarspeople’s orchestra, the Portsmouth Sinfonia.

Inactive since the 70s, the Sinfonia once welcomed musicians and non-musicians alike, though people of talent were expected to play instruments on which they were not proficient, and all members were expected to play the repertoire to the best of their abilities. The result was a special kind of cacophony: every familiar theme (Also sprach Zarathustra, the William Tell Overture, Beethoven’s Fifth), though played as ineptly as possible, was approached with respect and even care. You will instantly recognize every tune they attempt, and you will probably bust a gut.

The orchestra’s most famous member, Brian Eno, produced (and played clarinet on) the debut album Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays The Popular Classics. Eno also appeared on the live Hallelujah, a recording of the orchestra’s triumphant 1974 performance at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Sinfonia put in an appearance on Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), contributing the seasick strings to “Put A Straw Under Baby.” In this short clip from the Royal Albert Hall show, you can see Eno singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah (scroll down for more of this performance):

From the sleeve of Popular Classics, here are Eno’s reflections on the Portsmouth Sinfonia:

The Portsmouth Sinfonia usually claims a membership of about fifty – the number fluctuates. Within the orchestra is represented the full range of musical competence – some members playing difficult instruments for the first time, others, on the other hand, of concert standard. This tends to generate an extra-ordinary and unique musical situation where the inevitable errors must be considered as a crucial, if inadvertent, element of the music.

It is important to stress the main characteristic of the orchestra: that all members of the Sinfonia share the desire to play the pieces as accurately as possible. One supposes that the possibility of professional accuracy will forever elude us since there is a constant influx of new members and a continual desire to attempt more ambitious pieces from the realms of the popular classics.

My own involvement in the Sinfonia is on two levels – I am a non-musician in the sense of never having “studied music”, yet at the same time, I notice that many of the more significant contributions to rock music and, to a lesser extent, avant-garde music have been made by enthusiastic amateurs and dabblers. Their strength is that they are able to approach the task of music-making without previously acquired solutions and without a too firm concept of what is and what is not musically possible. Coupled with this, and consequent to it, is a current fascination with the role of ‘the accident’ in structured activities.

Legend has it that Beethoven, among other composers, enjoyed performances of his music by enthusiastic music-makers who may well have possessed a similar range of abilities to those of the members of the Sinfonia.

Whether he would have enjoyed our rendering of his Fifth Symphony is, of course, something we will never know.

Eno Sept. 1973

More from the Portsmouth Sinfonia, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Fugazi, PJ Harvey, Brian Eno, DEVO, and more, sung by an actual glee club

The Blue Ribbon Glee Club is a Windy City-based a capella group who’ve been performing covers of classic punk and indie rock since 2007. In 2009, they released their E.P., A Capella Über Alles, on Whistler Records, the house label of my absolute favorite cocktails-and-music bar in Chicago. It should be noted that both the group’s formation and the E.P.‘s release predate the debut of that one TV show. It was about, like, a choir or something? I forget what it was called.

For the record, The Blue Ribbon Glee Club has been around since March 2007. We’re predominantly a live performance group. For us, it’s not about whitewashing rock and roll, it’s about using our voices to embody the same power and dirt that ultimately drew us to the songs we cover. But sure, some of it sounds pretty.


Blue Ribbon Glee Club, “Dress,” orig PJ Harvey
More pure, untrammeled glee after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
How Brian Eno managed to piss in Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal, 1990
12:50 pm


Brian Eno
Marcel Duchamp

Brian Eno lecturing at MoMA on Duchamp’s “Fountain,” October 23, 1990
This stimulating interview with Brian Eno was conducted in 1993 by Israeli industrial designer and architect Ron Arad for the TV show Rencontre/Begegnung on the bilingual Euro TV arts channel Arte.

In the interview Eno confesses that “Roxy Music was an aberration in my life” and also intriguingly asserts that he has never owned a copy of the Velvet Underground’s third album because he does not want to spoil it by overplaying it. But the most startling portion of the interview comes towards the end, when he describes an illicit art adventure he experienced three years earlier, in 1990, when he decided to pee in Marcel Duchamp’s famous “ready-made” from 1917, a urinal with the title “Fountain” bestowed upon it.

Eno explains the importance of “Fountain” quite well when he says that it represented “a new idea in art,” that “the artist was not necessarily somebody who made something but somebody who recognized something, somebody who created an art experience by naming it as such.” Then Eno eases into his narrative: “This readymade was on show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I was due to give a lecture there called ‘High Art/Low Art.’ … There it was, sitting in the museum.” After mentioning that he had already seen “Fountain” at the Sao Paulo Biennale in the 1980s as well as in London in the 1970s, he gets to the meat of his protest:

And I thought, how ridiculous that this particular … pisspot gets carried around the world at—it costs about thirty or forty thousand dollars to insure it every time it travels. I thought, How absolutely stupid, the whole message of this work is, “You can take any object and put it in a gallery.” It doesn’t have to be that one, that’s losing the point completely. And this seemed to me an example of the art world once again covering itself by drawing a fence around that thing, saying, “This isn’t just any ordinary piss pot, this is THE one, the special one, the one that is worth all this money.”

So I thought, somebody should piss in that thing, to sort of bring it back to where it belonged. So I decided it had to be me.

In the video he then goes on to describe in great detail exactly how he managed to pee on the urinal. The date of this series of events was October 23, 1990. Eno wrote about this episode in his 1996 book A Year With Swollen Appendices. Here’s his account from that book (the story in the video is very similar):

…each time it was shown it was more heavily defended. At MoMA it was being shown behind glass, in a large display case. There was, however, a narrow slit between the two front sheets of glass. It was about three-sixteenths of an inch wide.

I went to the plumber’s on the corner [New Yorkers might wonder what “plumber” has a retail presence on the intersection of 53rd and 5th Avenue?] and obtained a couple of feet of clear plastic tubing of that thickness, along with a similar length of galvanized wire. Back in my hotel room, I inserted the wire down to the tubing to stiffen it. Then I urinated into the sink and, using the tube as a pipette, managed to fill it with urine. I then inserted the whole apparatus down my trouser-leg and returned to the museum, keeping my thumb over the top end so as to ensure that the urine stayed in the tube.

At the museum, I positioned myself before the display case, concentrating intensely on its contents. There was a guard standing behind me and about 12 feet away. I opened my fly and slipped out the tube, feeding it carefully through the slot in the glass. It was a perfect fit, and slid in quite easily until its end was positioned above the famous john. I released my thumb, and a small but distinct trickle of my urine splashed on to the work of art.

That evening I used this incident, illustrated with several diagrams showing from all angles exactly how it had been achieved, as the basis of my talk. Since “decommodification” wwas one of the buzzwords of the day, I described my action as “re-commode-ification.”

To my ear, this story has the strong whiff of bullshit about it, but as far as I know it has not been debunked—presumably, the guards or an art expert would have been able to verify at the time whether such a thing had happened. I would very much like to see those “diagrams” showing how he did it.

Paul Ingram implies that Eno was working as part of a group of similarly minded activists, which if true Eno’s two accounts certainly obscures: “In the last decade of the twentieth century, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain [1917] was the subject of a series of interventions by artists who each attempted, more or less successfully, to urinate in it: Brian Eno at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1990; Kendell Geers at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 1993; Pierre Pinocelli at the Carré d’Art in Nîmes in 1993; Björn Kjelltoft at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1999; and Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi at the Tate Modern in London in 2000.”


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Robyn Hitchcock remembers Brian Eno’s 1967 art school ‘happenings’
10:10 am


Brian Eno
Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock is one of my tutelary divinities, so when his name turned up unexpectedly in the Brian Eno biography On Some Faraway Beach, I sat up straight in my subway seat and muttered a few devotional phrases about tomatoes and shellfish, both sacred to Bhagavan Robyn; the other passengers kindly ignored me. I never would have dreamed that these avant-rock colossi had crossed paths. However, in June 1967, when Eno was a nineteen-year-old student at the Winchester School of Art and Hitchcock a fourteen-year-old schoolboy at nearby Winchester College, Hitchcock attended two of Eno’s “happenings.” Hitchcock’s reminiscences of Eno’s Summer of Love events—quoted in full in the biography, transcribed below for your pleasure—are funny and fascinating, and the second story is surprisingly touching.

Eno staged a music event in a 14th-century flint-walled cellar – essentially a dungeon with electricity. He had unscrewed the college’s 60-watt light bulb and inserted his own blue bulb. A reel-to-reel tape recorder stood on a bare table beneath the light, playing Dylan’s “Ballad of Hollis Brown” backwards, while somebody I didn’t recognize was bowing a one-string violin. A microphone ran from the tape machine into the audience, where it was draped enticingly over the chair in front of me. About fifteen boys, chaperoned by one of the younger hipper teachers, came in and sat in the chairs. Eno lit a stick of incense, started the tape machine and nodded to the violinist. After a while I tapped the mike in front of me. It didn’t seem to be switched on. I sang along with backwards Bob Dylan, but that didn’t come out either. Eventually the music finished. I can’t remember if we clapped or not.

“Any questions?” said Eno.

“Er, would you call this kind of thing music, as such?” asked the teacher. Eno explained why it was naive to even ask that question. He had the serene, knowing aura that hipsters of that period had. Everything was a facet of everything else, glittering in his blue lenses.

“What was that microphone for, Mr. Eno?” I asked, in my barely broken voice.

“So you could participate, man,” replied Eno, glittering my way.

“Er, it wasn’t switched on,” I croaked.

“Next question?” called BE to the audience. I was still buzzing from having actually asked the blue-lensed man a question in public.

The following week, Hitchcock attended a second Eno happening. This one, which took place in the Winchester water-meadows, involved inflating balloons with helium, attaching notes to them and releasing them into the sky. Hitchcock (with a comment in brackets from Eno biographer David Sheppard):

The sun shone and the clouds were few – Sgt. Pepper was released the same week. BE’s glasses marked him out among the cylinders and balloons. Like fairground barkers, BE and his roadies (who included the legendary anti-philosopher Galen Strawson [today professor of Philosophy at Reading University], who was then fifteen going on 1,000) were handing out cardboard labels as they filled the eager balloons.

“What’s that for, man?” I asked.

“So you can write a message on it, man.” BE was patient – one day I would get it. My grandmother had died two weeks earlier and school regulations had kept me from going to pay my last respects to her. She was an open-minded woman – earlier that year, when she was still well enough to travel, I had bombarded her with Bob Dylan. She tapped her knee and murmured “I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul” after Dylan sang that line. So I wrote:

“Dear Granny, sorry I couldn’t come to your funeral – love, Robyn.”

“That’s beautiful, man,” said one of Eno’s assistants. He tied the label to a balloon and I wandered off into the meadows to release it. I’ve always been grateful to BE for giving me this opportunity.


“Water meadows curling ‘round the hill…”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?

The April 25, 2011 issue of the New Yorker contained a fascinating article about David Eagleman, the celebrated neuroscientist and director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The title of the piece is “The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain.” It’s far too complex an essay to summarize in a blog post, but if you enjoy pop science articles (and Doctor Who) as much I do, this one is an absolutely terrific read.

What I wanted to call your attention to here is an incredible event described in the article where a bunch of professional drummers, invited by Brian Eno and from some of the biggest bands in the world, allowed Eagleman to observe them. They were outfitted with EEG units on their heads in special workstations for the data collection. The tests were conducted on a laptop. A software program asked the drummers to do four things: Keep a steady beat; compare the length of two tones; synchronize a beat to an image and compare different rhythms to one another.

Burkhard Bilger writes:

Early this winter, I joined Eagleman in London for his most recent project: a study of time perception in drummers. Timing studies tend to be performed on groups of random subjects or on patients with brain injuries or disorders. They’ve given us a good sense of average human abilities, but not the extremes: just how precise can a person’s timing be? “In neuroscience, you usually look for animals that are best at something,” Eagleman told me, over dinner at an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill. “If it’s memory, you study songbirds; if it’s olfaction, you look at rats and dogs. If I were studying athletes, I’d want to find the guy who can run a four-minute mile. I wouldn’t want a bunch of chubby high-school kids.”

The idea of studying drummers had come from Brian Eno, the composer, record producer, and former member of the band Roxy Music. Over the years, Eno had worked with U2, David Byrne, David Bowie, and some of the world’s most rhythmically gifted musicians. He owned a studio a few blocks away, in a converted stable on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac, and had sent an e-mail inviting a number of players to participate in Eagleman’s study. “The question is: do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?” Eno said. “Everyone who has ever worked in a band is sure that they do.”

The drummers study was inspired by an anecdote Eno told Eagleman:

“I was working with Larry Mullen, Jr., on one of the U2 albums,” Eno told me. “ ‘All That You Don’t Leave Behind,’ or whatever it’s called.” Mullen was playing drums over a recording of the band and a click track—a computer-generated beat that was meant to keep all the overdubbed parts in synch. In this case, however, Mullen thought that the click track was slightly off: it was a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the band. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be so, Larry,’ ” Eno recalled. “ ‘We’ve all worked to that track, so it must be right.’ But he said, ‘Sorry, I just can’t play to it.’ ”

Eno eventually adjusted the click to Mullen’s satisfaction, but he was just humoring him. It was only later, after the drummer had left, that Eno checked the original track again and realized that Mullen was right: the click was off by six milliseconds. “The thing is,” Eno told me, “when we were adjusting it I once had it two milliseconds to the wrong side of the beat, and he said, ‘No, you’ve got to come back a bit.’ Which I think is absolutely staggering.”

Read: The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain (The New Yorker)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Rock snob comedy: In the studio with David Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, 1976
05:21 pm


David Bowie
Brian Eno
Tony Visconti

“Don’t you wonder sometimes…”

This latest animated installment of a “behind the scenes” moment in the life of David Bowie from British comic Adam Buxton is very fucking amusing. What really went on with the recording of Low‘s “Warszawa”? This fly-on-the-wall speculation of what transpired at the Château d’Hérouville studio during those sessions is probably, what, 90% accurate? 95%?

All voices by Adam Buxton (damn his Bowie is good!). The animation was produced by The Brothers McLeod. More Bowie animations (and more) at Adam Buxton’s YouTube channel.

Thank you kindly to the original rock snob himself, Steven Daly!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Here Comes the Collapsed Lung: Brian Eno had a very busy 1974
11:42 am


Brian Eno

Quite soon after his ouster/resignation from the ranks of Roxy Music in 1973, Brian Eno was mulling over what his next move would be. His first instinct was to hold a press conference to tell his side of the story, but he soon decided he’d just look poorly and opted not to say much. Instead the restlessly creative Eno was already making plans to make plans. A lot of plans.

In July of that year he told the NME’s Nick Kent: “My main idea is to drag together a bunch of bizarre people, who will probably all hate each other, give them some strange instrument to play and get people to pay to watch them make fools of themselves.”

Then there was the idea for a backing group called Luana and the Lizard Girls. Kent wrote:

One of the members of this perverse combo will be Eno’s current female correspondent, Peggy Lee La Neir Soiree, a dusky beauty with intriguing abilities as a dancer and a strong sense of rhythm. “She sings bass lines to me when we embrace. She goes ‘Dum-dum-dah dah-dum-dum’. Incredible. She’s never played bass in her life but I know she’d be incredible at it.” There may well be two bass-players “There’s another girl called Phyllis who’s incredibly sexy and a great dancer. I’m thinking of having a girl drummer, as it happens. Also I’ve found this dancer - she’s such a tart. I saw her dancing at the Speakeasy one night and it was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen - really it was. She stopped the whole place - no one would dare go on the floor simply because they were frightened of getting in the way of her flailing arms. She did this great thing of dancing like a lunatic for 12 seconds, then stopping and leaning against a wall smoking a cigarette. Then she’d suddenly jump out and start dancing again. I was fascinated by the discontinuous aspect of it all.”

The admittedly sex and pornography-obsessed musician also found inspiration from one of his more inventive S/M fantasies:

“You see, the dancers in the Lizard Girls could also be wired up to my new instrument, the ‘Electric Larynx’ which I humbly consider to be a major innovation of sorts. It had its origins in, uh, bondage - it was actually an excuse to legitimise bondage by convincing the. bondee that it was actually a musical instrument they were wearing rather than just a form of restraint. It’s a series of microphones built into a choker fed through a complex series of electronic devices to produce from the sound of human voice the high pitch of an electric guitar while still possessing the flexibility of the ‘vox humana’. The player - or the captive as we prefer to know her - is wired up from the back of her neck directly into the synthesizer. The sound, with more than one person, is fantastic, like a constant guitar solo.”


Alas Luana and the Lizard Girls were not to be.  For Here Come the Warm Jets, Eno brought in a cast of some of the most musically adept and far out sidemen his avant garde reputation could attract including King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and John Wetton; Hawkwind drummer Simon King; Bill MacCormick, bass player of Robert Wyatt’s Matching Mole; Paul Rudolph of Pink Fairies; guitarist Chris Spedding and all the members of Roxy Music save for Bryan Ferry.

But these guys all had day jobs with their own groups and were merely moonlighting on Eno’s project. Ultimately it was The Winkies a pub rock band with glam rock outfits who were snagged by Eno to be his backing band for the Here Come the Warm Jets UK tour. That trek commenced in February of 1974 and went on for just five shows before Eno was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. He never really performed live much at all after this and there are precious few mementos of any sort of live promotion done for this album. A few, but not many.

Like this poster:

You’re wondering who Rod Crisp is, aren’t you?

There is one live recording of one of the Eno/Winkies shows, from Kings Hall in Derby on February 13th, 1974, but it is an extremely lo-fi audience recording. You can grab an mp3 of that show at the Doom and Gloom from the Tomb Tumblr and Shards of Beauty has a lossless version of the same show.

On February 19th, 1974 Eno and The Winkies were taped for a John Peel session performing “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” and a cover version of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” “Baby’s on Fire” and “Totalled” (a rocky precursor to “I’ll Come Running”) were recorded for Peel’s BBC Radio show on February 26th. The session aired on March 5th, 1974.  The Holy Grail of Eno fandom is Eno, a 24-minute documentary directed by Alfons Sinniger that includes Eno and The Winkies playing four songs in the studio, presumably at these very sessions. The film has so far not turned up on YouTube or been bootlegged to the best of my knowledge, although there is a tantalizing 30 seconds from it that appeared in the 80s Roxy Music home video release Total Recall. It’s not “lost” it just hasn’t escaped yet.

After he recovered, Eno mimed his first solo single, “Seven Deadly Finns” on Dutch television’s TopPop program in April:

Eno performed at Island Records infamous June 1, 1974 concert with fellow cult figures Nico, Kevin Ayers and John Cale. His songs are first, “Driving Me Backwards” and then “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch”:

Eno gave this interview to a late night American disc jockey in Detroit on July 21st. One of the topics is how much he hated touring, which comes up twice. He mentions that the recording of his second album, the as-yet untitled Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) would commence in London soon after this interview. At the end he’s explaining the meaning of “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” but sadly it gets cut off:

Still 1974, Eno and Snatch’s Judy Nylon made this video for Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)‘s “China My China”:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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