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Try to imagine how insane this TV footage of Roxy Music (with Brian Eno) looked in the early 1970s

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Roxy Music: Not just another guitar band.
 
The great Roy Wood said on some late-nite radio show that for a long time he thought Ike and Tina Turner were a cool-sounding R&B band called I Can Turn A Corner. Easy mistake. For a long time, I thought Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music was singing about “wee-wees up the walls, and mashed-potato smalls…” when he sang “weary of the waltz, and mashed-potato schmaltz” on “Do the Strand.”

That I thought Roxy Music could sing about urination as decoration or squidgy y-fronts and not consider it at all out of place in their repertoire gives but some small idea as to how radical, how shocking, how breathtakingly original Roxy Music seemed when they first landed. Their debut single was named after a packet of cigarettes (“Virginia Plain”—actually a painting of a packet of cigarettes). They sang about blow-up dolls (“In Every Dream Home a Heartache”), and a kind of Ballardian love interest contained/hidden in a car’s license plate—the CPL 593H on “Re-make/Re-model.” So why not edible undergarments? It seemed all too feasible in an era of instant mash, Angel Delight, moon landings, Teflon frying pans, group sex, safari suits, and silver hot pants.

Roxy Music sounded as if they had just beamed down from outer space and brought along the music of the spheres. In fact, they had. Roxy Music was the sound of the future—but we just didn’t realize it then. Roxy was so overwhelmingly new. No one knew what to think. The group was originally comprised of Bryan Ferry (vocals, keys, and chief songwriter), Graham Simpson (bass), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe), Paul Thompson (drums and percussion), and last but not least, Brian Eno (VCS3 synthesizer, tape effects, backing vocals and “treatments”). Ferry had started the band alongside Graham Simpson. The cool suave vocalist came from a poor working class background. His grandfather had courted his grandmother on a horse and plow for ten years before getting married. Times were tough. Ferry later claimed his parents lived “vicariously” though they were always better dressed than everyone else. It was via his mother that Ferry got his introduction to rock ‘n’ roll—she took him a Bill Haley concert in the 1950s. But Ferry preferred jazz and soul and his ambition was for a career in art and possibly teaching if that didn’t work out.

This all changed after Ferry hitchhiked to London to catch an Otis Redding concert. Redding was one of the greatest soul singers/performers of all time. It was a life-changing experience. Ferry knew he had to be a singer.
 
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Roxy model for the IKEA catalog.
 
Most of his life Ferry had felt out-of-step with his contemporaries. He felt like “an oddity.” It wasn’t until he started studying Fine Art under the tutelage of pop artist Richard Hamilton at Newcastle University that he found the confidence to push forward with his own ideas and believe in his own talents. Inspired by Redding and by Hamilton’s pop art aesthetic, Ferry started writing songs. He also started singing and performing. Graduating in 1968, Ferry moved to London. After a couple of false starts with the bands the Banshees and Gasboard, Ferry formed Roxy Music with Simpson in 1970. Andy MacKay and Eno soon joined, then Thompson and finally Phil Manzanera.

As Manzanera later recalled, the rich diversity of those early sessions together created Roxy sound:

“We’d start off with ‘Memphis Soul’ Stew, and then we’d go into ‘The Bob (Medley)’, this heavy bizarre thing about the Battle Of Britain with synths and sirens. We had everything in there from King Curtis to The Velvet Underground to systems music to ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll. At the time we said this was ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s rock’n'roll. Eno would respond to something that sounded like it came off the first Velvets album, then Ferry would play something ‘50s and I’d play my version of ‘50s. I was always a terrible session player. I could never learn a solo and I stuck that ‘not quite right’ approach onto Roxy. Six people in a band created this hybrid.”

More early Roxy Music, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.26.2017
11:41 am
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Happy Birthday Brian Eno: The non-musician on the importance of haircuts & more
05.15.2017
12:36 pm
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Today Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno turns 69 years old. Twenty-five years ago a filmmaker named Henning Lohner put together an hour-long documentary on the former Roxy Music contributor and producer extraordinaire. Its German title is Solo für Eno.

Lohner was raised in Palo Alto, California, because both of his parents were German-born literature professors at Stanford. In his adulthood, Lohner reconnected with his parents’ homeland, where he served as an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen and also collaborated with Frank Zappa and John Cage and Steve Reich, among many others. In recent years he has contributed to soundtracks such as The Thin Red Line and Gladiator.

If you do not understand German, have no fear: There is a tiny amount of German voiceover at the start, but the program is first and foremost a document of Eno in his studio. The audio track is almost entirely in English. (There are German subtitles.) Most online sources give 1994 as the date of Solo für Eno but I think it was actually shot two years earlier.

There’s a funny bit at the start where Lohner has tasked Eno with intoning a few of the weightier pronunciamentos from Eno’s past, such as “Exposure is the currency of popular art. Obscurity is the currency of high art.” He doesn’t remember saying most of them. (Brian: You said that at the talk you gave at MoMA in October 1990; it was probably the same day you found a way to pee in Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal.)

Frustrated with his inability to impose his essence on the TV camera, he jokes that they should get Laurie Anderson to do it. Then he comes up with a kind of game, he can say them if he is fed an “attitude” in which to say them, such as gleeful, sexy, morose, arrogant…... It’s a bit like watching Eno deploy one of his famous Oblique Strategies, the artistic spurs to creativity he developed with Peter Schmidt in the 1970s.

Eno also has some penetrating remarks on the importance of haircuts…

Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.15.2017
12:36 pm
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‘Another Green World’: The Brian Eno documentary
04.14.2017
12:11 pm
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In 2010 the BBC show Arena did an hour-long program about Brian Eno. They called the show “Another Green World” but it does not focus on Eno’s third album at all, it’s just a nice title.

In the typical Arena style, the show is almost more of a loose essay than a straightforward documentary. Time is spent with the composer, then there’s footage of Eno playing with Roxy Music, then a clip of Eno on stage with Richard Dawkins, none of it sequenced with any rhyme or reason. It can be a very effective method of getting an impression across. Eno is so charming and interesting that it’s no trouble hanging out with him for a bit

Some wonderful moments…. Eno admits to an unseen interviewer that yes, he did get more women than Bryan Ferry but he can’t say how much that bothered him. (It almost certainly did.) Eno enthusing about Donna Summer’s “State of Independence,” produced by Giorgio Moroder, praising its unlikely mix of Kraftwerk-y rhythms and gospel. He also admires the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” most saliently because it was so obviously composed in the studio, which was Eno’s signature method as well. He actually plays a faltering rendition of it on an acoustic guitar, which is just odd.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.14.2017
12:11 pm
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David Bowie’s Laura Ashley wallpaper tribute to Lucian Freud (with a Brian Eno assist)
04.10.2017
12:54 pm
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David Bowie once concocted an intriguing homage to Lucian Freud by combining an artwork of his with a lush Laura Ashley wallpaper pattern. It was exhibited at that year’s “New Afro-Pagan and Work: 1975-1995” show and soon after taken up by Brian Eno for a charity he was involved with.

The fashion event was called “Pagan FunWear,” for which the beneficiary was the charity War Child; it showcased, among other things, “a quirky leather tie” by Lou Reed, some “strange shoes” by Jarvis Cocker, and “a suit of bandages” by Bowie. According to Paul Gorman, Eno also put together a “soundtrack” for the event called Antennae #1, which took the form of a limited edition box that included a CD of Eno’s soundtrack, a photo by Anton Corbijn, a watercolor by Patrick Hughes, and a “scrap” of Bowie’s wallpaper.

Eno helpfully supplied an “instruction manual” for those who ponied up the hundred pounds for a copy of Antennae #1, which today can be purchased on eBay for 275 pounds (about $340), although all you get is the CD, none of the other fun doodads such as the swath of Bowie’s wallpaper.
 

 
Here’s the wallpaper, which as mentioned incorporates an image of Freud’s:
 

 
Gorman discussed an encounter with Bowie in connection as a result of that event:
 

I met David Bowie when I was a member of a small think-tank for the charity War Child, working on the 1994 London art show Little Pieces From Big Stars which exhibited and then auctioned artworks produced by musicians. The exhibition and auction dinner were organised by Brian Eno and his wife Anthea. Bowie was very engaging, evidently super-bright and witty.

 
Gorman noted his impression that the wallpaper represents something like the essence of Bowie’s work and personality: “The fact that this shred depicting the great and serious artist Freud uses as its base a quintessentially English Laura Ashley print makes it funny, and, somehow, for me, very, very Bowie.”

Interestingly, Bowie himself was not entirely effusive about Freud’s work. In 1998 he desisted from signing on to the painter’s greatness, telling the New York Times that “I admire the trickery of his work, the cankerous skin, which is nice and grungy. But I don’t buy into him being the greatest painter that we have,” presumably referring to the United Kingdom there.

According to Reuters, Bowie actually created two Laura Ashley wallpapers for the “New Afro-Pagan” show. The design of the other pattern featured a minotaur, but the Laura Ashley people apparently insisted on censoring the private parts of the creature. This led to Bowie humorously noting of the work process with Laura Ashley, “It’s been a good working relationship, apart from the castration, that is.”

Hey Laura Ashley, when are you going to make a product line of this so that us Bowie nuts can use it for real?
 
via Church of David Bowie
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Francis Bacon’s lost painting of Lucian Freud turns up after 45 years
‘Song portraits’: What does music by Radiohead, Stevie Wonder & David Bowie LOOK like?

Posted by Martin Schneider
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04.10.2017
12:54 pm
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Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Beefheart, The Residents, Sun Ra & more as ‘South Park’ characters
12.02.2016
10:10 am
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The Residents
 
If you like your music adventurous, you’ll probably get a huge kick out of Noise Park, a Tumblr that features South Park versions of many avant-garde, experimental, and generally out-there musicians. Whoever is making these charmingly made the decision to follow his or her own esoteric musical tastes, which is a nice way of saying that a good many of the subjects are a bit obscure (Blevin Blectum, Moth Cock, Rotten Milk, etc.), which has the effect of turning it all into an inside inside joke of sorts.

But a lot of the subjects are quite well-known, covering the more cerebral end of the musical spectrum (Kraftwerk, Beefheart, Residents). I spent a fair amount of time trying to come up with a plausibly minimalist South Park episode plot involving Terry Riley, but I failed. Then I switched to Throbbing Gristle and my brain exploded.

Some of the images on the blog are actually reworkings of The Wire magazine covers, which is a good indication of where the tastes run.
 

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
 

Brian Eno
 
Lots more after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.02.2016
10:10 am
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That time Brian Eno posed nude for Bob Guccione
09.15.2016
12:07 pm
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From 1973 to 1980, Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, had a magazine for the hetero women’s market called VIVA. The full title of the magazine was VIVA, The International Magazine For Women. If it was a response to Douglas Lambert’s magazine Playgirl, Guccione was moving awfully quickly, as the first issue of Playgirl had a cover date of June 1973. (Vol. 1, no. 1 for VIVA: October 1973.) One of the curious things about VIVA was that it was an early employer of Anna Wintour, who served as the fashion editor. (Wikipedia drily notes that Wintour “has rarely discussed working there.”) Noted erotic photographer Helmut Newton also worked for VIVA.

In the December 1974 issue of CREEM, there’s a single-page article by a writer named Kathy Miller under the title “ENO: Naked and Neurotic” that reported on Eno’s decision to pose for a nude photo spread for Guccione’s VIVA. The session apparently happened, but the pictures never ran. The whole thing’s a bit mysterious, and for all intents and purposes, Miller’s tittering, gossipy item seems to be just about the only true source for it all. (A scan of Miller’s article is embedded at the bottom of this post so that you can see it for yourself.)

The reason CREEM’s Miller was the one who reported on the incident was, the photoshoot took place at what was ostensibly a CREEM interview. It wasn’t a formal shoot and there was no formal contract or offer—merely Brian Eno and his representative, Simon Puxley (actually a close friend of Bryan Ferry’s), making an offer to do some “test shots,” which apparently then happened.
 

December 1974 issue of VIVA, which did NOT have naked pix of Brian Eno
  
According to Miller, the photographer was a woman—Eno says during the session that he could never pose nude for a dude. In a reference to his famously active sex life, Eno also boasts that “thousands have seen me nude.” Then there’s this:
 

The session hit a crescendo of surrealistica as Eno began twisting like a pretzel, saying, straight-faced: “Get a bun shot.” After suggesting that he be photographed spread-eagle “with all my rudeness showing,” Simon reminded Eno, who seemed a trifle hurt, that VIVA didn’t care about his genitalia, just his supple Grecian bod. He ran the gamut of tease poses: Eno teething fetchingly on a sheet, Eno fingering a glass of white wine “decadently,” Eno calling some girl on the phone whilst naked. After sprawling on his tummy, Eno was in a mild state of arousal. “Forgive me if I have a hard-on; it is certainly the way of nature. I can’t sit up,” he moaned.

“Yes, VIVA doesn’t like erections,” Simon thoughtfully mulled, “but they’re only test shots.”

“I’ll cover it with a book,” which Eno did unil he was once again discreet.

 
In his 2008 biography of Eno, On Some Faraway Beach, David Sheppard reports on the incident:
 

[Eno] was eager to essay the nude poses as he’d recently been approached by VIVA—press magnate Bob Guccione’s then newly launched “adult woman’s” magazine, one of the first to put full-frontal male nude shots between the staples. Whether VIVA actually saw the undoubtedly svelte Brian Eno as potential centrefold material remains unclear, for ultimately no Eno spread ever graced the magazine’s pages. Certainly Eno could see no reason why the CREEM session shouldn’t provide an opportunity for some trial snaps.

 
The whole thing seems to have been a bit of typical 1970s porny fun, all pretense, no real thought of Eno ever appearing in the magazine. The shoot was suggested as an occasion for “test shots,” which has to be defined as the very first steps to getting approved for publication as a nude model in the magazine, and Puxley uses the phrase a second time when he is mulling over VIVA’s likely take on Eno’s erect penis appearing in the photos (“they’re only test shots”).

The long and the short of it is, it seems the Brian Eno did pose nude for a magazine owned by Bob Guccione, but the pics were never used.

Obvious question: Whatever happened to those pictures??
 
Much more after the jump, including Eno yodeling…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.15.2016
12:07 pm
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Brian Eno answers a fan’s question about his makeup 1973
05.17.2016
09:30 am
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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

 
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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.
 
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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…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.17.2016
09:30 am
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This is ‘What the Future Sounded Like’: Meet the pioneers of ‘music without frontiers’

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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.”
 
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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…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.18.2016
10:44 am
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The Greatness of Brian Eno
03.14.2016
04:50 pm
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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…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.14.2016
04:50 pm
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Watch ‘Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell to Earth’ a terrific doc on Eno’s early years
12.29.2015
03:33 pm
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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.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Here Comes the Collapsed Lung: Brian Eno had a very busy 1974
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s ‘Oblique Strategies,’ the original handwritten cards

Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.29.2015
03:33 pm
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This Brian Eno-Stephen Stills mashup will flush your mind down the toilet
12.18.2015
09:10 am
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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
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12.18.2015
09:10 am
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Are you in the market for a pair of ‘professionally done’ Brian Eno custom Converse?
12.16.2015
09:53 am
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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…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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12.16.2015
09:53 am
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Krautrock legend Michael Rother talks about the new Harmonia box set, plus exclusive footage!
10.22.2015
12:36 pm
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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!

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.22.2015
12:36 pm
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Brian Eno’s ‘short tribute film to Can’
08.28.2015
09:33 am
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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

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.28.2015
09:33 am
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‘The world’s worst orchestra,’ featuring Brian Eno on clarinet
07.02.2015
09:34 am
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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…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.02.2015
09:34 am
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