INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Disc FEBRUARY 2, 1974 - by Caroline Boucher
BLANK FRANK: THE MESSENGER OF DOOM
The initials B.F. spell... think about it
Eno is eating Special K in his Maida Vale flat listening to his new single. He is tired because he was up producing The Winkies until 5am that morning, and the peace is shattered by a constant stream of phone calls from demanding ladies. Eno has something of a reputation with women.
The single is unexpected and called The Seven Deadly Finns. It's boppy and fun and the lyrics deal with the adventures of seven Finnish sailors in ports around the world and the brothels contained therein. He has mixed down the vocals so that the BBC can't hear them too clearly, although most of it is implied rather than sung in black and white.
Eno is bobbing back with a vengeance in the next couple of months. There's the single, the album - Here Come The Warm Jets - and a tour of the country backed by the goodly Winkies. Not that Eno has ever really disappeared from the public eye. Even though he hasn't done a live appearance since he left Roxy Music in June, where most artists would have been forgotten and sunk from view, Eno's solo progress has been faithfully followed from the outset.
"I suppose it's because I enjoy it all so much," he says. And he means it. Eno's life is a whole succession of adventures and games. He's got a string of flats and rooms all over London and an even longer string of adoring women. On fine days he wanders off to the nearest patch of outdoors with a book and all through he plays little dare games with himself. One of them which is a track on the album was to see if he could record the whole thing without stopping to hear part of it through and just continuing without a break with new ideas.
The result was very good. But it does sum up Eno's attitude to recording which is that it should be fun with friends dropping in to play. Eno doesn't have much time for the Yeses and ELPs of this world; he doesn't rate technical brilliance too highly.
Both the album and the single will therefore come as a surprise to a lot of people. They're basically fun. They're not heavy electronic synthesised music and they're not long, boring jams. The album is a collection of songs that range from sad, minor key laments like Driving Me Backwards (which is Eno's favourite track) to him yodelling on his single and lots of choppy piano played by him.
It is a constant source of joy to Eno that he has twice been featured in Top Keyboard player sections of polls.
"I play keyboards just like I use a typewriter, with two fingers. I like the piano as a percussion instrument. I suppose that by not being able to play things properly, I'm bound to evolve new ways.
"I do one note guitar solos. Nobody ever does that now; it's considered untechnical and naive. There was one on the Ball And Chain track by Janis Joplin and Big Brother - it was terrific, but that guitarist was never rated.
Eno doesn't like technical guitarists much, although there's some smashing guitar work by Bob Fripp on the album.
Fripp is technically brilliant - he practises his guitar six hours a day. but what that has done for him is that he realises holding one note for one minute is as effective as playing a hundred and twenty notes in a second.
There is an especially fine track called Blank Frank which starts off "Blank Frank is the messenger of your doom and your destruction" (The initials are B.F. ...think about it).
There is another fine number called Dead Finks Don't Talk, in which Eno will be generally accused of taking the rise out of his last great employer - Bryan Ferry, because the vocal style is almost exactly similar.
"I was trying to imitate Elvis, but when I'd done it the engineer said, 'You'll get me fired for that,' and I realised it sounds vicious, and I thought perhaps I ought to remix it, and then I though what the... why should I?
"Everyone thought the whole album would be very electronic, but I'm very much into simple things and I'm really fed up with groups that think that inventing a complicated structure is half way to composing a great piece of music. My next album is going to be even simpler.
"I mean, if you're cooking and you put every herb in the kitchen in just to make it a more interesting meal, it could be a disaster. It might have been better just to stick with a few old chick peas."
Eno reckons that the rock revival was partly due to a reaction away from complex music towards more simple forms.
He's really looking forward to going out on the road with The Winkies, because Eno is basically a great showman and loves being on stage. He's looking forward to being able to sing up there for the first time, too. Various guest musicians have promised to come along and sit in on various nights, including Fripp and the greater part of Roxy.
And The Winkies turn those numbers from the album into rock and roll. I thought that a bass, drums and two guitars combo wouldn't really be right but it sounds amazing.
Mark my words, Eno will knock spots off Marc Bolan yet.