INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Guardian FEBRUARY 2, 2003 - by Elisabeth Mahoney
THE LIFE OF BRIAN
The only problem with A Quantity of Stuff - The Brian Eno Story (Radio 2, Saturday) was, well, the quantity of stuff. Given Radio 2's liking for the thorough approach to music documentary - six instalments are not uncommon - it seemed odd that the most important man in popular music (Stuart Maconie, circa 1992, in what he now concedes was a gross understatement) was treated to just the one.
This would be misjudgement enough even if Eno had refused to talk, given the role he has had in shaping the musical landscape in the past thirty years. But at the heart of Maconie's affectionate portrait was an engrossing interview with Eno, featuring plenty of laughter (Who is this Pat Psychology? Eno asks, as Maconie apologises for another question led by it) and much insight.
Music, said Eno, should reflect the excitement of the process that made it. You could hear this from his first aural experiments (the sound of a metal lamp stand being struck, with poetry being recited over the top) to his latest music, previewed exclusively here, though sadly only in a snippet. A ghostly shiver of a track, it featured Eno on vocals, high-pitched and fragile-sounding, how you imagine Marcel Marceau might sing, if he did.
Soundbites from friends and colleagues had an appropriate shimmer of strangeness about them. One musical collaborator values Eno for talking to about perfume, and pornography, and quantum physics, Guatemala and doorknobs, noting that on the rare occasions that Eno would go up his own arse, it would be an incredibly enjoyable anal exploration. Bono summed up Eno's impact on his band succinctly. We didn't go to art school. We went to Brian.
A similarly restless talent was the subject of a special edition of Outlook (World Service, Friday) dedicated to Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, a doctor, international sportsman and a singer so popular that New York is naming a street after him.
Born with a congenital defect to both legs, Tynan spent his first three years in hospital, returning to his family's farm with a voice that was already strong. When we sang, he said, recalling milking time with his father, the cows never dirtied the parlour.
Reeling off a giddy list of achievements, Tynan also revealed himself to be a star storyteller with a lovely turn of phrase (asked how he is at the top of the show he replies, keeping the better side out). As a teenager, he would take off his artificial limbs to ride racehorses, he said, howling with laughter at the memory of his younger, audacious self. I'd go in at six foot one, come out at five foot two, and cause a sensation in every respect. This would become something of a pattern.