INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New Musical Express July 28, 1973 - by Nick Kent
OF LAUNDERETTES AND LIZARD GIRLS
And things that go bump in Ladbroke Grove. Nick Kent stakes out Eno's closet.
There was Bryan Ferry on one side and Brian Eno on the other and somewhere between the two of them there existed a band called Roxy Music. Of course it was Mr. Ferry who more or less called the shots when it came to musical policy, while young Eno's electronic dabblings were little more than tastefully bizarre icing on the cake, but it was surely the latter who ultimately came to be recognised as the real Face of Roxy Music.
For while everyone else was babbling on about wild mutations as rock 'n' roll stars, here was the delicate Eno - high forehead, Dr. Spock appendages and the face of a precocious stick-insect - a most intriguing creation that not even Ferry with all his sleek, snake-eyed je ne sais quoi could match. Eno also seemed altogether more comfortable basking in the spotlight, mainly because underneath all the mysterioso there lurked an affable un-self-conscious young soul more than willing to indulge in interviews and the usual media trivia without turning a hair of his sparsely-layered head.
Unfortunately, our hero's prized place as Roxy's Media Golden Boy was to cause a degree of friction between the two Brians. A breakdown in relationships resulted during the band's American tour and continued to deteriorate right up to the point where Eno made a tentative decision to move on elsewhere. That decision was hastened somewhat when Mr. E. heard, through a round-about route, of claims that Ferry would never appear on stage with him again. Ah, yes, the chills and spills that exist in this heady world of show-business.
Nonetheless the exquisite Eno was in fine fettle when I visited him at his luxury playboy closet in Ladbroke Grove. "I'm very well," he remarked at my opening pleasantry, the usual bowel problems, y'know but... And indeed, under those pallid features, one could note the vital spark of "joie de vivre" that has characterised the notoriety of the man who is currently one of London's most ambitious womanisers and successful poseurs.
A cassette recorder was dragged out, microphones were positioned strategically, et voila: "It's very hard to know just how honest I should be about the reasons for my demise from Roxy. The problem is that when it gets printed, it all seems to look much more meaningful and serious when unqualified by that chuckle at the back of the throat. My thirsting for revenge has died down somewhat over the last few days, anyway. People who do great hatchet-jobs on the members of their old band usually come out looking like losers when it all appears in print. I started off by wanting to call a press conference so that I could state my case, but that's all so pointless. Another reason for my reticence is because I don't want to damage Roxy for the sake of the other people in it. I mean, I really like the other members, and I (pause) really like Bryan in a funny way."
What about the appearance of one Eddie Jobson as the official Eno substitute? "Hmmm. I know both Andy and Phil are very annoyed about that. I don't know what Paul thinks - Bryan is obviously pleased about it. One thing I'm personally very annoyed at is that when Eddie Jobson was brought up to York (the last Eno intact Roxy gig) to study my style and form, Bryan didn't tell anyone up until the last minute."
Other areas of controversy for Eno and the Roxies centre mainly around Bryan Ferry's virtual monopoly of material (and consequent monopoly on composing royalties). Of late, Eno and Andy Mackay (or 'Eddie Riff' as he now prefers to be called) have been recording their own material at Island Studios with two particularly intriguing results - one, a tasteful rock-a ballad with Eno's likeable wheeze embellishing the track on harmonies and yearning lead vocal, the other a new dance sensation with agitated shuffle beat and neat synthesizer trickery. Hot stuff indeed, so what about those proverbial future plans then, Brian?
"Well my main plan at the moment is to record as much as possible with as many different people as possible. Muff Winwood has offered me free time at Island, so it should be a cinch. I know lots of people who have stuff to record who would never really get the chance otherwise. Like the Pan-Am International Steel Band, who attempt to make a steel band sound like an orchestra and are quite amazing at it. Another character is Magic Michael, who was recorded once before - very poorly, I might add."
It was not long after his name had been mentioned that the remarkable Michael appeared momentarily from the stormy weather outside to inform us that he had in fact been recording, and that one of his new songs was entitled Bender, The All Meat Frankfurter. Michael's rather odd, y'see - Ladbroke Grove's answer to the redoubtable Wild Man Fischer, if such an answer were necessary, except that our boy can keep in tune and he knows at least three chords on the guitar. Magic Michael's ultimate claim to fame is that he was actually booed off during a Hawkwind concert. This is believed to be the first and only time such an event has occurred. Michael disappeared as boisterously and abruptly as he had appeared, leaving us free to permeate the consciousness further.
The next topic of conversation was Luana And The Lizard Girls, the torrid rock concept which first broke forth as a daring move to turn launderettes and massage parlours into rock 'n' roll venues, and subsequently transformed itself into one of Mr. E.'s more erotic s/m fantasies and is now hanging in an esoteric limbo, pregnant with possibilities.
"Oh, you mean Loana and the Little Girls, don't you (referring to a mistake in a rival music paper's Roxy-split report). Actually that mistake has fired me to greater depths of inspiration and every time I'm asked about the band I call them something different, like Bwana And The Nigger Girls or Lex Ligger And The Lozenges. 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."
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 twelve 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."
"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 the 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. Oh, and a certain Robert Fripp has remarked a certain interest in the Luana project, while Mr. Mackay will, I'm sure, be ready to assist. Andy can throw in a long John Coltrane solo if the electronics break down and we all have to walk offstage."
Young master Brian was getting quite frisky now and continued: "That album with Fripp (the soon-to-be released synthesizer jam) - we plan to do a few more things together. We just want it as a continuing set-up that we'll do now and then when we feel like it. I also want to do an album of me working with a number of other musicians - one track, me working with Phil, one track with Andy, one track with Mike Oldfield, whom I haven't approached yet, one with Fripp and one with me working with (pause) Brian Connolly (snigger)."
I dug deeper. What of the much-talked about "The Magic Wurlitzer synthesizer of Brian Eno plays 'Winchester Cathedral' and fourteen other Evergreens" album, or the tentative pairing off of Mr. E with the lovely but diminutive Lynsey De Paul ("I met her at a press reception recently. A lovely girl")?
"I'd rather talk about the Plastic Eno Band, actually. It's been in existence for a couple of years now. Over the past six years I've accumulated over fourteen plastic musical instruments with a very wide gamut of sounds. And I've found that by slowing them down or speeding them up on tape, I can imitate any electric sound. With this in mind, I want to make a straight-forward rock record and then appear on Top Of The Pops with a bunch of liggers playing these things. It would be an experiment in concrete music really as well as being an encouragement to all these kids who can't afford their Vox amplifiers. There are so many things I want to do that will lose me so much money..."
Conversation rambled on awhile, topics being kept mainly to surfing and girls, until Eno came back with a sprightly: "Actually the real truth is that Bryan Ferry and I are secretly breaking away, and we're going to form a duo called the Singing Brians. Does that sound like it could be true? I dare you to print it." An affected sigh. "I don't know. I think I'll probably just give up music altogether and become a full-time poseur."