Mojo Special Limited Edition JANUARY 2005 - by Tom Doyle


...As David Bowie called him. Where would we be without Brian Peter George St John Baptiste de la Salle Eno?

The son of a postman who was passionate about repairing clocks, Brian Eno's first recording in the early 1960s was the sound of a pen striking a tin lampshade, which he taped and slowed down. Eno worked as a secondhand electronics dealer before joining Roxy Music full-time in 1971. Credited as the operator of synthesizers and tapes, Eno's androgynous looks soon attracted a cult following with both sexes, stealing the spotlight from singer Bryan Ferry. Richard Williams, the first music critic to write about the band, also noted a more deep-rooted division at an early gig. Roxy Music at the 100 Club, Oxford Street. 1971; Eno standing against the back wall of the club, facing the rest of the band, modifying their sounds through a primitive synthesizer. Bryan chose to lead Roxy Music in a different direction, but a large part of the rest of the world paid more attention to Eno's revolution. His ideas are fun, and they work.

After the ego clash with drove Eno out of the band in 1973, he released a series of highly experimental solo albums, Here Come The Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) in 1974, followed by Another Green World (1975) and Before And After Science (1977). Eno sings on at least half of the material, which alternates between avant-garde pop songs, abstract instrumentals and heavier, riff-driven workouts. It's nearly all brilliant and absolutely none of it fits into the kind of conventional structure that makes Eno collaborations such as Bowie's Sound And Vision or Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads classic electronic pop tracks. Another Green World is a minimalist and largely instrumental gem that effectively invented ambient music. The nearest Eno drew to synthesizer art-pop is Before And After Science, full of fascinating, oblique alternatives that could only be Eno. The self-proclaimed non-musician virtually gave up singing after its release to concentrate on genre-defining ambient albums, Music For Films (1978) and Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1979). His work with Bowie in the late '70s is the best known of his collaborations, although the lengthy list also includes U2, Robert Fripp, Harold Budd, Jah Wobble, John Cale, and Talking Heads. Eno's close working relationship with David Byrne later caused tension among the band members, although it all started out well, as Tina Weymouth recalls. On the second day we recorded Fear Of Music, Brian recognised that I wasn't feeling great and he did the dishes. That really impressed me. Nobody in our band ever did the dishes.

Eno's solo work is too abstract to be labelled electro-pop but tracks such as No One Receiving and King's Lead Hat (an anagram of Talking Heads) were spun alongside Ultravox and OMD at New Romantic/Futurist club Blitz, and the insanely catchy chant of The True Wheel from Taking Tiger Mountain is his closest prediction of the genre.