Rock Scene AUGUST 1974 - by Lenny Kaye


Derby, England - Eno is back in the strobe lights again, striding across the stage of this public baths oddly named King's Hall, prepared to entertain several hundred of the faithful. It's his first time occupying a stage as a pedigree solo artist, and as might be expected, he's a bit nervous. While his back-up band, The Winkies, played their short opening set, it was all he could do to prowl around the dressing room in restless fashion, getting himself into fighting trim.

Eno - full name Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno - initially came into prominence as one of the guiding overseers of Roxy Music, manipulating the strange electronics and stranger vapours surrounding the group through the use of synthesizers and equalisation chambers. Roxy was a thrice-blessed band, however, and after a while it became apparent that the overload of talent was straining and bursting the group at its seams. Finally, the inevitable happened with Eno picking up his tape recorders and heading home, leaving Roxy in the hands of leader Bryan Ferry.

There was a short fallow period, in which every week it seemed Eno was on the scene propounding a new idea, coming to fruition in a heavily avant-garde instrumental album recorded with ex-King Crimson Robert Fripp called No Pussyfooting. An interesting concept, with multi-layers of revolving sound, it clearly wasn't intended for the appreciation of mass audiences. Eno retired to his parkside flat, plucked out some more song fragments on the guitar, eventually coerced them into actual tunes.

"I tend to write very strangely," he says, looking even more pale and fragile than usual. "Once I have the basics of the melody down, I'll record it and then simply play it over and over again while I'm messing about the house. Slowly words will start to come to me, pieces of syllables, chains of ideas. Then it's just a matter of transcription."

There is a shout from the crowd as Eno grasps the array of knobs and toggle switches at his disposal. A slight intake of breath, a nod at The Winkies, and suddenly the hall is split with the thunder of Needle In The Camel's Eye, a Velvet Underground-influenced rocker that opens his new album, Here Come The Warm Jets. Compared with the Eno-fripp excursions, the sound is pure-bred high energy, The Winkies laying down solid bottom lines while Eno screams his synthesizer over the top of it.

"Yes, I do have an awareness of making my music more... ah, accessible," he will respond later with a shy smile, "but it's not actually something I'll preconceive. I tend to be fairly momentary in my responses to anything, and all a recording means is that you're capturing a sliver of time. It might've been entirely different if we'd undertaken it five minutes later."

No matter. Eno is primed tonight and ready to roll. A few more selections from his new album - Baby's On Fire, Blank Frank, Dead Finks Don't Talk - and then a teaser: Peggy Lee's Fever. It must be time for oldies, because soon enough he's into I'm A Boy, that old Who venerable which seems somehow appropriate in this bath house setting. A little Lou Reed (What Goes On), and after a pause for equipment adjustment - "a slight computer malfunction" as Eno announces it from the stage - they burn through the rest of their set.

Ten minutes after the house lights have gone up, Eno and the band are relaxing in the dressing room, greeting old friends, chatting with an air of relief. Eno's managers bring up a steady stream of two-by-two fans who are anxious for an autograph, and Eno obliges them, unfailingly sincere and friendly.

We ask if he minds all this hustle and bustle. "Every night," he shrugs waving a pen about, "is New year's Eve!"