Trouser Press DECEMBER 1974/JANUARY 1975 - by Kathy Miller


Being born was the last mundane thing Eno did - beginning one winter's night, and ending on May 15, 1948 in a sterile Angloid maternity ward in Woodbridge with an intern slapping his tushy crimson whilst the li'l nipper discovered his vocal chords (put to great use approximately twenty years later in his rock band Maxwell Demon, and heard recently on Here Come The Warm Jets.) Mom and Pop Eno are both 5'4"; dad delivers mail, and mother obviously believes, because she named Brian after every saint in the New Testament, for safety's sake.

Even such heavenly overseers couldn't protect the lad from the life of working-class roughhousing. When Eno was three, he was zipping down the pike on a tricycle when a bully stuck a branch in his spokes and sent him over the handle bars, slamming him head-first onto the concrete. The lady next door snivelled, "Oh, what a bump on the head!" Said bump rattled Brian's grey matter enough for him to know he wasn't made of iron, and this life of knockinabout weren't for him.

School made him feel inferior, the teachers picked on him, lugs slagged him about. He hated the whole grind - enough so that he began to devise ways to play hookey. "My first use of make-up was at the age of seven. I would cover myself with talc and pretend I was sick. I got quite good at it, but it still didn't work." Came damn near close to being bounced out when some girl named Sybil began shoving him around, and girl or no, Eno lammed back with a right cross to the gut, doubling her over before she came back with another punch. Gentlemen do not hit ladies - even then, Eno was no gentleman.

Every day, after sullenly vegetating through an afternoon of classes, Eno would go home and read the encyclopedia, diligently filing every single image of info into his brain cells - a child HAL 9000 with Xerox eyeballs. One day the teacher asked about the origins of the modern calendar, and Eno automatically began to parrot the reference book. "It was then that they knew I was a clever cookie, a bright boy. This was very gratifying to me, having lost fights and things for years."

From there he won a scholarship to a hoity-toit ritz school. Eno, with broad country bumpkin lingo, bucked with Manor-born, who all spoke like Ronald Colman, and had uncles who were Lords, like a rebel without a cause. He wore street clothes, and they wore snotty, prissy uniforms - blazers, shirts, knickers, rugby suits.

"Interesting things began to happen... I became aware that my life was more interesting than theirs - and they became aware of it too... A lot of the students weren't speaking to me. Over here, it is the equivalent of the Uppity Nigger, too smart for his station. Some of the others worshipped me. A situation I've come to know and love because it still happens, only now it's musicians. In a more guarded way, because everybody speaks to one another, but some consider me a complete piss artist and refuse to take anything I'm doing seriously and a lot think I'm doing something important..."

"In any case, I used to go home, and listen to records, and have girl friends, and they would cluster around my desk - and if I hadn't done anything the night before I used to invent something."

Eno fantasized so much that even today, memory fuses with hazy fiction and he doesn't really know What Was What. Blah, blah, blah, Time Marches On (as they say in Bugs Bunny), and Eno had become a Registered Cult Figure for the first time in his life. At fourteen he ditched homelife and academia, taking up residence in a beached houseboat, hanging out with la boheme of London, avant gardes who yanked him up by the scruff and began educating him in art, music, Sartre, existentialism. Wherever they went, he went. He scuttled his conventional drawing and painting techniques in favor of conceptual experiments.

Once ideas began to develop in 3D, there was nowhere to go but to solder art and sound, motion and space. Eno's sculptures became machines, the elements became participants in the creative process. Man invented Time, said Alduous Huxley, in order to destroy it. The avant gardests recognized boundaries, and then destroyed them, created new rules in order to ignore them. Eno scored canvases - creating sound that could be painted, and paintings that could be played. (Duchamp, Resnais, Kaprow. Even the Romantic Poets strung wires of varying degrees in their windows so that the wind that blew in created melodies. Shelley attempted to write lyrics to the wind.) More and more the distinctions between art and music disintegrated for Eno. He got himself elected president of the student body at Winchester Art College in order to start a seminar series of new classicist and avant garde musique concrete composers. The students were unable to equate art with music, so only fifteen or so people attended. "It was as if you had a law school and got Kissinger and Chairman Mao and the Queen of England to lecture. And nobody came."

Out of school, Eno gravitated towards sound presentations of his art - forming two separate units, Merchant Taylor's Simultaneous Cabinet, an experimental improvisational A/G band, and Maxwell Demon, a monotonoid riffrock band over which Eno whined, chanted and screamed his absurdist lyrics. Compiling tapes and sounds and electric gizmos, Eno bumped into Andy MacKay, an experimental reedist, and borrowed his synthesizer. Andy MacKay bumped into a former school teacher who was Laurence Harvey's spitting image, and they started a band, named after Bryan Ferry's favorite movie theater. A pop band bent on battering down the confines, attacking from the inside, an experimental blitzkrieg of sound and image, audio as well as visual. Roxy Music needed a technician, and Eno was fingered for the job.

Eno considers this part of his life "boring" - boring in that everybody asks about it, boring in that everybody knows it all too well. Why'd ya leave Roxy? He wilts, grabbing his shrunken tanned tummy, gagging and wheezing, "Don't ask, ask me anything else, not that, oh please, not that ... wait a month, read the other papers, make something up, anything."

Unless you've been living under a boulder, you can imagine the problems. Eno was moved from the sound board and out into the limelight, sharing stage space with the Big F. They functioned as Yin/Yang counterbalance, and perhaps it was a question of Bryan wanting all orbs glued center-stage. Maybe Eno was too headstrong to take orders, being some electronic lackey subordinated to a Greater Vision - uh uh no sireebob. Andy MacKay recalls that towards the end of the run, Eno was composing. "We should have done some of Eno's songs, I'm always sorry we didn't... But as far as I'm concerned, Bryan, Eno, myself - that was Roxy Music." Despite interlocking egos 'tween Eno and Ferry, there was also the nasty fact that Roxy was zipping up the charts. The Grand Experiment was suddenly a Hitsbound Sound, with Virginia Plain and Pyjamarama becoming top ten fodder. There was a tightening of bolts, bracing for a thrust into the masses. That meant playing with regimentation, and, worse than death, touring.

If tickets are ever announced for Eno performing in these United States, run, don't walk to the box office. Eno detests touring (I'll believe that rumor of Fripp and Eno touring Europe when I see it). "I'm not going to tour - I'm definitely not going to tour. Take into account that in the last year, last ten months, I've released six albums in some capacity or another, either I've produced it or I've performed on it. Which, as far as I know, is a very high output. If I went on tour, I couldn't do it. Touring is not an interesting situation. It's boring."

Eno's name has been bandied about in a lliance with Fripp in a new endeavor, aside from the No Pussyfooting album of the past year. Eno has been rumored to have aided in a reformation of most of The Velvet Underground - it was said that Cale, Nico, Doug Yule, and Mo Tucker were getting together. (Latest word is that Nico and Cale are off, Mo Tucker is doing a solo album, and Doug Yule is playing bass on Lou Reed's latest LP Sally Can't Dance.) Eno gets an A for Effort, though! In fact, it is also rumored that Eno is trying to make nicely-nicely with Island Records, who are miffed because Nico said naughty things (like she wasn't happy and didn't feel like making an album). In any case, Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno gets around, a prime mover egghead diplomat.

Eno's music is an ever changing element. He doesn't want people to buy his albums expecting something, or thinking they've got him pegged. No Pussyfooting is totally different (at least distinctly different) than Here Come The Warm Jets. He views solo composing almost like arranging a sound collage. Here a snippet of Beach Boys, there a hearty slab of Velvets - just enough so that people grasp it and mutter, "Hey, that's..." "Here Come The Warm Jets is one of my favorite albums. It's a confused album - I think it has some notable successes and some notable failures. I don't listen to it very much because I can hear too many mistakes on it - I shall never do another album exactly like it again. I hope I shall never do anything exactly like anything else I've ever done."

Overall, Eno feels most people writing about rock music are chowderheads. All they know about is rock music - zilch about theater, nada about art, nothing about dynamics, nothing about other forms of music - in short, tedium express. He usually grinds them in between his incisors and splatters them between molars, chomping them to dust. Worst offenders, claims Eno, are the British press, who don't bother researching (can't research - it's a liability inherent in the beast) and leave out anything derogatory. As we were preparing to leave, Eno was skipping about the room, reveling in the indignities he would perpetrate on "Chris Lobhead." We were okay though, because we were innocuous. And besides, Eno told us his Essence in Twenty-Five Words or Less:

"I am Brian Eno, a Registered Cult Figure. I have lovely shoulders, knobbily knees, good balls, a terrific vibrator, a false hand and five pairs of identical trousers, three cats, fifteen tape recorders. I like girls with brown hair and Chinese food, haw haw haw, and ROCK MUSIC, yeah!"