The Word AUGUST 2005 - by Dorian Lynskey


Son of postman marries old and new technologies and changes popular music landscape...

1948: Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno born in Woodbridge in Sussex. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been postmen. His mother was a Belgian immigrant.

1958: Discovers doo-wop and R&B, introduced to Sussex by two US airbases near his home. The first record he loved was Get A Job by The Silhouettes. I had never heard music like this. It plopped from outer space, in a sense.

1964: Transferred to Ipswich Art School. First became interested in tape recorders and their potential as musical instruments.

1968: Switched to Winchester Art School where he published poetry, studied Russian art and formed his first bands: first, Merchant Taylor's Simultaneous Cabinet, an avant-garde musical troupe, and later a rock band named The Maxwell Demon. We rehearsed a great deal and recorded very little. First heard Steve Reich's enormously influential tape recorder composition, It's Gonna Rain.

1970: Joined the Portsmouth Sinfonia, which specialised in edited highlights of classical symphonies. Working in London as a second-hand electronics dealer when he bumped into Andy Mackay of the nascent Roxy Music.

1971: Joined Roxy Music as technical adviser, later promoted to synthesizer and tapes. Preference for eyeliner and jumble-sale feather boas gave him the air of an alien androgyne. Left two years later, after finding himself pondering his laundry during a gig. It was a group based on a complete confusion of musical personalities.

1973: Launched his solo career with Here Come The Warm Jets. While touring, his stage fright was so bad that it induced a collapsed lung. Began an enduring working relationship with John Cale.

1975: Knocked down by a taxi in Maida Vale. His friend Judy Nylon visited his hospital room and left some harp music playing quietly. Bedridden and unable to turn up the volume to compete with the rainstorm outside, he became intrigued by the idea of music that blended into the environment. This inspired the Discreet Music album, which invented ambient music. That same year, Eno and his friend Peter Schmidt invented Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards offering unorthodox creative spurs. Also released Another Green World, the title track of which became the theme to BBC2's Arena, earning its composer £24.50 a week.

1976: Travelled to Berlin to work with David Bowie on what would become a trilogy of albums: Low, "Heroes" and Lodger. Although not actually the producer, he was pivotal in shaping Bowie's new sound, and co-wrote the song "Heroes". Took time out to visit Lower Saxony and record the first of a string of albums with krautrock duo Cluster.

1977: Produced Ultravox's second album. Developed a fascination with Arabic and African music. Graffiti reading Eno is God began appearing around New York City.

1978: Released the first of his Ambient series, Music For Airports: I realised that the music they had on was designed to say, 'Don't feel nervous. Absolutely nothing will ever go wrong with this plane.' Whereas I thought a better thing to say would be, 'Well there's a chance you're going to die, so just relax.' Moved to New York, where he lived for the next five years (apart from a six-month sojourn to San Francisco) and developed a passion for video art. Captured the city's short-lived No Wave movement on the No New York compilation. I happened to be in New York during one of the most exciting months of the decade. It seemed like there were five hundred new bands who all started that month. Produced Devo and the first three albums for Talking Heads. His friendship with David Byrne led to 1981's sample-heavy My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, later cited by Public Enemy as a key influence.

1983: Released Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, an album inspired by footage of the Apollo missions, with his younger brother Roger and Canadian pedal steel guitarist Daniel Lanois. Its subsequent popularity with makers of adverts and film soundtracks (Trainspotting, Traffic) made it his most lucrative recording.

1984: Asked to produced U2's fourth album, he initially declined but was won round by an impassioned speech from Bono. Recorded at Slane Castle, The Unforgettable Fire made U2 global superstars. Bono: We didn't go to art school, we went to Brian.

1988: Married his manager, Anthea Norman-Taylor. Now they have two daughters - Irial (15) and Darla (13).

1989: Produced Moscow band Zvuki Mu.

1992: Delivered a lecture to an audience of one thousand five hundred at Saddler's Wells, entitled Perfume, Defence And Bowie's Wedding. Created his first remix: improbably enough, EMF's Unbelievable. Depeche Mode, Massive Attack and Suede followed.

1993: Produced James' Laid album, the first of three collaborations with the band. Tim Booth: This man imposes no sound on anyone: you never know what you're going to get with him.

1994: Became a key patron of the War Child charity, which has been founded to help Bosnian children.

1995: Produced the all-star Help album in just one day. It raised £1.5m for War Child. Won his first ever music industry award: a Best Producer trophy at the Brits for his work on U2's Zooropa. Recorded the six-second start-up tune for Windows 95, for which he was paid thirty-five thousand dollars. Reunited with David Bowie for the Outside album and presented the Turner Prize, began creating generative music with a software programme called Koan. Generative music is like gardening; you plant a seed, and it grows differently every time.

1996: Released Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1, with U2 and Luciano Pavarotti. Published his diary from the preceding year, under the title A Year With Swollen Appendices. Typical entry: Starting to think all the world's problems can be solved with either oyster sauce or backing vocals. Performed live for the first time in twenty years, at Pavarotti's annual charity concert in Modena.

1997: Relocated to St Petersburg for seven months, where he produced an installation in the Marble Palace. I felt like getting out of the west.

2001: He was one of the only musicians to criticise the war in Afghanistan. Released Drawn From Life.

2004: Played synthesizers for Rachid Taha and Coldplay. Offered creative guidance to Travis.

2005: Put his weight behind the campaign of Reg Keys, who stood in Tony Blair's constituency on an anti-war ticket. Released Another Day On Earth.