brent johnson digs up a lost treasure in honor of Brian Eno’s birthday …
Few music careers are as weird, winding and utterly fascinating as Brian Eno’s.
In the mid-1970s, the British synthesizer whiz invented ambient music — soundscapes that drift over a room, sounding like the musical equivalent of an airport terminal or moon landing.
In the late-1970s, he uprooted to Germany to perform and write on David Bowie’s acclaimed Berlin trilogy.
In the 1980s, he became one of the most respected producers in rock, making experimental music accessible. That’s his work on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and U2’s The Joshua Tree.
Remember the music that played every time you opened Windows ’95? The beep … beep … beep? Yep, he wrote that.
And most recently, he introduced himself to modern pop music by producing Coldplay’s chart-topping Viva La Vida album.
But before all of that, the man born Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno was the alien-looking creature that manned the giant synthesizer in the great, underrated 1970s glam-rock band Roxy Music.
That’s how Eno got his start — sporting long blonde hair, feathered jackets and eyeliner, while squeezing out strange noises from a massive keyboard. He didn’t play anything pretty. In fact, he called himself a “non-musician.” Instead, Eno colored Roxy’s songs with swirls and squeals of art-rock noise.
It was glorious.
But Roxy was apparently too small for both Eno and lead singer Bryan Ferry. So Eno left after two magnificently singular albums. And he went on to make a string of his own warped solo records.
The first was 1974’s Here Come The Warm Jets. The lyrics were random — about dead finks being unable to talk and a baby being on fire. The arrangements were off the wall.
And it all opened with a blast of fun called ‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye.’ On the surface, it’s a catchy proto-punk song. But it’s filled with stabs of almost out-of-tune guitars and pounding, almost off-time drums. It’s a strange, thrilling ride.
Eno turned 64 yesterday. But here’s hoping he has a few more unexpected chapters in his career.