Brian Eno

Sweet Science

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Brian Eno - Sweet Science
By Dimitri NasrallahFrom his humble beginnings as an art student in the British countryside, Brian Eno walked into the public consciousness as the glamorous eccentric singing back-up vocals from the sound booth at Roxy Music gigs. What happened next is the stuff of which legends are made. As the austere, sexual deviant of the art rock crowd, he recorded a slew of albums that set the pace for the next ten years. As a restless intellectual, he cultivated the theories that evolved the way we think of music and changed the way we view recording studios. As a producer, he crystallised the most vital moments from pop behemoths like U2, David Bowie, and Talking Heads. He is a founding father of art rock, glam, ambient and no wave. Brian Eno took apart the 1970s, only to reshape the decade and many of its most exciting artists in his own image. The ripples of his accomplishments can be felt in every decade that followed. These days, the man - who spends much of his time as an installation artist and lecturer - is preparing for the release of his first solo pop album in more than two decades. Another Day On Earth comes at the crest of resurging interest in his music and ideas, as new generations look back and discover for the first time the curious jewels that defined one of the most influential cultural figures of the last 40 years.

1948 to 1970
On May 15, 1948, Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno is born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, an East Anglican riverside village dating back to the 10th century. He attends Catholic schools until age 16 then enrols in a two-year program at Suffolk's Ipswich Art School, one of the longest established art-societies in the country. There, Eno meets artist and staff member Tom Phillips, who becomes a major influence on his early development, introducing him to John Cage's Silence, a book of lectures and essays on the integration of Eastern philosophies into contemporary music. Occasional visits to the school by British avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew also leave an impression on the young Eno, imprinting ideas that would later develop his sense of music as an intellectual sounding board.

In 1964, while still a student, Brian takes part in his first band, the Black Aces. The only remaining artefact from the project is a photograph, in which he is holding a pair of drumsticks. Even before learning to play conventional musical instruments, he starts collecting and playing with tape recorders. By the time he leaves Ipswich in 1965, he owns over 30 machines, though only two actually work properly. Around the same time, the Who's debut, The Who Sings My Generation, emerges; Eno is greatly inspired by the amount of energy the Who bring to rock. He begins 1968 by writing a limited edition theoretical manifesto, Music For Non- Musicians, and forming a performance art collective called Merchant Taylor's Simultaneous Cabinet. They perform works by himself and contemporary composers like La Monte Young and Cornelius Cardew. Eno then starts his second band, the Maxwell Demon, with fellow student and guitarist Anthony Grafton. They record only once, on Christmas Day, 1968, a 4-track recording called "Ellis B. Compton Blues." Late in 1969, at age 21, Eno moves to London to join an artists' commune. Once there, he joins Cardew's Scratch Orchestra. His goal is to avoid regular work, but eventually he runs out of money and takes a job as a paste-up assistant in the advertising section of a local paper. Unhappy, he soon quits and makes a living through buying and selling used electronics. By the end of 1970 things are slowly falling into place. He runs into saxophonist Andy Mackay, whom he'd first met a few years earlier at an avant-garde performance. Though both men are steeped in intellectual music, both have developed a newfound fascination for all things rock. The pair keeps in touch; three months later Eno receives a call from Mackay asking if he's interested in joining a band.

1971 to 1973
That band is Roxy Music, an act that will go on to set the pace for the glam and art rock movements that follow in its footsteps. The original formation includes Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay, and Graham Simpson. Eno owns a Revox tape recorder and the band wants to make some demos, so he joins as technical assistant. Mackay brings a synthesiser to the recording sessions, and Eno ends up handling that as well. He joins the band for their initial live performances, but not on stage. Instead he works from the mixing desk in the middle of the audience, adding vocal harmonies when needed. Early audiences are bemused by the fact that a contributing member is stationed so far away from the band and stage.
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Great retrspective on Eno. A truly amazing human being. An individual who works as much as he does but continues to exude creativity is incredible. I hope he never stops turning out quality work, whether it is solo, with a group, or by working on others' projects. Your article inspired me to take out his earlier works for renewed listening. Thank you
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what about Eno's collaboration with Harold Budd "The Pearl"? not even mentioned and it's arguably the best pure ambient album he did.
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First pop album in more than 2 decades? What about "Wrong Way Up", pure pop even aimed at billboard charts. I guess you forget about that one.
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Article Published In Jul 05 Issue