Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


ENO, Brian

(b 15 May '48, Woodbridge, Suffolk) UK keyboardist, composer; studied art and wrote handbook Music For Non Musicians '68. Founder member of Roxy Music; one of the first to use the synthesizer, left Roxy after two LPs and became guru of pop avant-garde, like John Cage as important for his example as for what he actually did, but also with pop success as producer/collaborator with others. His accessible Here Come The Warm Jets '74 was no. 26 LP UK. Work with guitarist Robert Fripp began with No Pussyfooting and Evening Star '75--6 using Eno's tape-delay system, while Eno single 'Seven Deadly Finns' '74 foresaw punk rock. Recovering from a road accident he named 'ambient music' '75 to raise Muzak to a somewhat higher level, formed mail-order-only label Obscure, associated with EG label, then licensed through Island; LPs which followed incl. Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Discreet Music, Another Green World, Music For Airports, Music For Films, Apollo, Before And After Science (his last 'rock' album), Ambient 4 -- On Land. EG switched to Polydor '77--8; Editions EG formed '81 and Obscure LPs became more widely available; an eleven-disc set of most of his work was issued: Working Backward 1983--1973 incl. Music For Films Volume 2 and a disc of Rarities incl. 'Finns'.

All his work with and for other artists, audio art installations etc cannot be listed here: he kept his hand in high-class pop, teaming with David Bowie for three albums '77-- 9, with Talking Heads '78--80 for three, plus co-writing Heads' hit single 'Once In A Lifetime' '81, also critically praised African-inspired LP My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with Heads' David Byrne ('found' voices manipulated electronically); began working with Canadian musician/producer '80 on his brother Roger Eno's Voices, Harold Budd's The Plateaux Of Mirror and the hit U2 album The Unforgettable Fire '84; worked with John Cale, Phil Manzanera, Robert Wyatt and the German avant-garde group Cluster on various albums of theirs '75--8; with Jon Hassell on Fourth World Volume 1 Possible Musics '80, and with Budd on The Pavilion Of Dreams and The Pearl '84. His own More Blank Than Frank and compact disc Desert Island Selection on EG/Polydor '86; early '87 saw EG switch to Virgin, LPs by Eno, Budd, Eno's old Roxy mate Bryan Ferry reissued on EG/Virgin. Wrong Way Up '90 with Cale was his first vocal album in 14 years. Later albums on Opal/WB: My Squelchy Life, The Shutov Assembly (compilation for Russian artist Sergei Shutov) and Nerve Net '92, latter with Fripp and several others; Neroli '93 is on Gyroscope.

About ambient music, he told Mark Edwards in The Sunday Times '97, 'There were a lot of people starting to listen in a different way, but by making a statement about it ... as soon as you do that it focuses attention on it, and in culture things always thrive in direct proportion to the attention they get.' He keeps invented fragments until he decides what (if anything) to do with them. While working with Byrne on Bush Of Ghosts he was working on African music; 'I'd just slow a track down ludicrously and process it until it turned into landscapes rather than music. I'd always just file those bits away thinking, ''Why am I doing this?''' Some of this turned into On Land. Similarly, Drop '97 he called 'weird jazz', as though people from another civilization tried to play jazz without understanding it. He could put out an album a year, but prefers to wait for an idea to coalesce. He also wrote More Dark Than Shark with Russell Mills; his '95 diary was published as A Year With Swollen Appendices '96; further reading incl. Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Colour Of Sound by Eris Tamm. Roger Eno has also released Between Tides '88 on Opal, The Familiar '93 (with Kate St John) and Lost In Translation '95 on Gyroscope.