An Exploration of Brian Eno

Written by

From KCRW DJ and Music Librarian Eric J Lawrence:

Brian Eno is one of those guys whose name looms large in the history of pop music over the last 40 years, so much so that hearing his distinctive last name is enough to know interesting things are afoot!  Member of the ground-breaking glam-rock band Roxy Music, Grammy Award-winning producer of U2 and Coldplay, collaborator with David Bowie and David Byrne, inventor of ambient music – he even composed the six-second start-up tune for Windows 95!

Often overlooked by the general music listener is his quartet of solo albums released between 1974 and 1977, which, to this reviewer, are among the most exciting and dynamic “rock” records ever made.

Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before and After Science all feature Eno’s innovative approach towards making music, while still being firmly entrenched in the pop traditions of the day (including singing, which is something that, until recently, he had shied away from on his solo records).

A new documentary DVD hits stores this week that goes a long way in explaining why these albums are so distinctive and precious.  Brian Eno 1971-1977: The Man Who Fell to Earth is a two and a half-hour exploration of Eno’s work.

Moving from his early days tweaking the tone-generators while wearing peacock feathers in Roxy Music, to his mad scientist-like experiments overdubbing Robert Fripp’s guitar on a series of proto-ambient albums, this film also examines Eno’s solo albums in detail.  A number of musicians, collaborators and critics are interviewed to help give a picture of Eno’s methods and inspirations.

Of course, what’s missing is interviews with the man himself (except for short snippets of archival clips), but that’s par for the course on these types of unauthorized biographies.

Those looking for definitive answers straight from the horse’s mouth as to why he did this or that should seek David Sheppard’s 2009 book, On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno.  But fans looking for a quality multimedia history of Eno during his most fertile period should enjoy this well-produced DVD.


Editor’s Note: On July 5, Warp will release Drums Between the Bells, a new collaborative album from art-rock deity Brian Eno and poet Rick Holland. Read more and hear a track on Pitchfork.