Brian Eno on Dick & DeeDee's 1961 classic, "The Mountain's High"

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Dick & DeeDee perform “The Mountain’s High” on American Bandstand.

A few weeks ago, I visited my brother in Templeton, California, where he owns a beautiful house and a vineyard. Before I left, he handed me a bag of his old 7-inch, 45 rpm’s. Inside were some original Capitol Records singles by The Beatles, a few old R&B hits, and late ’50s and early ’60s b-sides like the surf classic, “Mr. Moto,” by The Bel Airs.

But the one that especially caught my eye was the 1961 “The Mountain’s High” pop anthem flip-side, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 by California duo, Dick and DeeDee. This hit song sold over one million copies. Brian Eno once told me when I interviewed him for my book, Rhythm Planet (Rizzoli), that this particular song really crystallized his belief that the modern-day recording studio is an instrument vital to the shaping of what he refers to as the “sound picture” of any song. With the then newly added benefit of studio tricks, like altering speeds and overdubbed vocals, Dick and DeeDee were able to achieve their sonically distinctive sound.

Ordinarily, one would never pair a catchy tune like “The Mountain’s High” with Brian Eno’s adventurous sonic landscapes (e.g. Ambient 1: Music for Airports, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, Music for Films). For the man who coined the term “ambient music” himself, instead, minimalist composer John Cage or experimental composer Cornelius Cardew come to mind as likely influences. However, Brian nevertheless cites this pop B-side as a primary inspiration for his diverse musical practice and influential in his work producing the likes of David Bowie, U2, Talking Heads, Harold Budd, The Orb, Moby, and countless others.

An early Brian Eno documentary discussing the use of synthesizers and studio recording equipment in the creation of his imaginary landscapes.

Tom Schnabel's Rhythm Planet