on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2022 9 Okt

A visit in the tower of song

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 1 Comment

On a long
Long ride to Bonn
Last light from an old sun

Soon the moon will rise again
Here, now
It’s all horizons

Hard to steer
These new stars
No clear lines to guide us

Always there
For the last hooray
Last light of an old sun



That may be a good question: why, Brian, is this song from your new work called „Sherry“? And why that ride to Bonn? Well, let‘s try to answer this ourselves. Is Sherry not a drink, loved by  people of a certain age? And Bonn may represent „Old Europe“ like in that Robert Wyatt song. Spies and Beethoven, so to speak. The lyrics of „Foreverandevernomore“ are far away from the wide reaching playfulness of Eno‘s early song albums. But under the surface of all these albums with songs: a melancholia that elevates. Gates opening, even at closing time. One more Sherry, please. Change of town. 
One evening, on a rainy December day 1975 in Würzburg, a record changed my life. „Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)“. The songs, the sonic textures, the voice, the lyrics, everything had an entrancing quality, and I knew from the start, I had found another favourite musician – and a favourite singer.*  This „first cut“ happened on the 7th floor of „I-House“, with my beloved lying by my side. Nights of wine and roses.  As time goes by – after  those other quite rare (much too rare) song albums by Mr. Eno, there will be another song cycle (to be released next Friday), „Foreverandevernomore“ – a terrific melting of ambient and song worlds. And, oh, yes, how much deeper  hos voice is nowadays. Hitting the deep C – easy going. Even Scott Walker, I guess, would love it in his tower of song, Leonard anyway. 


* (a) „One of the interesting things that happened in the last few weeks to me, was that somebody wrote an article in an American magazine that really made me think hard, (laughs) because its title was „Brian Eno – Aretha Franklin he is not!“ And it was an article really about my singing. And it was saying – it was very critical of my singing – „Here’s a guy who puts the same amount of emotion into the word ‚carpet‘ as into the word ‚hate‘. It’s a guy who has no vulnerability in his voice whatsoever, no shades of feeling.“ It wasn’t actually a critical article. The article was by someone who likes my work, I think, but about three quarters of the article was about what an uninteresting voice I have (laughs). And I thought: Hmm, that’s really interesting. Now, I wonder why this person thinks this, because it’s not how I feel about my voice, well, obviously. But it’s not, how certain other people feel about this as well. This guys background is very much in soul music, black soul music. And I thought: well, if your concept of passion, of what constitutes passion, comes from black music, then it’s quite true, you won’t recognize me as having any kind of passion at all. Because I simply don’t sing in that way. It’s not to do with exploiting the kinds of freedoms that those singers exploit. I have a very thin voice, like a sharp pencil. I don’t have a big brush of a voice, you know. I have this sharp pencil, and I like it. I can do things with a sharp pencil: there are certain places you can get in, you can work with a certain kinds of detail with a thin, sharp thing that you can’t do with a broad thing. Well, it’s not a voice style that is very characteristic. It’s not a way that most people would try to sing. If someone is starting out on a singing career, they are much more likely to decide to sing like Wilson Pickett than like Brian Eno, I should think. Because there is not a tradition of this way of singing, I think, except in – funny enough – English Gilbert & Sullivan type, operettas, you know, light operettas. And I’m very drawn to that. What that exploits is diction, careful diction, rhythm between words, sound pattern within words. If you listen to Gilbert & Sullivan, you will find this very similar to a lot of songs that I have written. I’m in a very English tradition in a way, and I’m not embarrassed about it. Most singers who are English, are most embarrassed about their englishness. They will want to sound more black, actually, that’s what it comes down to. (From my interview: „Brian In Wonderland“ – Jazzthetik, fall 1990)





“ (b) Witzigerweise fand ich vor drei oder vier Monaten das Notizbuch, in das ich die Songtexte von “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)” geschrieben hatte. Und es war sehr interessant , da einen Blick hineinzuwerfen. Da ist eine Seite, auf der ich einen ganzen Song in einem Rutsch geschrieben habe. Als hätte jemand anders mir alles diktiert. Der Text ist voll ausgeschrieben, manchmal ist ein Wort durchgestrichen und durch ein anderes Wort ersetzt. Oder zwei Zeilen veränderten ihre Position. Ich weiß nicht, ob meine Erinnerung mir einen Streich spielt und die Dinge schönt: ich erinnere mich jedenfalls, überhaupt keinen Zweifel und keine Schwierigkeiten gehabt zu haben, die Texte zu schreiben. Es war, als wären sie schon alle in mir vorhanden gewesen. Und ich hatte ein sehr klares Bild von dem Gefühl, daß dieses Album vermitteln sollte. Es war die Tragödie der „chinesischen Erfahrung“, dieses große Zerplatzen der Träume, die der Maoismus einst repräsentiert hatte. Und wie bei allen Zusammenbrüchen revolutionärer Hoffnungen, entwickelt sich ein kollektiver Unterton der Enttäuschung. Im letzten Song des Albums machen sich die Menschen auf den langen Marsch über den Berg, sie kämpfen sich durch Schnee und Eis in eine ungewisse Zukunft. Sehr melancholisch.“ (from my interview with Brian, 2005,  for Deutschlandfunk)



Brian Eno: Here Come The Warm Jets *****
Brian Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) *****
Brian Eno: Another Green World *****
Brian Eno: Before And After Science *****
Brian Eno / John Cale: Wrong Way Up ****1/2
Brian Eno: Another Day On Earth ****1/2
Brian Eno / Karl Hyde: Someday World ****1/2
Brian Eno: The Ship *****

Brian Eno: Foreverandevernomore *****



P.S. In the late 70‘s, and in the Bavarian Wood, from 80 til 82, my favourite radio show was „Zündfunk“, with Michael Hutter, Ingeborg Schober, Karl Bruckmaier, Carl-Ludwig Reichert, and Till Obermeier. I remember one afternoon, when Imgeborg S. praised Manzanera‘s „801 Live“, it was their „record of the week“, and Brian was the singer of zhe band. Wonderfully flowing music, with Brian being the lead singer and singing two songs from my alltime fave bands of the Sixties, The Kinks („You Got Me“) and The Beatles („Tomorrow Never Knows“) – i couldn‘t believe it, a closing of circles in very young years.  And, a propos closing circles, 801 live‘s cover of the revolutionary Beatles song (used in full length  in a famous scene of „Mad Men“) became my final piece of music after all those years of Klanghorizonte. 

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