November 25, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Geeta Dayal's 33 1/3 book Brian Eno's Another Green World explores the musician at the time of his metamorphosis from rocker to ambient artist. Bringing together musicians who played on the album, Dayal lays out a track-by-track history and analysis not only of the seminal album but also Eno's creative process.
For the past few years, unraveling the myriad twists and turns of Brian Eno's career was practically my full-time job. When I set out in 2006 to write a small book on Eno's 1975 album Another Green World for the 33 1/3 series of music books, I didn't realize what an all-consuming task it would be. I wrote and rewrote the entire book several times. Every idea fanned out into ten other intriguing ideas, and eventually I found myself trapped in a dense, gelatinous web of thought. Finally, I realized I had to conceptualize the book in a more linear way, or risk never being finished. The final result of these efforts, recently published on Continuum, is the product of nearly three painstaking years of intense thought and research.
The following songs are a few of my favorite Eno rarities.
Brian Eno - "Strong Flashes of Light" (1983)
When I first heard this, I was so stunned by it that I played it five times in a row. Sometimes I play songs on loop and forget that they're on; I get so lost in the song's groove. This upbeat rocker was originally issued in 1983 on Editions EG, on an EP of rarities and B-sides; it sounds like it would be right at home as a lead track on 1977's Before and After Science. In this song's DNA are maybe five different musical genres; it's as if you can see all of Before and After Science, Fela Kuti, Can, and the early, frenzied days of Talking Heads encoded in its chromosomes. It sounds a lot like "No One Receiving," the opening track of Before and After Science, but faster and more agitated. The guitar sounds incredibly loose and completely tight at the same time.
Eno, Moebius, Roedelius - "Luftschloss" (1978)
The song "On Some Faraway Beach," on Eno's 1973 album Here Come the Warm Jets, gives off the appearance of a straightforward ballad, only to reveal itself as a castle in the air, built of layers of dreamy backing vocals, lead vocals, and intricate keyboard lines that weave in and out of each other. In German, "castle in the air" translates to "Luftschloss," the title of a delicate piano ballad on After the Heat (1978), by Eno, Dieter Moebius, and Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Moebius and Roedelius were in the German bands Cluster and Harmonia, trailblazing groups that put out several brilliant electronic albums in the 1970s. Eno quickly befriended Moebius and Roedelius, calling Harmonia "the world's most important rock group" in interviews and collaborating with them on several albums.
Eno and the Winkies - "Totalled" (1974)
"I'll Come Running," the luminous piano song on Eno's 1975 album Another Green World, can be traced to an earlier Eno rarity called "Totalled." Eno played "Totalled'' on a BBC Peel session in 1974, backed by a short-lived but dynamite rock band called The Winkies. In "I'll Come Running"'s previous incarnation, it was a rock song -- not unlike the three-chord punk ditties that would become ubiquitous in 1977 -- crammed with crunchy distortion and the goofy chorus "I'll come running to tie your shoe/Whoa-oh-oh-oh/I'll come running to tie your shoe." The inner life of that screwball rock tune, and how it blossomed into an elegant and unexpected piano ballad on Another Green World, is, in a way, the story of Eno's own musical transformation from 1974 to 1975.
Geeta Dayal and Brian Eno's Another Green World links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)