Great Arena last night on BBC4 covering the work and life of Brian Eno. Eno gave Arena access to observe him working in the studio and talking with friends and colleagues including Richard Dawkins, Malcolm Gladwell, David Whittaker and Steve Lillywhite.
Here he talks about his favourite productions.
“Produced by Giorgio Moroder, it’s an amazing production. Putting the crudely mechanical, duugguder dugguder dugguder, this kind of Germanic robot thing, against the incredibly sexy emotional organic gospel singing. It sounded so far ahead of people who thought they were making modern music.”
The Beatles: Tomorrow Never Knows
“Again very important for me because it was very clear that song didn’t exist before it got to the studio (plays the song on a guitar). You know… It wouldn’t have been, well I am sure it wouldn’t have been as crappy as that (referencing version he just played) but that’s the kind of thing it would have been and yet it turned into this amazing jet stream psychedelic fantasy piece and entirely to do with electronics and with the use of the studio and with a lot of brilliant open minds.”
“Then the Velvet Underground – that’s production of restraint. You have to admire people who say the best thing I can do for this piece of music is defend it against the recording industry ’cause I am sure there were all sorts of people sitting around saying ‘ooh you should get a proper drummer, it’d be so much better with a proper drummer, instead of that woman who can only hit one drum at a time’.”
He then went on to talk about his life growing up in a small town in Suffolk which was surrounded by air bases (both American and British) and in turn had 17,000 GI’s within about 5 miles of the town.
“As the town was the closest place for them to go for entertainment there were lots of coffee houses in the town, which had jukeboxes, which mostly had American music on because the clientele were mostly Americans. So from an early age i was hearing really, really good doo wop and deep southern R&B. I’ve still got some of those records. ‘Life’s too short’ by The Lafayettes, which was not a doo wop song but a very mysterious single that meant a lot to me. The main rhythmic element in it is just someone playing rim shots, playing on the edge of the snare drum, there’s no big drums in it. So you have this very sparse background feeling and this urgent singing over the top.
I was always impressed by music I couldn’t penetrate the mystery of.”