When my grandfather, my mother’s father, was born, in 1897, they named him Albert Thomas Diamond Jubilee Doughty (The Diamond Jubilee bit was to signify Queen Victoria’s sixtieth year on the throne). The son of Amos Doughty and Virginia (Ginny) Duffy.
You may wonder what any of this has to do with Brian Eno and you would be right to concur, not a lot. Not a lot apart from that both my dear old granddad and Brian Eno were born in Suffolk and both have odd middle names.
Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno (to give him his full name) was born on 15th May 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Woodbridge is an area neighboring the Mildenhall U.S. Air Force base and as a child he grew enamored of the American music of doo wop and early rock & roll (Eno this is and NOT my grandad). A time at art school introduced him to the work of contemporary composers. People such as John Tilbury and Cornelius Cardew as well as minimalists John Cage and LaMonte Young. Instructed in the principles of conceptual painting and sound sculpture, Eno began experimenting with tape recorders, which he dubbed his first musical instrument.
He dabbled with an assortment of avant-garde performers which gave him a grounding for what was to become his first breakthrough with the legendary art-rock band Roxy Music where he played synthesizer and electronically treated the bands sound. A flamboyant enigma decked out in garish makeup, pastel feather boas, and velvet corsets, his presence threatened the focal dominance of frontman Bryan Ferry, and relations between the two men became allegedly strained although there is another school of thought that suggests it was in fact the groups recording company, Island Records, that drove a wedge between the two parties; anyway, after just two LPs -- 1972's self-titled debut and 1973's For Your Pleasure Eno left Roxy Music and pursued a series of ambitious side projects.
The word genius gets bandied about and awarded to every slightly talented man and, to be fair, I am not sure the term applies to Brian Eno anymore than it does to say Paul McCartney but, like the aforementioned gent, Brian Eno has added something that wasn’t there before him and has helped to shape the music world, and change it for ever, with his input.
His music is both architectural and free form. And he is largely responsible and credited for having invented the term ‘ambient’.
Of course he is famous for having worked on David Bowie’s brilliant ‘Berlin Trilogy’, Low, Heroes, Lodger. Also, for working with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. Other acts he has produced and worked with included U2, James, Paul Simon, Talking Heads. He will be largely remembered as a producer BUT it is his input into electronic music that I feel is his most remarkable achievement.
In many ways it is the very essence of European culture. Sculptured, refined, sophisticated, ambivalent, controlled and yet, at the same time, it has those very obviously American influences in terms of its free form capacity and its expansive heart and, conversely, an almost Japanese feel about its shape and minimalist tones. Truly original and it doesn’t lose its heart. It isn’t just a case of making a sound for the hell of it. It has soul. It has elegance and it has enough space for the listener to fall in and to react with emotionally. In a word, it is a sublime creation. One as worthy as that wholly American created art form, Jazz.
If you have any nagging doubts about ambient music, be it that it is largely music for shopping malls and lifts then listen to ‘Another Green World’ or 'Another Day On Earth’. I guarantee you will be impressed.
Trust me, you WILL enjoy.