Brian Eno is seventy today.
Eno was the Seventies, it could be argued.
(Or the nice aspects of that decade, at least.)
Last week I caught up on a recent Financial Times interview with Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno and was amazed to read The Great Pretender referring to himself as a ‘Musician’. I was also slightly disappointed. Throughout his career, Eno had adopted – and probably invented – the professional title of ‘Non-Musician’. Even more impressively, he’d made a vain attempt to declare it as his occupation on his passport. What’s more, the title made sense: Eno was the wrong-footer, not a pussyfooter; the strategist and discreet disruptor. For Brian Eno to become something as conventional as a musician is about as boring as Bowie getting his teeth straightened.
A few months ago I discovered an upload of Alfons Sinniger’s wonderful 1973 ‘Eno’ documentary, which follows Professor Neo Brain – eyebrowless and with full exotic plumage – from a pokey recording studio to Portobello Road Market, via the discordant Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra that embodied his non-musician ideals. Watch it before it gets deleted…
…And happy birthday, Mr Eno!
When Allan Warren took this photograph, Billy Fury was just twenty-seven days shy of his 28th birthday and the same age as two of the Beatles. Despite this, he’d long been dismissed as part of the old guard; yesterday’s man from an outdated musical era, his fellow Liverpudlians having usurped him in the charts some six years before.
Two months after the portrait was taken, Fury released a cover of David Bowie’s Silly Boy Blue, backed by his version of the Bee Gees’ One Minute Woman. The instrumentation and arrangement on Side A is almost identical to Bowie’s but I prefer Billy’s vocal, despite being a lifelong Zavid fan. Strangely, Fury’s version even includes the verse in which Bowie had paid tribute to his then Buddhist teacher, Chime Rinpoche (albeit minus the ”Chime, Chime, Chime, Chime, Chime” chants that garlanded Bowie’s version for a Top Gear radio session). Fury’s vocal on the Bee Gees’ song is magnificent. Rather than attempting to imitate the raw urgency of Barry Gibb’s singing on the original, he conveys the pain felt by the song’s protagonist with an understated, melancholy tone; the words are delivered with an air of resignation.
Inexplicably, the single failed to chart, with the injurious extra detail of it having been released on Parlophone, the EMI imprint the Beatles would leave later that year to form Apple Records.
This film should be prescribed by doctors. As my friend Jeremy says, ”it’s the beautiful, delicate little sound her paws/claws make as they hit the floor…”
…although he wasn’t exactly hooked to the silver screen.
”Where are we going?”
”What am I doing here?”
”Who are you?”
This morning, my four-legged housemate and I were shuttled by our poorly paid chauffer through Ravilious-like scenery towards Edinburgh and the ever wonderful Cameo Picturehouse.
The occasion was the cinema’s second canine-friendly screening of Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’.
Ushers handed out blankets on the way in and an abundance of water bowls were laid out in each aisle. We sat in the middle of Row D with a schnauzer to our left and a tiny black dachshund on our right. I glanced behind me and was met with a surreal sight: row upon row of dogs sat upright in chairs, as if a Gary Larson cartoon had come to life.
I chatted to some of their accompanying humans but then realised I’d lost Nemo. I located him at the opposite end of our row, where he was busy divesting a man of his Twirl bar…as in real chocolate…as in DEADLY TO DOGS!!!
Several gulps of water later, with checks to ensure that my companion hadn’t been finished off by the Cadbury Company, I settled him down in his chair in time for the director’s onscreen introduction. This was followed by a stern ‘switch off your mobiles’ instruction by Chief and Igor, two of the movie’s characters, complete with a dog-whistle sequence that proved to be genuine, given the startled silence that fell in the room.
Following the storyline became an effort as I attempted to placate my restless (and clearly bored) chum; sitting him on my lap, then worrying that he was blocking the view of people behind. I realised that Nemo hadn’t chosen to come and see this film, I had. What would I do next, dress him in a little Bowie jumper?!
”More (sniff sniff) Twirl…”
”What am I lookin’ at?” (Photos by Archie’s mum)
The chap seated in front turned to us, chuckling at the surround-sound heavy panting audio experience that Nemo had deemed him worthy of. It was a joyous and moving thing to hear such a variety of yaps, barks and sneezes soundtrack a film about the banishment of dogs. During the film’s closing five minutes, Nemo curled up in his seat and began to doze off.
The day began with the (surprisingly nerdy) voice of Luke Haines, who ended that morning’s edition of Broadcasting House with an entertainingly cynical anti-tribute to the New Musical Express. I’ve never heard something quite so acerbic on Radio 4, certainly not that early in the morning. Hopefully he’ll be given a regular spot on BH, or A Point of View…or Tweet of the Day.
Forcing myself for a walk to shirk my virus and purchase some Mother’s Day flowers, I walked with my canine bruv past the brilliant OPJ house-clearance shop, which appeared to be selling the last piece of snow in Coldstream as well as other vintage items.
On our walk we were met by a shock of green, which had either had its progress delayed or itself concealed by the recent snow-verload. Shoots of wild garlic, spread everywhere like a chartreuse rash.
Back at the ranch and mindful that my 99p Spotification trial would be ending in a few days, I set about ploughing through a mental list of albums and artists I wasn’t completely familiar with and went on a journey that began with the Country Teasers but ended with Prefab Sprout and Thomas Dolby, via Lesley Gore.