Aug 052020

Was the German true stereo pressing of Magical Mystery Tour.

No, I’m just kidding.

The most expensive record I ever bought was a live album called June 1, 1974, by Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Eno & Nico.

I bought it in 1974 or early 1975 at E.J. Korvette’s in Springfield. I didn’t understand why an album with that title was available at that point in the discounted rack. I was totally unfamiliar with Kevin Ayers. I knew Cale from the Velvet Underground and the same with Nico, but knew nothing of their solo work. I knew Eno was a member of Roxy Music; I knew a bit about them but, again, nothing of his solo career (which at that point had only just started).

I take flyers on albums all the time now, but it was unusual then; there wasn’t a lot of disposable income and each purchase had to count. But the price tag on this album was $1.99 and so was a small risk to learn about Cale, Eno, & Nico. And Kevin Ayers, whoever he was.

But wait a minute…$1.99…most expensive?!?!

Here’s how that makes sense; here’s the sense in which I mean it.

I don’t think there is any other album in my collection which has so directly led to so many other purchases.

It started off with two Eno songs, “Driving Me Backwards” and “Baby’s On Fire.” I loved them. Then Cale’s version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Wow, great! And then Nico’s cover of “The End.” The remaining five songs were Kevin Ayers.’

This is my favorite track from the album and my favorite ever Kevin Ayers song.

This show was an Ayers gig at the Rainbow Theatre in London, to which he invited Cale and Nico. Cale brought along Eno. Robert Wyatt and Mike Oldfield were also guests, sitting in with the band.

Ayers was the real revelation of this album for me. I immediately loved him. I’ve since bought all his solo albums as well as the first Soft Machine album; he was a founding member of that band but only stayed for the first album. I still love John Cale and have bought everything he has put out. And I was definitely in for Eno’s pop albums and do have a few of the early ambient ones including the collaborations with Robert Fripp. Add in a couple of Nico albums.

Those Ayers albums and the Eno ones were all imports, pricey at the time.

So, this $1.99 album led directly to about 80 albums being purchased. Yes, it was a mighty expensive album. But it was a lot of great music.

What’s the most expensive album – in this way – in your collection?

Apr 172013

Eno, heal thyself!

Eno, heal thyself!

Only in the cruise-control world of Brian Eno can this become a reality!

The £35 million hospital is the first to incorporate Eno’s installations, which aim to evoke a “serene atmosphere” and enhance the hospital’s “three dimensional, all-embracing means of treating patients”, in its architectural design.

This is kind of cool on many levels, but at the same time I can’t help but crack up at the notion of “regular people” with tubes shoved in their orifices being force-fed Eno’s highbrow Muzak and light show. And will this stuff be heard over all the machines buzzing and beeping and hospital staff coming in and out of rooms?

May 042012

It’s not often we get to see Robert Fripp laugh, is it? I forgot King Crimson played on the failed early challenger to Saturday Night LiveFridays. Clearly, Fripp had a good time that night.

Collective critical wisdom probably considers Robert Fripp to be an “influential” musician, much like it does his old partner in crime, Brian Eno. However, unlike the body of work Eno produced, I’m not sure Fripp’s work as a guitarist, composer, producer, conceptualist, and iconoclast actually influenced many musicians. Who else plays in that weird scale that’s so distinctive of Fripp’s work? Who else uses Frippertronics? What other rock guitarists play seated on a stool? Eno inspired a generation of non-musicians to produce music, and he actually helped change the way we hear music. Fripp’s body of work suggests a musician needs to spend a lot of time practicing. Baby, that ain’t rock ‘n roll!

I’m not criticizing Fripp, mind you. I like his body of work. I like that one circular scale he plays repeatedly—and the other one, involving 2 notes that don’t quite go together yet move up the neck in some weird harmony. I love those soaring, melodic solos he occasionally plays on Eno records and The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” I consider Fripp to be an inspiring musician but not an influential one, if that makes sense. Along the same lines, I call bullshit on most folks who claim Captain Beefheart as an “influence.” His music is inspiring, but how can one be influenced by Beefheart without aping him? “Yeah, man, I like to stick daggers in the blues and sing ‘out there’ lyrics!” With rare exceptions (eg, Pere Ubu, early PJ Harvey), that is Beefheart more than it is influenced by Beefheart. I think he’s too idiosyncratic to be that useful an influence.

If you can get on board with this concept, are there other musicians you can think of who may be so idiosyncratic that they do not leave much room for influence, in terms of “building off” their work?

Apr 072012

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In Mr. Moderator reflects on a possibly musical life-changing event. He asks that you attempt to listen through his newfound ears.

[audio:|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 74]

[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player.]

Apr 062012

Still Hasn't Found What He's Looking For

I’ve been listening to Before and After Science this week and got to wondering: Has Brian Eno ever given a clear answer on why he stopped making “pop” albums? If he did, do you buy his answer?

If he didn’t want to repeat himself, why did Eno follow his 4 song-based albums with all those ambient albums and even more albums that not even diehard fans can bear listening to more than a couple of times? After a certain point, don’t those albums sound like he’s on cruise control?

Think about his main production jobs after Talking Heads. as he gravitated toward the lyrical, spiritual bands U2 and Coldplay. There’s no reason to think he was only in it for the money. As the songs on Before and After Science mellow out I get the sense Eno is making his first and only efforts at writing lyrics that possibly mean something more personal than the outcomes of his random draws from a deck of Oblique Strategies cards or whatever it is one does with the I Ching. Is it possible Eno stopped making song-oriented “pop” records because he realized he didn’t have it in himself to express some deep inner yearning and universal messages, the way Bono and Chris Martin so readily do? (Not to mention his old partner in crime, Bryan Ferry.) Is his production work with those artists an indication of what Eno wished he could have done himself but felt himself lacking?

In a way similar to how sammymaudlin once speculated that David Bowie‘s “balls envy” was at the root of his producing Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, I wonder if the second half of Eno’s career was motivated by a sense that he lacked soul, or whatever you want to call it. Just a thought.

Feb 122012

An old friend and should-be Townsman passed along this Brian Eno promotional video, which neither of us had seen before. Perhaps it gets us one step closer to uncovering another related Rock ‘n Roll Holy Grail, the full 24-minute, Alfons Sinniger-directed 1974 documentary of Eno & The Winkies playing four songs in the studio. Keep hope alive!


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