Posts Tagged ‘Brian Eno’

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“This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!” Talking Heads ‘Remain in Light.’ released on 10/8/80, The Talking Heads released their fourth studio album and arguably their strongest and most influential full length – “Remain in Light”. This time the band, along with producer Brian Eno, decided to experiment with African polyrhythms and recorded the instrumental tracks as a series of samples and loops. Additional musicians were frequently used throughout the studio sessions. The album spawned two singles – “Once in a Lifetime” and “Houses in Motion” but its other compositions such as as the 1-3 opening sequence of “Born Under Punches, “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Great Curve” that really makes for “Remain in Light” as such a must hear album. Watch The Talking Heads perform “The Great Curve” live in Dortmund from 1980.

The seeds of Talking Heads‘ landmark “Remain in Light” album were planted on the band’s previous record, 1979’s “Fear of Music”. But the year away from the studio, plus a change of locale for basic recording, made a world of difference in the end. Talking Heads went into their fourth album with the intention of proving once and for all that they were a band; they emerged as a different entity, continuing on this same path for the rest of their too-brief career.
Following the release of “Fear of Music” in August 1979 – their most successful album yet in a two-year span that was continually yielding bigger sales figures and more fans – Talking Heads were, more and more as time went on, hearing that David Byrne was essentially a gifted but eccentric frontman taking charge of the three other musicians who happened to play on his records. The band, with producer Brian Eno on board, set out to prove that they were four singular minds driving toward one shared purpose.

So, they tightened up. They got funky. They set up shop in Nassau. They surrounded “Remain in Light‘s” eight songs with a worldly blend of global pop, post-punk, American R&B and artsy experimentalism augmented by a handful of session players on horns and percussion. And they played around with loops and samples, still mostly unheard of at the time, which gave the album the otherworldly feeling that the entire project was shipped in from another time and place, nowhere near the end-of-the-century New York City that the group had come to identify with so closely.
But it’s not such a dramatic leap that the dots can’t be connected between “Fear of Music” and “Remain in Light”. In fact, “I Zimbra,” from the former, was a launching point for the latter, with the band members jamming on the song, seeing where it would take them. Along with Byrne’s recent collaborations with Eno, which would be released in 1981 as “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, it served as both an expansion to the group’s previous work and an opening to a brave new world.

Inspired by Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, the music on “Remain in Light” took on a more jam-based and fluid approach. Hip-hop, which began creeping into NYC culture at the time, also left its mark, as the eight tracks shifted, twisted and transformed into new shapes at every turn. As influential as it was revolutionary, the LP charted new musical territory for anyone interested in the sound of a dozen genres colliding and then coming together.
From the opening “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” featuring a particularly elastic bass line by Tina Weymouth, and the frenetic “Crosseyed and Painless” to “Once in a Lifetime,” which received tons of MTV airplay at the time, and the New-Wave-meets-world-music “Houses in Motion,” “Remain in Light” unfolds as a singular piece of pop music on an entirely different plain. No other record released in 1980 sounded like it; all these years later, artists are still trying to catch up.
Lyrically, the album drifted into original territory too, with Byrne combing a mix of his existential, stream-of-conscious and art-school playbooks to come up with a work that defied expectation and circumvented explanation. As he sings on “Once in a Lifetime,” “You may ask yourself, How did I get here?” There’s no easy answer, but the album changed Talking Heads forever.
The album set up the group for its breakthrough with its next LP, 1983’s “Speaking in Tongues”, which included Talking Heads’ only Top 10 hit “Burning Down the House.” That then spawned a popular tour that was later documented in the movie and album “Stop Making Sense”. The musical ideas laid out on “Remain in Light” provided the foundation for Talking Heads’ crisscrossing into other genres (including Americana and straightforward rock ‘n’ roll) before leadership issues which were never smoothed over — led to their breakup in 1991.

On their first three albums, Talking Heads made anxious, self-aware art-punk with enough pop appeal to offset the oddness. Led by yelping frontman David Byrne, whose exaggerated normal-guy persona signalled a profound discomfort with the modern world, the onetime CBGB regulars were weirdoes working within the confines of classic rock. Their music wasn’t for everyone, but by 1979, they’d notched a couple of minor hits and edged toward the mainstream.

With their landmark fourth album, “Remain In Light” Talking Heads changed everything and nothing all at once. Produced by Brian Eno, who’d helmed the group’s previous two LPs, it was something truly rare: a radical departure that nevertheless felt like a continuation of and improvement on everything that had come before.

“Remain In Light” was born at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, where Byrne and his bandmates — keyboardist Jerry Harrison and the husband-and-wife drum-and-bass team of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth — arrived song-less and ready to jam. This communal approach was a curious, given that Byrne had typically brought in nearly finished compositions and that he’d recently hinted he might be done with the group.

His most recent project had been the Eno collaboration “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts”, an experimental album heavily influenced by African sounds. That music found its way into the improvisational new Talking Heads tracks, though the extent to which the group was consciously trying to make an African-inspired record remains a point of debate. Byrne went so far as to include a bibliography of books on African art and culture with press releases for the album; Frantz and Weymouth have since downplayed the overt influence of African music.

Remain In Light” doesn’t sound much like the three Talking Heads records that came before and it doesn’t sound anything like other post-punk or New Wave albums released circa 1980. It’s heavy on single-chord polyrhythmic jams, light on traditional pop structures or hooks. Eno constructed the tracks by looping rhythmic sections and layering instrumentation — a method that initially left Byrne unsure of how or what to sing.

Inspired by Southern preachers, the Watergate tapes and some of those heady African texts he’d studied with Eno, Byrne wrote and recorded most of his lyrics after the group had returned from the Bahamas. His words have a freeform, impressionistic, cut-and-paste quality, but even so, “Remain In Light” is a record with very recognizable — and very Talking Heads — themes of alienation and the search for identity. Byrne’s every bit as perplexed, frightened and amused by the world as he was on the 1979 apocalyptic funk workout “Life During Wartime.” He’s taking his anxieties on holiday — not giving them the day off.

Byrne’s vocals weren’t the only overdubs. There were horns, extra percussion bits, female background vocals and stunning synth-treated solos from avant-garde guitar hero Adrian Belew, who’d played with the likes of Frank Zappa and King Crimson. When the band hit the road to promote the album, Belew joined the expanded line-up needed to recreate the crazy clatter in a concert setting.

Adrian Belew remembers on how not to join a Famous Band. – in 1980 I received a call asking me to come to New York City to rehearse for four days in order to learn the Talking Heads record “Remain In Light” only months before I had recorded the record all in one day with the Heads and Brian Eno. Talking Heads had the idea to expand their normal quartet to a thumping funky 10-piece band with two bass players, two keyboard players, two guitar players, two female back-up singers, one drummer and one percussionist. and we were going to learn the very layered studio monster “Remain In Light” in four days and then play two shows! somehow we did it, we learned the record and several songs from other records. But just barely. and just in time to board a plane for our first show in Toronto. Only then did we see the whole enchilada, our first show was a festival of 70,000 people! they flew us to the vast backstage area in helicopters. looking down at the sea of tiny flesh baffles, I was nervous enough to jump out in mid-air. it seemed like all the hip bands of the moment were present. the B-52’s, the Pretenders, Elvis Costello, the Clash. it was called the heatwave festival, billed as the first “new wave” festival, and was actually in a place called Mosport park.
Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe played. the Pretenders played. the B 52’s played. minutes before we were set to play I opened the door to our backstage trailer to discover most of the band snorting lines of coke from the backs of guitars. they quickly shooed me away, knowing I didn’t partake.
The timing of our performance was fortuitous; just as the sun was setting. I joined the original four Heads to play “Psycho Killer”, then the full band was brought onstage. we launched right into the new material. no one in the audience even knew the “Remain In Light” record as yet but it didn’t matter, the band was smoking! halfway through our set we played a song from “Fear of Music” called “I Zimbra” on the recorded version David had played a fast running guitar line. as soon as we started that song I could tell the coke had kicked in. we played it twice as fast as it was on the record! my fingers had a hard time keeping up and I was worried our 45-minute set might be over in 20. but it all worked out. the band was an instant success.
For our second show we played in Central Park but only 125,000 people showed up! at the time you couldn’t go into a bookstore, bar, record shop, or restaurant without hearing Talking Heads music in the background. It was an exciting time to be in the band. David, Chris, Tina, and Jerry decided to keep the 10-piece funk machine rolling for a whole world tour including Japan and then Europe. it was a wacky cast of characters to live with and we had loads of fun.

The lead single, “Once In a Lifetime,” missed the Hot 100 chart memorable video that became an MTV staple the following year.

The track-by-track take of this, the most strangely brilliant album from a band that did strange and brilliant better than anyone.

“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)”: Within seconds, the Heads establish the wonky world they’ll explore for much of the next 40 minutes. It’s vibrant and alive yet weirdly claustrophobic: a paradise for paranoids. Amid skittering beats, belching bass and guitars that caw like tropical birds and scamper like ants on discarded mangos, Byrne plays a spiritually suffocating “government man” who just wants to breathe easy. Good luck with that one.

“Crosseyed and Painless”: More alienation set to alien grooves, this time with rougher rock guitars and a broader sense of unease. “Lost my shape,” Byrne sings at the outset, before deciding that shapes — and really facts of any kind — are inherently meaningless. As Byrne unravels, Frantz and Weymouth unspool insistently frazzled funk, making madness seem rather fun.

“The Great Curve”: Probably the most African-inspired track, both in terms of music and lyrics, this pulsing six-minute polyrhythmic free-for-all shifts the focus from freaked-out Byrne to some divine female figure (maybe a stand-in for all women) who’s “gonna open our eyes up.” It’s breathless and hopeful, complete with Belew guitar solos that shriek like people dying to come out of the dark.

“Once In a Lifetime”: Props to Eno and Harrison: The keyboards really do evoke floating as Byrne thinks about all that water bubbling down below our cars and houses and meaningless little lives. Some hear the song as a rant against ‘80s materialism, but Byrne has said it’s more about switching off autopilot and taking stock of how we get to where we end up. It’s man beating a drum and looking for answers he won’t find — same as it ever was.

“Houses In Motion”: If “Once In a Lifetime” is ambivalent about whether life is worth living, this chilly, plodding track paints a darker picture. The creepy-crawly rhythm that lit such a fire on “Born Under Punches” has slowed way down and Byrne is back to being a put-upon modern man forced to trudge sockless through a world where even that saviour lady from “The Great Curve” has “closed her eyes.” Those distorted horns laid down by frequent Eno collaborator Jon Hassell suggest not the grand trumpets of the apocalypse, but rather the sounds of elephants poised to stamp you dead without even realizing it.

“Seen and Not Seen”: Another slow jam, this sparse, wobbly, spoken-word gem finds Byrne ditching all the preacher-man affects and talking like a regular guy. Over a stomp-clap rhythm reminiscent of early hip-hop, Byrne calmly tells the story of a guy who wants to change his face — either to match his true personality or to better represent the personality he’s always wished he had. The guy’s not sure and Byrne’s not judging. We’ve all been there.

“Listening Wind”: Startlingly minimalist, this tale of a Third World terrorist prepping a mail bomb for one of the Americans who’ve muscled into his country marks a sharp turn from personal politics to global politics. The synths evoke both natural sounds and the digital blipping of Mojique’s device and Byrne again takes a non-judgmental, sympathetic tone. As a prescient commentary on the consequences of American foreign policy, “Listening Wind” suggests Talking Heads weren’t embarking naively on their quasi-African adventure.

“The Overload”: Talking Heads go goth with this bleak six-minute unhappy ending. The trudge of “Houses In Motion” is now a muddy, hopeless slog. Harrison’s keyboards sputter like machine guns or jeep motors and there’s a sense the band is performing in some burned-out future earth, using the last dregs of electricity to power its instruments.

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While Roxy Music are generally thought of as being a new wave act, they actually got their start in the early ’70s as an experimental glam outfit that were one of the first rock bands to create a carefully crafted look and style across every aspect of their presentation, from their stage performances and music videos to their album art and promotional materials. Famed solo artist and record producer Brian Eno was part of the group in its early years but after his departure in 1973, singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry took creative control and shaped Roxy Music into one of the most quietly influential rock bands of all time.

Roxy Music very quickly became the epitome of art-rock following their genesis in the early 1970s. The band was originally formed by vocalist Bryan Ferry and bassist Graham Simpson in 1970 after Ferry had failed an audition to join King Crimson as a replacement for Greg Lake. Despite liking Ferry’s voice, Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield had decided it wasn’t a good fit for their band. They recruited saxophone and oboe player Andy Mackay and synth player Brian Eno (who “treated” the other players instruments through his synth).  Paul Thompson was welcomed as the drummer, chosen for his energetic style that would suit their arrangements perfectly. Shortly before recording their debut album, they became complete with the addition of the Latin American classically trained guitarist Phil Manzanera.

Each member bought their individual background to the band; Manzanera grew up in Latin America, Mackay was classically trained, while Mackay, Ferry and Eno all came from art school backgrounds. One common thread for all the members was an appreciation of the avant-garde experimentation of the Velvet Underground, while Eno’s experiments with synths and tape effects were unusual for a song-based rock record. Roxy Music sought to blur the lines between high art and pop art, making postmodern pop music.

Roxy Music went through a succession of bass players, while Brian Eno was replaced by Eddie Jobson after 1973’s “For Your Pleasure“. After touring behind “Siren“, the group disbanded in 1976. They reunited in 1978 to record “Manifesto”, but the core band was reduced to a three-piece of Ferry, Mackay, and Manzanera, after Paul Thompson quit in 1980. The band’s reunion albums were smoother and less experimental than their earlier work.

Roxy Music were phenomenally successful for a band with experimental tendencies – all eight of their studio albums made the UK top ten. Their sole number one single, a lovely take on John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ released on 1981, isn’t featured on any of their albums.

Roxy Music Flesh + Blood

Flesh and Blood (1980)

The singles from Flesh + Blood are misleadingly strong – the torch song ‘Oh Yeah’ and the funky falsetto of ‘Same Old Scene’ are great songs that promise a great album. Elsewhere, “Flesh + Blood” is disappointingly bland – although that doesn’t apply to the album’s nadir, a bizarre remake of The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’.

As influential as “Avalon” but immediately so, “Flesh + Blood” was the real sales monster: No#1 for three different spells in England. Released at the peak of press fascination with the Blitz kids and New Romantics, the album captured Roxy in an uncomfortable transition: should we luxuriate in sound or should we sway, gently? They don’t answer the question, resulting in an album of gobsmacking highs and bloodless lows.

Playing all the keyboards for the first time on record, Ferry shows impressive range on “Same Old Scene,” the catchiest and weirdest old guard answer to New Wave; “Over You,” a sharper skinny tie Wilson Pickett homage than the “In the Midnight Hour” cover; and the pissed-off title track, in which Ferry, on guitar (!), for once doesn’t mind playing (being?) a creep. But “Rain Rain Rain,” “No Strange Delight,” and “Running Wild” remain.

Roxy Music Manifesto

Manifesto (1979)

In 1975, Roxy Music entered a hiatus as Bryan Ferry and Co. parted ways to work on solo projects and other obligations outside the band. Upon their reunification, a reshuffled incarnation of the group set about recording the first of their more commercially orientated run of albums, “Manifesto“. This new chapter in the band’s path saw them ditch the edginess and creative poetry of their previous work in favour of more predictable dance-friendly material.

Their first studio album in four years, they’d updated their sound for the disco era. They were still weird, but the 1970s art-rock facade was replaced with a dance-pop sound. It mostly works – the singles ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Dance Away’ were both successful, while ‘Manifesto’ and ‘Trash’ retained hints of the art-rock of Roxy Music’s earlier phase.

Roxy’s attempt to record an L.A. studio rock album steeped in disco — an anomaly in their catalogue, self-produced, still too underrated. Also their comeback after four years of middling solo careers, so they confused fans on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, who or what were they supposed to sound like during the apogee of punk and the Gibb brothers? The triumph of “Dance Away” we know — their second biggest hit in England and America, as it turns out — so check out “Still Falls the Rain,” “Ain’t That So” (Roxy going Boz Scaggs and liking it), and the pained, modest closer “Spin Me Round.”

Roxy Music Avalon

Avalon (1982)

Roxy Music’s final album is gorgeously smooth, a refined version of the dance-pop they pursued in mark II. It’s less invigorating than the experimentation of their earlier releases, but it’s often beautiful. The melodic pop of ‘More Than This’ is a lovely opener, while guest vocalist Yanick Étienne adds colour to the languid title track. The closing pair of ‘True To Life’, and the synth and oboe duet on ‘Tara’, is gorgeous.

1979’s Manifesto and 1980’s “Flesh + Blood” were tangibly weaker than Roxy Music’s 1970’s catalogue, but the group rebounded for 1982’s elegant swansong “Avalon”.  The sleek ‘More Than This’ is a perfect piece of pop.

You may be wondering where “More Than This” or “Avalon” are? The most commercially fruitful period in Roxy Music’s career came from 1978 to 1982, after an enforced sabbatical. Ferry had only really reformed the band because his patrician image was at such odds with punk and his career needing galvanising with the brand that had once so exemplified cool. The West Sussex manor and the hobnobbing in high society was bound to have some bearing on the Thomas Cromwell of pop and his music, and it was fortuitous that as he was enveloped into the bosom of the aristocracy that he hit on a formula to write the same oleaginous ballad over and over again to handsome remuneration (play “Dance Away” and “Slave to Love” back to back and you’ll see what I mean). They’re still good songs, especially compared with the output of lesser mortals, but they belong to that other Roxy Music, the one owned by the mainstream that has no perception of the abrasive musical insurgency of the past. The first era ends in 1975, and the final trace of the “orchid born on a coal tip” as Ferry described himself once, the last remaining sign of the fuliginous grit of the north-east, can be found in the battle cry of Whirlwind and that opening “Maaaydaaaaaaay!” line that so emboldens.

“There she blows!” he howls a bit later in this nautical adventure perhaps inspired by Moby-Dick, though Ferry would see himself less a Captain Ahab and more a Captain Cook, a derring-do nobleman originally born a commoner. When Roxy Music got together again in 1978, their album “Manifesto” would be a strange mix of new-wave experimentation that didn’t quite work, and sentimental songs that opened up a whole new demographic they’d pursue to the bitter end via the weak “Flesh + Blood” and the cocaine avarice of “Avalon”. “Whirlwind“, then, is the last great Roxy Music rocker, a little bit unloved and under-appreciated, despite having such impressive seafaring legs.

The album holds a bounty of highlights including the lead singles ‘Avalon’ and ‘More Than This’, but also holds so much to be explored in its underbelly with the wonderfully textured ‘True To Life’ always having served as a personal favourite. The fantastic production and mastering on the album make it a must-have for any budding record collectors out there.  

Roxy Music 1972 Debut Album

Roxy Music (1972)

Roxy Music’s debut album is full of ideas – Andy Mackay later said “we certainly didn’t invent eclecticism but we did say and prove that rock ‘n’ roll could accommodate – well, anything really.” The first side, especially on editions that include the early single ‘Virginia Plain’, is amazing.

What a difference a couple of months can make. The first album unexpectedly climbed as high as No 10 in the UK charts, and then out of nowhere appeared the single “Virginia Plain“, fully formed and swaggering, peacock-like, somehow sounding light years ahead of its nine predecessors. If the first album is a triumph of will and dilettantism, then “Virginia Plain” is a genuine slab of pop alchemy: cool, catchy and cutting-edge as hell, with an undercurrent of exoticism and sexual adventure. With its staccato keys, thrilling stop/start motion and noises from the future, it is suave to the point of decadent, sweeping you off your feet and flying you down to Rio. “We haven’t got any further than this; it’s a disgrace,” Brian Eno commented in reference to the Walker Brothers’ 1978 album Nite Flights, when filmed for the Scott Walker: 30 Century Man documentary in 2006, and it’s hard not to feel similar sentiments about “Virginia Plain”, released a whole six years earlier. Mine the annals of music history if you will, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another compact three minutes of pop more perfect than Roxy’s first single proper.

Roxy Music deliver twisted country on ‘If There Is Something’ and deconstruct pop music on ‘Remake/Remodel’, quoting Wagner and The Beatles. The production, by King Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield, is a weakness, and the second side can be a rough listen, but most of the group’s ideas originate here.

Roxy’s Music’s 1972 debut opened with ‘Remake/Remodel’, with the band at their most futuristic. The song featured a brief solo from each of the six member. Aside from steady rhythm powerhouse Paul Thompson, it’s fair to say the Roxy of 1972 were musicians finding their way, and Brian Eno on the VCS3 synth notoriously couldn’t really play a note (he still can’t, not that that’s hurt his career any). The gloriously egalitarian nature of pop means ability can come in a variety of different guises, and County Durham’s Bryan Ferry, with his trembling voice, turned apparent shortcomings into strengths. He also approached the serious art of song writing with a dadaist playfulness, in opposition to the prevailing trend in the early 70s of earnest confessional singer/songwriters. Bryan also had a lovely head of hair, and still does. “Re-make/Re-model” is a relentless, pulverising, sonic car crash of a song, and one of the cars in the pile up bears the number plate “CPL 593H” (sung repeatedly as the song’s only chorus), apparently driven by a beautiful woman Ferry noticed in the rear-view mirror on the way to the studio. 

The highlight, however, is ‘If There Is Something’ which begins as a modernised pastiche of country music that later melts away into a new, slightly darker and more intense phase of the track thanks to Eno’s work on the synthesiser. All in all, the album is fantastic as a starting point for the band, but by its very nature as a drawing board, it is a tad unbalanced. 

Roxy Music Siren

Siren (1975)

Siren“, the last album from Roxy Music’s original tenure, is a divisive record because it blends the band’s art-rock with dance and pop textures. But Roxy Music’s daring creativity is still intact, especially on rockers like ‘Whirlwind’ and ‘Both Ends Burning’, and the lengthy epic ‘Sentimental Fool’. The single ‘Love Is The Drug’ was Roxy Music’s biggest hit to date, and John Gustafson’s bass-line influenced Chic’s ‘Good Times’. The album, after all, holds the band’s greatest dance track, ‘Love is the Drug’, which to this day remains the groups biggest hit.

Roxy Music started dabbling with disco on 1975’s “Siren“, but it didn’t affect the quality of their music, with highlights like ‘Sentimental Fool’. The album’s a great showcase for drummer Paul Thompson. The band broke up after this album, reconvening for 1979’s “Manifesto“.

Devotees of Rolling Stone will recognize “Siren” as the most lauded of Roxy’s career. Ferry doesn’t “oversing.” The band’s affection for R&B (“She Sells” and “Could It Happen to Me?” are Stax songs given a lacquer) is pronounced. But I don’t want restraint from Roxy, even when it produces a twosome as bleak as “Nightingale” and “Just Another High,” in which, on the former, Ferry accepts he’s been for years hearing bird calls instead of women’s voices; and on the latter he admits to playing himself for a sucker. Many American listeners consider these attitudes — consider how the direction in which his career unfurled contexualized these moves  — shows of maturity.  These people never understood how irony deepens shows of feeling.

Roxy Music Stranded

Stranded (1973)

Roxy Music’s first album without Brian Eno sacrifices some of their experimental edge, instead focusing on lush textures. “Stranded” also features some of Ferry’s most dramatic vocals – his foray into French on ‘A Song for Europe’ is surprisingly effective. The multi-part ‘Mother of Pearl’ is one of Roxy Music’s best-loved songs, with Ferry’s campy vocals delivering lines like “Thus: even Zarathustra/Another-time-loser/Could believe in you”.

This is the first album to show a lack of experimentalism which can definitely be attributed to the absence of Eno. Fortunately, with the recruitment of Eddie Jobson, the album still oozes with experimental synthesiser elements; for instance, the groovy little number ‘Amazona’ works its way into an interstellar transcendence somewhere in the middle of the track that I personally can’t get enough of.

The Roxy Music song, ‘Mother of Pearl’, is taken from “Stranded”, Roxy Music’s second full length album of 1973. It was the first to be released without Brian Eno, who left after tensions with frontman Bryan Ferry; reportedly Eno was having more success with the ladies.

With the dandyish Eno deposed and Ferry’s concomitant solo career looking ever backwards, it was somewhat inevitable that Roxy Music would plough a more traditional furrow going forward, though the change between “For Your Pleasure” and “Stranded” isn’t as radical as some like to think. Even Eno somewhat magnanimously claimed the latter was the better album (though not many other people think that, and he might not either). It was a severed alliance as significant to the 70s as Morrissey and Marr’s was to the 80s and Anderson and Butler’s was to the 90s, with the latter offering up often spooky parallels: both Roxy Music and Suede were perceived by many to have lost an irreplaceable creative member after the cult favourite second album; both shared a similar creative trajectory over the first five albums, scoring their mightiest commercial success with their third album; both had a song called “Trash” and an album cover designed by Peter Saville. You suspect some of this might have been deliberate on Suede’s part, who also recorded their own Street Life on their underpar A New Morning album. It couldn’t lay a glove on the Ferry song, a swashbuckling paean to walking the mean streets to avoid nuisance phone calls. The rambunctious “Stranded” opener immediately told us three things about Roxy 2.0: first, that they were a band that now cooked (especially guitarist Phil Manzanera); second, that new keyboardist and auxiliary musician Eddie Jobson would be a worthy and capable – if very different – replacement for Brian Eno; and third, that Bryan Ferry had plenty left up his beautifully tailored shirt sleeve yet.

Eno called Roxy’s third album his favourite, and he was right, as he was in most things for the first twenty years of a peripatetic career. Dispensing with experiments like “The Bogus Man” meant a farewell to a certain looseness of approach that benefited Manzanera and Mackay, but “Stranded” compensates with Ferry’s most ludicrous vocalizing and breathless compositions. Roxy found a way to turn a night out into a narcissist’s lament and a devastating valentine in “Mother of Pearl”; such is the band’s artistry that it’s not clear whether the valentine is to the lustrous lady or to Ferry himself. Meanwhile Manzanera plays Guitar Hero on “Amazona” and new kid in town Eddie Jobson plays organ like Sunday morning on “Psalm.” All this, and “Serenade” too: my favourite Roxy song that nobody talks about.

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Country Life (1974)

Famous for its titillating cover (I’m a prude, so I’ve shown the censored version here), “Country Life” continued Roxy Music’s classy, textured art-rock. Opener ‘The Thrill Of It All’ is one of the best arranged and produced songs in classic rock – there’s so much going on in the mix, with Eddie Jobson’s violin and Manzanera’s guitar competing for attention. Jobson’s violin is also prominent in the psychedelic ‘Out of the Blue’, while Ferry reportedly played the organ solo on the seething ‘Casanova’.

Whenever I award “Country Life” top honours I remember “Triptych” and “Bitter-Sweet,” a pair of dirges whose hints of lightness rely on a fully committed Ferry but they’re heavy lifts. And “A Really Good Time” leans on the adverb. But “Prairie Rose” is, like “Serenade,” a terrific example of how Ferry could churn happy love songs so long as the band adapted to his mien.

‘The Thrill Of It All’, from 1974’s “Country Life“, is among my favourite production jobs ever. It’s so lush, and there’s so much sonic detail, with Manzanera’s guitars and new recruit Eddie Jobson’s violin.

Can any other band or artist in history lay claim to having as many exhilarating tracks opening their albums? Roxy Music’s first five introductory numbers are surely unassailable, and out of these magnificent starters, there’s a case for The Thrill of It All from Country Life: The Fourth Roxy Music Album, being the most exhilarating of all. The production packs the power of a jet engine. It is enormous in the way so much British rock was in 1974, six-and-a-half minutes long and ripe for the US market. It was no secret Ferry was interested in breaking America – Rod and Elton had just had No 1’s and Bowie and the Bee Gees were making inroads – but it would be a territory where sustained success would ultimately elude him as both singer in Roxy Music and as a solo artist. The song was even released as a single across the Atlantic and nowhere else, and while it failed to chart, “Country Life” did crack the Billboard top 40 for the first time. It was the kind of well-structured, straight-ahead rock leviathan that arch critic Bob Harris (who’d been so sniffy when the band had played “Ladytron” on The Old Grey Whistle Test two years previous) might have found himself tapping his foot along to despite himself. The best thing about the song, though, is Ferry’s debonair delivery: languorous and elastic, playful and cute; he slides in and out of the blue notes and compels you to hang on to his every word.

Written with Roxy oboe/sax stalwart Andy Mackay, “Bitter Sweet” is a startling show tune that finds Ferry remodelling Brechtian cabaret with such panache that one wishes he’d attempted it more often. Delicate vibes and gentle piano strokes at the outset are violently cast aside by a thunderous, portentous bass sound, denoting that there may be trouble ahead. The titular oxymoron is appropriate, with Bryan bitterly berating the hard hearted subject of the song over the sweetest of verses: “Lovers you consume my friend,” he complains, “as others their wine.” Then, just as we’re settling in, the Weimarian oompah of the chorus kicks in, with stabs of disorientating, spiky guitar; when the chorus comes around a second time and we’re prepared for it, Ferry delivers yet another surprise by switching to abrasive German. According to David Buckley, author of The Thrill of It All: The Story of Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music, the “Country Life” tour wasn’t without controversy, with Ferry taking to the stage in “riding breeches and what looked like jackboots”, as well as “raven hair parted to the side”, and all in front of an “RM” logo emblazoned on velvet drapes set into eagle’s wings. While the visuals were almost certainly for aesthetic reasons only, one can only imagine how Twitter might react were a band of Roxy Music’s stature to settle upon such style choices now.

The music within served as a continuity of the effortlessly classy take on glam-rock that they had mastered with the previous two albums. With the first track, they set the bar insurmountably high with likely my favourite on the record.

‘The Thrill Of It All’ is the most technically impressive track on the album thanks to its complex tempo changes, and it’s a fine example of John Punter’s masterful production skills. There really isn’t a weak song on the album and the only reason it’s not in second place is that there are a small number of songs on the next two albums to be revealed that just have more of a catchy quality to them that ranks them among my favourites; those aside, this is the most consistent Roxy release bar one. 

Roxy Music For Your Pleasure

For Your Pleasure (1975)

Roxy Music peaked with their second album, “For Your Pleasure“. With more time in the studio, their experimental tendencies are channelled into stronger material. The long tracks are the most memorable – the lengthy groove of ‘The Bogus Man’, while the inflatable doll tale of ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ culminates in a dramatic Manzanera solo. “For Your Pleasure” is more energetic than most Roxy Music albums – the opener ‘Do The Strand’, the frenetic ‘Editions of You’ (with a great Eno VCS3 synth solo), and ‘Grey Lagoons’ are all punchy, while the shimmering ‘Beauty Queen’ is marvellous. When asked by the British music press, Morrissey could ‘only think of one truly great British album: “For Your Pleasure.”

Roxy Music’s second album, “For Your Pleasure“, is at the top of the pile. The album is without a doubt up there with the greatest of the glam rock era. Morrissey, the ex-frontman of The Smiths, once cited the album as the “one truly great British album” – one of the few things he and I almost see eye to eye on. The band had taken all the strengths of the first, self-titled, album and tailored them into something so classy and vibrant that one finds it difficult to find a boring second in the LP. There is a fine balance between energetic and slower moments throughout, all the while complimented by Brian Eno’s synth prowess. 

I find it hard to choose a favourite track on the album, but a personal highlight is ‘Beauty Queen’, where Ferry displays a fantastic vocal performance amongst exotic and, somehow, glimmering soundscapes mastered in the instrumentals.

‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’ was from the group’s sophomore album “For Your Pleasure“, a societal critique centered around a blowup doll. “I blew up your body/But you blew my mind,” Ferry sings before Phil Manzanera launches into an epic guitar solo:

Roxy Music kicked off their masterly “For Your Pleasure” album with the ebullient “Do the Strand“, a song about a made-up dance craze that tipped a chapeau to the fashionable London thoroughfare of the same name. Ferry’s words are daringly dandyish and frivolous, as he throws references aplenty from La Goulue (the French Can-can dancer) to Nijinsky (the Russian ballet dancer), artworks such as Guernica and the Mona Lisa, and even a witty play on words involving King Louis XVI (“Louis Seize he prefer laissez-faire le Strand”). His confidence as a lyricist was exploding as he became ever more tongue-tied and shifty in interviews, a problem compounded by Eno’s charisma and genius gift for the soundbite. There’s little doubt that Ferry was also cheekily referencing the “you’re never alone with a Strand” cigarette slogan. The black-and-white advert featured a companionless chap taking succour from a fag on a wet London street; famously the Lonely Man Theme by Cliff Adams charted, while sales of Strand cigarettes plummeted and the brand was soon taken off the market. Themes of desolation are explored throughout “For Your Pleasure“, as well as companionship of a more risque nature, as we’ll see from our next song.

Roxy’s influence is wide-ranging, It’s been argued that they were second only to The Beatles in terms of shaping the direction of British music in the latter half of the twentieth century. However, outside of the musical acts who looked up to them, Roxy Music are generally forgotten about or at least overlooked in favor of more popular bands of the era.

Finally, I couldn’t end this list without a mention for ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’, the track is a unique art-rock masterclass, the poetic lyrics tell a most obscure and slightly creepy story of an inflatable doll.

Every Roxy Music album ranked in order of greatness

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“I didn’t care for the sound he got on tape or the performance much either,” said Tom Verlaine, dismissing Brian Eno’s attempt to record the quintessential New York loft act’s first LP. Five tracks were recorded at Good Vibrations studio before Verlaine pulled the plug on a putative Island album and his schoolmate, bassist and musical co-conspirator Richard Hell. “Double Exposure” shows why; Verlaine, second guitarist Richard Lloyd and drummer Billy Ficca are moving towards the chiselled arches of 1977’s Marquee Moon, while Hell plunks agriculturally behind them. Told before the session that none of his songs (“Blank Generation” included) would be recorded, Hell knew the end was nigh when Verlaine told him to stop jumping around on stage. (“He didn’t want people to be distracted,” Hell later recalled.)

In late 1973 the trio formed, calling themselves Television and soon recruiting Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist. They persuaded CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal to give the band a regular gig at his club which had just opened on the Bowery in New York. Television was the first rock group to perform at the club, which was to become, along with Max’s Kansas City, the center of the burgeoning punk scene. The members of Television reportedly constructed the first stage at CBGB’s, where they quickly established a significant cult following.

“Double Exposure’s” never-to-be-released title track and a live version of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Fire Engine” show the jazzbo-garage vision that Television abandoned along with Hell; early versions of “Venus” and “Prove It” signpost their future as Quicksilver Messenger Service but with better hair.

This is two demo recording sessions from Television years 1974 & 1975. The bands highly acclaimed debut album ‘Marquee Moon’ was released in 1977 (Elektra Records) and was very successful in Europe however failed to enter the Billboard 200 in the USA. Both sessions were included on the bootleg ‘Double Exposure’ which surfaced in Italy (No Label No. DE-92-SC), and was first released in 1992. The original bootleg included three live tracks from CBGB’s in 1975, that are missing from this version.

The Television 1974 demos were recorded at Good Vibrations Studios in NYC with Richard Hell on bass, and produced by Brian Eno and Richard Williams of Island Records.
The August 1975 demos were recorded with Fred Smith on bass and were part of the session for Terry Ork of Ork Records which produced Television’s first single “Little Johnny Jewel” (Ork, 1975, included on expanded re-issue of Marquee Moon).

It is fascinating listening to the early versions of these songs that eventually appeared on ‘Marquee Moon’. Each session and versions are distinctly different the second having a ‘harder edge’ to them and closer to the final released editions.

Recorded March 1975, New York

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Talking Heads’ 1980 song “Once in a Lifetime” is one of the most durable songs of its era, watch the video and see how it has held up to numerous interpretations — via remixes, covers, mash-ups, samples and live takes.

Released in 1980’s “Remain in Light”, “Once in a Lifetime” shows the growing influence that producer Brian Eno, was having over the group. David Byrne used his downtime to work with Brian Eno (who’d produced the previous two Talking Heads records) Eno had introduced them to the work of Fela Kuti when he first met the band in 1977, and the Afrobeat legend’s polyrhythms first made their way into their sound on 1979’s Fear of Music.

In addition, David Byrne’s speak-singing on the verses was inspired by field recordings of American preachers that Byrne was listening to while working on “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” a collaborative album with Eno that he was working on at the same time as “Remain in Light”. Those recordings also factored into the lyrics.

“Most of the words in ‘Once in a Lifetime’ come from evangelists I recorded off the radio while taking notes and picking up phrases I thought were interesting directions,” he said (via Songfacts). “Maybe I’m fascinated with the middle class because it seems so different from my life, so distant from what I do. I can’t imagine living like that.” Meanwhile, Weymouth and Frantz took a long holiday in the Caribbean, where they pondered the group’s future and soaked up musical influences that would set them in good stead. Feeling Byrne had become too controlling, they looked to redress the balance; rather than rely on their frontman bringing material to the group, Weymouth and Franz suggested they emulate the music that was exciting them – early hip-hop, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat grooves, West African highlife pop – and embark upon jam sessions,

Frantz and Weymouth invited Harrison to their New York loft for informal jams, recorded on Frantz’s boombox. When it became apparent they had the beginnings of some promising tracks, they reached out to Byrne and Eno, both of whom had previously told Frantz they were not interested in making another Talking Heads record. Once the reluctant pair had been separately coaxed over and joined in, things began to get interesting. “By night time we took a break to listen back. You could hear all kinds of interesting parts germinating, mutating and evolving,” Frantz recalled. “There was no denying that Talking Heads still had a great chemistry going on and the beats were good.

One of those jams, a hypnotic and relentless instrumental called Right Start, might very well have been abandoned. Instead, it was worked up to become one of the best Talking Heads songs of all, the transcendent “Once In A Lifetime”.

Byrne expanded on its portrayal of a middle-class suburban man when he spoke with NPR in 2000. “We’re largely unconscious,” he said. “You know, we operate half awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?'”

Yet for all its fame, the song wasn’t even a hit. Although the original version reach No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, it failed to make Billboard’s Hot 100. But its video was frequently shown on MTV in the network’s early days. Five years later, however, the live take from their concert film Stop Making Sense.

 

The 1980 Original Version – Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” which received a single release on 2nd February 1981, was an obvious high point on the album that emerged from those sessions, 1981’s “Remain In Light”, the song’s video lodged it firmly in the public consciousness. Choregraphed by Toni Basil (of Hey Mickey fame, who also co-directed the promo clip with Byrne), the video featured a suited and bespectacled Byrne dancing like a possessed marionette, his moves inspired by archive footage of “preachers, evangelists, people in trances, African tribes, Japanese religious sects”.

Music Video Set to Scenes From David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”

Once it was picked up by MTV (which launched ten months after Remain In Light’s release), it became hailed as one of the best music videos of all time – a stark visual inseparable from the song.

1980 – Talking Heads Live Version

 

Talking Heads Live Wembley 1982 Once In A Lifetime

Byrne himself has suggested the song implores the listener to take stock of their lives. “We’re largely unconscious. You know, we operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else. We haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?’”

The highly anticipated album brings together 17 tracks from Eno’s most recognisable film and television work spanning 5 decades. Eno’s music has been used in hundreds of films and he has composed more than 20 soundtracks for some of the best known directors including David Lynch, Danny Boyle, Peter Jackson, Derek Jarman and Michael Mann. Compositions such as “Ship in a Bottle” in “The Lovely Bones”, “Prophecy Theme” from “Dune”, “Deep Blue Day” in “Trainspotting”, “Late Evening in Jersey” in “Heat,” And many more.

Eno has also scored extensively for television, including all 3 series of the UK crime drama, “Top Boy” and Danny Boyle’s “Mr Wroe’s Virgins” with Roger Eno. This release features over an hour of classic Eno compositions, plus previously unreleased tracks.

An essential for dedicated Eno Fans. First 250 orders come with a Limited Edition A2 Print, don’t miss out. The first music taken from the Brian Eno album ‘Film Music 1976 – 2020’. This previously unreleased track, is taken from Peter Jackson’s 2009 supernatural thriller ‘The Lovely Bones’.

Order ‘Film Music 1976 – 2020‘: https://BrianEno.lnk.to/FilmMusicYD

Roger & Brian Eno

Roger and Brian Eno’s creative collaboration ‘Mixing Colours’ continues with seven additional tracks. New music will appear on a special vinyl 12” EP ‘Luminous’ And digitally on ‘Mixing Colours Expanded‘ –  Brian Eno and Chilvers have worked together on videos for the album Mixing Colours that distil the album’s essence, marrying the simplicity and contemplative qualities of its soundscapes with suitably uncomplicated, mesmerising imagery of slowly-changing, dreamlike panoramas. Whether or not these settings are familiar, their impressionistic character lends them an enigmatic anonymity, encouraging the mind to wander into worlds both real and imagined. “The more you listen to this,” says Roger, “particularly with the fabulous worlds that Brian has created, you can really walk into this enormous landscape and stay.” Roger & Brian Eno – “Celeste”

There’s a huge commonality between what we’re interested in.” Roger Eno, “These pieces are very Impressionistic and very much to do with sonic quality, sonic colour.” Brian Eno

Roger Eno and Brian Eno – together and individually among the foremost innovators in experimental ambient music – will release their first album on Deutsche Grammophon: Mixing Colours.

Brian and Roger Eno have revolutionized many concepts of music production and performance, from pioneering treatments of pop music by Brian Eno to younger brother Roger Eno’s ambient synth/piano recordings reminiscent of Erik Satie.  The result is deep-dive listening and landscapes of sound bearing titles like abstract art: Obsidian, Deep Saffron, or Wintergreen. This debut DG release will reach a wide new audience still unfamiliar with their artistry. The poetic and ambient anthology reveals two celebrated ambient musicians at the height of their artistry.

Remain In Light (Deluxe Version)

This is not only Talking Heads’ best record, it’s on the shortlist of the most innovative albums ever made. Under the influence of Brian Eno, the group began to weave African music into the dance grooves (years before Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ did the same thing in a less transformative manner). Also, Eno and the members implemented the cutting-edge tactic of crafting loops and samples to form the core of tracks. That was unheard of when it came to rock, so it makes the music on this album a second cousin of hip-hop (another influence on the album in terms of Byrne’s delivery). Few bands have ever been so fearlessly creative as to make an extended tribal groove that is as breakneck as it is epic, then perforate it with a snarling guitar solo from Adrian Belew (“The Great Curve”). “Once in a Lifetime” is so weird, it’s hard to believe it’s become a celebrated staple of our musical past. Such is the power of a dive-bombing bass line, intriguing synthesizer sounds and Byrne’s nervy, nerdy charisma. After running themselves ragged on the earlier parts of the album, Talking Heads slow down and stretch out on the last three tracks, proving that they can be just as interesting after the dance party ends. Droning closer “The Overload” adds layer after layer of texture as it stretches into the void as the occasional squawking loop pays homage to another, great meditative final track: “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Is there a way for such dark thoughts to remain in light? Talking Heads found a way.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The amazing “Once In A Lifetime” only hinted at the burst of creativity on the Talking Heads album “Remain In Light”. The 1980 Sire Records album finds the quartet incorporating African polyrhythms into its music, as well as making innovative use of loops and samples as instrumental tracks. Brian Eno returns as producer (guitarist Adrian Belew and funk keyboard great Bernie Worrell also contribute to the album), helping strike an appealing balance between danceable grooves (“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed And Painless”) and more experimental fare (“Houses In Motion,” “The Overload”). The Deluxe Edition of REMAIN IN LIGHT adds four previously unreleased outtakes to the landmark alternative rock album; we’ll give the collection a spin now to wish Heads frontman David Byrne a happy birthday.

Album cover containing a drawing of a mountain range and four mostly red warplanes flying in formation. There is green text on the left hand side and a barcode in the top right corner.

“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The amazing “Once In A Lifetime” only hinted at the burst of creativity on Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. The 1980 Sire Records album finds the quartet incorporating African polyrhythms into its music, as well as making innovative use of loops and samples as instrumental tracks. Brian Eno returns as producer (guitarist Adrian Belew and funk keyboard great Bernie Worrell also contribute to the album), helping strike an appealing balance between danceable grooves (“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” “Crosseyed And Painless”) and more experimental fare (“Houses In Motion,” “The Overload”). While outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork to Slant have called Remain in Light one of the best albums of the 1980s, it has a thrilling sense of discovery that remains of-the-moment.

Talking Heads

  • David Byrne – lead vocals, guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocal arrangements
  • Jerry Harrison – guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
  • Tina Weymouth – bass guitar, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
  • Chris Frantz – drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals

Roxy Music Album Cover Poster Web Optimised 1000

Back in 1972, “postmodernism” was a rarely used term, much less “retro” or “vintage” – words now almost fetishised in their description of everything from fashion to music, gaming to boutique coffee shops. Without describing themselves in such terms, however, Roxy Music embodied postmodernism a full decade before the thought of cycling through styles and genres entered the mainstream.

Released on 16th June 1972, the same day as Bowie’s breakthrough The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Roxy Music was a true raid on pop music’s past… and present… and a signpost towards its genre-blind, boundary-breaking future.

Roxy Music’s opener, ‘Re-Make/Re-Model’, blares out of the speakers as a perfect declaration of intent: a manifesto for the group’s assault on the pop world, reconfiguring and recontextualising old tropes, while presenting them as something utterly unique – futuristic, even. “Eno was always pushing the boundaries,” Manzanera recalled. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but there was a point where we used to be DIed [direct injection] into, through his synths, a mixing desk, and he’d be out in the audience mixing.”

Not that music was Roxy Music’s sole concern. As a song title such as ‘Ladytron’ suggests, with its hint of glamour welded to futuristic possibilities, Bryan Ferry (vocals, keyboards), Brian Eno (vocals, synths, tape effects), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (vocals, oboe, saxophone), Graham Simpson (bass) and Paul Thompson (drums) were juxtaposing disparate elements from all over the pop culture spectrum.

Roxy Music themselves weren’t the only ones entering history with ‘Virginia Plain’: “Make me a deal and make it straight/All signed and sealed, I’ll take it/To Robert E Lee I’ll show it,” Ferry sings at the start, directly name-checking his lawyer. As with ‘2HB’ – and almost everything Roxy Music did – the reference is doubled: “The Bob” took its title from Battle of Britain (1968) and included a passage simulating the sound of gunfire.

Discussing the music, Andy Mackay later said “we certainly didn’t invent eclecticism but we did say and prove that rock ‘n’ roll could accommodate – well, anything really”

Still astoundingly modern today, Roxy Music remains not only one of the finest debut albums in history, but rock music’s first true postmodern masterpiece. What follows is an attempt to trace the influences and pop culture references in an album that continues to go beyond all expectations – not only of what a rock group can do, but what a true work of art can accomplish. The band’s penchant for glamour was showcased both in the lyrics and in the 1950s-style album cover. The photographer Karl Stoecker shot the cover, featuring model Kari-Ann Muller, who later married Chris Jagger, brother of Mick Jagger

Phil Manzanera recalls “sitting down with Bryan at the first audition and talking about Humphrey Bogart and all the films we loved”. For later solo albums and Roxy Music appearances, Ferry would adopt the image of Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, suave in a white dinner jacket. On Roxy Music, Bogart is homaged in ‘2HB’, the lyrics directly quoting his Casablanca catchphrase: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“The great thing is that we had friends who were great fashion designers, who were just beginning to make their mark,” guitarist Phil Manzanera recalled to this writer in 2009. Among them were painter Nick de Ville, who acted as the group’s art director; designer Anthony Price, who advised on clothing and make-up; and hairdresser Keith Wainwright. Each band member conferred with them individually, “never as a coherent, co-ordinated thing”, Manzanera recalled. The first time the band would see each other’s costumes was “literally just before going on the first gig of the new tour… and we’d go, ‘My god! Where did that come from?’”

That’s how you create a group that looks as though each member is performing in a different band – or on a different planet, as Brian Eno noted when he described some of the Roxy Music costumes as the sort of thing the president of the Galactic Parliament might have worn in a sci-fi movie. It was, as Manzanera recalls, a “wonderful coming together of random elements – but behind those random elements were people with a lot of learning”.

Roxy Music 1972 Press Shot Web Optimised 1000

All this week, we’re presenting “[W]hat may well have been among New York City’s best live shows this year [2018]” recordings of the performances of David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy: Low(1977), “Heroes”(1977), and 1979’s Lodger, and the music that inspired the trilogy. In the week where we mark the anniversaries of Bowie’s birth and his death, you can hear those stunning performances of Bowie’s music and the works that inspired it.

One album was performed in its entirety each night—Lodger on the 17th, “Heroes” on the 18th, and Low on the 19th—and each concert will open with short programs of music that inspired the trilogy composed by Brian Eno and Klaus Schulze.

Recorded at Brookfield Place in October of 2018, the cast of players was led by Shearwater/Loma’s Jonathan Meiburg and featured current and past members of Shearwater, Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors, Wordless Music Orchestra, Xiu Xiu, Battle Trance, Glass Ghost, and Loma, along with special guest, Carlos Alomar (David Bowie’s guitarist and musical director for 30 years.) Also, hear music that inspired the trilogy: Brian Eno’s “Discreet Music,” and selections from Another Green World (1975), and “Body Love” by Klaus Schulze.

Jonathan Meiburg, in the program, writes that “[T]hese albums are the pinnacle of [Bowie’s] musical and artistic output…the Berlin Trilogy has everything: brooding, cinematic instrumentals, rave-ups that end almost before they begin, gorgeous ballads that threaten to collapse on themselves, and Bowie’s most famous and expansive song. Jonathan Meiburg had begun rehearsing a few songs from Lodger with his band Shearwater. Then Bowie passed, and it seemed like an encore or two of “Look Back in Anger” wasn’t enough. They figured out how to play the whole album, and then wanted more. Meanwhile, the band’s Emily Lee had already begun the herculean task of scoring out the albums’ impenetrable ambient epics.

Shearwater decided to begin with Lodger, the album they knew best and was easiest to play, which also meant the series would end with Low’s loveliest and most confounding moments. They also decided to bring in some friends, including saxophonist Travis Laplante and Deerhoof shredder Ed Rodriguez. While Bowie had at least a dozen singers in his body, they split the songs into three, more or less: Meiburg, Lee, and Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart. It was a series of smart decisions for a strange locale.

Wordless kicked off the first night with a statement of intent: Eno’s Discreet Music, reenvisioned as wafts of guitar, cello, and electronics for a platonic ideal of mall music. Lodger is the most accessible in the trilogy, but it’s hardly Muzak—especially its wildest moments Bowie never attempted to play live. The deeply weird “African Night Flight” was all squalls and lumbering rhythms and rapid-fire monologue from Stewart, while “Move On”—essentially Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes” played backwards—sounded live like some blend of the Who and Pornography-era Cure. And the, as Meiburg put it, “unfortunately timely” “Boys Keep Swinging” was a sleazy riot.

In the rehearsals I sat in on, the band seemed deeply nervous about tackling “Heroes.” And yet, piled into a warehouse’s small soundproofed room with views of the toxic Gowanus Canal instead of the Wall, they’d managed to make the beloved title track sound new, anchored by Power’s amiable bass and Meiburg’s affectionate melancholy set against Stewart’s anguished wailing. On stage, they did it again, and tore through the first side’s “Beauty and the Beast” and especially the psychotic broken beats of “Blackout” with relish before launching into the second side’s moody complexity.

It’s possible to play these songs, Meiburg had told Schaefer in an interlude, as long as you stop thinking “and just glide over the top of it.” As Lee plucked her koto and Stewart caressed a gong for “Moss Garden,” we were all gliding along with them. And then we were plummeting deep into “Neuköln,” the low point of “Heroes,” which they performed as a kind of Badalamenti-goes-to-Berlin noir with an almost ridiculous finale courtesy of Laplante’s bravura sax solo. How could this possibly be followed? “Luckily, this album comes with its own encore,” Meiburg joked, referring to the slinky “The Secret Life of Arabia,” which closed the night with the kind of release only disco handclaps can offer.

Speaking of release, on the final night Wordless dug up a 1977 porn soundtrack by Klaus Schulze as a prelude to Low, and cellist Clarice Jensen filled her arrangement of the krautrock icon’s Body Love with wild drones and spurts of percussion—a real treat, especially with surprise guest Shahzad Ismaily on Moog. Schaefer also came with a surprise: Bowie’s longtime collaborator Carlos Alomar, who explained that completing the trilogy took “curiosity, courage—oh, and a half-million-dollar budget.”

Meiburg and company had plenty of the first two, launching into Low with a fairly nonchalant “Speed of Life,” the album’s opening credits, and a menacing take on “Breaking Glass” in which Stewart howled “you’re such a wonderful person/but you’ve got PROBLEMS” and Meiburg whispered in response, “I’ll never touch you.” The moment was fraught. But the real killer of Low is side two. In rehearsals, Meiburg had counted out the beats for “Warszawa” as the group found the math in its midsts. On stage, before the largest and loudest audience of the series, Alomar came out and conducted, his presence almost pastoral. Blessed, they carried on, playing “Weeping Wall” with a lack of preciousness that turned Bowie’s proto-post-rock beauty into an ersatz Morricone Western. “Subterraneans,” Low’s highlight, was a different frontier altogether: still alien, still bleak, but newly inhabitable.

The crowd stood and cheered, visions of Bowie in our heads, looking back in wonder at where we are now. Just blocks from where Bowie passed, the city paid its respects the way it always does: by reinventing the past. The Berlin trilogy might be history, but it’s full of living songs,

John Schaefer continues:

Bowie actually began referring to his “Berlin Trilogy” only in the promotional phase leading up to Lodger’s release. In retrospect, all three albums reflect the city – its darkness, its cultural ferment, its isolation. Working with Brian Eno, and Tony Visconti, Bowie produced some of his most memorable rock songs, and some of his edgiest. But he also surprised and confounded the listening public by devoting large stretches of each record to musical experiments that departed not only from the world of rock but from the song format itself.

The lasting impact of these three albums has been felt not just in the world of rock but in contemporary classical music as well. Philip Glass was moved to write a series of symphonies based on the trilogy: his Lodger Symphony completes that trilogy and premieres in 2019. Subsequent generations of composers and musicians have grown up with the freedom to move among the various musical worlds that Bowie explored in these three pivotal albums. For proof, you need only look at the musicians in these concerts: they represent a gathering of the tribes, from the worlds of indie rock, but also from New York’s thriving contemporary music scene – many are part of both camps, and some are composers themselves.”

The band Members:

Timo Andres (piano, synthesizer)

Angel Deradoorian (flute, voice, synthesizer) launched a solo career after making a name for herself with well-known acts such as Dirty Projectors, Avey Tare, and Flying Lotus. In 2009, she appeared on Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca, released her first solo EP under the name Deradoorian and lent her vocal talents to LP, the debut album from Discovery (founded by Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and Wesley Miles of Ra Ra Riot). In 2015, she released her long-awaited solo album, The Expanding Flower Planet (2015), Eternal Recurrence, her second release released in 2017.

Dan Duszynski (guitar, voice, percussion) He is also the drummer of ethereal rock band Loma (Sub Pop).

Greg Fox (drums) is a New York City born-and-bred drummer, He has played on and released 49 records since 2008, including his work with Liturgy, ZS, Ben Frost, Colin Stetson, Skeletons, Hieroglyphic Being, Man Forever, and others, named “Best Drummer in NYC” by the Village Voice in 2011. Currently spending most of his time in NYC,

Josh Halpern (drums) is a live and session drummer, singer, and producer based in Austin, Texas and is known for his infectiously animated performances. He’s most at home on the road with bands like Shearwater, Still Corners, Marmalakes and Palo Duro His most recent studio recording is Nights and Weekends, a collaboration with songwriter Peter Shults, released under the name Teddy Glass.

Clarice Jensen (cello, electronics) is the artistic director of ACME, She has collaborated with composers and recording artists, including Jóhann Jóhannsson, Stars of the Lid, Owen Pallett, Max Richter, Tyondai Braxton, and numerous others.

Eliot Krimsky (synthesizer) played keyboards with Here We Go Magic and Meshell Ndegeocello, He is currently preparing his first solo album, Wave in Time.

Travis Laplante (tenor saxophone) is a saxophonist, composer, and qigong practitioner living in Brooklyn, New York, Laplante leads Battle Trance, the acclaimed tenor saxophone quartet, as well as Subtle Degrees,

Emily Lee (musical director, keyboards, voice, koto, violin) is a New York-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. She performs in Shearwater, Loma, and Snake Oil, and plays keyboards with Mutoid Man for the heavy metal talk show Two Minutes to Late Night.

Frank LoCrasto (synthesizer) is a Texas-born, Brooklyn-based musician, He has appeared on more than 40 records.

Grey Mcmurray (guitar, bass, voice) has been called “sublimely odd” (New York Magazine), and “the world’s least obtrusive guitarist” (The Guardian). Recently he has been performing as a duo with Beth Orton, Colin Stetson’s Sorrow Ensemble, He is the co-leader of the duo itsnotyouitsme with Caleb Burhans, with four releases on New Amsterdam Records.

Jonathan Meiburg (voice, guitar) leads the band Shearwater, which has released six albums since 2006 on Matador and Sub Pop Records. The most recent, 2016’s Jet Plane and Oxbow, and the band’s live performance of Lodger for the Onion’s A.V. Club inspired them to take on Bowie’s entire Berlin trilogy. Meiburg also performs with Loma, whose self-titled debut was released this year by Sub Pop and is currently finishing a book about South America’s strangest birds of prey. He lives in Brooklyn.

Lucas Oswald (guitar, voice) is a songwriter, He has toured internationally with Minus Story, Old Canes, Appleseed Cast, Jesca Hoop, and Shearwater.

Sadie Powers (bass)  She tours with Shearwater and recently toured with Lucy Dacus. Her composition, Wick (for french horn, water glasses, and electronics), was recorded in Spring 2018 by the avant-garde trio How Things Are Made and appears on the trio’s album, She comprises half the electroacoustic ambient duo, Triptychs, and was the bassist for the new romantic band Dead Fame, which released albums Frontiers (2011) and Vicious Design (2014).

Ed Rodriguez (guitar) has been around far too long  He currently plays guitar in Deerhoof.

Jamie Stewart (voice, percussion) He began the musical group Xiu Xiu in 2002.

Carlos Alomar (special guest) was David Bowie’s rhythm guitarist and music director for almost thirty years. His songwriting credits include “Fame” with Bowie and John Lennon, as well as “DJ” and “The Secret Life Of Arabia” with Bowie and Brian Eno.

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Aside from a pit-stop at Desert Daze Festival (at 5AM as the sun arose, no less!)
Wand‘s forthcoming European tour is THE most Wand-ificent event remaining in 2018! Beginning in early November, Wand kick it off in Bristol and continue the journey throughout the UK and beyond. Not a road less traveled for the seasoned band, but every performance in towns new and old blossom into trans-formative experiences!

To celebrate such an occasion, Wand have dropped a terrific cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come The Warm Jets”! The band says: “This tune has been a favorite live cover over the years, the way it tumbles after a distant horizon. This scrappy live version is a little lit match we rescued off the cutting room floor at Bauer Mansion, and dates back to early 2015. We’re sharing it as a banner of some flailing joy we’ll be flying on this final leg of our ‘Perfume’ tour.”

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With such a constant evolution of material, any attendee will be transported into one of Wand’s many worlds. With a roadmap like that leading the way, how could you ever go wrong? Prep yourself by having a listen to “Here Come The Warm Jets”, then hurry and grab your tickets–they won’t be Wand-ering around forever!