Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

12. Brian EnoHere Come The Warm Jets

I heard this for the first time at some point in the mid-90s and it had a big impact. For something so old, it sounded more like the future than anything being released then. It was hard to find on LP, but my friend John McKeown had a copy that I would borrow or listen to round at his. Eventually I bought a CD player so I could get it on reissue, as it took me years to find the vinyl.

I reckon Eno was frustrated in Roxy Music. There didn’t seem to be enough room for his experimentation or ego. You feel that he’s running wild with pent up ideas in the way George Harrison did on All Things Must Pass. Although the sound is unconventional and experimental, it doesn’t feel over-considered or precious in the way that many contemporary prog LPs do. It’s spontaneous and quite thuggish at points. ‘Blank Frank’ sounds like he’s wearing out the strings with a scrubbing brush.

It’s beautifully constructed as an LP. The songs are distinct and can stand alone, but there are wee passages of sound that link them together and the songs often overlap into each other, moving effortlessly between moods and musical conventions, melody and abstract noise. One moment ‘Cindy Tells Me’ sounds almost like it could be on the soundtrack of Grease (despite the lyric of rich girls confused by their new freedoms leaving their Hotpoints to rust in their kitchenettes), then you’re in the dark, foreboding gloom of ‘Driving Me Backwards’ – "kids like me have got to be craaaaaazzzzzyyyyy" – what he does to his voice at that point will always sends a great shudder through me.

I love his vocal delivery. It’s very English and of that time – I hear it in Kevin Ayers, Robyn Hitchcock, Bid of The Monochrome Set and Syd Barrett, but none of the English singers around now seem to sing like that. What happened? Did that accent die out? There’s a lovely send-up of the other Brian in ‘Dead Finks Don’t Talk’ where he slips into a lecherous deep croon. It’s heavily layered throughout, but it sounds like he didn’t listen to himself as he double-tracked it. The phrasing and exaggerated vibratos don’t often match which adds to the unnerving sense of panic which can suddenly drop to an intimate murmur.

Eno has such a huge and recognisable persona, but not as a lyricist. There are some incredible lines on here: "send for an ambulance or an accident investigator…"; "Juanita and Juan/ Very clever with maracas…"; "By this time time I got to looking for a kind of substitute/ I can’t tell you quite how, except that it rhymes with dissolute…"; "Meet my relations/ All of them/ Grinning like facepacks…" the imagery is vivid, unsettling and direct. That’s from a guy who pretty much abandoned writing lyrics shortly afterwards.

Like Hunky Dory, this LP bridges two distinct parts of a career. There’s still a Roxy flavour (Phil Manzanera is all over it), but songs like ‘On Some Faraway Beach’ point towards his ambient sound of the later 70s. It’s a fleeting moment, never to be repeated. Well, except for on Taking Tiger Mountain. Maybe that’s what makes this moment so great. He could have made another fourteen records with this template, all of which I’m sure would have had virtue. But he didn’t.

When we recorded our first LP, I played it to Tore Johansson [producer] and said I wanted it to sound like this. It didn’t turn out that way, but it definitely had an impact on the session. We asked Eno to produce our second LP. He sent us a nice letter saying he couldn’t do it, but that his daughter was a big fan of the band… Looking back I realise that it was the Eno who made this LP I was asking to produce. He’s a smart guy and probably spotted that straight away.

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: Rat Scabies, , Gaz Coombes
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