Friday, 25 January 2013

Redeeming the 70s - Brian Eno 1971-1977: The Man Who Fell To Earth

Redeeming the 70s
The 70s is a much maligned and oversimplified decade. Many will have you believe that the UK was on the brink of anarchy with the whole country on strike for the entire decade, that there were permanent power cuts and that dead bodies were piling up in the streets without anyone to bury them. They will also tell you that there was nothing to listen to except pretentious prog-rock and fatuous disco and that we were all delivered from this misery by punk rock and Margaret Thatcher. Complete nonsense of course, and a facile rewriting of history by Thatcherite politicians and white middle class rock journalists.

Musically, the 1970s was far more varied and complex decade than the 1960s. It is a time which defies the 60s' easy myth-making. It's true that there were a fallow couple of years for rock music before punk arrived however there was great soul and reggae music being made right up until the end of the decade. Al Green, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye were making their best records and Bob Marley became an international star. Many of the musical experiments which started in the 60s saw fruition in the 70s in jazz rock, British folk-rock, glam-rock, heavy metal, funk and disco. German bands like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Can and Amon Duul were taking the avant garde and putting it into the rock mainstream. It was also David Bowie's decade. Bowie was the leading style and musical icon of the 70s and defines the decade and its changing styles more than any other contemporary artist. Bowie's most satisfyingly creative albums are probably the Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and The Lodger; all albums on which Brian Eno played an influential role.

Eno: The Man Who Fell To Earth
Brian Eno had an astonishingly prolific and influential 5 years from 1972 to 1977 and gives the lie that the 70s were any less pioneering than the 60s. He was an original member of Roxy Music and played on their first two classic LPs Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure. He then left Roxy, for reasons which may have had something to do with Bryan Ferry's envy at Eno's success with women, and put out 4 solo albums; Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Before and After Science and the sublime Another Green World - one of the best albums of the the 70s and a masterpiece of languid pastoral pop.

Apart from his work with Bowie, there were also many other impressive collaborations; with Robert Fripp on No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, forerunners to Eno's later Ambient series of albums; with German musicians Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius on Cluster and Eno and After The Heat; and also with David Byrne on the groundbreaking My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.

And all this by a self-professed "non-musician".

Few other artists, whether they be from the 60s or the 70s, have matched that sustained level of creativity and successful experimentation over such a short period of time and have left such an indelible mark on 21st century music. Eno's influence can still be felt in both the mainstream and avant-garde. Jason Ankeny at Allmusic maintains that Eno "forever altered the ways in which music is approached, composed, performed, and perceived, and everything from punk to techno to new age bears his unmistakable influence."

This two and a half hour documentary examines this intensely creative period and the reasons for Eno's lasting impact on modern music.

Watch it in parts on YouTube - Part 1 here



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