Friday, November 22, 2013

40 Year Itch : Oh Cheeky, Cheeky

I didn't think ( Here Come The Warm Jets) deserved the good reviews it got. There was sort of a mystique about it which protected it --made you think that if you didn't like something about it, it was your fault, not mine.
-Brian Eno

In late 1973 Brian Eno released his first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets, a noisy, weird and inventive onslaught of art-glam that still rewards its listeners every time it's played. Eno had left Roxy Music on June 21st ,1973. The Roxy synth player in charge of "treating" sounds makes his final day sound like one of the best of his life:

    I was absolutely euphoric. I remember leaving my management offices on the King's Road the day I resigned and skipping and leaping down the road in delight.

   He set at once to recording his solo debut, bringing every member of Roxy Music along for the sessions except his nemesis, Bryan Ferry. But his former bandmates had to compete to be heard on an album that also had on hand Chris "Motorbikin'" Spedding and King Crimson's Robert Fripp whose blistering three-minute guitar solo on "Baby's On Fire" is one of 1973's most transcendental moments in music.

   As his diverse musician friends competed for roles in Eno's songs, Eno himself is credited with "snake guitar", "simplistic piano" and "electric larynx". After the tracks were recorded, Eno's real work began: treating the sounds. His approach was playful ( after all the album is named after the act of urination) , and that sense of fun exists forty years later. 

    Listen to "Dead Finks Don't Talk", featuring the fictional back-up singing group "Nick Kool and the Koolaids". Although Eno claims the lyrics were generated randomly, his producer Chris Thomas says the song is about Bryan Ferry ( whose crooning -style is imitated by Eno on the line "You're always so charming/ As you make your way up here".) And listen to the noisy pastiche at the end of the song. How did he do that?

   Critics raved. In the UK the album peaked at #26. In the US Warm Jets failed to fly above #156 despite the cheers of Creem's Lester Bangs who wrote a few months later:

  Eno is the real bizarro warm factor for 1974. It's like he says in "The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" : "By the time I got to looking for some kind of substitute/ I can't tell you what kind, but it rhymes with dissolute"...Meanwhile, the drums are pounding and the guitars are screaming every which away in a precisely orchestrated cauldron of terminal hysteria muchly influenced by, though far more technologically advanced than, early Velvet Underground. Don't miss it; it'll drive you crazy." 

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