Brian Eno

Brian Eno is an English art-rock/ambient musician and producer who first emerged as the original keyboardist for Roxy Music. Between 1973 and 1977, he released four solo albums under his surname on Island Records. From 1978 onward, he issued a series of ambient recordings on E.G. Records Ltd., including collaborative efforts with Harold Budd, Jon Hassell, and David Byrne. As a producer, he has worked with Ultravox, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Devo, and U2.


Brian Eno was born on May 15, 1948 in Melton, Suffolk, to a horologist father and a Belgian-born mother. He is the eldest of four children. His brother, Roger (b. 1959), is also a musician.

In 1964, Eno entered Ipswich School of Art, where he studied under new media artist Roy Ascott and painter/printmaker Tom Phillips. Eno and Phillips collaborated on a game they called “piano tennis” where they would line stripped pianos across a hall and hit them with tennis balls. During this time, Eno drummed in an unrecorded beat combo, The Black Aces.

In 1966, Eno entered a three-year Fine Arts program at the Winchester School of Art, where he attended a lecture by Who guitarist Pete Townshend (also a former student of Ascott’s). Townshend’s speech made Eno realize that he could become a musician without formal training. He formed the avant-psych performance trio Merchant Taylor’s Simultaneous Cabinet with two fellow Winchester pupils.

Early Work

Eno graduated in 1969 and moved to London, where he joined the Scratch Orchestra headed by experimental composer Cornelius Cardew. In 1970, Eno recorded the soundtrack to Berlin Horse, a tinted infrared short by filmmaker Malcolm Le Grice. The music consists of a six-minute piano drone in E, overlaid with treated guitar tones. Forty-four years later, it was issued on cassette by the pirate label Latter-Day Quixote.

Eno made his first vinyl appearance as one of the vocalists on Cardew’s “Paragraph 7,” which comprises side two of the composer’s 1971 release The Great Learning.

Roxy Music

In 1971, Eno had a chance train-stop encounter with aspiring reedist Andy Mackay, who had just joined an art-rock band, Roxy Music, that was being assembled by singer Bryan Ferry. Mackay got Eno into the band to handle synthesizers and tapes. Eno played on the first two Roxy Music albums: Roxy Music (1972) and For Your Pleasure (1973), where he is credited with VCS3 synthesizer, tape effects, and backing vocals.

In performances with the band, Eno drew attention with his androgynous visual style and the electronic bleeping effects he employed on select numbers, including the Roxy Music tracks “Re-Make/Re-Model” and “Ladytron” and the 1972 single “Virginia Plain” (UK No. 4).

As Roxy ascended, Eno also played the VCS3 on one track (“Gloria Gloom”) on Matching Mole’s Little Red Record, the second of two 1972 albums by Matching Mole, the post-Soft Machine vehicle of singer–percussionist Robert Wyatt. The album was produced by King Crimson guitarist–mastermind Robert Fripp, who collaborated with Eno on a 21-minute instrumental loop titled “The Heavenly Music Corporation.”

In the spring of 1973, Roxy Music charted with “Pyjamara,” a non-album single that preceded their second album. Eno’s sound treatments dominate the dark, ominous numbers on For Your Pleasure, such as “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” and the title-track. After a July 2 show at the “New York Festival” in York, England, Eno left Roxy Music over creative differences with Ferry.

1973: Fripp & Eno, First Solo Album

Eno earned his first production credit with the Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra of non-musicians formed at Portsmouth School of Art by composer and contrabassist Gavin Bryars. Their first of two shambolic albums, Plays The Popular Classics, appeared in 1973 on Transatlantic Records. Eno wrote the liner notes and partook in the recording as one of four untrained clarinetists. The album gained a cult following on the comedy market.

In November 1973, Fripp and Eno released (No Pussyfooting), comprised of the 1972 experiment and another side-long looped instrumental, “Swastika Girls,” which Eno titled after a picture of two nude women engaged in a Roman salute. The picture was ripped from a stag magazine and pinned to a wall inside AIR Studios at Oxford Circus, where track-mixing took place that fall. Photographer Willie Christie designed and snapped the album’s cover image, which shows the two black-clad musicians seated at a card table in a mirrored room with glass figurines.

Eno also partook in the sessions for Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, the debut album by Hawkwind featured performer Robert Calvert. Roy Thomas Baker produced the album over a ten-month period in succession with the debut album by Queen. Eno (as Brian Peter George St John la Baptiste de la Salle) plays synthesizer and electronic affects on Captain Lockheed, which appeared in 1974 on United Artists.

Here Come the Warm Jets

Brian Eno released his debut solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets, in November 1973 on Island. Eno wrote and self-produced the album with assorted backing by fourteen musicians, including members of King Crimson (Fripp, bassist John Wetton), Matching Mole (bassist Bill MacCormick), Hawkwind (percussionist Simon King), the Pink Fairies (guitarist Paul Rudolph), Sharks (guitarist Chris Spedding, bassist Busta Jones, keyboardist Nick Judd, percussionist Marty Simon), and three-fifths of Roxy Music (Mackay, guitarist Phil Manzanera, drummer Paul Thompson).

“Some of Them Are Old,” is a slow, droning piece performed as a trio with Mackay and slide guitarist Lloyd Watson. The two musicians would interact extensively on the saxist’s upcoming solo album.

Eno altered the sound on select tracks with processing effects, hence the credit descriptors “snake guitar” and “electric larynx.” On “Blank Frank,” he credits his processed keyboard effects to the pseudonym Nick Kool & the Koolaids.

Sessions took place across twelve days in September 1973 at Majestic Studios, London. The engineer on Warm Jets, Derek Chandler, who worked the soundboards on 1972/73 Majestic recordings by Jigsaw and Svanfríður. The album’s post-production occurred at AIR and Olympic Studios with three mixing engineers, including Paul Hardiman, a soundman on contemporary titles by Curved Air (Air Cut), Fleetwood Mac (Mystery to Me), and Groundhogs (Hogwash).

Here Come the Warm Jets sports a cover design by C.C.S. Associates with a photograph by German fashion photographer Lorenz Zatecky. The cover shows a tabletop and shelf with assorted clutter (pots, cords, wilted flowers, used cigarettes). Eno appears in the framed b&w picture (table) and reflected in the mirror (shelf). The back cover zooms in on the upper-right portion of the image. C.C.S. also designed Roxy Music’s cover art as well as album visuals for Amazing Blondel, Free (Heartbreaker), Jethro Tull (A Passion Play), Nazareth, Nick Drake, Procol Harum, Sutherland Brothers, and Ferry’s debut solo album These Foolish Things, released one month prior to Warm Jets.

1974: June 1, Session Work, Second Album

In February 1974, Eno hit the road with backing band The Winkies, a rock quartet comprised of guitarist Guy Humphreys, bassist Brian Turrington, drummer Mike Desmarais, and Canadian-born singer–guitarist Philip Rambow. He discovered the unsigned act on the London pub circuit and became their key industry contact.

Eno & the Winkies cut sessions on the 19th and 26th of February for BBC Radio One DJ John Peel. The sessions, broadcast in March, consist of four numbers: “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch,” “Fever” (Peggy Lee cover), “Baby’s on Fire,” and “Totalled” (an embryonic version of “I’ll Come Running”). Live, they performed Warm Jets material plus covers of The Who (“I’m a Boy”) and the Velvet Underground (“What Goes On”). However, the tour stopped on date six in Guilford, where Eno suffered a collapsed lung. Months later, The Winkies signed to Chysalis and began work on an album with Eno and members of Ten Years After. Tapes of the unfinished album never surfaced. (In 1975, the band recorded The Winkies with beat era producer Guy Stevens.)

On Saturday, the 1st of June, Eno played an all-star concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre with original Soft Machine frontman Kevin Ayers and two early members of the Velvet Underground: Welsh violist John Cale and German chanteuse Nico. Island issued the concert later that month as June 1, 1974.

Side one contains two Eno numbers, “Driving Me Backwards” and “Baby’s on Fire,” with backing by Ayers (bass), Cale (piano, viola), Robert Wyatt (percussion), ex-Free organist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Tempest guitarist Ollie Halsall, Ayers drummer Eddie Sparrow, and Cale bassist Archie Leggatt. Eno plays synthesizer on both numbers as well as Cale’s rendition of the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel” and Nico’s reading of The Doors‘ epic “The End.” Side two contains two numbers from Ayers latest release (The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories) and a song apiece from his prior three albums. The set closes with the Confessions number “Two Goes into Four,” which features everyone (Eno included) along with Mike Oldfield (acoustic guitar).

This marked the second appearance on record of Robert Wyatt since his 1973 paralysis. Wyatt, who has a brief credit on the debut album by Hatfield & the North, released his second solo album (Rock Bottom, his first since the accident) in July 1974.

Eno worked with Cale and Nico on their respective 1974 studio albums. In October, Cale released Fear, his fourth solo album with backing by Eno and Manzanera, who co-produced the album for Island Records. Manzanera plays slide guitar on the track “Momamma Scuba” alongside Richard Thompson. On the lucid neo-fifties number “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford to Orgy,” Cale harmonizes with singer Judy Nylon, a future Eno collaborator.

Cale, in turn, produced The End…, the fifth album by Nico. It features Manzanera on her cover of “The End” and Eno’s synthesizer on three tracks: “It Has Not Taken Long,” “You Forgot to Answer,” and “Innocent and Vain.” The closing track, the German national anthem “Das Lied der Deutschen,” was also performed at the Rainbow concert but omitted from June 1, 1974. (The live version appears as a bonus track on later reissues of The End…).

Meanwhile, Ayers composed the bulk of Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy, an experimental spoken word album with poet Lady June (a.k.a. June Campbell Cramer). Eno contributes one 94-second track (“Optimism”) to the album, which features him on electronic guitar, bass, “imminent,” “linearment,” “lunar lollipops,” and vocals. Linguistic Leprosy also features drummer Pip Pyle (Delivery, Hatfield) and White Noise mastermind David Vorhaus, who plays the kaleidophone: an electronic neck-band device that he would later demonstrate on a 1976 segment of the BBC program Tomorrow’s World.

Eno also performs as one of eleven “clarinetists” on Hallelujah, the second album by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, recorded on May 28, 1974, at the Royal Albert Hall. Pianist and composer Michael Nyman plays euphonium on the Eno-produced album.

Late that summer, as Eno recorded his second album at Island Studios, Genesis were in an adjacent studio recording their sixth album, the four-sided rock opera The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. The band’s frontman, Peter Gabriel, asked Eno to add synthesized effects to the vocals on two tracks: “In the Cage” and “The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging.” In the album’s credits, the effects are dubbed “Enossification.”

“Seven Deadly Finns”

On March 22, 1974, Brian Eno released “Seven Deadly Finns,” a non-album a-side backed with “Later On,” an extract from No Pussyfooting. “Seven Deadly Finns” (3:03) is an uptempo neo-fifties rocker with rapidfire vocal cadences and female “la la la’s.” The song starts in A and proceeds through an ongoing four-chord sequence (E→A→B→D) with four bars per chord, played with brisk, distorted down strokes.

The lyrics detail a French whore house frequented by soldiers and sailors of seven types. Eno’s loaded lines break once for a fuzz-sustain solo. The fourth verse references American mathematician Norbert Wiener, whose theories about feedback mechanisms advanced the concept of artificial intelligence:

Although variety’s the spice of life
A steady rhythm is the source
Simplicity’s the crucial thing
Systemically of course (work it all out like Norbert Wiener)

Eno mimed “Seven Deadly Finns” on the Dutch AVRO TV music program TopPop. The clip shows Eno at pan-down angles in all black (beret, kimono, flares) on a green screen “floor” with circular cutaways to alternate camera angles.

“Seven Deadly Finns” was engineered by Island staffer Richard Digby Smith, a soundman on 1974 albums by Dana Gillespie, Jess Roden, and the back-to-back Sparks titles Kimono My House and Propaganda.

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

Brian Eno released his second solo album, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), in November 1974 on Island. It features ten originals in the Warm Jets vein, recorded with a four-piece backing band comprised of Manzanera, Wyatt (percussion, backing vocals), and the Winkies rhythm section.

Sessions took place in September 1974 at Island Studios, where Eno co-produced the album with Manzanera. The album was engineered by Rhett Davies, a soundman on 1973/74 titles by Hunter Muskett, Genesis (Selling England By the Pound), Gonzalez, Robert Palmer, Silverhead, Stealers Wheel (Ferguslie Park), Trapeze, and Ferry’s second solo release Another Time, Another Place. Davies and assistant engineer Robert Ash worked on Manzanera’s ensuing non-Roxy projects.

Taking Tiger Mountain features guest appearances by Mackay (“The Fat Lady of Limbourg”), the Portsmouth Sinfonia (“Put a Straw Under Baby”). Backing vocals are credited to the ad hoc studio groups Randi and the Pyramids (“The True Wheel”) and The Simplistics (“Back In Judy’s Jungle,” the title-track). The album’s one identified female backing vocalist is Polly Eltes, an actress–model who sings on “Mother Whale Eyeless.” That track also features extra percussion by Genesis drummer Phil Collins, who appears as a return favor for Eno’s treatment work on The Lamb.

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) is housed in a gatefold sleeve with variable tints of the same image on each gate. The image shows a color-altered photo of Eno (by Zatecky) surrounded by seventy-two cartoon-rendered image slides of the singer.

1975: Session Work, Third Album, Obscure Records

In the early winter of 1974–75, Phil Manzanera recorded his debut album at Island Studios. Eno partook in the sessions along with Wetton, Thompson, Mackay, MacCormick, and his replacement in Roxy Music, keyboardist–violinist Eddie Jobson. The resulting Diamond Head appeared in April 1975 on Island with Eno’s guitar treatments on the title-track and backing vocals on the Wyatt-sung opener “Frontera.” Eno himself sings “Big Day” and the swelling side two opener “Miss Shapiro,” both with Turrington.

During the making of Diamond Head, Manzanera’s pre-Roxy jazz-rock band Quiet Sun (MacCormick, Dave Jarrett, Charles Hayward) reassembled in the studio. They used this opportunity to record Mainstream, a collection of stockpiled material from their earlier formation. Eno adds synthesizer and treatments to the album, which shows him on the back cover in a studio pic sporting a T-shirt for the Sadistic Mika Band, a Japanese art-pop group that opened for Roxy on their 1975 tour. Quiet Sun spawned the post-punk spinoff groups This Heat and Random Hold.

Eno collaborated with Mackay on “Time Regained,” a revved-up, fifties-style rock instrumental added to the 1975 reissue of the saxophonist’s 1974 album In Search of Eddie Riff

After sessions wrapped on Taking Tiger Mountain, Robert Wyatt recorded his third solo album (and second post-paralysis effort) Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard. Eno plays guitar and synthesizer on “5 Black Notes and 1 White Note” and is credited with “direct inject anti-jazz ray gun” on the lengthy “Team Spirit,” a co-write with Manzanera and MacCormick. Ruth, co-produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, appeared in May 1975 on Virgin with appearances by members of Henry Cow and Brotherhood of Breath.

Eno also plays synthesizer on the second and third albums of John Cale’s mid-seventies Island trilogy: Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy. The former appeared in March 1975 with backing by Manzanera and Spedding. Helen, rush-released by Island in an unfinished state without Cale’s approval, appeared in November 1975 with backing by Spedding and Collins.

Eno, Spedding, and Collins each appear on the 1975 RSO release Peter and the Wolf, a jazz-rock adaptation of the 1936 symphonic fairy tale by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Onetime Bonzo Dog Band frontman Viv Stanshall narrates the album, which also features appearances by Bill Bruford, Henry Lowther, Julie Tippetts, Keith Tippett, Manfred Mann, Blodwyn Pig alumni, and members of Colosseum II (drummer Jon Hiseman, guitarist Gary Moore) and Collins’ new jazz-rock band Brand X (bassist Percy Jones, guitarist John Goodsall, keyboardist Robin Lumley). Eno plays synthesizer on four tracks, including a duet with Lumley (“Wolf”) and an interlude with the entirety of Brand X (“Wolf Stalks”). Half these players (minus Eno) followed with the 1976 wordless concept album Marscape, credited to Lumley and ex-Blodwyn saxist Jack Lancaster.

Another Green World

Brian Eno released his third solo album, Another Green World, on November 14, 1975, on Island. Musically, Eno takes a quieter, atmospheric, and often rhythmless turn on this release, which features nine instrumentals and only five vocal tracks.

Eno self-performs seven instrumentals: “In Dark Trees,” “The Big Ship,” “Another Green World,” “Sombre Reptiles,” “Little Fishes,” “Becalmed,” and “Spirits Drifting.” He plays assorted keyboards, synthesizers, bass, guitar, and percussion, including early electronic beat devices.

To indicate the sounds of his post-processing effects, Eno labels select instruments with descriptors like “castanet guitars” (“I’ll Come Running”), “spasmodic percussion” (“Golden Hours”), and “Leslie piano” (“Becalmed”). On “Little Fishes,” he employs “prepared piano,” a sound-altering method where objects are place on the piano strings.

Fripp duets with Eno on “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Cale joins them on viola for “Golden Hours.” Collins and fretless bassist Percy Jones join Eno on “Over Fire Island.” The two rhythm players recently completed the first Brand X album, Unorthodox Behaviour, during Collins’ off-time from Genesis. Both musicians also appear on “Zawinul–Lava” with Rudolph and Kilburn & the High Roads keyboardist Rod Melvin, who plays Fender Rhodes electric piano on the track. The latter pair joins Eno and Fripp on “I’ll Come Running.” All four musicians (Collins, Jones, Rudolph, Melvin) plus Cale back Eno on the opening cut “Sky Saw,” which features Rudolph on “anchor bass” and Eno on “digital guitar” and (once again) on “snake guitar.” The penultimate “Everything Merges With the Night” features Turrington on bass and piano.

Eno co-produced Another Green World with Davies, who co-engineered the album with Ash. The two soundmen handled this project in succession with Diamond Head, Mainstream, and The Snow Goose, the breakthrough third album by Camel. A second assistant, Guy Bidmead, worked on the 1973 Yes double-album Tales from Topographic Oceans. The Green World sessions took place in July–August 1975 at Island Studios, where Eno overcame his initial creative inertia with “Oblique Strategies” — a method where randomly picked suggestion cards prompt activities.

C.C.S. typographer Bob Bowkett did the green line typeface on Another Green World, which features a white-framed portion of the 1973 painting After Raphael by artist Tom Phillips, Eno’s early mentor and fellow Philharmonia Chorus member. Photographer Ritva Saarikko took the album’s back photo, a green monochrome shot of Eno convalescing after his accident. In the liner notes, Eno thanks ten people for “their (sometimes inadvertent) advice and encouragement,” including Manzanera, Wyatt, and Saarikko, as well as Townshend and Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith.

“I’ll Come Running (To Tie Your Shoes)” appeared three months ahead of the album on the back of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh),” a non-album cover of the exotic-pop standard best known as the 1961 doo-wop hit by The Tokens and recently repopularized by singer Robert John. Eno renders the song with sustained piano, campy harmonies, and a silvery guitar break over a persistent, mid-tempo beat box pattern.

Fripp & Eno – Evening Star

In December 1975, Fripp & Eno released Evening Star, their second of two collaborative albums. It was recorded over the past year at multiple London stios (Olympic, Island, AIR) and Eno’s home studio. The first track, “Wind On Water,” is a quiet stretch of tape-delay recorded partially during a show at the Olympia in Paris during a seven-date European tour.

Side one also contains the harmonic “Evening Star” and the pitch-bent “Evensong,” both with Fripp at louder volumes; and “Wind On Wind,” an outtake from Eno’s upcoming instrumental solo album. The second half consists of “An Index of Metals,” a lengthy stretch (28:45) of bleak, haunting Frippertronics. This was Fripp’s only music project between his 1974 suspension of King Crimson and 1977 reemergence as a sessionist.

Discreet Music

Brian Eno released his first solo instrumental album, Discreet Music, in December 1975. Side one consists of a quiet soundscape (31:29) first recorded as backing music for Fripp’s guitar loops. Eno recorded the piece with two melodies at differing speeds on an EMS Synthi AKS, which were then fed through a graphic equalizer and echo processor and passed between multiple tape machines. This was Eno’s first foray into “ambient music,” a concept similar to Erik Satie’s “furniture music” concept where quiet instrumentals meld intentionally with natural sounds from the environment.

Eno conceived ambient music after a January 1975 incident where he was hit by a taxi. During his recovery, Nylon visited the bed-ridden musician and played a tape of harp music at low volume. Impressed with how the near-inaudible harp notes melded with the outside raindrops, Eno envisioned a type of music intended as background atmospheric sound.

Discreet Music is the third release on Obscure, a label Eno established that year for quiet instrumental music. Through credited as an Eno solo album, side two of Discreet Music consists of Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by German composer Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706). The three variations — “Fullness of Wind” (9:57), “French Catalogues” (5:18), and “Brutal Ardour” (8:17) — are performed by the Cockpit Ensemble, conducted by contrabassist Gavin Bryars, Eno’s onetime Scratch Orchestra colleague.

Eno produced Byrar’s side as well as the other three 1975 Obscure titles:

  • Gavin Bryars — The Sinking of the Titanic (Obscure No. 1) — A side-long orchestral drone piece that imagines how the Titanic band would have sounded like as as the waves washed the players to sea. Side two contains Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, performed with Derke Bailey and Michael Nyman.
  • Christopher Hobbs / John Adams / Gavin Bryars — Ensemble Pieces (Obscure No. 2) — AMM percussionist Hobbs performs two pieces: the percussive “Aum” and the reed organ drone “McCrimmon Will Never Return,” both with Bryars. Adams contributes the three-part American Standard, comprised of a somber orchestral piece (“John Philip Sousa”), a religious argument with faint drone (“Christian Zeal and Activity”), and a string piece (“Sentimentals”). Bryars contributes “1, 2, 1-2-3-4” (14:30), comprised of faint string drone, piano droplets, standup bass, murmering voices (including Eno), and brushing sounds. Features Mackay on oboe.
  • David Toop / Max Eastley — New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments (Obscure No. 4) — Sound sculpture artist Eastley performs four numbers on side one with sounds created with water (“Hydrophone”), metals (“Metallophone,” “The Centriphone”) and wind–rain (“Elastic Aerophone–Centriphone”). Toop does one brief piece with voice and flute (“The Chairs Story”), another with Eno on “cetaceans” (“Do the Bathosphere”), and an 18-minute drone piece (“The Divination of the Bowhead Whale”) recorded with a small ensemble, including Eno on prepared bass.

The four titles appeared back-to-back with similar dark covers and extensive liner notes. Obscure released ten albums total.

1976: Obscure (cont.), 801, Bowie

Eno worked piecemeal on a followup to Another Green World. In the two-year gap between his next vocal album, he wrote roughly 100 songs, most of which went unheard beyond the ten that made the final cut. He also recorded instrumental music for films.

Meanwhile, Obscure Records released three albums in 1976, all produced by Eno:

  • Jan Steele / John Cage — Voices and Instruments (Obscure No. 5) — Three quiet pieces by composer and Centipede participant Steele: a slow piano etude (“Rhapsody Spaniel”), a voice–vibe–guitar–bass piece with Frith (“All Day”), and a bass ostinato with flute and echoing gong (“Distant Saxophones”), the latter two with Steve Beresford. Five pieces by Cage: a piano duet with Richard Bernas (“Experiences No. 1”), two sparse voice numbers with Wyatt (“Experiences No. 2,” “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs”), another with Carla Bley (“Forever and Sunsmell”), and a lengthy Bernas piano solo (“In a Landscape”).
  • Michael Nyman Decay Music (Obscure No. 6) — Side A. 1-100, a faint, sparse piano piece recorded for a short film by director Peter Greenaway. Side B. Bell Set No. 1, a percussive piece of echoey metal and gong, performed with Nigel Shipway.
  • Simon Jeffes: Performed By Members of The Penguin Café Orchestra — Music From The Penguin Café (Obscure No. 7) — Eleven avant-garde chamber compositions performed by multi-instrumentalist Jeffes with pianist–engineer Steve Nye, cellist Helen Liebmann, and violinist Gavyn Wright.

Five years later, the Penguin Café Orchestra started a prolific run on Editions EG, which reissued Music From The Penguin Café in 1982.

Phil Manzanera’s 801

In mid-1976, with Roxy Music on hold, Phil Manzanera formed 801, an art-rock band with Eno, MacCormick, Watson, drummer Simon Phillips, and keyboardist Francis Monkman. Phillips hailed from the 1975 one-off Chopyn with Ann Odell and Ray Russell. Monkman co-founded Curved Air and played on their first three albums before clearing out for Eddie Jobson, who played on their 1973 release Air Cut before replacing Eno in Roxy Music. In 801, Eno played keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, and shared the microphone with MacCormick and Watson.

That summer, 801 played three concerts. In late August, they played the 1976 Reading Rock Festival, a three-day event with sets by A Band Called ‘O’, Automatic Fine Tuning, Back Door, Brand X, The Enid, Gong, Mallard, Osibisa, Sassafras, and Supercharge. Manzanera’s 801 played on day 2 (Saturday the 28th) along with Camel (performing Moonmadness), Eddie & the Hot Rods, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Moon, Pat Travers, Rory Gallagher, and Van Der Graaf Generator.

The 801 set features three Eno numbers (“The Fat Lady of Limbourg,” “Baby’s On Fire,” “Third Uncle”) and three from Diamond Head — two in full (“Miss Shapiro,” “Diamond Head”) and two as medleys: “Walk On,” a combination of “Lagrima” that segued into The Beatles cover “TNK” (“Tomorrow Never Knows”); and “East of Asteroid,” a combination of Manzanera’s “East of Echo” and Quiet Sun’s “Mummy was an Asteroid, Daddy was a Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil.” They ended their set with a cover of The Kinks classic “You Really Got Me.”

In November 1976, Island issued 801 Live, culled from a September 3 show at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. It features a near-identical set as Reading with “Fat Lady” swapped with “Somber Reptiles” and the addition of “Rongwrong,” a Quiet Sun number written by Charles Hayward, who sings it on the Mainstream studio version.

Harmonia, Low, Ultravox!

In September 1976, Eno flew to Forst, Germany, where he joined forces with Harmonia, the avant-rock supertrio of guitarist Michael Rother (NEU!) and Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of the electronic duo Cluster. They recorded material for a projected third Harmonia album, but the tapes were shelved and misplaced until 1997 when archivists S3 issued the contents as Tracks & Traces.

Immediately afterward, Eno joined David Bowie at Hansa Studios in Berlin, where the singer was putting the finishing touches his tenth studio album. The project saw Bowie embrace fractious art-rock and spacey instrumentals inspired by the Berlin school. His regular backing band balked at the instrumental pieces, which Bowie and Eno mostly recorded as a pair.

On Bowie’s album, tentatively called New Music: Night and Day, Eno plays Minimoog and Chamberlain on two instrumentals (“Warszawa,” “Art Decade”) and piano on both as well as a third instrumental (“Subterraneans”). Though the vocal tracks were mostly completed before Eno’s arrival, he added Minimoog to “Breaking Glass,” ARP and EMS Synthi AKS to “What in the World,” piano to “A New Career in a New Town,” and synthesizers to “Sound and Vision.” The album, completed in late October 1976, was ultimately released in January 1977 as Low, the first of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy with Eno.

Between the completion and release of Low, Eno worked with a new Island signing, the London quintet Ultravox. They recorded their debut album in late 1976 at Island Studios with Eno and co-producer Steve Lillywhite. It features a mix of sixties-style punk (“Saturday Night in the City of the Dead”), vocal-treated glam rock (“Wide Boys”), reggaefied metro pop (“Dangerous Rhythm”), multi-sectional art rock (“Slipaway”), swelling cybernetic epics (“I Want to Be a Machine”), pained Roxy-esque melodrama (“The Wild, The Beautiful and the Damned”), and the glacial, synthesized closing track “My Sex,” the blueprint for the coming minimal wave movement. Ultravox! appeared in February 1977.

1977: Cluster, Bowie, Fourth Album

Phil Manzanera retained 801 for the 1977 studio release Listen Now, recorded with the Reading lineup (minus Watson) and multiple guest musicians. Eno plays “chorus piano,” synthesizer, and does guitar treatments on the album, which features appearances by Jobson, Fairport drummer Dave Mattacks, and the duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who recently left 10cc to make a demonstration album for their guitar-string bowing device called the Gizmo. Split Enz frontman Tim Finn sings backing vocals on “Flight 19” and appears with his bandmate, keyboardist Eddie Rayer, on the closing space ballad “That Falling Feeling.” Manzanera’s involvement with Enz began on a 1975 Roxy tour of Oceania, where the cone-haired Kiwis opened in Sydney. He invited them to London and produced their 1976 release Second Thoughts.

Eno also partook in the sessions for Rain Dances, the 1977 fifth album by Camel. He plays Minimoog, electric piano, and piano on “Elke,” a slow, pastoral trio recording with group leader Andy Latimer and fellow guest, harpist Fiona Hibbert.

Cluster & Eno

In June 1977, Eno reconnected with Moebius and Roedelius at Conny’s Studio in Cologne. Since the last Harmonia sessions, the pair had resurrected Cluster with the 1976 release Sowiesoso, an album of quiet, delicate instrumentals akin to Another Green World. Collectively, they recorded two album’s worth of material, half of which appears on the 1977 Sky Records release Cluster & Eno.

The album contains nine joint-credited numbers that encompass echoey piano–string experiments (“Ho Renomo”), shimmery tapes loops (“Schöne Hände”), soft Satie-esque etudes (“Mit Simaen”), waves of fuzz (“Steinsame”), and the lurching ivory waltz “Selange.” On “Die Bunge,” they apply pinging sounds to a sequencer-driven pattern vaguely reminiscent of “Addio a Cheyenne.” The Asian-tinged “One” layers buzzing sitar drone and koto. The final track (alternately identified as “Für Luise” and “Wehrmut”) is spine-tingling electro–ivory faintness.


In July, Eno convened with Bowie at Hansa Tonstudio near the Wall, where sessions took place on the second album of the singer’s Berlin Trilogy. Eno summoned Fripp to the sessions over Bowie’s first choice, Rother, who wasn’t available at the time. Fripp flew in from his current place of residence, NYC, where he was recording the album Sacred Songs with Hall & Oates frontman Daryl Hall.

The finished album, “Heroes”, appeared in October 1977 on RCA. Side two features three glacial instrumentals, including the Eno co-writes “Moss Garden” and “Neuköln.” He also co-wrote the exotic closer “The Secret Life of Arabia” and the emotive title-track, a post-apocalyptic anthem of hope that became one of Bowie’s most recognized songs.

Before and After Science

Brian Eno released his fourth vocal album, Before and After Science, in December 1977 on Island. Side one features an instrumental (“Energy Fooled the Magician”) and four vocal tracks that range from art-punk (“King’s Lead Hat”) to cabaret pop (“Backwater”). Side two opens with the twangy ballad “Here He Comes” and proceeds with four tracks of rhythmless ambience, including one collaboration with Cluster (“By This River”) and the instrumental “Through Hollow Lands.”

Eno recorded Before and After Science over a two-year period at Basing St. (Island) Studios with new and returning side players, including Rudolph, who plays bass on five tracks. The syncopated opener, “No One Receiving,” features him on rhythm guitar along with Jones and Collins, who also appear (with Frith) on “Energy Fooled the Magician” and “Kurt’s Rejoinder.” The latter is a polyrhythmic number named after German dadaist Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948), whose recording Ursonate is sampled in the piece, which also features timbales by “Shirley Williams,” a Wyatt pseudonym also credited (with “time”) on “Through Hollow Lands,” an airy, desolate piece dedicated to pianist Harold Budd. The last of those features Frith (on “cascade guitars”) and MacCormick.

Rudolph duets with Eno on “Julie With…,” which features Paul on “harmonic bass” and Brian on piano, guitar, and assorted synthesizers (Bell, Mini-Moog, Yamaha CS80, AKS). Turrington duets with Eno on the languid closing number “Spider and I.”

Fripp appears as the soloist on “King’s Lead Hat,” a frantic cut with buzzsaw chords by Manzanera and rhythmic backing by Andy Fraser, the onetime Free and Sharks bassist who Eno placed on drums (an Oblique Strategy whereby certain players swap instruments). The song’s title is an anagram for Talking Heads, who met Eno on the UK tour behind their debut album Talking Heads 77. Manzanera also plays on “Here He Comes,” a countrified track with Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks, who plays the complex patterns on “Kurt’s Rejoinder.” Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit plays on “Backwater,” a stately piano-thumping track with Eno on brass.

Eno co-produced the Basing St. sessions with Rhett Davies, who plays agogô and sticks on “No One Receiving.” Plank produced “By This River” at his Cologne studio during the Cluster & Eno sessions. Conny’s engineer, Dave Hutchins, also worked on Rain Dances and 1977 albums by Bullfrog, Ray Russell, Rough Diamond, and the Sensational Band.

Before and After Science sports a xeroxed monochrome profile pic of the now-balding Eno. Original copies include an envelope with four prints by artist Peter Schmidt, the co-creator of Oblique Strategies. Under the album title, the back cover states “Fourteen Pictures,” the sum of the ten songs and the four prints: 1. The Road to the Crater (a mountain wedge), 2. Look at September, Look at October (an autumnal view from a window), 3. The Other House (an open, twin double-hung window), 4. Four Years (an interior stairway). The four color prints appear on the back cover of subsequent pressings.

Polydor issued a remixed “King’s Lead Hat” on a January 1978 split-single with “R.A.F.,” an Eno-produced side by Snatch, a post-punk duo comprised of Judy Nylon and Patti Palladin, two London-based NYC artists. “R.A.F.” features phoned-in spoken word dialogue (mostly unintelligable) over a slippery bassline (in D, then E) and a raw, echoey drum pattern with occasional keyboards and rattling strings.

1978: Producer Credits, Second Cluster, Ambient Music

When asked about his favorite new wave bands in a 1978 Trouser Press interview, Eno singled out Wire and XTC. Talk spread of Eno possibly producing XTC, whose mix of Jetsonian space-age camp and carnivalesque quirks crossed elements of early Roxy Music (sputtering synths, rococo vocals), mid-period Gentle Giant (jagged rhythms, abstract percussive fills), The Residents (otherworldly sounds), and Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart (odd note combinations) — the prototypes of zolo music. Their keyboardist, Barry Andrews, played an analogous role to that of Eno in Roxy Music, sprinkling confetti-like boings and sparks across XTC’s two 1978 albums, White Music and Go 2. The latter contains the lurching, layered “Battery Brides,” subtitled “Andy Paints Brian,” a reference to XTC’s appropriation of Tiger Mountain textures in the absence of Eno, who advised frontman Andy Partridge to self-produce their second album.

(Go 2 and its predecessor were produced by John Leckie, who also produced the 1978 albums Real Life by Magazine and Drastic Plastic by Be-Bop Deluxe. The latter saw the former pomp rockers embrace Eno-esque sounds in a variety of styles that frontman Bill Nelson would explore to great lengths on his subsequent solo output.)


In February 1978, Eno produced Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, the debut album by the American new wave band Devo. The had been active since 1972 in Akron, where they developed the concept of “de-evolution,” a theory that mankind has devolved to a more primitive state, as exemplified by the group-think and herd-like mentality of modern society. They built a stage act an image around this concept that involved radiation suits, goggles, and songs about paranoia, space junk, primates, and people with down syndrome.

In early 1977, Devo passed a demo to Bowie, who declared their motorik sound the future of rock and expressed interest in producing their first album in Tokyo. When his offer proved untenable, Eno whisked them on an all-expenses-paid trip to Cologne, where he produced the unsigned band’s debut album at Conny’s Studio. Bowie, who was in nearby Berlin shooting scenes for the period drama Just a Gigolo, helped on weekends with the album’s co-production. Are We Not Men? appeared in August–September 1978 on Warner Bros. (US) and Virgin (UK). It reached No. 12 on the UK Albums Chart and gained stateside notoriety with a jerky cover of the Rolling Stones classic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which Devo performed on the October 14, 1978, broadcast of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live along with the album’s thematic epic “Jocko Homo.”

No New York

In the spring of 1978, Eno produced No New York, a collection of unsigned bands that recently emerged on the city’s radical No Wave scene. It features four songs from four groups:

  • The Contortions: a brash, nervy jazz–funk–punk band led by bleating saxist James Chance.
  • Teenage Jesus and The Jerks: a noise rock band led by existentialist poet Lydia Lunch.
  • Mars: a fractious avant-punk quartet with hyperactive drummer Nancy Arlen and guitarist Sumner Crane, a Sonny Sharrock disciple.
  • DNA: a harsh synth-punk trio with improv vocalist Ikue Mori, avant journeyman Arto Lindsay (Lounge Lizards, Golden Paliminoes), and performance artist Robin Lee Crutchfield (Dark Day).

Eno produced the bands at Big Apple Studio in NYC. For the album’s sleeve, he photographed each musician in monochrome mug-shot style. Most of the players (sixteen in all) sport blunt haircuts and psychotic expressions, including a black-eyed Chance, whose shock monologues sometimes provoked violent feedback.

The Contortions signed to the Island-distributed specialty label ZE Records and issued the 1979 album Buy. Under the funky alter ego James White & the Blacks, they issued the concurrent ZE title Off White.

Talking Heads (Second Album)

Eno spent April–May 1978 at Compass Point Studio in Nassau, Bahamas, where he produced More Songs About Buildings and Food, the second album by Talking Heads. It extends on the jerky, kinetic feel of their debut album with increased emphasis on funk-influenced dance rhythms. The album contains some of their defining songs, including the nervy numbers “Warning Sign,” “Found a Job,” “Artists Only,” and outelier tracks like the twangy observational “The Big Country” (an influence on David Byrne’s later comedy film True Stories) and a cover of the 1974 Al Green song “Take Me to the River” (which Bryan Ferry simultaneously covered for his 1978 album The Bride Stripped Bare).

More Songs reached No. 4 in New Zealand went Top 30 in the UK and US, powered by the Green cover, a No. 26 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. This was their first of three consecutive Eno-produced albums.

Harold Budd – The Pavilion of Dreams

John White / Gavin Bryars – Machine Music

In April 1978, Cluster and Eno released After the Heat, their second collaborative album on Sky. 

Brian Eno released his second solo instrumental album, Ambient 1: Music for Airports, in September 1978 on EG.

Eno’s third solo instrumental album, Music for Films, appeared in September 1978 on EG.


Talking Heads

David Bowie

Robert Fripp – Exposure

Brian Eno & Pete Sinfield – Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors


Talking Heads

Harold Budd / Brian Eno – Ambient 2 (The Plateaux of Mirror)

Jon Hassell / Brian Eno – Fourth World Vol. 1 – Possible Musics

Robert Fripp – Let the Power Fall

Laraaji Produced By Brian Eno – Ambient 3 (Day of Radiance)

Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhattan


Edikanfo – The Pace Setters

Jon Hassell – Dream Theory In Malaya (Fourth World Volume Two)

Brian Eno – David Byrne – My Life In the Bush of Ghosts


  • No Pussyfooting (1973 • Fripp & Eno)
  • Here Come the Warm Jets (1973)
  • Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974)
  • Another Green World (1975)
  • Discreet Music (1975)
  • Evening Star (1975 • Fripp & Eno)
  • Cluster & Eno (1977 • Cluster & Eno)
  • Before and After Science (1977)
  • After the Heat (1978 • Eno Moebius Roedelius)
  • Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978)
  • Music for Films (1978)
  • Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (1980 • Harold Budd / Brian Eno)
  • Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics (1980 • Jon Hassell & Brian Eno)
  • My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981 • Brian Eno-David Byrne)
  • Ambient 4: On Land (1982)
  • Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks (1983 • Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois & Roger Eno)
  • The Pearl (1984 • Harold Budd / Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois)
  • Thursday Afternoon (1985)
  • Wrong Way Up (1990 • Eno / Cale)
  • Nerve Net (1992)
  • The Shutov Assembly (1992)


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