Published on August 16th, 2012 | by TLV News3
Record Of The Issue: Brian Eno’s *The BBC Sessions* (by Pat Cochran, from TLV #162)
What an embarrassment of riches we here in Oxford, Mississippi have in The End Of All Music. It’s already a truly great record store. You can pop in, hang out, listen to records, or maybe listen to Jack Pendarvis spin some ancient, bizarre vinyl lunacy. You can get the skinny on all sorts of new sounds—newly recorded records, spectacular reissued LPs, a whole fat and delightful passel of stuff to placate your auricular fetishes. If the store only had an employee willing to insult and excoriate you for buying, say, Bongwater LPs or the Frida Lyngstad solo record it would feel just like 1985 again. Alas, the folks running the joint and working there are all patient and scholarly gents of a very high order.
Recently, I picked up a wonderful album at the store, one that I’ve been playing pretty constantly for the last couple of weeks. It’s an Italian bootleg by Brian Eno called The BBC Sessions. Brian Eno, if it’s the case that you’ve been living under the proverbial rock and don’t already know who he is, was the heavy sound scientist in the earliest version of Roxy Music who later went on to record and release some of the most gleefully perfect records of the 1970s. His solo records are rife with all sorts of exuberant sonic thrills, wild and giddy affairs plump with glittery bliss. In the 1980s, he dropped his sonic soul science on groups like U2 and Talking Heads, in the process moving them all in great leaps to higher peaks. The guy’s genius is consistent and, moreover, fun.
These BBC session recordings have been floating around for a while. Brian Eno has never seen fit to release them or include much, if any, of this stuff amongst his reissued catalogue. So, the Italian bootleg source is necessary here. And, what’s here is fascinating, certainly the most tough and punked-up junk he ever committed to tape. Shortly after Eno left Roxy Music in 1973 or 1974 he enlisted an unlikely group as his backing band, a glammed-out pub-rock combo called, rather unfortunately, The Winkies. Despite their name, The Winkies rocked hard—burly and brawny rock and roll with generous amounts of rhythmic space. They were cut from the same cloth as the early-1970s Rolling Stones or The Flamin’ Groovies, but tighter and more taut, quick focused blasts of stunning rock and roll heat. Eno was wise to enlist them as his backing band. The versions here all come from recordings for DJ John Peel’s Top Gear program for BBC Radio 1 in 1974. The songs are radically rearranged from the studio versions, recalibrated for maximum rock action. “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” from Eno’s first LP, Here Come The Warm Jets, is here cheekily remade and re-modeled into something sounding pretty much like a version of the Rolling Stones in which heroin and the blues are replaced with pharmaceutical amphetamine and musique concrete. In other words, it just sounds sonically badass. The LP is really worth buying for this track alone. Other Eno warhorses get the makeover treatment, too —“Baby’s On Fire” sounding like Doctor Feelgood with a Vocoder and an oscillator, “I’ll Come Running (To Tie Your Shoes)” like more speed-laced proto-punk, The Winkies somehow managing to presage the righteously stiff, white funk of Gang Of Four and The Au Pairs. There is also a nifty version of the Peggy Lee standard “Fever” that’s nothing short of riffed-out magnificence.
The LP title is a misnomer. Not all the tracks here are from BBC radio sessions. “Seven Deadly Finns” and a fine, though wholly odd, version of “Wimoweh” (the South African folk number made famous by The Weavers in the 1950s and later given the Hollywood hit machine treatment as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens) are both obscure studio single B-sides cut during aborted sessions for that first Eno album. “Third Uncle” and a stunning, ferocious version of “The Fat Lady Of Limbourg” are actually live recordings from the 1976 Reading Festival in the UK featuring the legendary 801 as the backing group. Of course, as with most bootlegs, there aren’t any liner notes here and the pressing itself is of only functional quality. But, brother, let me tell you—I’d play this stuff to death if it were only available on a 20th generation K-Mart C30 cassette that somebody spilled Pepsi all over and left in the hot sun. It’s crucial and I’m happy to finally own it.