Brian Eno: A Year Without Appendices

Posted by in Culture, Music, Publishing

1995 repeating? The original book and the new version right.

INTRO

In the mid-nineties Faber issued Brian Eno’s Diary under the title A Year with Swollen Appendices. Now at the end of – let’s face it – a pretty shitty year, the same publisher is publishing the same book with some updates. 

There’s a whopping 441 pages to get through (possibly a condition of the £100,000,000 Eno was advanced to write it) and just the intro itself is enough to get one’s cognitive circuitry buzzing and whirring. Eno first begins by observing what has occurred in the time since the first edition. 

Notably the internet, social media and the linguistic evolution that has been birthed around this new reality. LOL, emoticon, emoji, friend/unfriend, follow/unfollow, influencers.

He poses a few interesting questions; Is QAnon the beginning of a new religion? Is TikTok a new mass art form? And is binge-watching Netflix the future of art – as galleries become more dangerous?

Also mentioned is the absence of China which is interesting when you consider one of his early songs is called China My China. He ponders the role of everyday chit-chat and 24 Hour News, content that in many ways goes beyond news created by Churnalists!

There’s also a nice pot shot at populist leaders (in his words Macho Braggarts) – something he has said before about the reality of the Covid pandemic and the only leaders to come out of it well were those with the humility to act on the science being presented.

Hey Dave, can I borrow that typeface?

If it’s the music you want then this revolves around four of his projects: JAMES, Bowie’s Outside, PASSENGERS ie U2 + ENO, and finally Spinner his collaborative effort with Jah Wobble all at varying levels in their creative hubris. I’ve not heard the Bowie album so Spinner would be my fave of the four. 

JANUARY

We begin with a low peach winter sun – beautiful description. Eno then worked in Brondesbury (I lived there momentarily in 2011). Eno speaks of the benefit of public transport as it allows people to relate to each other. Really!? The most I get is a sigh, a tut and women who don’t want to sit anywhere near me while all the weirdo’s and overweight people do (no offence but it’s true). 

There’s a comic moment when he says he creates some porn on Photoshop expanding women’s arses to cosmic proportions. He later refers to Photoshop as a lethal time-waster like chronic alcoholism. By contrast as a parent to two young daughters at the time, a lot of the diary relates to them (much like Steve Hogarth’s diary podcast).

Eno starts work early – sometimes 4:30am when London is pitch black and cold augmented with long slow breakfasts. In Brussels he contemplates over what he calls a good dining formula of a cheap meal with expensive wine and more so eradicating part of a chin until he realises he’s getting inviting looks from the women. ‘Hold that Chin!’ he says. 

I liked Brussels too coincidently. The strange thing is having travelled first class on Eurostar Eno doesn’t seem to know why he’s there! Wow, what a life to lead – absent minded luxury travel. By the 13th he’s in the big apple with Bowie but there’s a wonderful narrative on a walk in New York where the scents of faint fishiness, cinnamon muffins, subway urine, women’s perfumes, bacon, coffee, and newsprint.

London from the Natural History Museum (Xmas time) and Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof.

FEBRUARY

Sees him between the garden, the studio, and the kitchen. There’s a lot of potential recipes here, wonder if he’s ever considered doing a cook-book? Some nice imagery of the London that I know – Holland Park, the RCA (Royal College of Art) and the bird displays at the Natural History Museum.

In Berlin Eno berates the use of too much glass in the architecture (I guess he isn’t taken with the Hauptbahnhof the way I am). Further still, I tend to disagree with Mrs Eno’s appraisal of Egypt but maybe in 1995 it was better? And if nothing else I can see where the song Luxor Night Car got it origins.

MARCH

Back in London Eno recalls his nervousness at his first talk at Trent Uni in 1975 (March 4) at the invite of Michael Nyman, try teaching 120 students in China when you were expecting 40 Brian. Forgetting his notes he found he was able to chat away without them, and more importantly in the right order, good effort there.

Much of March is working on the JAMES album whom I’m not a fan of (save a couple of tracks here and there) but on the 14th Eno makes a nice observation about memory, specifically about sitting outside in the sun at varying points in his history. 

the essence of a feeling trapped in an experience of colour or light – deserve to be loved and nurtured, elaborated, evolved, exaggerated, falsified, turned into metaphor.

Recalling the Brit Awards on the 17th he praises Prince and his commentary about being a ‘slave.’ Was that really 25 years ago? Eno explains his guilt at the money being used for an art installation on the pretext that anything of cultural value will come from it, good point. For someone that can do what he likes he seems to ask ‘Why am I doing this’ a lot.

My degree show catalogue at Newport and Zagreb cathedral.

APRIL

In 1995 I was a good way through my degree at Newport. The course I didn’t do but a friend did was called Interactive Arts and that was helmed by a chap called Roy Ascott who had taught Eno in the sixties (at Ipswich I believe). 

Hence Eno was a regular visitor to the college (nowadays a university). I mention this because on April 10 Eno says this: INTERACTIVE = UNFINISHED. Unfinished is a much better word than interactive.

During my degree one of my lecturer’s gives me a videotape of the Scott Walker documentary to watch about his new album TILT. On April 11 Eno notes that Bowie should utilise a similar musical vocabulary.

On April 28 Eno arrives in Zagreb – Open squares with big cafes – St Mark’s Venice-style. Lovely ambience outside the cathedral. I didn’t go there until 2017 but can identify with the vibe. Regrettably I didn’t make it to Split but this too went down a storm with Eno: All architects should visit here. The city as (or is) culture and history embodied. 

MAY

In Dublin (I’ve been but have lost any decent photos I took) Eno says Ireland brings out the best in him. No prizes for guessing why he’s there but his rational is straight out of art college. 

Questions for U2: ‘What record would you like to make – i.e. how would you like this to be read? How would you like to get there? Does it bother you if the result is ‘undemocratic’? How much cheating is allowed?

Eno is 47 on May 15 and feels old getting his first pair of spectacles. But what he had achieved even at that point was substantial. By contrast I was 47 in 2017 – in an Air Bnb in Budapest – no one cared. Eno says that he feels that he’s spent most of his life getting ready for something, honing skills and sensibilities for… what? I know the feeling. 

May 24 recalls the making of what turns out to be Miss Sarajevo (working title Tenterhook) and while that plays in the studio Bono and The Edge pen the Bond theme Goldeneye, wow! What a day!

Dublin Bay shot from the DART and the Dublin spire.

JUNE

4th June, Eno’s third visit to the Emerald Isle in a month! Now I know who keeps those Aer Lingus air lanes buzzing. And it seems that he isn’t too keen on Munich – must tell my friend who lives there but probably doesn’t know who Brian Eno is.

Innsbruck Airport in neighbouring Austria gets a better reception and like myself Eno is a bit of a transport geek. In the airport’s outside cafe watching the planes he realizes he’s always liked docks, stations, airports. Just the last two for me, I can’t get too excited about a lot of cargo and cranes.

JULY

Another trip to Bono-ville and it seems he’s just bought the hotel in Dublin, to which Eno says… Jesus! – who in their right mind would actually want to own a hotel? Eno is based somewhere south of Dublin and regularly takes the DART into the city. (The image of the bay above is on my visit to Bray on the DART in 2006).

He also declares Dublin a cultural beehive. Somehow the good humour and instinctive surrealism of the Irish equips them wonderfully to deal with post-modern culture.

An interesting anecdote about LIVE AID then only 10 years old. The achievement, for Eno, the idea that it might be possible to (temporarily) bind a large part of the globe together around one issue. Are pop musicians the only people who can address the world as though it is one place?

AUGUST

Interesting he mentions Edge’s birthday but not Bono’s. Just for fun here’s a run down of one of the then new oblique strategies ‘list everything you are’ and how we differ…

He doesn’t mention travel but I’d add it as it’s important and an ‘agent of cultural change’ – a throwback to my time at Newport Uni which stuck in my head. Also a Synesthete and I’m told funny (sometimes and as a paradox to grumbler). What else? Bread, oh and of course chocolate!

U2 album at the suggestion of management morphs into Passengers album. It’s not a fave. Eno mentions he hasn’t been in a casino before so him at 47 in Monaco and me at either 39/40 in Auckland *I saw the casino at Monaco but never went in, probably more difficult to access than AKL.

August 13 sees him playing the Eno/Wobble album (Spinner). Better album than Passengers, crappy cover (my opinion). More comedy comes on the 15th… On the beach watching topless French ladies with huge wobbling sousaphones of bumfat, wishing I could hear them fart. This is further explored on the 16th but it’s too long a passage to include here. 

There’s some more romanist imagery – well more so than farting French ladies – in lying on the beach with one of his daughters looking at the sky. So gentle and pleasant, thinking of her ‘future memories.’

‘Culture is everything we don’t have to do.’ 

The space we call culture includes all the things we do that we don’t have to do,
and their cultural ‘meaning’ resides in the stylistic aspects of them.

The 26th sees the famous pee quote. Pissed into an empty wine bottle so I could continue watching Monty Python, and suddenly thought, ‘I’ve never tasted my own piss’, so I drank a little. It looked just like Orvieto Classico and tasted of nearly nothing. I’ve not tried this myself.

SEPTEMBER

According to Eno the musical era’s are:

1. Mid fifties (’54–’57): Doo-wop, rock ‘n’ roll
2. Late fifties (’58–’62): Girl groups, Tamla*
3. Mid sixties (’64–’68): Liverpool, beat, psychedelic
4. Late sixties (’69–’72): Prog, bubble gum*
5. Early seventies (’72–’75): Glam
6. Late seventies (’76–’78): Punk, new wave, no wave, disco*
7. Early eighties (’79–’83): Synth pop, 4th world
8. Mid eighties (’84–’87): House, techno, world
9. Late eighties (’88–’91): Ambient, scratch
10. Early nineties (’91–’95): See ’64-’68; add ’76–’78*
11. Mid nineties (’96–’98): Early generative, new irrationalist

*I’d say new wave was more ’79-’83 and didn’t prog continue into the mid-seventies? I would also pitch girl groups in the ’64-’68 bracket. Love his description of the early nineties but you could equally add House and Techno to that (LFO, 808 State). It would be interesting to see how he defines the last 20 years or as Bowie said (in song) where are we now? 

In the same entry (September 8) he speaks about distortion being part of the process of noise and hence rock music is built on distortion. This would explain the thinking behind The Fly and the copy-cats that followed.

I should also mention that although married Brian Eno comes across as something of a lothario mentioning several beautiful women throughout the book which is better than the boring letters to Stewart Brand. On the 24th he decided to stop smoking and describes masturbation as ‘hanging on to the only thing you can rely on.’ Brilliant!

Going beyond culture, Dan Flavin unwittingly designs for New Zealand.

OCTOBER

In New York Eno catches a Dan Flavin show (the ‘neon tube’ artist whose image I turned upside down to make the RE:COVERED image). Apparently it was a good show at the Guggenheim. He also mentions reading Edward T Hall’s book Beyond Culture which I knew nothing about until teaching Culture in China in 2016. 

NOVEMBER

And staying with China, Eno name drops another book Lords of the Rim, about the overseas Chinese and their history. Now that would be interesting. He delivers, reluctantly, his Turner Prize speech the same month.

DECEMBER

His political thoughts of a Liberal party that gains control of second party of choice and relegating the Conservatives to a third rail bunch of outsiders is a nice thought but as we now know is not likely to happen in Covid-Britannia or beyond (whatever comes next).

So the diary section is more or less a series of letters about the Bosnian civil war, domestic bliss, a lot of parties, ogling lots of women, the cooking of a shit load of garlic (and fish), fiddling about with copious amounts of computers, producing music, writing speeches – most of which are high profile and he thinks he hasn’t achieved anything! But what he does acknowledge is a wonderful life, his diary is a mere fragment of it.

PLAYLIST AND CREDITS

Thanks to Faber for trusting me to write about the book and to you for reading here. *in case you’re wondering the version I got from the publisher came with no appendices so I can’t tell you about them. 

Check out my MEDIA page for writing, and the UNIVERSITY page for teaching duties. Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Playlist and credits follow…

PLAYLIST
Hello Spaceboy – David Bowie
Luxor Night Car – Brian Eno
Patriot (A Single) – Scott Walker
Hiro’s Theme – The Edge
Ito Okashi – Passengers
Cold Jazz 2 – Brian Eno
Steam – Eno/Wobble
Pacific – 808 State
LFO – LFO

Photo Creidts:
Book cover image from Faber.
Outside and Eno A Year CD images from discogs.com
RE:COVERED image by Dan Flavin, Edward T Hall Beyond Culture image is, I think, from Amazon. The rest shot in London, Berlin, Zagreb, and Dublin by KH.

*I intended to do a culture course on teachable.com the centre of which would have been Brian Eno. Is it worth doing? Would people pay for my services? Tell me in the comments?