Talking Heads, ‘Life During Wartime’

David Byrne and Brian Eno

For all Talking Heads’ – and Brian Eno’s – clean lines, ‘Life During Wartime’ has a touch of the melodramatic. Equating living in Manhattan with enduring life in a city under siege is extending a metaphor until it’s stretched enough to believe in itself, but David Byrne is a panic-eyed master of the paranoid, and here he and the rest of the ‘Heads scratch and jerk until they’re a twitching bug of insecurity.

Maybe New York felt like that in 1979 if you were strung out enough. After all, they were CHANGING THE FACE OF POPULAR MUSIC. “You oughta know not to stand by the window,” not while the style mag snipers are perched on the rooftops.

But how does it feel, coming to Talking Heads cold in 2012? “My head is talking right now,” is Junior’s literal response. More abstractly she and her sisters dissolve into a mess of muso faces and electroshock shimmies – a reasonable reaction to ‘Life During Wartime”s troublefunk.

After it fades there’s a moment of reflection before Junior decides the track is “in the middle”. But they were at the vanguard! They were pushing rock forward! “It sounds like a song from the olden days.”

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David Bowie, ‘Always Crashing In The Same Car’

Brian Eno and David Bowie

There are more obvious BowiEno collabs but when we got onto ‘Warszawa’ there was a pretty poor reception all round. I’m not wild about it myself. I prefer my glacial synths with Jim Kerr making an arse of himself over the top.

I don’t actually, but I liked saying it.

Anyway, to add to the – ahem – car crash of this whole experiment, I had meant to play ‘Sound And Vision’. The plan was scuppered by Junior arguing about which cereal she was going to have for its entire three minutes. We then trumped the futility of this row by debating who was playing guitar on ‘Always Crashing…’ – Robert Fripp or Carlos Alomar? – for its entire three and a half minutes. Turns out it was Ricky Gardiner.

Nobody’s a winner. But this, like most of Low’s first side, is crisply depressing and that’s about all you can ask for.

Brian Eno, ‘Music For Airports 1/1’

Brian Eno

A bit of music we could really experiment with, but first some questions for Junior:

Do you like ambient music? “I’m more like *mimes thrashy guitar and disco dancing*”

Do you understand what Brian Eno’s trying to do here [I’m reading out the sleevenotes]? “No.”

And so she shouldn’t. A six-year-old is after constant stimulus, not a “tint” to the environment or space within which to think. If possible, thinking should be kept to a minimum. But I think Music For Airports is quite beautiful – whether or not it’s just sitting in my earbuds, not being too intrusive when I’m writing about something completely different – so it’s worth pursuing Eno’s enquiries. “Ambient Music…must be as ignorable as it is interesting,” he says, so is it?

Junior walks around the living room attempting to ignore it. Did it work? “I couldn’t hear it.”

But when you listen, is it interesting? “No.”

Roxy Music, ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’

Brian Eno

For Lent this year, we at Jukebox Junior are giving up all music that isn’t connected in some way to Brian Eno. To celebrate the Enoxification of our Lord, if you will. I wonder what that involves. A patina of magic dust maybe.

So let’s start at the very beginning (or near enough). After all, as Julie Andrews – another artist capable of doing amazing stuff with just a spoonful of sugar – says, it’s a very good place to start. On For Your Pleasure’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’, Eno stands at the back wearing a feather boa and “playing tapes”. What would ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ be without tapes? It would be an airless piece of prog with a mannered Bryan Ferry vocal. With Eno’s tapes, it’s an an airless piece of prog with a mannered Bryan Ferry vocal and some whooshy phasing (technical term). Genius.

Junior’s not up on sound beds and production jiggery-pokery (she will be by the time we reach Easter), but from the audio alone she detects a man gritting his teeth as he plays guitar. Phil Manzanera’s fretwork is clearly so meaty it’s almost corporeal. She decides there’s “a little too much guitar” and the song is “too quiet” when Ferry dominates. Bring on the tapes then. Examining the inner sleeve, she declares Andy Mackay “the fashion one, the cool one” and points out that Eno “looks like a girl”. We’re on our way.