April 19, 2007 – 9:58 am
I was at the Bull’s Head last night, and DJ Dick from Rockers Hi-Fi & Different Drummer was on the decks. He pulled out a track from this album — one of the most important records in my musical history by a country mile — and nobody seemed to know it. Apart from anything else… am I really that old?
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by David Byrne and Brian Eno came out in 1981, and yet if it had been made yesterday, I maintain it would still sound years ahead of its time. It was remastered and reissued last year (with a far less cool cover) and an online remix project was launched. That seems only right and proper.
This record was perhaps the first album — certainly that I was aware of — that used vocal samples and edited them, cut them up and recontextualised them as a key component of the music. It also made use of ‘found objects’ as percussion instruments. It was way ahead of the game.
Byrne and Eno were particularly interested in African music around this time, as can be heard on Talking Heads’ best album Remain In Light, produced by Eno around the same time (and released prior to Bush of Ghosts in 1980) — and the one chord grooves they build up really carry that.
Bush of Ghosts was released in a number of different versions (first with, then without Qu’Ran) and the 2006 reissue includes several more outtakes, bringing the total up to 18 tracks. I’ve chosen two of my favourites here — because if you’ve never heard this, it needs to be rectified immediately.
Some of the voices they sample date back decades before the album was made, but on these tracks, the recordings are contemporary ones: a broadcast sermon from New Orleans in the first instance, and an exorcism in the second(!).
Click to listen:
Help Me Somebody – Byrne & Eno
The Jezebel Spirit – Byrne & Eno
It’s amazing stuff — and you should own it. I’d put it as one of the key turning points in popular music history — arguably (though I’m opening a can of worms here) on a par with Never Mind The Bollocks.