A musical epiphany, a moment when you finally understand/hear things in a new or different way.
For years I had been on the prog-rock bandwagon, occasionally with detours to rock or metal on those days when i felt the need for the acceptance of my peers. I had also managed along the way to pick up an unhealthy fascination in folk-rock and for some reason The Clash and The Stranglers.
The said epiphany happened sometime in the 80’s as I staggered from the library with three cassettes, I was weighed down by the weight of the music I guess. All of them products of the 70’s, and none of them having anything particularly in common, although you could probably find a connection if you wanted to or tried and probably this would involve Fairport Convention.
Wishbone Ash’s Argus, Brian Eno’s Before and After Science and Real Life by Magazine. I have no idea why I picked these three albums. I may have been just determined to play something I had never heard before. I knew the name Eno from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, I had not paid attention to producers at this time outside of Genesis it seems so the connection to Bowie had not occurred, but the others were a mystery. All had been recorded in a 5 year period and showed some progression of popular music I guess. They all have ridiculous or elusive lyrics and a definite attitude in what they are, a swagger, stance that is mainstream but twisted. They all three have striking and memorable covers.
This day of sitting down on the last summer in my parents house while they were out to listen to these three albums though is a moment that has stuck with me. It was the realization that things were not going to be the same. I was leaving home and had no intention of going back, my life was changing and evolving and maybe would make less sense. I can still smell my parents house, lavender and cut grass with the ever present scent of tea.My cassette player propped in the corner as they had got rid of the radiogram and I had packed the stereo up to go to college.
It was an uncomfortably hot day, they were gone for the weekend so volume was not an issue, especially as the neighbor was deaf. On they went and my ears were opened up. The Wishbone Ash was melodic prog without the keyboards, hints of folk and a whimsical fantastic lilt to the lyrics about kings and warriors. It was and remains a favorite when I am feeling a bit down, like chicken noodle soup it satisfies without filling you up.
Magazine would now be considered post-punk I suppose. Back then it was confusing to me. Hints of prog that made me feel comfortable and then the attack of punk would pop out. It had more in common with Calvert era Hawkwind though, Devoto had a sneer in his vocal that was comforting and there were keyboards and solos.
The real mess with you moment was the Eno though. I had no idea what this was supposed to be, funk, punk, pop. It was a mess, but a good mess. Side One was upbeat, rocking and loud, Side Two was more reflective and and quiet and hinted at other things to come for Eno. It was as if Lou Reed had a sense of humor, it was revelatory for me, it was a cold distanced sound but immediate. Fripp and Collins were there but this was not prog, Paul Rudolph was there but this was not Hawkwind and what the heck was that folky Dave Mattacks doing on the drums. How did one man manage to gather such a menagerie of musicians.
To this day Eno’s music that involves vocals has always caught my attention. It seems revolutionary, subversive and totally original while referencing other styles of music and subverting them to his own designs.
I guess these three album in one afternoon managed to take me from the safety of Wishbone Ash to the safely dangerous with Magazine and ending with the truly unique Eno, who after this album went on to influence rock music for decades while producing ambient music under his own name.