On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno Paperback – 12 Feb 2015
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The 450-page biography (written with the help of the famous piss-taster himself) fairly zips along (OBSERVER MUSIC MONTHLY)
This exeptionally well-written biography duly celebrated [Eno's] great achievements with Roxy, Bowie, Talking Heads and his own solo work in compelling detail. (UNCUT)
[An] honourable, authorised attempt to do justice to a mind-bogglingly restless and prolific subject. (SUNDAY TIMES)
David Sheppard's authorised biography dispels some of the myths surrounding Brian Eno and provides a compelling case for his importance as artist and thinker. (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY)
An accomplished and sprawling biography reflects Eno's scattershot approach to life - all over the place but fascinating just the same. (BIG ISSUE (Scotland))
Music Book of the Fortnight 'Few enigmas are as hard to unravel as Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, but the Q contributor has done a bang-up job with this 450-page tome' (HOT PRESS (Ireland))
David Sheppard's meticulously researched biography...[with] the kind of footnote that make this doorstopper such an engaging read (INDEPENDENT)
On Some Faraway Beach provides an extensive introduction to a lifetime of constructive, and very English, pottering. (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
Sheppard has corralled the many strands of Eno's hectic creative life into a coherent and highly readable account. On Some Faraway Beach will take some beating as a chronicle of one of popular music's few truly original practitioners. (TOTAL MUSIC MAGAZINE)
A vivid, well-observed and absorbing biography replete with relevant context and cultural references (THE BEAT)
How do you pin down enigma like Brian Eno? Music journalist David Sheppard makes a valiant stab at it in this lively biography (YORKSHIRE EVENING POST)
Authorised biography of influential musician/producer/cultural commentator Brian Eno - the 'Father of Ambient Music'.See all Product description
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The book is excellent up until Eno starts working with U2, whereupon it speeds up, and we race through Eno's career to the present day. The book doesn't go into much detail about Eno's projects in this period; it reads like "Eno did x, then he did y, and then spent some time doing z". As other reviewers here have noted, this may be because the author doesn't think Eno's later work is worthy of the same attention as his earlier output.
I'd have liked a bit more coverage of Eno's work in the visual arts. This is dealt with in the book, but only superficially.
To end on a positive note, I'd add that while I've followed the Enomeister's activities fairly closely over the past 30 odd years, there were plenty of things about the great man that I learnt in this book.
Unlike a friend of mine, who thinks Eno stopped being interesting in about 1981, I love Eno's later ambient works. But it seems that either Sheppard can't write expansively about later albums or isn't really interested enough to do so, so the last 25 years of Eno's career occupy perhaps a quarter of the book. Admittedly, it's harder to write about a sparce 60 minute solo piece like "Neroli" than AGW with its 14 tracks and multiple guest musicians. The Drop, which isn't such a bad album of juju space jazz in my books, or the Curiosities 1 and 2 collections of studio outtakes that feature "Captain" Bob Fripp, have tracks that could easily have been described in some detail, for sure. The engineer who collated the Curiosities volumes could have been tapped for insight into why certain tracks made the cut. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Eno's recent return to a vocal album, Another Day on Earth, merits a more substantial track-by-track dissection. A key omission, I think, is that there's no description for the curious of the missing tracks from the famously unreleased My Squelchy Life album. Few of those tracks have subsequently emerged through conventional channels. And why won't Eno release Seven Deadly Finns or The Lion Sleeps Tonight through iTunes? I think we should be told. There's also little of a technical nature describing Eno's approach to generative music, nor much information on his favourite synths/software/studio gear beyond the famous "Putney" VCS3 from the Roxy days. I suspect though that, like my friend, most people are interested in the Roxy days, the first four vocal albums and the collaborations with Bowie, John Cale and TH, and this book certainly delivers in those areas.
Everything any budding but discerning Eno-phile could want to know is covered . For instance the younger Eno,s sexual proclivity came as something as a surprise, I don,t know why , it just did. Same for his fathering a daughter at a young age ( who he largely ignored after splitting from her mother ) .The fact he was run over by a car suffering a serious head injury or that her earns £24.50 a week royalty's for "Arena" using his track "Another Green World" for the title music. The fact he is great dancer and created his own dance called "The Static".
Most astonishing is the fact that Eno cannot read or write music ( something we have in common , that and a tendency for catastrophic hair loss) and that his improvisational approach to recording rely,s more on his instinctive grasp of sound and sonic textures. For all that he does posses genuine aptitude for thinking up innovative ways to record and manipulate sound , though as the book points out he's not above pilfering ideas that have gone before and melding them to his own ends.. The chapters on the recording of his solo albums are incredibly intriguing.
The years with Roxy Music are extensively covered as is his fall out with Bryan Ferry which led to Eno as he put it "falling on his sword" ( though it's more of an uncomfortable mutually acceptable parting of the ways) plus there's plenty of text on his relationship with cohorts John Cale, Robert Fripp , Gavin Bryars and Talking Heads amongst many others. His recording work with David Bowie ( the funniest man he knows apparently ) on "Low "and "Heroes" plus his tremendous recordings with Cluster and David Byrne are very well covered too.
The book is predisposed towards his work in the seventies and the early eighties -his most artistic fertile period and rather glances over his later production work for artists like U2 and Coldplay , though I can't say I blame the author for skimming over those associations.
So who is Brian Eno?...a complex polymath, an infuriating nerdish knob twiddler, a pioneering artistic futurist, a talkative esoteric dabbler, a renaissance leading media-genic dilettante ...frankly according to this weighty tome he's all these things and more. Yet for such a prolific , innovative and impishly erudite an artist as Eno this should come as no surprise. What is surprising reading On Some Faraway Beach is that someone decided to take on the task . David Sheppard's meticulously researched book is remarkably thorough and a boon for any Enophile. John Cale once said "I like his records, they all have Brian on them" May I add I like this book ...it has lots of Brian in it.
To be fair though, Sheppard's done his research and things can get quite engrossing, particulary Eno's NY period - a fascinating snapshot of the energy and inventiveness of the scene. The late 80's and 90's segment of the book seem like a hell of a rushed job, although in fairness much of the mystique was wearing thin by then. You can tell that the erstwhile Eno author shares the same opinion.
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