New York’s No Wave scene of the late ’70s is often portrayed as a lot of atonal and un-funky noise buggery, typified by such bands as Mars, DNA, and Teenage Jesus & The Jerks (all admittedly terrific atonal and un-funky noise buggers). Yet, there was one lily white James Brown wannabe who danced through the puddles of piss and waves of feedback to bring the unsmiling art types a bit of groove: James Chance (a.k.a. James White). Certainly, this was still not quite as accessible as the Talking Heads’ parallel forays into funk, but The Contortions’ music helped to bridge the aural divide between the two Eno-approved camps. It should be noted that Chance was a bit more confrontational than David Byrne. It’s hard to imagine Byrne physically challenging Robert Christgau during a concert.
Of course, as much as I dig The Contortions, it would be pretty foolish to pretend that their version is better than James Browns’ original. It’s not quite a fair fight. So here is the mustachioed(!) sex machine performing a medley of his hits (including “I Can’t Stand Myself) on a 1974 episode of “Midnight Special”:
And, of course, here’s Eddie Murphy:
Between the recording of Talking Head’s “Fear of Music” (1979) and “Remain in Light” (1980), Brian Eno and David Byrne worked on the sonic collage that would become “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” (a title lifted from Amos Tutuola) (1981). The album’s imprint can be felt today in everything from the melting pot sound-world of M.I.A. to the tape recorder ghosts trapped in The Books. The hallucinatory samples, disembodied voices hovering above and peeking through the funk, were sequenced using analogue recording equipment, making the seamlessness of the final product all the more incredible.
The track posted today features the haunting call of a Lebanese mountain singer over an eternal psychedelic groove that is equally indebted to Funkadelic and Fela Kuti, but one trapped in an aural mist that is distinct to Brian Eno. The Lebanese sample, sung by Dunya Yunis, was lifted from the six-LP box set “Music in the World of Islam”.
Brian Eno + David Byrne – Regiment From: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Reissued by Nonesuch, 2006)
I was escorted before her on this day and stood before her as if I had been dissolved into vapour or no more alive and also dreaming of her terrible, dreadful, ugly, dirty appearance without sleeping.–Amos Tutuola My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, p.100 (First Published in 1954 By Faber and Faber Limited, new and revised edition 1978)
Posted in MP3, music
Tagged Amos Tutuola, Brian Eno, David Byrne, Fela Kuti, Funkadelic, M.I.A., MP3, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Regiment, Talking Heads, The Books