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On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno Paperback – July 9, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sheppard (Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen) aims to reclaim [Brian] Eno from the Eno nerds who've turned the musician/producer into a cultish figure, and though respectful of his subject's legacy, he rarely succumbs to outright worship. A large chunk of the biography recounts Eno's British art school roots and his first major music gig, as the synthesizer player for Roxy Music, where his flamboyance quickly made him even more prominent than lead singer Brian Ferry. Sheppard writes smartly about Eno's subsequent solo work and his forays into producing albums for artists like David Bowie and Talking Heads and extensive interviews and research bring out captivating backstories: it's worth noting that almost nobody, including Eno himself, thought he'd be a good fit to work with U2, until The Joshua Tree became one of the biggest-selling rock albums of all time. Sometimes, Eno's interesting projects from the last two decades seem to go by in a blur, compared to the in-depth treatment of the first half of his career, and his theoretical pronouncements might bear a little more critical scrutiny. On the whole, though, this is a valuable document of one of late-20th-century pop music's key influencers. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Musical Renaissance man and self-described "sonic landscaper" Brian Eno has been a band member (Roxy Music), producer (David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2, Coldplay), writer, and prolific solo artist, but his most famous piece of music may be the six-second start-up sound for the Windows 95 operating system. Sheppard (Elvis Costello; Leonard Cohen) has written a detailed study of this restless, innovative artist. Although Sheppard had access to Eno and relies heavily on interviews with the subject and his wife, this is not a fawning biography, and the author doesn't hesitate to examine Eno's musical and personal successes and failures. Sheppard is particularly good at placing Eno's work in the appropriate cultural context. Although the author's wordiness gets a bit exasperating, Sheppard makes up for it in attention to detail. Recommended.—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) (July 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752884638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752884639
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,258,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Yates on November 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the definitive biography (so far) of Brian Eno--founding member of Roxy Music, experimental musician and composer, occasional essayist/lecturer, producer, visual artist, and for some of us one of the most interesting people alive.

David Sheppard begins by recounting a teenager's precocious interest in art and tape recorders, and his excited response to 1950s musical genres such as doo-wop. One of Eno's defining moments came during his late teens, dutifully recorded by Mr. Sheppard (p. 45): the mother of his then-girlfriend wondered why someone as bright as he was wanted to be an artist. He would say later: "[I]t set a question going in my mind that has always stayed with me, and motivated a lot of what I've done: what does art do for people, why do people do it, why don't we only do rational things, like design better engines? And because it came from someone I very much respected, that was the foundation of my intellectual life."

And what a life! Eno thrived at Ipswich, whose eclectic faculty was devoted to upsetting everybody's preconceptions. He became familiar with the works of John Cage, LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, Cornelius Cardew, and other leading lights of the musical avant garde. He participated in Cardew's Scratch Orchestra, this being his first appearance on vinyl. He would join Gavin Bryar's colorful Portsmouth Sinfonia, which combined virtuosos with folks who had never before touched their instrument (Eno played clarinet!!!!!). And he would encounter cutting-edge rock groups such as the Velvet Underground, whose third album he considered a masterpiece.

Sheppard recounts how Eno ended up--literally by chance--in Bryan Ferry's Roxy Music.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a long-time Eno fan and this book helped me to understand him much better. It explains how he became one of the most respected avantgarde musicians and producers, starting from an initial interest in plastic arts. It describes his creative process (sometimes song by song) and really makes you curious to listen to his music again. My only complaint is that the rhythm suddenly changes from 1983/84 onwards. Mysteriously, the author mentions this work and collaborations in a very superficial way, even though he was in charge of producing U2's greatest albums (Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and Zooropa), besides other important releases. I guess the author was more interested in the 70's and early 80's Eno, but there was so much more to tell about the years after... In a few words, it starts fantastically, and in the last pages you realized that something's missing. I agree that Eno was more productive in the 70's, but it doesn't justify why some albums (Talking Heads) deserve detailed explanations and some others (U2, James) so few text.
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Format: Paperback
So many music biographies so often miss the point via brevity, misplaced gushing praise, or lack of authoritative support. Not so here. This is an excellent book, clocking in at 439 pages, and written with serious intent and obviously fully researched. Perhaps most importantly, the author had access to both the subject of his book and many of those involved, adding to the quality of the finished product.

Brian Eno's early life and influences are fully developed, as is his time with Roxy Music and his early works. Every important release, be it solo material or collaborations are fully expounded upon, giving the reader genuine insight into the working process behind these works. Perhaps as importantly, each is directly tied into what went before and what is to come; a chronology of influences.

As the pages turn, Eno's output is explained in a way that for me anyway, demystified much of his works, while at the same did not lesson the "magic" contained within them. Indeed, it would be difficult to read this book without listening to the recordings being written about and hearing them again with new ears.

Unfortunately, and preventing what otherwise could have been a 5-star book, as the years roll by, the later works are given less and less pages... rushing to the end without the detailed narrative it began with. In fact, almost every recording of the past 20 years is given little more than a sentence. This was a major disappointment.

Another minor quibble is the lack of a discography, which would have served as a valuable reference point.

All that said, there is no finer book on the life and works of Brian Eno currently available and those interested in understanding the who, what, when and where of this most important of recording (and visual) artists, should regard this volume as a desert island selection.
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Format: Hardcover
David Sheppard has written an engaging and intellectual biography of Brian Eno, while admitting that we really need an Eno Enyclopedia to begin covering the territory required. Unfortunately he starts out well, covering Eno's early life, the 70's and early 80's quite authoritatively, but it then appears he tires of the subject, and we fairly gallop our way through the late 80's, 90's and beyond. I wanted the same in depth analysis for the whole period, or perhaps he should have written two books and given each time frame equal treatment. All the same I enjoyed reading more about Eno, to the point that I ended up playing each of the albums as Sheppard passed on his intelligence about their genesis. It was enlightening to read about Eno's lack of formal musical qualifications - (I realised he wasn't a God after all, and was/is prone to same foibles as us all) - but my admiration for his output was not diminished for the experience, and I can honestly say that if you're as interested in Eno as I am obviously am (and I mean to demonstrate my bias), then overall you'll not find this book an entirely disappointing experience.
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