Brian Eno & David Byrne – The Jezebel Spirit

22nd April 2024 · 1980s, 1981, Music

The first time I heard this I was knocked sideways. I expected experimentation from Brian Eno and David Byrne, but My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts took it to a whole new level.

They had collaborated already with Talking Heads (Eno produced three of their albums) and in a way this is a sequel to their work on the last of those, Remain In Light.

Except I now discover it was made *before* Remain In Light (and after Fear Of Music) but was left on the shelf because of delays caused by clearing the samples, which include Arabic singers, Qur’anic recitals, radio DJs, politicians and – on this track – an exorcist.

I also learn that the album was originally intended as a three-way collaboration between Byrne, Eno and the American composer and trumpeter Jon Hassell, who had just collaborated with Eno – but could not afford to fly to California for the sessions.

When he heard the finished Bush Of Ghosts album Hassell was outraged, accusing Byrne and Eno of nicking his ideas: hardly surprising since his big idea was a “primitive/futurist” genre called Fourth World music – the title of his Eno collaboration – combining ethnic traditions and modern electronic music.
Bush Of Ghosts is nothing if not that; Eno called it “a vision of psychedelic Africa.”

Not that Eno and Byrne or Hassell were exactly the originators of these ideas – something apparent to those of us who had enjoyed Holger Czukay of Can’s solo album Movies from the previous year, using many of the same sampling techniques.