Brian Eno (ft. Snatch) – R.A.F.

24th November 2022 · 1970s, 1977, Music

This oddity is one of Brian Eno’s most interesting deep cuts. It was the B-side to King’s Lead Hat, the single from his 1977 solo album Before And After Science.

It’s a collaboration with Snatch – the New York duo Judy Nylon and Patti Palladin – and the drummer is Phil Collins (yes, him), the guitarist is Paul Rudolph and that funky bass is by Percy Jones.

The song title R.A.F. refers not to our air force but to the Red Army Faction, a aplinter group of the far-left German terror group the Baader-Meinhoff Gang.

The record is made up mostly of a sampled ransom message they made in a telephone call to police after kidnapping a Dutch industrialist and ex-Nazi called Hanns-Martin Schleyer.

One of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, Astrid Proll, used to live a few doors down from me in Stoke Newington. She had been arrested in 1971 and jailed as she awaited trial for bank robbery and attempted murder, but escaped and fled to London where she worked as a park-keeper for Hackney Council, and at the Lesney toy factory in Homerton, before taking a council-sponsored course in car mechanics.

A reformed character, she was teaching mechanics to underprivileged children in West Hampstead when Special Branch sent her back to Germany to face trial. She was convicted of bank robbery but released because of the time she had spent on remand – during which she was tortured by being kept in acoustic isolation.

Returning to London, Proll retrained as a photographer and worked on the picture desk of The Independent while living in my street.

None of which has anything to do with Eno’s record, which is more interesting, and arguably better than the A-side which is his punkiest song, the New Wave hommage King’s Lead Hat – an anagram of Talking Heads, for whom he would go on to produce three or four albums.

Snatch, who also made the compellingly offbeat single Stanley / I.R.T. in 1977, had a previous association with Eno through Judy Nylon being the subject of his solo song Back In Judy’s Jungle on his earlier album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).

Nylon had also sung – well, spoken – on John Cale’s song The Man Who Couldn’t Afford To Orgy (with a hard G) from his album Fear and an album with Adrian Sherwood, Pal Judy, credited to ‘Judy Nylon and Crucial’, in 1982.

She also teamed up with Patti Palladin to sing backing vocals with Johnny Thunders in 1978, before Palladin joined The Flying Lizards, teaming up again with Thunders in 1985 for the superb 12-inch single Crawfish, and in 1988 for the album Copy Cats.