Eno – Needles In The Camel’s Eye

17th January 2024 · 1970s, 1973, Music

Whatever we expected when Eno left Roxy Music to go solo out of sheer boredom – he said he was found himself “thinking about the laundry onstage” – in 1973 it probably wasn’t this.

We expected something synthy and weird from the guy who made all those experimental electronic sounds on the first two Roxy albums; we had no idea he could (or would) sing.

The first track on the first side of his first album is nothing like that. It’s almost a template for the punk rock that came along two or three years later, created by a generation who grew up on Roxy.

Needles In The Camel’s Eye is built on a relentless drum beat and an equally relentless distorted guitar riff – Eno’s “snake guitar” is complemented by Chris Spedding and Phil Manzanera – with a yelping vocal that comes as a surprise.

But the trump card is the bass that comes in around the halfway mark and then takes over the song with an ascending bassline that’s suddenly disrupted by the song’s stop-start section towards the end – only to get going again.

Here Come The Warm Jets, released in November 1973, is hugely ahead of its time. It’s a one-off. You’d be hard pressed to find a coherent link between the songs, except that they are all very different in style; from each other and from anything else around at the time. Or since.

There’s an outright punk thrash (Blank Frank), there’s silly Bonzos-style comedy (The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch), pure pop (Cindy Tells Me), wild dissonance (Baby’s On Fire) sublime beauty (On Some Faraway Beach) and elegiac chorale (Some Of Them Are Old) – all of them with plangent pop melodies, and all of them distorted, bent, twisted and “treated” in Eno’s post-production.

Brian has said he wrote Needles In The Camel’s Eye in less time than it took to sing it, so it’s probably a wasted effort to look for meaning in the song.

Besides, he has also said he came up with the album’s lyrics by speaking gibberish into a microphone, reversing it, and picking out some of the more intelligible phrases.