Record Review: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets [part 1]

brian eno - here come the warm jets LP cover art

E’G/Caroline Records | US | CD | 1994 | EGCD 11

Brian Eno: Here Come The Warm Jets – US – CD [1994]

  1. Needles In A Camel’s Eye
  2. The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
  3. Baby’s On Fire
  4. Cindy Tells Me
  5. Driving Me Backwards
  6. On Some Faraway Beach
  7. Blank Frank
  8. Dead Finks Don’t Talk
  9. Some Of Them Are Old
  10. Here Come The Warm Jets

There are some albums that just take my breath away with the ease in which they tear up rule books and create coherent worlds within their grooves. Brian Eno’s first album, “Here Come The Warm Jets,” is one such album. In 1981 I was aware of Eno’s reputation. I knew he had been an early member of Roxy Music, but had yet to experience those first two albums. By that time I certainly had many of the classic albums that he had produced; “Ultravox!,” “More Songs About Buildings + Food,” “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!,” “Fear Of Music,” and “Remain In Light” all come immediately to mind. But I had heard none of his solo material, apart from his “Ambient II: Plateaux Of Mirror” with Harold Budd when chasinvictoria bought it in late 1980. As we knew of Eno’s reputation, that one blindsided us at first before we grew accustomed to its modest beauty.

I was listening to WUSF-FM’s amazing Friday late night New Wave ghetto radio show that exposed me to numerous wonderful artists, when I chanced to hear Eno’s track “Baby’s On Fire.” I could barely receive the signal 80 miles away in Orlando, but the show was good enough to be taping even with severe FM static as the low poser signal struggled to reach my ears. Stunned, I listened to that tape many times afterward and I think that I dubbed a poor sounding copy of the song and sent it to chasinvictoria on one of our marathon tape letters we used to send when he had moved away from Orlando after graduation.

It was shortly afterward when he sent back a C-90 with “Here Come The Warm Jets” on one side and “Taking Tiger Mountain [By Strategy]” on the other. We were now fully Enocentric! When “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” was released in spring of 1981, it was an event. We went back to look into those Fripp + Eno albums that were so intriguing. It was my graduation present to myself in 1985, when I bought the then new “Brian Eno: Working Backwards 1983-1973” boxed set of god with 10 solo albums and an EP of rarities [half unreleased] for the then astounding price of around $120 if memory serves. “Music For Films Vol. 2” was exclusive to the box, as was the EP. Well, one doesn’t graduate college every day. All of this music was fascinating, but it all had a starting point, which had been the utterly amazing “Here Come The Warm Jets.”

Drop the needle [or laser] on this album and “Needles In The Camel’s Eye” bolts startlingly from the gate on the one; as if it were already in progress and you were just catching up. The mix [by Eno and Chris Thomas] was dense with elements jostling for sonic position with Eno’s multi-tracked vocals mixed at a similar level with everything else. It seemed muddy due to the indifference to separation and more concerned with the overall gestalt of its impact, which was profound. This was 2:45 that grabbed you by the lapels and pulled you along for the joyride. There’s a reason why Todd Haynes chose this song to open up “Velvet Goldmine” with scenes of glamrok teens running wild in the streets in a frenzy of velocity and barely contained energy.

The twin guitars of Phil Manzanera and Chris Spedding compete for the spotlight with what I’m assuming was Manzanera filling the song with atmosphere and rhythm droning while Spedding proffered twangy, Duane Eddy licks that seemed beamed in from another universe. Eno was on record as having spent as much time composing the free-form lyrics as he had singing them, so this resulting song was simply a thrilling exercise in form for form’s sake. But that would be Eno’s tactic throughout his career. For an artist as indifferent to lyric content as he was, it’s not altogether surprising that he eventually went on to eschew them altogether for many, many years. The drum breaks where the song dropped out entirely for a bar at a time in the middle eight was just a case of Eno having some exhilarating fun on his first ever album of Rock music.

The second song was completely different. The mannered delivery of Eno in the plumiest of voices over the splendid, yet hardly eccentric music bed was a far cry from the exhilarating start that “Needles In The Camel’s Eye” had been. But given the bizarre subject matter of “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch” perhaps discretion was the better part of valor? Once Eno got to providing the synth solo on the middle eight, all bets were off as the song suddenly went “off road” in the most left field way possible. The solo sounded like a gleefully cheerful dolphin making random notes that bent in every direction that shouldn’t have worked as a solo save for the expert syncopation of the notes attack with the rhythm of the song.

Then the song circled back to a return to its main themes with some berserk rhythm guitar slathered with distortion effects as Eno climaxed the song  with his curiously lilting, double tracked harmonies. Leaving the song to fade on a synth loop that segued right into the next song. And what a song! The synth loop gained tension with some cymbals before the song stopped momentarily for a beat, to allow Eno to begin singing the incomparable “Baby’s On Fire.” And he sang in the most aggressively nasal phrasing possible; simply dripping with vicious contempt. The song was breathtaking for its aggressive pose… and that was sufficient to be riveting… but then Robert Fripp began his guitar solo.

robert fripp in 1973

Don’t let the calm exterior of Robert Fripp ’73 fool you… inside lurks the heart of a beast

On “Baby’s On Fire,” Robert Fripp provided perhaps the only guitar solo you’ll ever need.

Not just any guitar solo, but the most face-melting guitar solo ever committed to wax! He kept up the aggressive pressure for a full three minutes while Eno kept the energy of the song flowing beneath the torrent of guitar like an underground river. The palpable hostility of the solo is beyond anything else I’ve heard on guitar. Legend had it that Eno directed the musicians playing on this album by movement and interpretive dance. One could barely imagine any human movement translating into this solo, that sprayed the listener with flecks of white-hot spittle; halfway on its way to steam. After the three minutes of Fripp pulverizing the listener, Eno returned for the last verse but wisely giving the last word to Fripp who ended the track with one last strangulated burst of his devastating guitar.

Next: …Urgent/Anxious


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11 Responses to Record Review: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets [part 1]

  1. Andy B says:

    Like you Monk I had numerous albums that Eno had produced but I had never heard any of his own stuff. In ‘87 I bought an EG compilation called ‘Angels In the Architecture’ which contained instrumental tracks by the likes of Harold Budd, Jon Hassel, Michael Brook etc. Eno was all over this album either as artist or producer. I loved what I heard and this led me to purchase as much of his output as possible.

    It’s hard to believe the Eno of ‘73/‘74 is the same person who recorded the likes of ‘Music For Airports’, ‘Music For Films’, ‘On Land’ etc.

    The first time I listened to ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ I got such a rush from hearing ‘Needle In The Camel’s Eye’ straight out of the blocks. ‘The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch’ shows Eno’s sonic playfulness. I find it great fun. Meanwhile Fripp’s guitar playing on ‘Baby’s On Fire’ is literally corrosive.

    Great stuff and more excellent tracks to follow.


  2. Ade.W says:

    I bought this album when it came out way back in 73, i was 15 years old. It was stunning. The needle in the camels eye….what?!!! The paw paw negro blowtorch , just awesome !
    By this time I already had the Roxy Music album and then in 73, For your pleasure and stranded albums, …Tiger Mountain to follow .These are my bedrock albums from which all my musical tastes now started. I remember that the bloke who ran the Roxy Music fan club in the early days lived a couple of streets away from me then. He used to get a lot of stuff from the EG group which i could listen to for free. I digress, I was 15 yrs old , damn it all.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Ade.W – Then I can only concur that your musical foundations are as rock solid as they can damn near be! I was five years younger and thousands of miles away from cultural epicenters, much less the head of the Roxy Music Fan Club, in 1973! I didn’t even have a clue, then! I had heard one song each by Lou Reed and David Bowie at that time. Bands like Roxy Music and Kraftwerk were still in my future. And it was a slow climb for me. Hand over hand.


  3. A review I’ve waited 40 years to read!!

    I did in fact have one Roxy Music album (their first) in my collection prior to getting the Eno solo albums — indeed, it was among the first albums I ever bought with my own (allowance) money, probably around ’74 or ’75. Don’t give me any credit for being cool, though — I found it a couple of years after release when my sexuality was budding; I was fascinated by the cover more than the music, though I was already into Bowie by that point.

    Astonishingly and embarrassingly, I did not learn that Eno had put out solo albums until quite some time later, certainly after I already owned a few albums he had produced. As the Monk mentions, when he sent me “Baby’s On Fire” I knew he needed more. I think — but I’m not sure — that I had already gotten HCTWJ and TTMBS, or perhaps quickly got them immediately after his tape later — and duly sent them along! Little did we know we were killing music with our home taping, eh Monk? HAHAHA!

    I don’t recall how I missed Music for Airports until after buying a copy of Plateaux of Mirror a few years later, but I’m sure it was pure chance and Eno’s name on the (kinda mesmerizing) cover. Didn’t know Harold Budd from a hole in the ground at that point, but to my great surprise what was at first a huge disappointment (didn’t know what “ambient” was, and I was expecting another rock album of course) quickly gave me literal new feelings of calm and tranquility and opened an entire new musical world to me.


  4. Duncan Watson says:

    You know me; I am always happy to go off at a tangent. I recently re-read a series of interviews with Warren Cann about the early days of Ultravox. Concerning Brian Eno’s role in producing their debut album, Warren says this “He only worked on three or four songs at the most, and we didn’t use any of his mixes (we thought it polite not to mention it).
    To be fair, his name DID help bring about some attention that might not otherwise have been paid to us concerning that first album, but it had never been our intention to do that.
    It’s just very irritating when critics later stated, regarding particular songs, “The hand of Eno is stamped all over this track, blah-blah-blah…” when, in fact, the song was written and performed with no participation by Brian at all.”


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Duncan Watson: Aaaah! The infamous long winded Warren Cann interview from Jonas Warstad’s informative music site! Covering from Tiger Lily to “Vienna” in typical Cann-depth. When I found that I could not wait to see what insights he was going to offer about the claustrophobic recording of “Rage In Eden” but alas, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that!

      In the 90s, in the early days of the internet, word got out that Cann was looking for copies of the Ultravox videos and as I had Japanese laserdiscs of both “The Collection” and “Monument” it fell to me to provide the drummer with the best quality copies he could watch with his wife. He wrote a nice letter info and thanks back with more such detail about the processes of making those projects. A real gentleman. I should try to see if he’s still using the same address… Chris Cross was the only member of Ultravox I’ve had no correspondence with, now that I think of it.


  5. Great review of a masterful album. Thank you loving these in depth articles on some of my favourite music ever.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      the press music reviews – Grrr. You are getting caught in the spam filter. Good thing I look there daily for maintenance, but… annoying. Thanks for the kind words! We are compelled to write in depth music reviews. No matter how long we have to drag it out! It make me feel awful to see music reviews in actual magazines whittled down to 250-300 words in these, the end times. While I have no doubt the blog would be improved by, uh …editing, there’s not much time for that now.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is one of the best albums ever made. You can’t beat any of Eno’s ” rock albums ” of the 70’s.


  7. Pingback: Here Come The Warm Jets – Part 2: Baby’s on Fire | For Your Pleasure

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