Hear Brian Eno Sing The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” as Part of The Best Live Album of the Glam/Prog Era (1976)

After leav­ing Roxy Music and its tour-record-tour-record cycle, Bri­an Eno became a stu­dio record­ing artist, cre­at­ing mul­ti­lay­ered mas­ter­works of pro­gres­sive pop, pro­to-punk, and ambi­ent envi­ron­ments, often on the same album. As a fan, how­ev­er, you had zero chance of see­ing Eno play any of this live. That is, except for one brief moment in 1976 that just hap­pens to be one of the best live albums of the glam/prog era: 801 Live. It’s pure light­ning in a bot­tle, and for a taster may we direct your ears to the open­ing num­ber, a groov­ing, funky, spacey cov­er of “Tomor­row Nev­er Knows” (writ­ten as T.N.K. on the track list).

Here’s the thing, this wasn’t even Eno’s band. This was instead the band of fel­low Roxy Music mem­ber Phil Man­zan­era, who formed an ad-hoc super­group of friends to play three gigs in Eng­land. With Roxy Music tem­porar­i­ly on hia­tus, Man­zan­era brought in Bill Mac­Cormick, from his oth­er side group Qui­et Sun, on bass; Fran­cis Monkman from Curved Air on key­boards; pop­u­lar ses­sion drum­mer Simon Philips; and gui­tarist Lloyd Wat­son, who Eno fans will know from his whacked-out slide on “Some of them Are Old” from his first album. Eno pro­vides the major­i­ty of every­thing else, list­ed in the cred­its as “key­boards, syn­the­siz­ers, gui­tar, vocals and tapes.”

It’s the vocals that are key, though, and his warm tones are per­fect for this re-arranged Bea­t­les clas­sic. They also ele­vate the album through­out from “decent live gig” to essen­tial lis­ten­ing. His ver­sion of Qui­et Sun’s angu­lar “Rong­wrong” is smooth and wist­ful, turn­ing a jokey tune into…well, into an Eno song.

The band only rehearsed three weeks before the three-city tour start­ed, begin­ning in Nor­folk, then play­ing the Read­ing Fes­ti­val, and final­ly end­ing in Lon­don at Queen Eliz­a­beth Hall, where the show was record­ed. For a set-list con­sist­ing of Eno songs, Man­zan­era songs, space jams, two 1960s cov­ers (the oth­er being the Kinks’ “You Real­ly Got Me”) and played by a band that hadn’t real­ly met a month before, it’s a rock-sol­id album. It also sounds fan­tas­tic, almost like a “live in the stu­dio” record­ing save for the applause in-between num­bers.

Eno has rarely played live since then, and when he has it’s been his ambi­ent music, most recent­ly at a one-night-only con­cert with his broth­er at the Acrop­o­lis in Greece. But to hear the vel­vety glam-god rock­ing out? It’s just 801 Live, my friends, and that’s all you real­ly need.

via @MrCompletely

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bri­an Eno Launch­es His Own Radio Sta­tion with Hun­dreds of Unre­leased Tracks: Hear Two Pro­grams

Hear Bri­an Eno’s Rarely-Heard Cov­er of the John­ny Cash Clas­sic, “Ring of Fire”

Bri­an Eno Lists the Ben­e­fits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intel­li­gence, and a Sound Civ­i­liza­tion

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (5)
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  • Ted Mills says:

    Yes!! Thank you for remind­ing me. That’s such an odd album.

  • Newton says:

    Queen Eliz­a­beth Hall, usu­al­ly booked for clas­si­cal music, so the acoustics were well above usu­al rock are­nas. The guy seat­ed adja­cent and I could­n’t believe our luck in being there. I believe the encore was Third Uncle, which Eno intro­duced as “the fastest song in the world” and an audi­ence mem­ber shout­ed out the cor­rect title, and the You Real­ly Got Me. Both on the album.

  • JamesO says:

    Thanks for bring­ing one of my favorite albums in my vinyl col­lec­tion to the fore…and espe­cial­ly for some back­sto­ry!

  • Ted Mills says:

    Fan­tas­tic to hear from some­body who was there. It feels like a big stage. because it sounds so epic. It would be nice if there were more pho­tos of the event.

  • Damian B says:

    How was it odd? It’s just a great live album.

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