Monday, July 27, 2020

The 10 Greatest Minds In Rock Music, Part One!



Brian Eno

For anyone who has ever thought they couldn't be in a band because they didn't "play anything" or couldn't produce some of the century's most notable releases because they didn't go to engineering school or spend countless hours slaving in front of a mixing board, Brian Eno is living proof that good things come to those who create their own path and, in doing so, completely obliterate the cookie-cutter mindset that is so prevalent in rock.

Beginning with his tenure in groundbreaking glam band Roxy Music as onstage sound mixer and synth player, Eno was already carving out a singular musical path that, upon his departure from the band in 1973, would lead to his involvement in the recording of numerous landmark rock albums of the 20th century, including Devo's Q: Are We Not Men, A: We Are Devo, U2's The Unforgettable Fire & The Joshua Tree, and David Bowie's legendary "Berlin Trilogy" (Low, "Heroes", and Lodger).

Beginning with 1975's Discreet Music and continuing through 1983's Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks, Eno almost single-handedly invented the genre now known as ambient music. The latter album remains his best-known work in that arena due to the its association with the landmark film "For All Mankind", which set Eno's lush, glacial mood pieces to mostly-unseen footage of NASA's Apollo 11 moon voyage.



Mark Mothersbaugh

While living in L.A., this longtime Devo fan would beam with joy anytime we had reason to pass by the magnificent neon green building on Sunset Blvd. that has long been the headquarters of Mutato Muzika, a.k.a. "The House that Devo Built" or, perhaps more accurately, Mark Mothersbaugh's "day gig".

The fact that the leader of a new wave "one-hit wonder" that was unceremoniously dropped by Warner Brothers in 1985 would be able to afford one of Hollywood's most eye-catching architectural marvels on arguably the most-popular street in the city is a testament to both profit and perseverance while continually marching to the beat of your own drum, or drum machine, as the case may be.



Steve Albini

While this Windy City punk pioneer refuses to be credited as producer on any of the albums he has recorded for other artists over the past five decades, just seeing his name on the cover is enough for many of us to buy said platters sight-unseen.

For as much of a studio workhorse as Albini may be, his willingness to go on-record time and time again regarding the near-criminal business practices of the major label industry are required listening/viewing for anyone interested in becoming a career musician.

Thanks to Youtube, there is no shortage of Albini interviews that not only lay out his thoughtful ruminations on the industry, but also explain in more detail than you could ever fully grasp as to how Albini goes about getting the legendary drum sound that has been sought out by the likes of Robert Plant/Jimmy Page, Cheap Trick, and thousands of others.



David Byrne

Byrne may best be remembered as the singer for Talking Heads, the groundbreaking '80s band that he broke up in '88 (although neither he nor the band would announce the split until three years later), but his true genius lies in making "borderline Asperger's syndrome" (a milder form of autism) work for him in ways that nobody in the music business could have foreseen.

Whereas someone like David Bowie may have moved easily in social and performance circles with the ease of a chameleon, Byrne's nervously awkward and detached demeanor was initially seen as off-putting to some, but has come to define both his musical and visual style, leading to his entry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of Talking Heads.

Since the band's dissolution, however, Byrne's laser-focused intelligence and dedication to his singular artistic vision have resulted in the formation of a critically-acclaimed record label (Luaka Bop), eight well-received solo albums, numerous forays into film and theatre, and, last but not least, a book called "Bicycle Diaries" that details his longtime love affair with cycling.



Susan Rogers

Trained as a maintenance technician for analog multi-track tape machines, Rogers was first introduced to recording engineering while working at Graham Nash and David Crosby's Rudy Records recording studio.

Upon hearing that Prince was looking for his own studio technician, Rogers interviewed for the gig and was informed that, if she was willing to relocate to Minneapolis, the job was hers. Prince quickly made her his main studio engineer for what would be his creative and commercial peak, beginning with Purple Rain and continuing through sessions for The Black Album.

During that time, Rogers had a literal front row seat for witnessing Prince's musical genius, while, at the same time, having to respond quickly to the artist's demands; a dream job with the potential of becoming a nightmare for those unable to rise to the occasion, but Rogers proved herself capable time and time again.

Upon parting ways with Prince, she quickly became an in-demand producer for the likes of Barenaked Ladies, Rusted Root, Michael Penn, and others before leaving the business to become, of all things, a professor at Berklee School of Music.


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