“Seven Deadly Finns”: Roots Rock Rediscovery

Back in the days of vinyl (i.e., “before music was free”), there seemed to be endless time to pore over the contents of a record album.  However, truth is we invested the time, since budgetary restraints (and lack of YouTube) made it incumbent upon the listener to really make the most of each musical purchase.

As someone whose limitless appetite was often constrained by limited funds, I have a particularly fond spot in my heart for various artists compilation albums, particularly the ones that have a strong hit-to-miss ratio.  UK indie label, E.G. Records, issued one such album in 1982 – First Edition – a good-value gathering of offbeat songs that run the gamut from art-rock to ambient-pop.

First Edition LPHow interesting to learn only now that Eno oddball track – “Seven Deadly Finns” – with its doowop touches and nice little yodel near the end, is a single that appears on no other album but this one (even then, only the American – not the UK version!)

Even more fascinating to discover this live television performance, where a still-glam Eno sings to a noticeably different backing track than the rambunctious mix on the First Edition compilation album:

“Seven Deadly Finns”     Brian Eno     1974

Eno’s 70s take on the early 50’s rock sound fits right into Peter Doggett’s narrative (as captured in his biography of David Bowie in the 1970s – The Man Who Sold the World) that “it seemed [in the early-mid 70s] as if everyone in British pop was remembering the 1950s and early sixties, from Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’ to 10cc’s ‘Donna’ and Wizzard’s ‘Ball Park Incident,’ taking a self-conscious look back at an era they had originally experienced without a hint of irony.”

Saw this concert film (at concert volume) at a cincinnati cinemahouse in 1973

Good Times Roll aRoots Rock’s Reawakening:  Moving Forward (by) Looking Backward

Bob Dylan & The Band     Original Basement Tapes Sessions     1967

The Beatles     “Lady Madonna” single    1968

The Beatles     Get Back Sessions     1969

Bill Deal & the Rhondels     “May I”     1969

Sha Na Na     Woodstock Performance     1969

Bryan Ferry     These Foolish Things Sessions     1973

David Bowie     Pin Ups Sessions     1973

The Who     Quadrophenia Sessions     1973

Various Artists     American Graffiti (film)     1973

Various Artists     Let the Good Times Roll (film)     1973

David Essex (et al.)     That’ll Be the Day (film)    1973

Rockin’ Ronny     “We Like Rock and Roll”     1973

David Essex (et al.)     Stardust (film)     1974

Brian Eno     “Seven Deadly Finns”     1974

John Lennon     Roots      1975

“St. Elmo’s Fire”: A-Side Disguised as Album Track

I was amused to discover that Eric Tamm – author of Brian Eno:  His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound – shares my opinion about one particular Brian Eno composition, “St. Elmo’s Fire” (1975’s Another Green World) and its unexploited commercial value:

“St. Elmo’s Fire is the most unblushingly poppish song Eno has ever committed to record.  It was doubtless prominent in the minds of those critics who called Another Green World Eno’s most accessible album, and it is a considerable puzzle why he did not release it as a single, as it seems to have most of the ingredients of a popular hit:  conventional verse/refrain form, a lively beat, simple major tonality, pleasant and unobjectionable though original instrumentation, a dynamic guitar solo, suave falsetto harmonies on the refrain, and – most importantly- a genuine melodic/lyrical hook in the refrain (the words ‘In the blue August moon/in the cool August moon’)”:

As Tamm observes, only two musicians were involved in the song’s creation.  How fascinating to learn from the author that “before recording the ‘Wimshurst guitar’ solo on ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’, Eno asked [Robert] Fripp to visual a Wimshurst machine, which is a device for generating very high voltages, which then leap between the two poles, very fast and unpredictable.”

Wimshurt Machine in action

Wimshurt MachineOf Another Green World‘s 14 album tracks, only one (“I’ll Come Running“) would make it onto a 45 (though as a B-side), and it would be paired, curiously enough, with Eno’s cover of a 1930s folk song – “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (also “Wimoweh” but more accurately, “Mbube”) – written by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu heritage, whose family sued Disney for using the song’s use in The Lion King.  [A settlement was reached in 2006 in which (a) “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is acknowledged as derived from “Mbube”; (b) Linda is acknowledged as co-composer; and (c) Linda’s heirs will receive payment for past uses of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and an entitlement to future royalties from its worldwide use].

Rare French picture sleeve

Eno French 45