Iterations: Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle”

Iterations: Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle”

If all Brian Eno ever was release the solo records he did between 1973 and 1977 – from Here Come The Warm Jets through Before And After Science – his place in the annals of pop music would be assured. But no, he did it in between between founding Roxy Music, inventing ambient music, and producing some of the greatest albums of all time so I feel like those compositions get somewhat overlooked. So here’s one of the all-out rockers from those solo records, 1974’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and an impassioned argument for its greatness.

The 801 project is an interesting one to me, because as much as one would like to think of Eno as a studio creature as a solo artist, it brought him back on stage. It was originally conceived as a three-off live ensemble led by Eno and his former bandmates Phil Manzanera (guitar), Paul Thompson (drums) and Andy Mackay (saxophone), it was basically a Bryan Ferry-less Roxy Music playing live Eno solo material, some Manzanera compositions, and a few covers. The ensuing 801 Live album came from the third of those shows in London, and closed with a thundering rendition of “Third Uncle”.

There also exists audio of the band rehearsing the song, which was released on a bonus disc of a 2006 reissue.

As for reinterpretations, you’d think there’d be more considering how much fun the song seems like it’d be to play. But of what there is, the most famous is probably by Bauhaus, being the opening track of their 1982 album The Sky’s Gone Out. It’s done mostly faithfully, save some sweet flanging on Daniel Ash’s guitar.

And them doing it live some 37 years later on their latest reunion tour – this is from the encore at a Los Angeles show in December 2019:

Now-defunct Belfast post-punkers Girls Names released a cover as the A-side of their The Next Life single in 2013:

And Built To Spill have included it in live set lists for years; here’s a performance from Sydney, Australia in 2008:

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Bernard Butler by Frank Yang
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