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Brian Eno got annoyed at The Who's "lightweight" songs: "what are they doing releasing this kind of material?"

56 years on from the UK release of The Who's My Generation, Brian Eno reflects on his initial distaste for the material they subsequently released in an interview with superproducer Rick Rubin for the Broken Record podcast.

Speaking to Rubin about music that he at first didn't recognise the value in, but later ended up loving, Eno used The Who's 1966 single Happy Jack as an example. “I really admired The Who, I loved My Generation and things like that. Then, they released a song called Happy Jack. I thought, they shouldn’t release lightweight material like this." Eno told Rubin. 

I even wrote to Pete Townshend, saying, 'you shouldn’t be releasing stuff like this!'

"They are a serious, revolutionary, radical band, what are they doing releasing this kind of material? I even wrote to Pete Townshend, saying, ‘you shouldn’t be releasing stuff like this! You’re much too important!'” 

However, Eno later reconsidered, eventually coming around to seeing the single's accessibility and simplicity as what made it great. “It was about three or four months later that I suddenly got it, that this was a kind of pop art." he continued. "That’s a real example of something where I had a real change of mind.”

Elsewhere in the podcast, Eno spoke about how he has an uncanny ability to foresee musical trends, even going so far as to suggest he inadvertently predicted the birth of hip-hop in the back of a cab with Talking Heads' David Byrne. 

I suddenly had this vision of a popular music that had heavy beats, and speech

"In music, I very often have a pretty good feeling of what is about to happen." he said. "I remember saying to David Byrne - we were in a car in Los Angeles in 1980 - and I said: ‘I think there is going to be a kind of music where people shout poetry over beats’… and indeed there was." Eno told Rubin.

“It wasn’t entirely an unscripted idea. I’d heard something on NPR, it was a poet, a Black poet from somewhere in America, reading this poem called Cadillac. I spent years trying to find this, but I never found it. 

"He did this amazing, very rhythmic poem about how he he wanted a pink Cadillac, and how cool it was. I thought: this is a new kind of music. I suddenly had this vision of a popular music that had heavy beats, and speech. Not songs."

Brian Eno spoke with Rick Rubin for the Broken Record podcast.

I'm the Features Editor for MusicRadar, working on everything from artist interviews to tech tutorials. I've been writing about (and making) electronic music for almost ten years, and when I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard or a synthesizer. 

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