Daily Dose: ‘The Jezebel Spirit’ by Brian Eno and David Byrne

Time for a collaboration piece, between two looming musical giants who decided they wanted to muck around with found sounds for a bit. The result was the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (February 1981), which was apparently titled after a novel (in 1954) of the same name by Amos Tutuola. Look at these high thinking intellectual muso types, naming their work after books. In between their time working on Talking Heads stuff, they decided to get janky with some African and Middle Eastern rhythms and mesh them with sampled and discovered sounds to make this quirky electronic hoi polloi. It’s now regarded as something of an influential record, which is fair enough but to my mind it wasn’t doing anything with samplers that hadn’t already been done years before, it was here just two more prominent musicians doing it. Oh well, that’s star power for you, and if lots of people heard it and got ideas because of that then I guess no harm was done. The featured vocal sample is an exorcism, which is an interesting choice, and led to some people giving quite negative reviews of the song in comparison to the album Sometimes these criticisms took quite hilarious forms, such as when someone in the rolling stone magazine actually wrote that Byrne and Eno had used the exorcism for their own purposes and “trivialised the event”, which, as far as sentiments go, is a fairly daft one. You’ve not trivialised the event any more than you have trivialised any other ghost story, but it may be that the writer was a big believer in voodoo. Anyway, it makes it stand out, although I’m really here for the funky bassline and percussion, as well as the groovy guitar and clever keyboard hooks. After that, the sample is kind of window dressing.


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