My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
01. America Is Waiting
02. Mea Culpa
04. Help Me Somebody
05. The Jezebel Spirit
06. Very, Very Hungry
07. Moonlight in Glory
08. The Carrier
09. A Secret Life
10. Come with Us
11. Mountain of Needles
12. Pitch to Voltage
13. Two Against Three
14. Vocal Outtakes
15. New Feet
17. Number 8 Mix
18. Solo Guitar with Tin Foil
Remastered, with bonus tracks. 2, 3, 7 and 8 are longer than on the original album
Brian Eno & David Byrne / guitars, basses, synthesizers, drums, percussion and "found objects"
- John Cooksey / drums (4)
- Chris Frantz / drums, additional arranging (3)
- Robert Fripp / additional arranging (3)
- Busta Jones / bass, additional writing and arranging (3)
- Dennis Keeley / Bodhran (2)
- Bill Laswell / bass and additional arranging (1)
- Mingo Lewis / Bata, sticks (5, 8)
- Prairie Prince / can, bass drum (5, 8)
- Jose Rossy / congas, agong-gong (7)
- Steve Scales / congas, metals (4)
- David van Tieghem / drums, percussion (1, 3), additional arranging (1)
- Tim Wright / click bass (1)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is a 1981 album by Brian Eno and David Byrne, titled after Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel of the same name.
Receiving strong reviews upon its release, My Life is now regarded as a high point in the discographies of Eno and Byrne. In a 1985 interview, singer Kate Bush remarked that the album "left a very big mark on popular music,while critic John Bush describes it as a "pioneering work for countless styles connected to electronics, ambience, and Third World music."
The extensive use of sampling on My Life is widely considered ground-breaking—it was one of the first albums to do so—but its actual influence on the sample-based music genres that later emerged continues to be debated.
Eno and Byrne first worked together while collaborating on More Songs About Buildings and Food, the 1978 album by Byrne's band Talking Heads. My Life was primarily recorded during a break between touring for Fear of Music (1979) and the recording of Remain in Light (1980), subsequent Talking Heads albums also produced by Eno, but the release was delayed while legal rights were sought for the large number of samples used throughout the album.
Drawing on funk and world music (particularly the multi-layered percussion of African music), My Life is similar to Talking Heads' music of the same era. The "found objects" credited to Eno and Byrne were common objects used mostly as percussion. In the notes for the 2006 expanded edition of the album, Byrne writes that they would often use a normal drum kit, but with a cardboard box replacing the bass drum, or a frying pan replacing the snare drum; this would blend the familiar drum sound with unusual percussive noises.
Rather than featuring conventional pop or rock singing, most of the vocals are sampled from other sources, such as commercial recordings of Arabic singers, radio disc jockeys, and an exorcist. Musicians had previously used similar sampling techniques, but critic Dave Simpsondeclares it had never before been used "to such cataclysmic effect" as on My Life.
In 2001, Q magazine asked Eno whether he and Byrne had invented sampling. His response was:
“No, there was already a history of it. People such as Holger Czukay had made experiments using IBM Dictaphones and short-wave radios and so on. The difference was, I suppose, that I decided to make it the lead vocal on the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts"
The album was recorded entirely with analogue technology, before the advent of digital sequencing and MIDI. The sampled voices were synchronized with the instrumental tracks via trial and error, a practice that was often frustrating, but which also produced several happy accidents.
Also according to Byrne's 2006 notes, neither he nor Eno had read Tutuola's novel before the album was recorded. Both were familiar with Tutuola's earlier The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952), but his My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was not easily obtained in the U.S. when the material was recorded. Even without reading the book, Eno and Byrne thought the title reflected their interest in African music, and also had an evocative, vaguely sinister quality that also referenced the voices sampled for the album: the vocalists were recorded sometimes several decades before being re-appropriated by Eno and Byrne, and the voices often seemed to take on unanticipated qualities when placed in the new context.
The album enthused Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, "knocked me sideways when I first heard it – full of drum loops, samples and soundscapes. Stuff that we really take for granted now, but which was unheard of in all but the most progressive musical circles at the time… The way the sounds were mixed in was so fresh, it was amazing."
The album was reissued on March 27, 2006 in the UK and April 11, 2006 in the US, remastered and with seven extra tracks. To mark the reissue, two songs were made available to download online, consisting of the entire multitracks. Under the Creative Commons License, members of the public are able to download the multitracks, and use them for their own remixes.
The track "Qu'ran" was excluded from this release without comment. However, in an interview for Pitchfork Media about the 2006 reissue, Byrne said:
“ Way back when the record first came out, in 1981, it might have been '82, we got a request from an Islamic organization in London, and they said, 'We consider this blasphemy that you put grooves to the chanting of the Holy Book.' And we thought, 'Okay, in deference to somebody's religion, we'll take it off.' You could probably argue for and against monkeying with something like that. But I think we were certainly feeling very cautious about this whole thing. We made a big effort to try and clear all the voices, and make sure everybody was okay with everything. Because we thought, 'We're going to get accused of all kinds of things, and so we want to cover our asses as best we can.' So I think in that sense we reacted maybe with more caution than we had to. But that's the way it was."
While discussing the re-release in 2006, the two began collaborating again on a new project that became the album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which was independently released in 2008. Byrne toured to promote his collaborations with Eno in 2008 and 2009, resulting in the release of the live EP Everything That Happens Will Happen on This Tour – David Byrne on Tour: Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno featuring a performance of "Help Me Somebody" in 2008.
For me this among the finest Brian Eno albums I have yet heard, and also one of the best 1980's rock releases along with King Crimson's discipline-era releases. The album takes its title from a book of African writer Amos Tutuola, whose fascinating story tells of tale of young boy, who escapes in a bush during a slave raid. The bush happens to be a place of ghosts and spirits, and the boy gets trapped in a parallel world full of African spiritual mythology. As the writer discusses the relations of Africa and Western world, this record also fusions elements from both western and world music to its expressive musical idioms. The overall sound is rough but enchanting, and the tracks are constructed from sampled loops and different tape excerpts. I can't name really any highlights or duller tracks from this album, as the album works as a really compact and alluring listening entity. Maybe the coolest sound elements in the mixture are the Islamic vocal passages sampled over the drum loops, creating really dense and exotic feeling. If you like Talking Heads, 1980's King Crimson and ethnic music, I would really recommend listen to this singular album.