Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brian Eno "Needles in the Camel's Eye" - An appreciation of, plus 12 interpretations.

All mysteries are just more needles in the camel's eye.

This is the second in my "appreciation" series, with Eddie and the Hot Rod's "Do Anything You Wanna Do" from August of last year being the premiere.  It's hard to believe that the first song on the first side of the first Brian Eno album (Here Come the Warm Jets) was so utterly enthralling and sublime that it would literally be all downhill for the man from there, but it was those very heights "Needles in the Camel's Eye" ascended to when it was unleashed on the public in 1974.  Certainly, the remainder of Warm Jets was great, as were many of Eno's solo albums to follow, but that song, is so undeniable.  A dense, three-minute, manicured maelstrom exuding such a visceral rush that I'm still virtually apt to stop dead in my tracks the very instant guitarist Phil Manzaneras paints the entire canvas in one fell swoop with that hyper-hypnotic riff, blissfully unrelenting for the entirety of the song.  And so advanced for it's time I might add, especially considering that even David Bowie didn't concoct anything remotely similar beforehand.  

So far as lyrical analysis is concerned, it's tempting to not even approach it's "deeper meaning," given there's a verse in the song that outright begs "Why ask why?"  The song's title is derived from a Biblical passage that says to the effect:

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Yet "...Camel's Eye" doesn't broach the heady topic of religion at all.  Uultimately, the song is a commentary on the resignation of the absurd and unexplained, and thus reading into it too deeply would be a contradiction unto itself.  Enjoy it for what it is, and if you're anything like me, you might just find it to be in inseparable part of your life. 

Though I haven't included the original studio version, there is a vintage, live incarnation of the song with Brian Eno and the Winkies, alongside renditions by Waxing Poetics, Volcano Suns, Elf Power, The Konks, Mary My Hope, and even '80s goth-rock footnotes Specimen.  Absent is Queens of the Stoneage's version, so my apologies in advance.  If you're still hungry, a quick search for the song on You Tube will generate about a dozen live clips of the song performed by a cavalcade of virtual unknowns.


jonder said...

Great song choice! There's also a recent cover version worth hearing by the Wolfmen (featuring the marvelous Marco Pirroni on lead guitar).

jonder said...

Late postscript: One of my favorite Buzzcocks songs, "Running Free", very closely resembles "Needles in the Camel's Eye".

Ross Brown said...

One last request for you. Can you please repost? No hurry, whenever your schedule permits.

BTW, while I love this song and the entire album, I am not sure this is my favorite of Eno's from the big first four album period (Warm Jets, Tiger Mountain, Science, Green World.) Not included on the original albums but from the same era is perhaps my favorite of his pop songs, Miss Shapiro, which later appeared on 801 Live.

Anyway, I'll say it again, thanks for this excellent blog. Some real gems in here.

Bruno said...

I'd love to see this re-upped, if you can!

NewYorkMatt said...

It has been far from downhill for Brian eno since “needles in the camels eye.”