My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (album)

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My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.jpg
Studio album by Brian Eno and David Byrne
Released February 1981 (1981-02) (see release history)
Recorded August 4, 1979 – October 1980
Genre Experimental rock, worldbeat, funk
Length 39:40
Language English, Arabic
Label Sire/Warner Bros.
(first and second pressings),
Nonesuch/Elektra (third pressing)
Producer Brian Eno and David Byrne
Brian Eno and David Byrne chronology
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
David Byrne chronology
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
The Catherine Wheel
Brian Eno chronology
Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Ambient 4: On Land
2006 Re-issue Cover
Singles from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
  1. "America Is Waiting"
    Released: 1981
  2. "The Jezebel Spirit"
    Released: 1981
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau C+[2]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[3]
Drowned in Sound (2006 re-issue) 4/5 stars[4]
The Guardian (2006 re-issue) 5/5 stars[5]
The Independent (2006 re-issue) 5/5 stars[6]
The Observer (2006 re-issue) 4/5 stars[7]
Pitchfork Media (2006 re-issue) 8.5/10[8]
The Times (2006 re-issue) 5/5 stars[9]
Uncut (2006 re-issue) 4.5/5 stars[10]

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. The album was re-released in expanded form in 2006.

While it received mixed reviews upon its release, My Life is now widely regarded as a high point in the discographies of Eno and Byrne.[11][12] Critic John Bush describes it as a "pioneering work for countless styles connected to electronics, ambience, and Third World music",[13] and in a 1985 interview, singer Kate Bush remarked that the album "left a very big mark on popular music".[14] The extensive use of sampling on the album is widely considered ground-breaking—it was one of the first to do so—but its actual influence on the sample-based music genres that later emerged continues to be debated.[15][16]

Pitchfork Media listed My Life in the Bush of Ghosts as the 21st best album of the 1980s. Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 83 on its list of the "Best Albums of 1980s".[17]


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.[18] An experimental work[19][20] that draws on on funk[1] and world music[1] (particularly the multi-layered percussion of African music), My Life bears similarities to Talking Heads' music of the same era. Eno described the album as a "vision of a psychedelic Africa."[21]

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 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 Simpson[22] declares 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. He replied:

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."[24]

25th anniversary re-release[edit]

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:

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.


Original package design was created by Peter Saville.

For the re-release, the new artwork was designed by Peter Buchanan-Smith, with booklet cover images and studio photography by Hugh Brown.

Track listing[edit]

Original LP (1981)[edit]

All tracks written by Eno/Byrne except as indicated. Notes below indicated the voices sampled, from the liner notes:

Side one
  1. "America Is Waiting" (arranged by Eno, Byrne, Bill Laswell, Tim Wright, David Van Tieghem) – 3:36
  2. "Mea Culpa" – 3:35
    • Inflamed caller and smooth politician replying, both unidentified. Radio call-in show, New York, July 1979.
  3. "Regiment" (Eno, Byrne, Michael "Busta Cherry" Jones / arranged by Eno, Byrne, Jones, Chris Frantz and Robert Fripp) – 3:56
    • Dunya Yunis,[27] Lebanese mountain singer, from The Human Voice in the World of Islam (Tangent Records TGS131)
  4. "Help Me Somebody" – 4:18
    • Reverend Paul Morton, broadcast sermon, New Orleans, June 1980.
  5. "The Jezebel Spirit" – 4:55
    • Unidentified exorcist, New York, September 1980.
Side two
  1. "Qu'ran" – 3:46
    • Algerian Muslims chanting the Qur'an. (same source as track 3)
  2. "Moonlight in Glory" – 4:19
  3. "The Carrier" – 3:30
    • Dunya Yunis. (same source as track 3)
  4. "A Secret Life" – 2:30
  5. "Come with Us" – 2:38
    • Unidentified radio evangelist, San Francisco, April 1980
  6. "Mountain of Needles" – 2:35

In the 1982 second edition, the track "Qu'ran"—which features samples of Qur'anic recital—was removed at the request of the Islamic Council of Great Britain. In its place "Very, Very Hungry" (the B-side of "The Jezebel Spirit" 12" EP)[28] was substituted. The first edition of the CD (1986) included both tracks, with "Very, Very Hungry" as a bonus track. Later editions (1990 and later) followed the revised LP track order without "Qu'ran."


A widely circulated bootleg of outtakes was released in 1992 as Klondyke Records KR 21. Sound quality is nearly equal to the original CD release.

  1. "Interview" – 3:03 (excerpt from Brian's February 2, 1980 KPFA-FM interview, where he discusses recording the album)
  2. "Mea Culpa" – 4:56
  3. "Into the Spirit Womb" [sic](actual title as spoken on the track is "Into the Spirit World") – 6:07 ("The Jezebel Spirit" with the original Kathryn Kuhlman vocals, which her estate refused to license)
  4. "Regiment"  (Byrne, Eno, Jones) – 4:13
  5. "The Friends of Amos Tutuola" – 2:01 ("Two Against Three" in the official 2006 re-release)
  6. "America Is Waiting"  (Byrne, Eno, Laswell, Wright, Van Tieghem) – 3:42
  7. "The Carrier" – 4:22
  8. "Very Very Hungry" – 3:25
  9. "On the Way to Zagora" – 2:43 ("Pitch to Voltage" in the official 2006 re-release)
  10. "Les Hommes Ne Le Sauront Jamais" – 3:33 ("Number 8 Mix" in the official 2006 re-release)
  11. "A Secret Life" – 2:34
  12. "Come with Us" – 2:42
  13. "Mountain of Needles" – 2:31

Except as noted, the tracks are the same mix as originally released.

2006 re-release[edit]

Remastered, with bonus tracks. 2, 3, 7 and 8 are longer than on the original album.

  1. "America Is Waiting"  (Byrne, Eno, Laswell, Wright, Van Tieghem) – 3:38
  2. "Mea Culpa" – 4:57
  3. "Regiment"  (Byrne, Eno, Jones) – 4:11
  4. "Help Me Somebody" – 4:17
  5. "The Jezebel Spirit" – 4:56
  6. "Very, Very Hungry" – 3:21
  7. "Moonlight in Glory" – 4:30
  8. "The Carrier" – 4:19
  9. "A Secret Life" – 2:31
  10. "Come with Us" – 2:42
  11. "Mountain of Needles" – 2:39
  12. "Pitch to Voltage" – 2:38
  13. "Two Against Three" – 1:55
  14. "Vocal Outtakes" – 0:36
  15. "New Feet" – 2:26
  16. "Defiant" – 3:41
  17. "Number 8 Mix" – 3:30
  18. "Solo Guitar with Tin Foil" – 3:00


Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Worldwide 1980 Sire LP 1-6093
CD 2-6093
1981 E'G 48
1988 Sire 2-6093
Cassette tape 4-6093
1990 CD 2-45374
1991 LP 1-45374
Cassette tape 4-45374
1999 EMI CD 0777 7 86473 2 4
Sire 45374
2006 Nonesuch 79894

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1981) Peak
UK Albums Chart 29
New Zealand Albums Chart[30] 8
US Albums Chart 44
Chart (2006) Peak
Belgian (Flanders) Albums Chart[31] 62


  1. ^ a b c Bush, John. David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  2. ^ "Robert Christgau: CG: Brian Eno/David Byrne". 1981. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  3. ^ "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by David Byrne and Brian Eno". Rolling Stone. 1981-04-02. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  4. ^ Williams, Gen (2006-03-27). "Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts / Releases / Releases // Drowned in Sound". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  5. ^ Dave Simpson (2006-03-24). "CD: Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Jason Cowley (2006-03-19). "Reissue of the month: Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life In the Bush of Ghosts | The Observer". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  8. ^ Dahlen, Chris (2006-03-23). "David Byrne & Brian Eno, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  9. ^ "Brian Eno / David Byrne". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  10. ^ p.119, Apr 2006
  11. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-21570-6. 
  12. ^ Brian Eno + David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts : Reviews
  13. ^ Bush, John. "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". AllMusic. 
  14. ^ Gaffaweb - Kate Bush - REACHING OUT - MTV - Unedited
  15. ^ Fact Magazine: "The Essential... Brian Eno - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts"
  16. ^ Popmatters Review: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (2006 Reissue)
  17. ^ "Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  18. ^ Bush of Ghosts- Making Of Essay by David Byrne, 2005.
  19. ^ Link Bob W., White (2012). Music and Globalization: Critical Encounters. Bloomingtom: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-35712-0. 
  20. ^ Exclaim
  21. ^ Sounds
  22. ^ Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts | | Arts
  23. ^ Sheppard, David (July 2001). "Cash for Questions". Q. 
  24. ^ Q, November 1996
  25. ^ Dahlen, Chris (2006-07-17). "Interviews: David Byrne". Pitchfork Media. 
  26. ^ album and video web page
  27. ^ Feld, Steven; Kirkegaard, Annemette (2010), Entangled Complicities in the Prehistory of 'World Music': Poul Rovsing Olsen and Jean Jenkins Encounter Brian Eno and David Byrne in the Bush of Ghosts, Popular Musicology Online, ISSN 1357-0951, retrieved 2012-05-11 
  28. ^ Brian Eno Discography (official)
  29. ^ [2]
  30. ^ " – Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  31. ^ " – Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts". Ultratop. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 

External links[edit]