A number of rock bands have brought in classical “string sections” featuring violins to add a depth to their songs. Not too many have brought in violins to be a rock instrument though…but many of the ones which did looked to today’s birthday boy – Eddie Jobson. We wish Eddie a happy 66th!
66 might seem surprisingly young for a guy who rose to fame in the first half of the ’70s, but Jobson started into music young. He learned to play piano and violin before eight and was in an orchestra by the age of 12 in his northern England home. Credit his dad for a lot of that; the senior Jobson was a talented pianist and a promoter of sorts who brought traveling orchestras in to play in their town.
At the young age of 17 he joined a band called Fat Grapple, which turned into the critically-acclaimed Curved Air. He did double duty on keyboards and violin with them. But his stay there was brief because another job came knocking. His sister and Bryan Ferry’s sister were roommates, so Eddie met the singer and got to play on Ferry’s first solo album, These Foolish Things. Naturally enough when synthesizer-wiz Brian Eno quit Roxy Music, Ferry invited Jobson to take his place. Which he did, becoming an integral part of the experimental and diverse sound of that band’s middle period run of the Stranded, Country Life and Siren albums.
He picks “A Song for Europe” and “Out of the Blue” as his two favorite songs he worked on with them. “I think I influenced the sound and style of those two more than any others,” he said. Indeed, probably the most compelling part of the latter is Jobson’s other-worldly electric violin work, which would stand with the best-ever solos for that instrument in rock… although admittedly, the list wouldn’t be a long one to start with!
When Roxy Music went on hiatus in 1976, Procol Harum came calling, but he instead decided to join an even more experimental band, Frank Zappa’s backing one. Along the way, he managed to do session work with John Entwistle, King Crimson and Andy Mackay as well as begin a prog-rock band called UK, with John Wetton among others. “Looking back at the ’70s England, undoubtedly there was a progressive musical culture that energized itself. We were all pushing each other to higher levels,” he said recently.
In the ’80s, the still young Jobson had the distinction of being in a Yes video and technically being a member of that prog-rock group… although he never played on a record of theirs or in concert with them. Turns out they recruited him for the ’83 comeback 90125, shot the video for “Owner of a Lonely Heart” with him, but a dispute over what his role would be in the band led him to leave as quickly as he’d joined. Instead he put out his first solo record, The Green Album. It was the only record in which we hear Eddie sing, and was primarily an entirely solo work (with only a few guitar and bass bits being given out to session musicians). the album used a bevy of then-in-vogue synthesizers and garnered decent reviews. Allmusic didn’t like the lyrics much but felt it an “honest effort” albeit it one with songs about an “Orwellian dystopian future” and felt that “Green Face” and “Resident” were “two of the best synth-pop songs produced in that era.” Few people seemed to hear it to decide though; the album didn’t do well commercially. Jobson figures that might be partly because of music’s changing character then.
“After the Beatles, the whole push was to be original and innovative…unfortunately, that all started to change in the late-’70s as huge profits were being generated. The ‘genius’ businessmen fully took over and generally viewed originality as too risky.”
As a result, the innovator’s workload as a solo artist and session player diminished in the ’80s, with him turning his attention more to music for TV shows and commercials. He scored the show Nash Bridges in the ’90s for several years.
Of late, he’s been known to play some concerts with versions of the UK band and is a consultant to a Texas keyboard company. Largely though he’s content to spend his time cycling and checking out restaurants – “my wife and I are both big foodies,” he says. His output may be low of late, but not his fame. In 2017 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Progressive Music Awards and in ’19 he was named as one of the members of Roxy Music inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
And what has his work with the greats like Roxy Music, Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa taught him? “Bryan, Frank, and Ian (Anderson of Tull) helped to reinforce the idea that when you know who you are and what you are meant to be doing in life, you have to stick with it through the resistance and adversity.” Timeless advice from one of the contributors to some of rock’s timeless works.