Brian Eno turned 60 this week.

Since his days at Winchester School of Art in the late ‘60s, when he was nearly kicked out for being a “disruptive element,” Brian Eno has always been a provocateur.

Stylistically and philosophically restless, the co-creator (along with Peter Schmidt) of Oblique Strategies and founding member of art-rock dandies Roxy Music has unexpectedly become a big-name producer of such equally big-name acts as Paul Simon, U2, and now Coldplay.

Quite frankly, the very thought of listening to Coldplay (or, ugh, U2) makes me break out in hives. But I appreciate Eno’s sneaky ability to simultaneously operate above and below the radar —it’s a talent that should not be underestimated. (The Windows98 start-up theme? That’s Eno’s. But he’s also mapped his own scents, shot his own videos, and organized numerous artistic collaborations.)

Eno’s greatest talent as a producer has been the ability to encourage bands to throw out their carefully constructed rulebooks and start fresh, often with startling results. (See Talking Heads’ stylistic transformation under Eno’s watch from angular downtown doyennes to funkified worldbeat ambassadors.)

His own music has been no less startling. Widely credited with inventing Ambient in 1978 (Ambient I: Music for Airports), Eno’s own stylistic restlessness has led to the creation of a subtle, challenging body of work that, despite its magpie impatience to settle on a single aesthetic, ultimately coheres into something weird but wonderful.

Happy birthday.

Brian Eno | Eno Shop

MP3Brian Eno, “Third Uncle” (from Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy)

MP3Brian Eno, “Dead Finks Don’t Talk” (from Here Come the Warm Jets )