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Tuesday, August 24, 1999

A Letter To Robert

Dear Robert,

I hope you’re all settling into the new office, house, etc. Thought I’d add to your groaning in-tray.

Here’s an outline of a project I’m working on at the moment.

King Crimson – Track By Track
An Enthusiast’s Guide To King Crimson
(stunningly original isn’t it ?)
The intention would be to produce a critical overview and guide to KC’s output which would have two aims.

Firstly, to provide a new listener with a guide to the background and context of a given track or album (from a fan’s perspective)

Secondly, offer the seasoned, grizzled veteran Crimhead a critical view to which they could test their own opinions and no doubt compare it their own copious notes collected over the years.

Essentially, it's my ears view of Crimson. After 27 years of active listening and much enthusing I figure I could give it a go, making it readable, useful and fun.

Basically, I'd like a handy guide myself and as far as I know, nobody else is doing anything like this. I always enjoy listening to something and comparing it to the thoughts and views of another reviewer or writer.

So, in answer to the question who is it for – it’s for folks like me (there must be some ?). Perhaps it's therapy ? If it wasn't this I might take up yoghurt weaving at the local comprehensive of an evening.

Basically, it'd be along the lines of one of those Omnibus Press books (the complete guide to . . .)which offer an album by album, track by track overview. Short, snappy and sometimes outspoken.

I have neither the skill or the aspiration to produce an academic rumination along the lines of Tamm or Martin. I'm not interested in whether or not it was a G# or B7th on Cat Food or the iconic significance of Fracture (although I am if you know what I mean.)

I want to know whether it was played live, when it was written and the fact that Annie Ross did a cover version of it in her live set in the early 70's. (Blow me, I can recall hearing an album on which I heard her sing Cat Food on as a tender teenager). Also whether or not I think it’s any good or whether it’s a bit of noodling. The dirt and the dogs bollocks by any other name.

Anyway, the crux of the nub is this;

Would DGM consider giving me permission to quote from scrap books and sleeve notes ?

Would DGM consider giving me permission to use official photo’s of the band past and present ? (I guess I’d have to approach Virgin regarding the reproduction of the album covers ?).

Would you consent to some limited co-operation with the project ? This could take the form of responding to specific queries about a particular track.

For example when I asked you my burning question about the recording of Islands and in particular the solo on Sailor’s Tale at the Soundscapes playback a couple of years ago.

Would there be any possibility of access to information on alternative running orders for albums / which tracks were tackled first, etc.? ( more rummaging in those boxes I know).

Some contact addresses for past members and some of the peripheral personnel such as recording engineers ( or at least pointers in the direction of)

Knowing that you find such projects onerous, I’ve talked to Trey and Pat who’ve indicated that they’d be willing to consider some questions and requests for information. So, it doesn’t have to come from a busy Robert or the good folks in DGMland.

Any way, I know it’s a long shot but as I’ve said to you before – shy bairns get nowt.

Let me know what you think. See you October in London.

Best wishes


Thursday, August 05, 1999

On Becoming Sid Smith

On 21st March 1973 KC played at the City Hall in Newcastle up in the North East of England. Having seen Crimson with Jamie Muir in the line up just four months earlier, there was a substantial buzz of pre-gig excitement amongst our long haired throng. After weeks of waiting, the prize was in sight. Only one thing in the way of our intended goal – the hapless support act.

On this occasion, the victim was a young singer songwriter called Claire Hammil. Normally, we would listen to such acts in a disinterested or slightly grumpy silence but on this night, we were brim full of testosterone and in no mood to hear delicate songs of love and woe. So, we started heckling. My fellow Crimchums we were awful. We were worse than awful. We were in the front row.

We mocked and taunted as she struggled through her set. About mid way she tried to talk to the crowd “Is there anybody out there called Sidney ?” she implored. Much to her chagrin, I yelled “MEEEEEE!!!” Our eyes met, she sighed and said “Oh well, this one’s for you. It’s called Sidney Gorgeous”.

Not long after that fateful song, a stoic Claire H finished her set and slouched off stage. We all felt very clever with ourselves for having made her life hell. A few minutes later KC took to the stage but that’s another story.

And the point is ? I wasn’t called Sidney at all. 16 years previously, I had been christened Colin Henry Smith. Not a hint or a whiff of being called Sid had ever come into my life.

However, from that moment onward, I was Sid. For about a week the Gorgeous remained in place but after that, for some inexplicable reason it was dropped and I became just plain Sid Smith.

Since that night, friends, family and even the folks at work call me Sid. It felt and feels comfortable. I felt confident in a way I never had before. As the poet once said, I could now “wrestle poodles and win !”

To this day I don’t feel like a Colin. Or even a Colin Henry. I realised I must have always been called Sid somewhere inside and had only been waiting for the right time for it to be revealed to me.

So, a belated public thanks and apology to Claire Hammil. Thanks for my name and I’m sorry my mates and I were such a pain in the butt that night.


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