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Monday, January 31, 2000

Consigned to obscurity

Slept in this morning. Feeling as though I had too much to drink last night despite the fact that not one drop of alcohol touched my lips. The boys were duly rounded up and we headed for the bus stop, busily discussing last night’s gripping instalment of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and making the bus with moments to spare.

The sky is a bluey vastness flecked with bright yellow and gold.

On the bus, Tom and Joe take out their books and I snuggle down for the half hour journey to read Peter Ackroyd’s gripping account of William Blake and his universe. Consigned to obscurity all his life and regarded mad by many, Blake’s faith and conviction appears to have been unshakeable. Though plagued by doubts and frustration, his commitment to his vision was total.

Spoke to Russell Mills today. I started to give him the introblurb. Rather ominously, he said that Richard Chadwick had told him all about me. Russell is well known for his book covers, installation work and album covers. He is also a composer whose album Undark boasts a cast of stellar support and is well worth a listen. We had to cut the conversation short because it was a bad time due to kids and stuff but have agreed to pick up tomorrow.

I’m talking to Russell to see if he’d be interested in doing some work at the small gallery we run. His image-baking style and the use of sound would make for an interesting and challenging piece of work.

This year we should see an exhibition of prints by Tom Phillips (cover artist for KC’s SABB and Eno’s Another Green World, etc.) and hopefully a show by PJ Crook sometime around January 2001.

Following a long meeting I call in on Chris Taberham, a chum of some 25 years and counting. Chris is a supporter of RF and KC’s music though doesn’t keep up to date with all the twists and turns of the Crimson path. Not one to mince his words, Chris sits me down and plays me Healthy Colours by Fripp and Eno and asks “What on Earth were they thinking of putting that stuff out ?”.

I confess to him that I know little or nothing surrounding the lineage of Healthy Colours or the reasons for its inclusion on The Essential Fripp & Eno (with a cover by Russell Mills ???). Chris goes on to say “I can see how The Heavenly Music Corporation can be called essential but Healthy Colours ?”

So, has anyone got any take on this track and where it came from ? To my ears it sounds very similar to Can but without the interesting bits.

Today is the last day of January which means tomorrow morning I get to turn over my Mark Rothko calendar. January is represented by Violet Center. Who knows what delights February will bring.

Sunday, January 30, 2000

What is the price of Experience?

7.45 a.m.

Up early and laying awake in the grey half-light. Debbie fast asleep. Along the landing I hear the yelp of surprise and then the thunder of not so tiny feet as Joseph hurtles along to our bedroom. Joe burst's through the door, snapped all the lights on and shouted “The Tooth Fairy’s been !!!!! Look !!!” holding a fifty pence piece up as proud as punch.

Through squinting eyes, I offer words of support and encouragement. It seems like a good point at which to get up and begin the day. It’s a little before 6.30 a.m.

Last night, one of Joe’s front teeth fell out and in the time-honoured tradition, the tooth was placed underneath his pillow and magically transformed into dosh. When I was a child it was a sixpence piece. Inflation I guess.

A deep smouldering dawn smears across the sky from the little Bay of Cullercoats. Half an hour later, it’s all gone and replaced by a bleak grey.

I have a cautious look at last night’s writing and I’m pleasantly surprised. Not too bad. At least there’s something to work with. Checking the e-mail, I see a post from Bill Rieflin or Picky FC, as I now know him.

In an exchange of posts which may well alter the course of future Anglo –American relations, Bill brings me up to speed with his favourite Bonzo track which turns out to be the wild and wacky Keynsham.

If anyone hasn’t checked out the guitar Craft diaries they should do so. Instructive, informative and fun. Hadn’t realised that Steve Ball had printed up my posts to him earlier in the month praising both Twilight and the excellent Greenthumb project. Also reading Bill and Steve’s description of life in Seattle made me pine for the Fjords. I would love to get back to there sometime.

Following Bill’s and posts from Hernan and Jonathan Brainin, dark plans of a transatlantic nature are half hatched and swirl around my head.

Eventually, the airborne thoughts settle next to the small pile of unpaid bills and credit card receipts and are thus dispatched to the dustbin of unfulfilled aspiration and vainglorious desire, next to drawer marked Shirt.

The housework was undertaken with the aid of KC’s Thrak. Usually KC’s music produces a substandard quality of cleaning but today it seems to have worked out a treat.

In a post-cleaning chill out phase, I listen to the various versions of Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part from the Alina CD released on ECM’s new series and catch up with the DGM diary of Andrew Keeling.

In today’s entry he examines the MS he sent me comparing Flight of The Ibis and Cadence & Cascade. Though it’s fairly technical stuff, I follow it through just enough for it to spark some powerful associations and give me a nudge toward some writing.


Elsewhere in the house the boys are playing an elaborate game involving bits of wood, old stereo’s, paper and de-tuned hand radio’s. Debbie and our house pest (an old colleague of Debbie’s from Birmingham) are laying the table in readiness for the sumptuous feast we are about to receive. Alys continues to be bored and in a strop because her attempt to re-produce an illustration copied from a book hasn’t turned out the way she wants.

Debbie and I take a look at the diary and discover that we have no further visitors until mid February. We enjoy having people coming to stay but it can get a bit tiring. Our policy with guests is to wine and dine them but also give them (and us) enough space so we can each do our own thing.

The afternoon sees the boys doing their homework, Sam bakes a rousing tray of buttery flapjacks and Debbie and her chum head off to see Sleepy Hollow (geddit ? Head off ???? Oh well please yerself.)


Having a the mental retention of a hamster, I rarely read one book at a time and hop between various tomes and magazines. So, today I’ve dipped into an appraisal of the painter Francis Bacon, Harry Potter and the biography of William Blake by Peter Ackroyd. This well known quote stopped me in my tracks.

"What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song?
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
And in the withered field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain."

The first time I heard was back in the early seventies and I think it was played by the Mike Westbrook brass band and declaimed by Phil Minton. It sent shivers up my spine then and many years later, it’s chilling power remains undiminished.

Saturday, January 29, 2000

Hooray for synchronicity, chance happenings and the slow turning of the world.


A morning of wild weather.

Blazing sun and blustering wind. The air seems full of urban debris such as plastic bags and newspapers flapping past the window. The surface of the sea is ripped by a myriad of white and gun metal grey. Its such an austere beauty and such a dangerous one. The news at lunch time tells the story of shipwrecked fishing boats and record gusts of winds.

The boys continue to draw amazingly vibrant pictures with oil pastels and Debbie and I sit drinking tea bathed in a glorious light. We talk about those little voices in our heads which tell us that what we are doing is flawed and worthless. Where do they come from ? How are they put there ?

As Tom and Joe draw with complete freedom and confidence, I marvel at their exuberance and lack of worry about judgement from their peers or elders.

Then, Debbie and I look back on how we all allow these negative whispers to undermine our confidence. As a teacher she’s very well aware of the impact her comments have on the pupils in her class. We can all trace moments back where we are told that what we are doing is bad and unworthy and how that commentary has informed many aspects of our lives.

It often seems like we have an in-built brake which prevents us from accepting complements or from allowing us to feel good about our achievements. The trick is trying to overcome these hideous whispers and try and turn them around.


Debbie out shopping with the guests and the weather calms down. An e-mail in from Hernan Nunez,Guitar Craft geezer and the man with the plan for David Bowie's headgear on the Serious Moonlight Tour. He tells me that Santos Luminosos have recorded a new album entitled Onion Butterfly, though a release date has yet to be confirmed. The last album by Santos, Metalambiente, was chock full of great little tunes, some nifty playing and a very cheeky wholesale lifting of a rhythm track which originally belonged on Trey Gunn's 1000 Years album.

In his post Hernan commented that the forthcoming Guitar Craft course in both North and South America are a great opportunity to re-charge the batteries. How right he is. I've only been to two level ones but I can say that they led onto (or made possible) decisive and defining moments in my life. As Herni comments, they're really about finding out yourself as much as anything else.

Of course I don't think I've played the guitar with any kind of frequency since Alfeld (1998). However, the lessons for me have been about something quite different other than learning to play a sequence of notes and so have been truly valuable and well worth the difficulties I experienced in getting to them.


Finished a small painting of a featureless head comprised of sludgey grey and black. I recognises this face as belonging to one of those whisperer's that come to undermine us. Looking at it, I feel better.


Well, the big news from the yellow room in Whitley Bay is the howling gale force winds seem to have blown the blockage away. Actually , it was after reading Pat Mastelotto’s web site. I put Thrak on and the write stuff started to flow. During this, I e-mailed Pat M to ask permission to use some quotes from his web-site.

As quick as a flash Pat, e-mailed me back to say it was fine to use the quotes and that he was busy at work on the Nashville ’97 recordings for Collectors Club release. Whilst sound buddy and garage inhabitant, Bill Munyon was busy tweaking Project X material this very afternoon.

Hooray for synchronicity, chance happenings and the slow turning of the world.


The little pool of inspiration and writing has dried up but I don’t feel bad about it at all. So, with nothing better to do, I send to the following e-mail to some e-chums.

Hi gang

Would you say that Thrak was the 15th official KC release ? Not counting TGD or FxF and other re-releases ? Or would you include those as well ? If so, what number release would Thrak be ?

I swear I have not been taking drugs.


Well, if you think it’s bad enough me asking the question just look at what the mail box brought in. First up from Old Muckraker’s Almanac;

Sid! God, this is confusing!

Personally, I WOULD count The Great Deceiver, just as I would count USA or Earthbound, as an "official" release. But I WOULDN'T count The Young Persons' Guide..., The Compact King Crimson or Frame By Frame (and its even-more-confusing shorter spin-offs, Sleepless and Heartbeat) because they are compilations, mainly of previously released material.

Using the criteria above, I DO make THRAK the 15th official album. However, if you count the YPG, the CompaKCt and FxF it's the 18th.

Unless you count Sleepless: The Concise KC (in which case it's the 19th) and/or Heartbeat: The Abbreviated... (then it's the 20th).

Are you awake at the back?


PS: Although I suppose some people might not count VROOM as a full album release, more of an EP-type thing....But I don't count myself as one of this frankly weird and sad breakaway faction. Hey Sid! Got any more great questions?

And just when you thought the flapping of anoraks couldn’t get any louder, Darren Woolsey, ex-editor of KC fanzine We’ll Let You Know, wades in with this offering;

By my feeble reckoning, there are 24 "album titles" that have appeared under the Crimson umbrella since 1969, and here I am counting the live albums as "compilations"
Earthbound, USA etc. I have also counted such stuff as Young Person's Guide, Compact, and Concise as they all featured the name Crimson. I have a niggling feeling something is missing here.....and don't count my release years as gospel, this is all off the top of my head, and my head is still cloudy with cold, but anyway, by this yardstick, THRAK is number 18th in the order of things. If you discount "compilations", but keep "live albums", then THRAK is number 15 as you suggest.

1. ITCOTCK 1969
2. ITWOP 1970
3. ISLANDS 1971
4. EARTHBOUND 1971 live compilation
7. RED 1974
8. USA 1974 live compilation
9. YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO 1976 ish (separate single released to coincide with double comp LP, single CD)
11. BEAT 1982
13. COMPACT KING CRIMSON 1986 compilation double LP (single CD)
14. GREAT DECEIVER 1992 live 4CD compilation
15. Essential King Crimson: FRAME BY FRAME 1993 compilation 4CD of live and studio
16. Sleepless: THE CONCISE KING CRIMSON 1993 compilation CD (pocket edition of Frame by Frame)
17. VROOOM 1994 mini EP
18. THRAK 1995
19. B'Boom live 1995
20. THRaKaTTaK 1996
21. Epitaph live 1997 compilation
22. The Nightwatch live 1997 compilation
23. Absent Lovers live 1998 compilation
24. Cirkus live 1999 compilation

Of course, by using the word compilation in respect of albums like Earthbound and Absent Lovers, Darren has sparked off another debate - when is a compilation not a compilation ?

Listen, don’t let anyone tell you Saturday nights aren’t anything but a white knuckled roller coaster of pure joy and entertainment. Anyone else want to join in the fun ?

Friday, January 28, 2000

Daubing To Arvo

7.15 a.m.

Back in December ’99 I commented on a radio programme where I heard Fripp standing in as a DJ. My memory of it recalls hearing a track which I was confident was an early playing of Red. I say this because when Red was eventually released, I had a flash of recognition when I heard the title track.

Well, it seems my memory has tricked me. An e-chum tells me that no such track appears on the recording of the show they have. Drat and double drat. Just goes to show how wrong you can be. Apparently, the show did contain a couple of tracks from Giles, Giles & Fripp. Is it possible I could have mistaken the delicate sixties sounds for the mutant proto-punk metal roar of Red ???

Crikey, I’d better get the old ears tested pronto.


Spent an interesting morning working on an idea of creating an artists’ residency to work in sound. The outcomes include a performance and / or installation and a CD and an opportunity to take the notion of sound (or noise) and see what can be done with it. We’re thinking of creating a small festival based around the residency and which could involve several performances or installations involving other contributors.

It occurs to us that it would be good to commission someone like Russell Mills to do the residency. So, I phone Richard Chadwick for a contact number. It turns out that Richard is busy typing the credits for the new Crimso album. I get a quick plug in for KC gigs in the UK and ask him to forward our message to Mr. Mills.

Talk to Ian Boddy about some potential partnership from a commercial firm which produces samplers. Ian also tells me that the mixing with Centrozoon went well but they were unable to get the final mix completed before Markus and Bernhard had to fly back to Germany. Ian expects it to be finished in time to release the album in March.

One difference of opinion surfaced during the mixing in that the boys feel that that album is meant as a mean, loud explosion of sound – hence the title BLAST. Whereas the Bodman hears it as a quiet collection of drifting tones and textures. For me, the music is located in the ambient tradition.

This weekend, Chris Carter (ex-Throbbing Gristle) is up to Durham to push along the Boddy/Carter collaboration in the DiN dungeon. Once again, Ian expects this to be ready for release by March.

An e-mail from Markus Reuter invites me to contribute some of my paintings to an on-line gallery he’s establishing. Oddly enough I had recently had a conversation with Dan Kirkdorfer about putting some bits and pieces I did in the eighties as several readers of the diary have enquired about the smeary blurs which I call painting.

However, the scanner I’ve got just didn’t seem to want to take the image. So after a few attempts I’ve given up. I’ll have some time over the week-end to try and understand the mysteries of the machine.

The evening spent daubing yet more paint while Tom goes all abstract in pastels. Joe hovers over the PC saving the galaxy from certain doom. Sam is out at friends, Alys is on the phone and Debbie is out with the newly arrived visitors who have come up from Birmingham.

The soundtrack to this blissful night is the sublime Fur Alina by Arvo Part. Is possible to get a more beautiful piece of music ?

Thursday, January 27, 2000

Grimness is compensated

6.45 a.m.

Feeling dreadful this morning gripped by a bout of what feels like asthma. Still, the grimness is compensated by a parting of the dark dawn clouds. Locked somewhere in the sky is an amber orange glow. This one small island of vivid colour adrift in the mass of grey.

Over breakfast the boys get very excited about continuing last night’s drawing. The theme remains Pokemon, which for those who don’t know is a cartoon series from TV based on and closely tied into a computer game. Joseph continues to add yet another intricate page to his burgeoning portfolio.


A day spent negotiating around the labyrinthine structure of local government. Yet despite the daily dose of pragmatism and political cut and thrust, there are points of light.

Arrangements for the Tom Phillips exhibition in April are beginning to be finalised and we are thrilled with the Panayiotis Kalorkoti catalogue which accompanies the exhibition running at our little gallery from February through to March.

It’s a beautiful collection of luminous watercolour and acrylic paintings by a Cyprus born artist who studied at Newcastle University. The work is a dazzling and kaleidoscopic collection of tones and shades out of which emerge figures and masks, caught in lustrous brilliance. As you might be able to tell, I like this work and am looking forward to the opening next week.

Elsewhere the day has consisted of chasing corporate sponsorship which remains a high and worrying priority. This in turn informs and the meticulous planning needed for the large scale festival which we call the Window On the World aka WOW.

Listening to . . .
Hidden Streams by Opus 20,
Lemon Crash by Europa String Choir,
Sgt. Peppers by The Beatles,

Wednesday, January 26, 2000

The Performance Art of Algebra

Several responses to my earlier plea regarding unblocking one’s creative juices. Sadly, Al Carlyle got the wrong end of stick and sent me advice on a more fundamental kind of unblocking which, were I to follow it would no doubt bring tears to my eyes.

Most of my writing (I use the term in the loosest sense) has always just appeared, that is, it’s never been a struggle. The words have more or less tumbled into place, given a vigorous bit of editing, tweaking and re-writing. However, in the last few weeks I’ve noticed that it’s not been flowing at all. In fact it’s been like getting blood out of a stone.

Several other readers of this diary have responded to my request for solutions. James Wills, whom I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting (as far as I know) offers some extremely practical suggestions, one of which includes

“Listen to the track and maybe once a minute write five words that describe exactly what you hear, no matter how trite. Pick the five words you like best and make each one the first in a sentence about the track. Then write a paragraph beginning with each sentence. Put it away then pick it up again after a week and re-write. You should have a piece you can work with.”

David Williams proffers another series of suggestions which include the advice to “Keep writing, even if you know what you're writing is crap. If you stop, that'll make it all the harder to start up again--that's how most writers get "writer's block."

He goes on to remind me of Oblique Strategies by brian Eno and Peter Schmidt (I have a set dating back to the late seventies which I completely overlooked) as a means of arriving at a second opinion.

David Revelle, offers his experience in grappling with what it takes to create a future rather than live out an inherited one. David, I note was once a member of a performance art outfit called The Events Group who were active in the UK and abroad (?) in the eighties. Around the same time I was connected to and was briefly part of a Newcastle based arts group called The Basement Group.

The Basement comprised of six individual artists including painters, photographers, film makers and conceptualists of one kind or another. The name was taken from a space which was located in Spectro Arts Workshop (now demolished) and was collectively managed with a great emphasis on democracy and participation.

Thus in a given week anywhere between 1 and 100 people plus would go to see a performance by luminaries of the performance art world such as Stuart Brisely or Bruce McLean who might be sharing the bill that week with some complete unknowns – myself included. One of the wonderful things about the Basement was that no matter who you were you all got paid the same. Actually getting paid was a novelty.

An inspiring time of experimentation when lots of things seemed possible and achievable. Over a period of years The Basement Group have morphed into several successful arts ventures and non more so than Locus+ run by ex-BG member Jon Bewley and ex-BG performer Simon Herbert. Locus+ have carved an international reputation for cutting edge time-based and site specific art and it was Locus+ who were planning to promote a series of soundscape performances by Robert Fripp in the impressive surroundings of Durham Cathedral last year.

An e-mail from Robert Frazza who was part of the crew on the ProjeKct Four tour a couple of years ago. The Frazzaman and I shared hotel rooms and in the short time I met him I was struck by diligence and attention to detail. He tells me he’s just finished working with Tony Levin’s sparkling new album. Robert is part of a group called Quiet City and I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this CD on the P4 tour.

Since then Quiet City has enjoyed a heavy amount of playing on the Smith CD players – bright, infectious and in places almost poppy tunes. Much of this music is recorded when the band are snowed in over winter and the Frazzaman tells me he is currently snowed in and I can expect another QC cd. Isn’t Winter wonderful ?


Picked the boys up after school and head off toward the bus stop. It’s bright but chilly and the wind is picking up. As we wait, Tom is all shivery and as white as a sheet. Once on the bus he seems to pick up and we do the half hour journey in good cheer.

At home and over the dinning table, Sam (Debra’s son who is nearly 15) is doing his algebra homework. Tom and Joe are baffled. Sam tries to explain what an equation is. I’m in the kitchen washing up and I hear Joe announcing his own equation which goes “Doughnut + Doughnut = Joseph Smith”. Much laughter ensues for it is uncannily true.

My own experience of algebra was fraught when I was at school. One day, I put my pen down and asked the teacher what was the point of learning algebra ? Mr. Hudson moved quickly toward my desk and looked very pleased as I had had inadvertently provided him with an opportunity to shine.

“What’s the point, Smith ? I’ll tell you the point” he paused, looking around to ensure he had his audience enthralled “If you don’t learn algebra you’ll end up cleaning a toilet seat when you leave school.”

He beamed in sadistically gleeful way. The class erupted into that nervous laughter which people emit when they relieved that its not they who are being put through the mill.

However, Mr. Hudson wasn’t finished. He waved the class back to silenced and delivered the coup de grace. “But if you do learn algebra, you’ll end up designing toilet seats when you leave school”. Huge, riotous laughter ensues and a young Smith suitably and agreeable chastised in a good humoured kind of way.

The rest of the evening is spent with Tom and Joe drawing and painting. They each do representations of characters from Pokemon and very good they are too with Joe having very carefully placed the little rascals in a particularly elaborate landscape.

I work on the sheet of hand made paper which contains “12 proposals for album covers rejected by Ian Boddy”. It started out with layers of watercolour paint and torn up extracts from a set of encyclopaedia which I have for this very purpose. Then a wash of thin green poster paint was applied to each square.

This was followed by a general daubing of acrylic paint which was in turn scraped around with a pallette knife. Another layer of thin yellow poster paint was then applied with a sponge and then the trail went cold and the work petered out. Until tonight.

As I was doing the dishes, I had an urge to use the oil pastels. For a brief second I could see a series of portraits looking back at me. Given that I could not draw a conventional face for all the tea in China this proposition intrigued me.

So, as the boys got to grips with Pokemon I got to tackle some of strangest looking critters you’re likely to see this side of an explosion in a paint factory

Monday, January 24, 2000

Mixing It With Markus & Bernhard & Boddy

Took the train over to Durham yesterday to meet up with DiN supremo and UK synth wizard, Ian Boddy. The Bodman is re-mixing the new album from Markus Reuter and Bernhard Wostheinrich who are collectively know as Centrozoon and the bonus is that both are over in the UK to help.

After a short round of hugs and shaking of hands, we pile into the Bodmobile and speed off into gathering green of the wonderfully named Esh Winning. This landscape used to be peppered with coal mines many years ago and is now well and truly de-industrialised.

Ian’s house overlooks a valley which is now populated by small conifers and as the pot of tea is made, I notice a brave sky try to hold back the rain but failing intermittently. Bernhard says “Ah, so you’re a painter ?” at which point I very hastily backtrack. For the record I don’t class myself as a painter. However, given the amount of burbling on I do about painting I can see why Bernhard might have this impression.

So, let me try and put this into some perspective; I’m as much a painter as I am a guitarist and those who know my playing will have a sense of how desperate that can be. However I still reserve the right to whitter along about slapping colour around on a canvas.

I agree with old Pablo who once said “painting is just another way of keeping a diary”

For those who are interested in the act of painting and surviving in the cold commercial light of the art world, I suggest you take a look at PJ Crook’s informative diary elsewhere on this web site. This should help you sort out the wheat from the chaff.

We pile into the studio which I’ve dubbed (ha ha) the DiN dungeon and they re-commence work on the final track which is called Blast. The music is very dense and concentrated sounding very organic. Warm and rich, waves of texture cascade one on another. Lasting around 16 minutes it requires a lot of concentration and more than a couple of takes to get all the elements balanced.

Whilst having a break, Markus and I observe that in Robert Fripp’s on-line diary it was fascinating to read about the recording of the new album. However, he has said very little so far about the mixing process. Watching the boys work on matters of minute detail and tiny adjustments, this activity is probably as demanding as the actual playing – probably more so.

As some readers of this diary will know, Markus is a member of the Europa String Choir and he passes me a CDR of their new album which was mixed at DGM by David Bottrill. We talk about the possibility of a tour in the North East of England by the ESC in the autumn.

Ian tells me the Centrozoon album should be appearing sometime around March this year. We also talk about our collaboration involving some tracks donated by Pat Mastelotto. It seems that it’s also going to be around March before we can start work on this album due to the demands on Ian’s time. After a couple of hours, it’s time for me to go and as my taxi pulls up it’s a quick round of hugs and handshakes – they are going to carry on and do another mix of the first track.

As I whisk along the dark deserted lanes, the lack of street lighting means that I have a lovely view of the stars. An hour or so later, I’m back home and eating with the delightful Debra and her sister who is visiting us from Wellingborough. I gather that we are having more visitors next week in the shape of some chums of Debbie’s from her time in Birmingham.

Starting to feel very anxious about the lack of progress with the writing of the KC book. I’ve got into a bit of a block with certain tracks such as ITWOP, Indoor Games, Islands, etc. I find myself going round and round in circles and feeling quite unable to get behind the music. The guilt is accentuated by not being able to get much if anything done last week. It’s easy to write words, it’s just the quality that’s the hard part. Any readers of this diary with any practical hints and suggestion for creative unblocking please get in touch directly or via e-mail.

Friday, January 21, 2000

The psychological benefits of keeping a diary

Up early tending to day job issues. Black skies give way to a slow, smouldering dawn. An hour later a pink vapour trail bisects a light blue sky. A vast painting that changes radically and beautifully over the next few minutes. Such sights are real gifts which set us up for the day.

An e-mail from Robert Fripp two days ago has led me to think about the implications of keeping this on-line diary with the DGM web site.

There’s an immediacy about on-line life which can have a profound impact on real time life. My writing about the recording of The Sailor’s Tale set of a chain of events which went from Newcastle to London to Nashville and all the way back.

So far my on-line life has had a profound impact in ways which I could never have predicted. As I write this, there’s a piece on the radio which is talking about the psychological benefits of keeping a diary to patients recovering from serious illness. I’ve kept a diary on a daily basis going on for six years and can testify to the beneficial effects of writing and clarifying what's going on inside.

In the early eighties I used to keep a set of notebooks which were used for a combination of work and personal reflection. Though it might be deadly dull to anyone else, it’s been an important element of trying to make sense of one’s thoughts and feelings and what’s happening in the outside. Looking back on some of this material, I barely recognise the person and yet it’s someone I know very well indeed.

I’m amazed by how much poetry I used to read and write. This was one of my main pre-occupations. Consequently, the notebooks are littered with lots of poems which today make for some uncomfortable reading in terms of the cringe factor.

But I was there and was responsible for these pieces and if I’m honest I can find a sliver of affection for them all. Vast record collections and libraries have been lost in my many house moves and nomadic periods, yet I’ve kept these little books all through the years.

In one entry dated in September 1982 I came across this quote. It’s not original but it obviously caught my eye; “The great thing about TV is that if any great events happen anywhere in the world…you can change channel”.

Thursday, January 20, 2000

Quality Time

Last night Thomas my oldest child was revising for his spelling test. On his first try he got 6 out of 8 and then 7 out of 8. ‘Enjoyable’ was the word that eluded him. This morning as we sat and ate breakfast together in the Green room, he reeled them all off getting 8 out of 8.

This victory really set him up in a good mood. Not to be outdone, Joseph insisted on us going through his reading book “Where Am I” reading the hide and seek story with great animation and enthusiasm.

At 8.00 a.m. we leave the house in a light drizzle and walk to the bus stop to take Tom and Joe to school this morning. The journey on the bus takes half an hour and the traffic this morning was very heavy which meant we only just got to the school gates just in time. The upside of this meant that each of us was able to read just a bit longer than normal.

Tom is reading a book of nonsense verse by Colin McNaughton, Joe was immersed in dinosaurs and me reading a tome called No More Secondhand Art by Peter London.

According to the blurb on the back the book is about using art as an instrument of personal transformation, enabling us to move from an inherited to a chosen state of being. It contains some very useful exercises in getting in touch with one’s creative impulses and drives and then processing the experience in order to learn from what you’ve achieved.

My experience of Guitar Craft took me very much in this direction and many of the themes which are addressed on the course resonate strongly for me more than ever, despite my guitar playing and painting remain grimly lumpen and basic.

Arrangements made with Ian Boddy (DiN supremo and purveyor of fine electronica) to go over to the DiN studios to meet up with Markus Reuter from the Europa String Choir and his chum Bernard. The two are over from Germany to mix the new album. More details on this after the weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2000

The Night BP Fallon Mislaid His Mouth

A manuscript from Andrew Keeling arrived today. It’s a comparison between Flight Of The Ibis and Cadence & Cascade. As if he wasn’t busy enough listening to his orchestrations of Peace by Robert Fripp as played by Mr. McFall’s Chamber, Andrew has taken time out to jot down both tunes and crammed the paper with lots of annotations about the structures, their similarities and differences. Now, all I have to do is learn to read music and all will become apparent. Thanks Andrew.

The words to Flight Of The Ibis are by BP Fallon. Sometime in the mid seventies I spent a late night in the company of Roy Harper and Beep. I’d been to see Harper at Newcastle City Hall and had somehow got wangled into the back stage party and was present as Harper was interviewed for the local radio station.

Fallon was there as publicist and was extremely tired and emotional and spent much of the time having trouble lighting cigarettes having unaccountably mislaid his mouth – you know how troublesome that can be. As the pair of us sat there listening to Roy Harper have a fit of the giggles on air for no apparent reason, I asked Fallon about his involvement with Flight Of The Ibis.

He looked at me with bleary eyes and said “I don’t remember all that shit man”.

This was, I concluded many years later, an encounter that comes under the category of the wrong question at the wrong time.

Once the radio interview was finished (amid a lot of giggling) Harper and Fallon disappeared off to the hotel and oblivion. To this day I often wonder what became of Beep’s liver. To this day I wonder how Harper managed to play another gig in another town the very next night.

Regular readers to this diary will recall me mentioning a CD by German guitarist called Michael Peters. The CD in question was called Escape Veloopity and very fine it is too. Michael has e-mailed to ask

“Can you explain what the hidden meaning of 'anorak' is? For me (and I think generally for Germans), it is just something that one can wear in bad weather. I reckon it is the same in England, however, obviously it also means something else, at least in the Newcastle area. :-)”

I don’t know if any reader can come up with a better definition but as far as I understand it, anorak is another name for a nerd, that is someone who takes his (does anyone know any female anoraks ?) hobby or interest way too seriously. All of this has left me wondering what the collective noun is for anoraks ? A rustle of anoraks perhaps ? Any offers gratefully received.

Michael also goes on to make an enquiry about the radio show Chris Taberham and I presented about the mighty Mellotron. The numbers we played (not in this particular order)were;

Tenement Lady by T Rex

Kites by Simon Dupree & The Big Sound

This Wheels On Fire by Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger

Days by The Kinks

Grave New World by The Strawbs

2,000 Light Years From Home by The Rolling Stones

Blood On The Rooftops by Genesis

And we closed with Slush by the Bonzo’s.

We really enjoyed the experience of just making the whole thing up as we went along and we got some good feedback from the listener.

The quick and perceptive reader will have noticed the lack of any Crimson content in the radio show. Fear not, Crimso were adequately covered in the two hour long programmes I recorded which were broadcast around the same time.

Monday, January 17, 2000

The rage, rant and rave...

12.03 a.m.

Spent the rest of the sunny Sunday afternoon with the children on the lawn, adorning the prints that I’d emulsioned over yesterday with gay and gaudy acrylics. Tom and Joe worked together on the largest board whilst Alys and I worked on separate ones. We all did seascapes and beaches which is hardly surprising as there is a beach at the bottom of our street.

The boys have chosen to do a huge yellow sun which looks like an enormous fried egg emerging out of a deep blue sea. Crimson skies are daubed with white clouds.

Alys opts to go for a very detailed beach scene which she begins to paint over the sides of the frame “Like that woman who paints all the people” she says referring to PJ Crook. After a while it’s cold and Debbie appears with hot drinks all round. The children all disappear into the street to begin a game of Bulldog and I tidy up. As I wash the brushes, the chapter on the King Crimson Beat Club session starts to fall into place.

Once bath time, home work and Harry Potter readings are completed, I dash for the PC and try to get it down. Sure enough, it seems to fall into place and though there’s still a long way to go with it, I’m quite pleased with the results so far.

An e-mail tonight from Peter Sinfield regarding a comment on future releases. A quick scan of Ken Garner’s excellent In Session Tonight reveals that Sinfield recorded some sessions for the UK radio show The Sound Of The Seventies (transmitted on 24/8/73). These included Wholefood Boogie, Envelopes Of Yesterday, Song Of The Seagoat and the wonderfully biting Night People.

There was also an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test which featured Seagoat and the poignant A House Of Hopes And Dreams. Would it be too much to hope that such gems might be coaxed from the hands of the BBC and given an airing ?

Of course all of these song were first heard on Sinfield’s album, Still which was released on ELP’s Manticore label in 1973. More recently this set was re-released on Voiceprint as Stillusion with two extra tracks which were to have been part of an uncompleted follow-up album.

Though Sinfield comes in from some stick from Crimson fans, there are those of us who continue to have a soft spot for many of his lyrics. Back in the early seventies, it was the words of Crimson that were as important to us as much as the music.

For us as observers and outsiders, it was the very fact that Crimson’s words were obscure and hard to get your tongue around them which gave them there very appeal. We didn’t necessarily understand them but it was fun trying to work out what the bloke was going on about.

After the split and the release of Still, several of us poured over the words of Envelopes Of Yesterday, convinced it was Sinfield’s account of the parting of the ways with Fripp.

“Well, its obvious isn’t it” I would bellow as we sank another Brown Ale “when Sinfield say’s ‘You said I didn’t have the eyes to paint out in the street’, well he’s talking about Fripp telling him that he wants more down to earth, contemporary lyrics” and so on.

What took most of us by surprise was the sheer range of musical styles which Still covered. Boogie, Jazz, Folk and a couple of others besides where all very much in evidence. We looked for links and conspiracies which would speak of times past with Crimson and in doing so missed much of the charm that this music has.

Though Peter’s voice isn’t to everyone’s taste, we loved his performance on Night People. The rage, rant and rave of it was quite startling despite the lack of conventional vocal firepower – not so much sang as declaimed. Stirring stuff.

Mention of course should be made of the gorgeously lush track Under The Sky which, as every good anorak will know, was penned by Sinfield and McDonald and was first recorded by Giles, Giles and Fripp.

Mel Collins provides another world class performance against the glacial back drop of the Freeman Symphoniser giving the old Mellotron a run for its money in the hairs-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck-tingle stakes.

John Kimber of leafy Highgate has a Japanese import of Still which has restored its sumptuous art work and given it a 24 bit remaster. Boy, did it sound good when I was last there.

I seem to recall a book of poetry and lyrics by Sinfield, lost alas in one of my many moves. If any reader of this diary has a spare copy...

Sunday, January 16, 2000

David Bowie Does My Housework


Sunday morning, brilliant sunshine. An occasional dot of vivid red sails attached to little white boats slide across the calm blue sea. We wave our visitors off and start tending to the routines of the house.

I have a complete dislike of housework and in a house the size of ours you can always find something to keep you going and if your not careful the entire day can be spent with a duster in your hand.

So, what we do is put on a CD and get everyone in the house on some kind of cleaning duty (hoovering the stairs, passages, mopping floors, emptying bins, etc.). We then have the length of the CD in which to finish the tasks. Some CD’s are better than others for house cleaning. David Bowie’s Earthling album can really end up getting things really shinning. Debbie likes Foxtrot by Genesis because she can sing along as she goes.

King Crimson works very well for specific tasks such as sorting a book case or doing the ironing but we’ve noticed a decline in the quality of cleaning by the children when Frame By Frame or Dinosaur are blasting out.

Best Of compilations of hits from the sixties also do very well. Alys still goes for The Spice Girls, Tom and Joe get busy with Charles Trenet and Sam simply gets in and out of his allotted task as quickly as possible. Today, because its so sunny, I slip on Twilight by the Seattle Guitar Circle. Not only is the music so bright and sparkling but it only lasts 25 minutes long.

A quick tinker with KC:TxT and Lizard. Listening once again to Lady Of The Dancing Water. The original vinyl side one closes with this plaintive KC ballad of lost love and lost times. The sparse instrumentation highlights Haskell’s delicate, gentle vocal with Collins’ exquisite flute hovering like the memory of a butterfly on a long summer afternoon. The whole song is given added piquancy by Nick Evans’ mournful trombone, which manages to keep the track from becoming overly sentimental. I think its quite beautiful.

Recently Andrew Keeling told me that this track holds a special association for him. Andrew display his anorak credentials by revealing that;

“I wrote to RF several times asking him to join KC. He sent me Lady of the Dancing Water in MS to arrange. I wish I still had the old MS. Robert had quickly written it in pencil (melody line + chords) and invited me to do an arrangement of it. I did an arrangement and sent it to him (Please bear in mind I was 15).”

When Lizard came out and I heard what Robert had done with Peter Sinfield’s words I learnt a great deal about not what to do with an arrangement: Robert's original was a wonderful indication of control and simplicity done so as to heighten words. Mine was an overblown monster of a thing! I think Robert set my future in motion by inviting me to arrange something. I used to send him hymn tunes and choral settings I'd written too.”

Speaking of manuscripts, the latest e-mail from Andrew Keeling is that he has done a comparison between Cadence and Cascade and Flight Of The Ibis. Andrew tells me he’s going to put the MS in the post, so there’s something to look forward to this week. For those who might not know, Andrew has been working on orchestral arrangements of RF’s soundscapes. Check out the Keeling diary for more information.

Saturday, January 15, 2000

A pair of crazed weasels climb mountains of sand

Saturday morning shopping around Whitley Bay. I dash around getting in groceries and the like as we have visitors who need feeding. I stop by a newsagent and pick up a copy of the latest Mojo magazine.

A quick look at the letters page and I notice that Sean Hewitt (aka Scoop Muckraker) has a missive congratulating the magazine on its recent article on Crimso and suggesting they review the Pbox. Way to go Scoop!

As I emerge from the shop the skies are blue, the sun is shinning and the wind has dropped.

Back home briefly and we all pile out for a walk along the beach to take full advantage of the change in the weather. The seven of us look down along the sands where last night’s howling gales has piled the sand into huge drifts and precarious shelves. Normally the beach is quite flat but today with new mountains to climb, Tom and Joe dash off like a pair of crazed weasels .

Stopping for a traditional sea side lunch of Fish and Chips, we rest up before ending up at the Spanish City Indoor Market. There may not be many certainties in this life save one; however cold it is outside, its always colder inside the Spanish City indoor market.

Hey, I must write that one as down as a GC aphorism (that’s Geordie Craft of course).

The market comprises piles of old household rubbish piled up on aged and creaking tables. I pick up several large wooden frames and three or four of those dreadful prints which have waif-like children in Victorian costume and large blue eyes. Todays artistic aberration is very large portrait of a Labrador dog. I buy it in order to put it out of its misery. Once we get home, I quickly whip out the emulsion and over paint it double quick.

Once dry, they will be wheeled out and the kids and I will be able to go for that abstract expressionistic kind of jive that gets my toes tapping. Painting is such a way of connecting with oneself. I always emerge from a session feeling much clearer and focused.

For me, painting is a series of questions. Rather, it is the process of asking questions. The answer isn’t always obvious or perhaps doesn’t even come at all. Strange half glimpsed / hidden schemes come to mind and are almost lost as they appear. The trick is getting the sense of it before it evaporates. Sometimes, it’s seen to clearly and in doing so, somehow becomes too difficult to comprehend.

The organisation of routine events with the random is a process I recognise as being similar to musical improvisation, reacting to chance gatherings and placing other times and spaces into a fixed moment, like a performance or a canvas.

Limited by technique and a woeful lack of training (i.e. none), I have to explore intuition as hard as I can and attempt to develop the stamina that one needs to be able to run with the moment – even when the moment takes off at a pace that is truly challenging.

By sheer co-incidence, I talk to John Kimber of leafy Highgate, who quite possibly as I write this, is daubing the acrylic of his choice onto a large canvas. John recently returned to painting and we act as a mutual encouragement society in this area. We catch up on news and the possibilities of travelling abroad should Crimso decline to tour anywhere in the UK.

Heard the new single by a pop group called Air, who I believe are French. Their latest release is called Playground Love and is veritably drenched in mellotron. The song is OK in an innocuous kind of way but it is the layers of ‘tron which lend it an eerie feel.

A couple of years ago, I co-presented a show on a local community radio station called “These You Have Loved – Your 100 Favourite Mellotron Moments”.

Essentially this involved Chris Taberham and I blathering on about any old rot in between playing songs whose only link was that they had a Mellotron playing on it. I think we opened with Wheels On Fire by Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll. Even today that piece can make the hairs stand on end.

Friday, January 14, 2000

Bedtime stories & heat;latent/current

Tom (aged 8) comes home from school having got a score of 39 out of a possible 40 in his maths test. Tom tells me he beat Liam Dixon who normally comes top in these tests. As a result Tom got a headmasters award which he added to his two stars for tidying up in the class room.

Debbie arrives back from the vet with the news that our gravely ill cat has come back from the brink and is recovering nicely. In search of a good excuse, we crack open the wine and the celebrations start at around 6.00 o’clock.

Our week-end visitors, Doris and Jen arrive from Wellingborough and we cook a large meal to which my mother, Doreen is also invited. Good chat and conversation ensues over the next two or three hours. I do like the big meal around the table with everyone engaged and animated. Debbie and I notice how well the children all hold their own with the adults. Wine and puddings of a girth-enhancing nature are fearlessly consumed without due regard to health.

At bedtime, the boys and I read another chapter from the second Harry Potter novel by JK Rowling. It’s another gripping story of magic, mystery and children who are training to become wizards. As we read, the rain batters the windows and the wind howls outside enhancing the spooky quality of the passage we are tackling. The kids tightly tucked in their quilts love it and positively shake with pleasure.

Afterwards, I say goodnight to our guests and tend to bits of e-mail and the like. As I sit at the PC the wind and storm is really picking up. Little wafts of cold air moving across my hands and face reveal the inadequacy of our windows and their draft-proofing.

Oh no, another diary entry without any mention of King Crimson. Better put this right otherwise it’ll be yet another account of the white-knuckle ride that is life in the Smith household.

Read Robert's diary entry about the anniversary of the band. Gripping and exhilarating stuff and pretty definitive. In a recent e-mail to me, Robert said “If, after 30 years, there is this much heat still being generated, consider how much more friendly, supportive banter was available at the time!”

My initial reaction after reading his diary was that I don't need to bother with this track by track thing. However, it’s the history of Crim from RF’s perspective. So, maybe there is room for what I'm trying to do. I'm not really interested talking to ex-crims (or even present ones) about what a git RF is or was or will be.

However, I'm beginning to realise that for some, it is an opportunity to off-load and exercise some of their frustrations. There’s a legitimate interest in their views on recording albums and playing live and everything in between. So, I don't duck that stuff but I confess it's not what really what I'm after, though I’m sure it would sell a few more copies if I could reveal what Pat Mastelotto did with the whipped cream during the Vrooom sessions.

Being an anorak, I'm into the dopey stuff like who made the tea during the recording of Lizard.

One problem for some of the musicians involved is that what I’m talking to them about was all such a long time ago.

For me, such and such a track is a sparkling timeless musical gem which I’ve played inside out for years. For them, it’s something they did in a studio or on a stage fleetingly in the dim and distant past. Not only is the past a foreign country where things are done differently, it’s not a place where they do not live anymore or seldom spend any time going back

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Wading through treacle and words of wisdom from Bert Lams

Spent the night re-visiting Poseidon and Lizard. Nipping and tucking the spare and the unnecessary. Trouble is when I’ve done that, in some cases there’s precious little left. Sometimes it feels like wading through treacle.

When the words wont come, I fall back to simply listening to the pieces of music. This reveals untold little bundles of joy and bits that you’ve either never heard before or haven’t heard with a particular set of ears. For example the drop-in edit at the end of the flute solo on I Talk To The Wind. I’m almost certainly the last fat bastard on the planet to pick this out – how could I not have heard this before?

Taking a break from Crimson, I listen to Twilight by the Seattle Guitar Circle. This is inspiring stuff. The first track called Invocation (written by Bill Reiflin) has me reaching for my guitar to pathetically pick out the haunting bass parts which the whole piece seems to revolve around. The guitar I play is the one I bought when I travelled to Seattle in February 1998. It’s an Ovation copy called an Applause. “You might not get an ovation kid but you’re sure to get applause”.

I took this guitar to another level one GC course in Germany later in the year. After playing a one note bass line during a short performance, Bert Lams took me to one side for a quick word. Was he going to offer some tips on technique? How to hold the pick? I waited for the words of wisdom.

The room seemed to grow distant and remote. An unnatural stillness filled the air as Lams leaned forward. “Throw the guitar down the stairs” he said in an urgent whisper. Whether this was a comment on the tone or my playing or both I remain unsure. However, as the perceptive reader will have noticed, this was another piece of good advice which I’ve ignored.

An occasional reader of this diary Chris Mills, has sent me some clippings from the Philadelphia Enquirer. The tone of most are broadly sceptical and in some cases quite hostile. For example, here’s a review from the 80’s by Ken Tucker;

"King Crimson, Three of a Perfect Pair (Warner Bros.) * Pretensions, pretensions, pretensions. From the sophomoric paradox of the album title to the record's division into "Left" and "Right" sides instead of the usual ''One" and "Two," guitarist-philosopher Robert Fripp really outdoes himself this time around.

He and his trio write the melodies and let Adrian Belew sing on the "Left" side, and they seem to think that Belew's faint, ragged voice and the Talking Heads-style tunes are a commercial compromise. The "Right" side is supposedly the pure, adventurous Crimson. The most enjoyable aspect of this album is the blatancy of the sellout".

Actually, I’d have to say that 3OAPP my least played KC album. Although the title track and Sleepless are stirring stuff I always found it a bit lame in comparison to the Discipline and Beat albums. It wasn’t until the release of Absent Lovers that some of that material made sense to me. So, much verve and panache. Exhilarating and enervating. In short,everything that 3OAPP isn’t.

Checked out the DGM guestbook to see some kind words about this diary. It’s gratifying to know that the worthy and lofty subjects of discussion that previously littered the guestbook have been replaced by more important items such as whether Viv Stanshall said “Biffo The Bear” in Big Shot or not.

Monday, January 10, 2000

Hacked off

At last I discover why I can’t access my virgin e-mail account. This following item clipped from the BBC’s on-line news service;

“More than 170,000 of Virgin Net's 800,000 UK customers had their service temporarily withdrawn at the weekend. A notice was posted on Virgin's official website warning users of the potential breach, and giving step-by-step instructions as to how they could change their passwords. A spokesman said on Monday: "No actual security breach has happened, but we discovered someone was attempting to hack in. Their e-mail facilities have been temporarily switched off and we are in the process of creating new passwords for them. It is important to emphasise that, in the event, no-one's security has actually been breached."

The spokesman added that all those concerned were a certain "type" of customer, but he declined to identify which one. “ Now I’m wondering which type of customer I am. One that still can't get access to my mail even after the simple step by step instructions. So, to anyone who has e-mailed me and wondered why I haven't replied at least you now know why.

Sunday, January 09, 2000

The Great Biffo The Bear Controversy


Cold but very sunny. Cloudless blue skies arc straight to heaven; perfect light for painting. Spent the morning listening to The Archers (a long running radio soap opera about country folk in the UK) and slopping paint about on a canvas. Not sure what I’m doing but I trust the desire enough to see where it might lead. After a couple of hours the trail goes cold and I take a break.

Trying to access my e-mail proves very frustrating as the server seems to be down and my repeated attempts simply make things worse. I guess there are more important things to angry about.

Back to the painting and a seascape seems to be emerging out of the splurge and smearing of acrylic sludge. Not what I’d anticipated or wanted. Met up with Chris Taberham and some other chums last night. We were the only people in the pub for most of the night.

The last time this configuration of chums sat in this particular pub was around 12 – 15 years ago and it was brimming with revellers, drinkers and the like. Last night it was deserted and bereft of atmosphere. It was also lacking in any tea or coffee which would have been a nice alternative to drinking alcohol. I struggle all night to drink one pint.

The majority of the conversation revolved around the Bonzo Dog Band and inevitably we ended up quoting our favourite moments and trying to decipher the lyrics of various tunes.

For those who know Big Shot from the Gorilla album, controversy raged last night as we couldn’t decide whether Viv Stanshall says “She was dressed as before the bed” or “She was dressed as Biffo The Bear”. Perhaps only those readers familiar with British kids comics(The Beano?) will appreciate the mind-boggling nature of this difference and its comedic potential. For those who don’t know Big Shot from the Gorilla album, you’ll be wondering why on Earth am I rabbiting on about the Bonzo’s when I should probably be banging on about Crimso instead.

Mmm. Good point.

We return from a lightly populated beach with a container full of wet sand. This is put on a baking tray and popped in the oven to dry out. I use the sand to add some much needed texture to the painting.

As we walk along the beach Debbie and I continue the Bonzo debate. She comes down on the side of “Biffo the Bear”. I remain wedded to the “before the bed” option.

I try and access my e-mail but fail once again. Locked out now for a couple of days; so much for the information superhighway.

strange but true - I discover I can send e-mail but not receive. The sound of one hand clapping?

Wednesday, January 05, 2000

A phone call from Nashville

Last night Ian Wallace rang to discuss some of the issues raised in my account of the recording of The Sailor’s Tale. Like Peter Sinfield, Ian was less than happy with the impression that they were, to use my phrase, “a band that would cut and run to go partying at the end of each recording session.”

Ian commented “I happen to think that everything I hear about our KC configuration happens to be, quite understandably, one-sided and that there were reasons why certain things were that way. I think I could give you some interesting insights into those, and maybe help even the playing field a bit.”

Ian was extremely courteous, helpful and given that the conversation covered events going back nearly thirty years, gifted with an impressive recall.

He feels that overall the Islands era band has received a bad press from fans and reviewers alike and that the line-up was capable of playing some fine music. Wallace agreed with my assessment that the release of the Jacksonville and the forthcoming Summit Studios recordings, should make an important contribution to the critical rehabilitation of that era of Crimhistory.

During the lengthy telephone call, Ian was frank about some of the difficulties he experienced being a member of Crimson. However, there was no rancour or animosity towards any of his colleagues of that time. “Whatever rifts existed back then have all been healed over” he said. We’ve agreed to talk in some more detail next week when Ian gets back to Nashville next week.

Tuesday, January 04, 2000

Peter Sinfield claims his place in Crimhistory and Ian Wallace isn't best pleased either.

I spent an unhappy morning at the local vet’s surgery today as one of our cats is gravely ill. A temperature of 105 which is about as hot a cat can get. The signs aren’t good and it seems unlikely that the Boojemeister(aka as Smuggly Booje, Hooch and Gitwhisker) will pull through.

Checking the e-mail to find an unhappy Peter Sinfield waiting to give me a clip around the earhole. The source of Peter’s ire was my account of the recording of The Sailor’s Tale which was posted on this diary a while back. The offending item went thus;

"The making of Islands had not been without its problems. The rapidly deteriorating relationship between Fripp and Sinfield were further exacerbated by having a band that would cut and run to go partying at the end of each recording session, leaving an increasingly tired and isolated Fripp with the task of getting the album finished on time and in budget.

And so it was under these adverse conditions that at a little after 2.00 a.m., with studio engineer Andy Hendrikson looking on, Fripp laid down the first of two takes that, when spliced together, would combine to produce an astonishing solo that is not only the centrepiece of the track but the album as a whole…As the fractious, track fades you realise that Fripp might well have just have played the solo of his career.”

Peter writes
“Well he might have...? But your implication that I was off partying while he did so upon that and other occasions is an Aitken and a couple of Archers short of the verité.”

A note for American and European readers – Aitken and Archer are a couple of lying scoundrels who’ve recently been publicly unmasked for telling lies.

Peter continues;
“Is it likely that having invented, as always with the assistance of Andy, the 'steroid-enhanced banjo' (a mix of short delay, VCS3 sweep, spring reverb & chopped repeat) that I would not oversee and encourage, in my role as co-producer, its vital application.”

Suitably chastised, my reply to Peter went as follows;
“Robert told me about the recording of the Sailor's Tale in June 1997. He did say during the recording of Islands the band were off partying particularly toward the end of the recording.

In re-counting that particular recording session Robert didn't mention that you were present. In fairness to him though, neither did he say you were out partying either.

So, as I've made an assumption (putting 2 + 2 together and coming up with 5), I guess I have to take the rap for this fairly and squarely. The lesson I draw from this, is it also highlights the need for me to ensure that where I move away from my own opinion, I need to get my facts sorted from my assumptions.”

A swift apology from Sod Smote is whinging its way through the ether to Peter Sinfield by way of this dairy site. The e-mail from Peter was also copied to Ian Wallace. So, perhaps a touch cheekily, I took the opportunity to ask Ian if he’d like to talk about the making of Islands. A while later, I get the following e-mail from Ian Wallace.

“Dear Sid,

Thanks for replying to me, although actually it was Peter who E-mailed me your little snippet re: the parties! As I'm sure I don't have to tell you, there are two sides to every story, well let's make that three, yours, mine and the truth, to quote a well known song, and I'm really not upset or anything close to it. It was almost thirty years ago.

However I do think it might be fair for all concerned to have some different slants on the whole proceedings so, in answer to your question, I would be delighted to talk to you. I look forward to hearing from you, Ian”

Appropriately enough, I’m spending the rest of the day going over Lizard and Islands. More details as they emerge.

Monday, January 03, 2000

The Simple Art Of Distraction

A beautiful sunny morning. Steely blue waters appear to be perfectly still. Today, I’m whipping the children into thank-you note-mode for all the various Christmas items they received. Inevitably, they screw their faces up at the prospect but I give them no option. With tired and heavy hearts they lift out the art materials and begin laboriously to put pen to paper. I suggest they write an invisible message with candle wax and then brush water colour over the top. The resulting message looks more like a lurid ransom note than a thank-you note but the point is made and hey ! - they enjoyed it after all.

An e-mail from Markus Reuter (also a member of the Europa String Choir) who tells me he’s coming over in late January to assist with the mix of a new album. The piece in question is by Centrozoon – a duo consisting of the touch guitarist Markus Reuter (featured on DiN 2 - Distant Rituals ) and synthesist Bernhard Wostheinrich. For those who like their ambient dreamscapes with a few bloops and bleeps thrown in, then this will be one for you. The CDR I’ve got is full of warm, deep textures and is very good to paint along to. I’m hoping to meet up with Ian, Markus and Bernhard for a meal and good chin wag.

The other Ian Boddy CDR which is occupying a generous amount of my listening time is the collaboration between Ian and Chris Carter. Carter was a member of the influential Throbbing Gristle and he and Ian have shared the stage at Electronic music festivals in the past. Some of the best moments of the new album are to be found where Ian has treated a sample of Cosi Fanni Tutti’s voice. The result is deeply wonderful – the hairs on the back of my neck gave it a standing ovation. There are a couple of fairly dead points on the album (I’m thinking of the dull disco type rhythm on a couple of cuts) however, as Ian would no doubt remind me, this is just an early mix and is part of work in progress. If the resulting album is half as good as this CDR then Boddy and Carter are on to a winner.

There are a couple of samples up on the DiN web site which you can access by clicking here

After a break of nearly a week and a half from the King Crimson book, I’m getting back onto the track. I’m intending to finish off Poseidon and Lizard this coming week. However, not being a trained or disciplined writer, I’ll no doubt get distracted and find myself scribbling on about the Double trio instead. Speaking of which, Sternly Hewitt has been pondering over the chronology of a piece of music by the double trio which we heard at the Nightwatch playback in September 1997.

Sean writes;

“1. In a letter to Bill Bruford (Letter Two, dated Feb 24, 1999) quoted in his Diary on March 9, 1999, RF says: "The Double Trio met for a week's full rehearsal in Nashville (November17th, 1997)......"

2. But many of us heard a Nashville Double Trio improv played at the Nightwatch playback in London in September, 1997.

3. But the Double Trio are highly unlikely to have met up in Nashville for a week from 17/11/97 because that's when the Projekct Two album was recorded (November 19, 20 and 21, 1997, according to the Space Groove sleeve notes)

4. I now think the Nashville rehearsals must have taken place either in the spring of 1997 or the late winter of 1996, although I can't be sure.”

Are there any readers of this diary who can put the Hewitt lad out of his misery ?

Saturday, January 01, 2000

Our first day of the new century.

Glistening blue water shimmers in the sun on this first day of the 21st Century. Serenade To Music by Vaughan Williams becomes the first piece of music to grace the CD player in the new year. It’s 10.00 a.m. and Debbie and I have had a long lie in this morning following last nights celebrations.

At midnight last night all the neighbours in the street came out to watch a great display of fireworks. There was a great deal of happy shouting and the street was awash with children running about in a great state of excitement.

We were invited into one of the neighbour’s houses and stayed there until around three in the morning. As I was reaching for my jacket, my phone went and it was John Kimber, not in leafy Highgate but stuck at some party elsewhere in London. It sounded like he was having a good time.

We’ve spent the last couple of days decorating the upstairs living room and have painted it a fabulous shade of lemon yellow. Everything in the room vibrates somewhat alarmingly now. So, our first day of the new century is to be divided between walking along the sea front and moving books, CD’s and objet d’art around.

A happy new year to all the readers of this and other DGM diaries.


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