Sunday, April 30, 2000
My chum Chris Taberham and his pal Eric Oliver call around for the day. Eric has a new short video he's just made called Causeway. Shot from a car in the driving rain, it documents the crossing of the causeway between Holy Island and the mainland. About 8 minutes in length, it's oddly hypnotic and contains an evocative soundtrack. 10 out of 10.
Yesterday. . .
Around mid-day I phone Gordon Haskell and we get down to life before, during and after King Crimson. During the three or four hours we talk, Gordon conveys a vivid sense of what London was like during the mid to late sixties and still has a powerful respect for what was happening during that time.
There’s no doubt about Haskell’s playful sense of humour and much of the discussion is interspersed with laughter and heavy irony. He is also forthright on his views about his period with Crimson and pulls no punches regarding his departure from the line-up.
With only a break to feed the children and take a leak, I phone Keith Tippett but only get the answer-machine. Then it’s on to George Chkiantz, the hero of the mixing desk from ’73 - ’74. George was a mine of technical information regarding the recording of Red and the intricacies involved in recording hand-claps and harmonium’s. Once again, George talked with great animation and passion and provided a unique perspective on Crimson in the studio.
After three hours conversation we agree to take a break and make arrangements to have another bash at George’s work with Crimson in concert.
Somewhere in the house, children run and rampage, thoroughly neglected. I realise how long I’ve been on the phone and sheepishly skulk off to make amends.
Saturday, April 29, 2000
" On a cursory hearing you might misjudge this as an overscripted meeting of two Old Skools - dub and industrial - where route logic trumps roots friction. Give it gestation time, though, and the chthonic soundings of these two old souls - Chris normally partners Cosey, Boddy has been doubling himself for 13 years on his own DiN label ( not to be confused with the Berlin imprint ) - repays your attention in shades.
The grid may be linear, but the mood is dank and windblown, flinty, waywardly British. Caged has a verifiable personality - 'Under-Dub', as the aptly titled closer puts it - where too much nu-skool dub just sounds like Lego-bit homage. B & C's carefully plotted hyp(g)nosis bubbles with reticences, resonances, lurches and larvae, it unearths moods beyond most modern plagiarists.
Catch the way the bassline comes in on the opener 'Concussed' - red sun splitting grey clouds - seamlessly interlacing drift/tone and beaten tracks. Subterranean drip and echo, percussion like midnight syntax tapped out on pipes - an unnerving, claustrophobic soundtrack for that Harry Lime moment when all your shadows catch up with you".
I guess that means he likes it.
And if none of this makes any sense to you - point your browser in the direction of the DiN web-site via the link at the top of the page. Ian is off to the States next week and is playing a concert and a couple of radio broadcasts. Once again full details on the DiN web-site.
Friday, April 28, 2000
In the post today a bunch of promo cd’s from Russell Mills (or more accurately Bella Union Russell’s record label), a postcard from Andrew and Sue Keeling (from their holiday up in Seahouses) and a small promo package from Bruce Pilato, manager of Greg Lake.
The letter says that Greg is currently unavailable for interview but that enclosed promo cd (which is a series of interviews) might be of some use. I have a quick flick through and take an aural stroll through the promo for From The Beginning. I would have preferred to have talked to Greg in person (i.e. over the phone) but it’s not to be - at least for now.
On the upside of things, I call into work to get my messages and discover that Michael Giles has left a message. I’ll phone Michael tomorrow and find out whether he’s interested in being interviewed for the book. Fingers crossed.
Reading Robert’s diary and I am encouraged by his words of support and gentle prodding. Though Robert has formally declined to be interviewed for the book, he has been an enormous help so far. I know that having access to the DGM web-site has helped move things along no end - despite the fact that I rattle on about getting drunk with Kimber or Debbie having her eyelashes dyed.
Spookily as I am reading Robert McFall’s diary an e-mail arrives from the man himself. Much vibing about a potential Present Moment presents kind of night. Exciting stuff but a lot of hard work. A small fractal of Present Moment artists and myself are putting our heads together to see how we can find a better way of getting the music to meet the people and vice versa.
Caged by Ian Boddy and Chris Carter (released on DiN) has been reviewed in The Wire magazine. Talking to the Bodster, he thinks its positive. One mag declined to place a review saying "This music is too scary". I tell Ian that this is a kind of endorsement and we laugh.
Listening to . . .
Septober Energy by Centipede. Nice to hear this old classic again after all these years. My old chum Steve Cowgill used to have this on vinyl and we used to hammer it to death. I think the last time I played this was in Steve’s front room in 1978.
Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire - I borrowed this one from Kimber when I was in leafy Highgate. There’s no doubting Squires prowess on the bass and I quite like some of the tunes but it isn’t really getting through to me. I didn’t get it first time around either. Oh well. . .
Thursday, April 27, 2000
I must admit to feeling a little sluggish this morning. Sitting in the early morning light in Kimber’s kitchen, I spy a grey squirrel athletically hopping from branch to branch in the tall trees, which are full of bright shooting leaves and blue blossom.
Normally, this arresting array of colour and sprightly urban wildlife would fill my heart with joy unconfined. Sadly, this morning, it leaves me untouched, feeling as I do, a blurred and vacuous shell of my former self.
In short dear reader, I have a mutha of a hang-over throbbing and beating somewhere in the gelatinous waste where my brain once fizzed and zapped with creative energy and wizard schemes.
The only fizzing and zapping that appears to be going on in my body is located somewhere in the direction of the lower bowel. Indeed, such is the frequency of the fizzing and zapping I have cause to make several mercy dashes to the smallest room in Kimber’s house. By happy chance and luckily for my host, this happens to be the toilet.
Following the Highgate hop and it’s noxious and noisy consequences, I return to the pastoral scenes that are available outside the Kimber kitchen. The squirrel is still there, quite possibly performing it’s own version of the Highgate hop all over Kimber’s tree and fence. It stops and looks up in my direction.
Maybe for a moment there was a flash of understanding which passed between the animal kingdom and Man. I say maybe because the Squirrel simply vanished from view. Looking at the clock, I noticed that nearly fifteen minutes had elapsed of which I had no memory.
Blinking in the early morning light I grasp for an explanation.
Perhaps the Squirrel had caught me in some deep Jedi-squirrel mind vibe which caused me to black out, while he and his Nutkin chums raided Kimber’s house and made off with his Gentle Giant back catalogue.
Or perhaps I was just so drunk from the night before that I simply blacked-out.
You can make your own mind up. Once I find my mind, I’ll make it up and let you know.
As the kettle boils I sit and ponder on what unspeakable fate awaits those CD’s in the febrile claws of that ravenous gang. It doesn’t bear thinking about really.
Something else that doesn’t bear thinking about is the grim visage of the early-morning Kimber, whose finely chiselled features have mysteriously been replaced by a bleary mask that bears an uncanny resemblance to the London mayoral candidate Frank Dobson.
"God’s holy trousers - we had us some beer last night" says the nightmarish blend of the Dobson-Kimber beast. And thus, dear reader, the day began with the pair of us trying to work out just how rude and offensive we had been to people or if my memory of tripping up Brian Eno as he threaded his way past us en route to the porcelain facilities was just a dream.
Arriving at no firm conclusion, we gather what remains of our brain cell and try and focus on the day ahead. Part of this requires that we get from a to b in search of Gered Mankowitz and his studio.
Observant readers of a previous diary entry will have noticed that I wrongly attributed Mankowitz as being the photographer for the With The Beatles album. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Mankowitz never took any photo’s of the fab four. Yet Kimber and I were convinced that he had done. Suitably alerted to this fact by a diligent contributor to the DGM guest-book, we were able to avoid scenes of cringing embarrassment in the Mankowitz studio.
Half an hour later the Kimber mirth-mobile, is once again being thrown round the streets of London. We are on our way to drop in a cd-drive for repair and to pick up some large canvas’s upon which Kimber intends to daub, smear and generally distress a shed-load of paint.
We then head off to Crouch End and a restaurant / café called Banners which Kimber tells me is part-owned by DJ and broadcaster, Andy Kershaw. Mind you, he could have told me that is was part-owned by Danny De Vito and Liberace was moonlighting as a dish-washer for all I cared.
We place an order for cholesterol so large it would fell Rasputin the mad monk himself and relax in the extremely convivial surroundings.
The ambience of the place is so friendly and charming with its mixture savvy staff and lively music that for the first time, I feel myself connecting with the real world. Lashings of hot tea and hot grease ensure that the Smith engine fires up and the synapses engage. Sadly, so too does the Smith bowel. And more unsavoury fizzing and zapping ensues.
In the papers, I read a review of the Rothko room at the soon to open Tate Modern and discover that there is to be a television programme about the work and it’s origins this coming Sunday. Even in my diminished state, the prospect of seeing these paintings close up in the not too distant future sends a thrill coursing through my body.
After a good hour chilling out, we head off and Kimber drops me off at Highgate tube station so I can make my way to Kings Cross, we make our farewells in a back-slapping, deep-voiced Blokey kind of way and promise each other that we’ll do it all again in June (my next visit to London).
Once on board the train bound for Newcastle, I rummage in my bag for a pencil only to make a terrible discovery. Like a fish out water there sits Out Of The Woods by Gentle Giant in my bag.
A dread cold spreads through me as I suddenly recall the squirrel and its beady, piercing eyes full of malevolent squirrel cunning and guile.
Wednesday, April 26, 2000
I notice that it’s still raining. I got drenched last night getting to Hotel Akimbo and it looks like another soaking is on the cards today. The good news on that front is that my shoes has been repaired and thus my feet remained dry and warm as I trudged the damp streets. On my last visit to London, the sole of my right shoe was split and it marred an otherwise enjoyable visit.
Email in from Robert Fripp which has helped to clarify an issue about the track Red following my extensive discussions with Don Wilton. Also e-mail from Jacob Herringman about the Present Moment side of DGM. There’s some truly wonderful music on Present Moment but how do you get the wider world to hear it ?
Kimber and I march out manfully into the morning drizzle that besets leafy Highgate and head off to the Elephant & Castle to keep an appointment with Bill Smith. After climbing an improbable amount of stairs, we reach Bill’s office and place an order for a cup of tea and a bottle of oxygen.
Once I’d caught my breath and turned on my little tape recorder, Bill talked for a couple of hours about the processes involved in putting together the two big box sets FxF and TGD.
The passion and energy that Bill has for these pieces of work in particular is astonishing. He carries a real and tangible sense of pride and looking at all of the art work, rough sketches, Polaroid’s, drawings, notes, etc., one can’t help think that there would be enough material for a large coffee table book on the artwork of King Crimson. This stuff is so beautiful it seems a shame that nobody gets to see it.
Bill talks with great verve and animation about putting together the Thrak tour programme and we chat about photo-shoot of the six mature guys who get erections. Mind you, judging by Bill’s recounting of that session, none of the subjects were particularly excited about doing the photo-call.
Back in town I manage to pick up a cheap copy of the Ossie Clarke diaries before going to meet a prospective publisher of the book. Over a cup of tea, we chat about the distribution side and the likely promotional support there might be for the book. We part company with a firm handshake and I have a feeling that the book is soon to have a publisher who are keen and committed to the project.
Meeting up with Kimber at Waterloo Station, we head off along the Southbank and towards the Hayward gallery for the private view of Sonic Boom, an exhibition of sound art curated by David Toop. The Hayward is like a big concrete barn on three levels and some of the work on show doesn’t really work in this wide open environment.
By far the best are those installations which have their own specifically created space within the Hayward. Paul Schutze’s Third Site was one of my favourites - a hot sweaty box brimming with deep resonant temple bells and fast, flickering light with half caught images swimming in and out of focus.
Russell Mills’ piece worked very well. It was a collaboration with Ian Walton and again it benefited from having its own intimate space. This was akin to a tepee lined on the inside with sheep’s fleeces, which gave one the impression of observing some obscure ritual. Very tribal thought Kimber and I agree with the man.
On the terrace the discreet charm of the free bar meant that this about the busiest place in the whole building. I hear my name shouted and see a smiling Yuka Fuji waving at me. Amongst other things, Yuka works with Richard Chadwick at Opium and is an artist in her own right. Her work graces the sleeves of several albums including Flux and Mutability and Plight and Premonition by Sylvian and Czukay.
We first met at the ProjeKct One gigs back in the 20th Century at the Jazz Café, where the pair of us hung around for four nights outside the toilets trying to sell people CD’s and T-shirts. I tell Yuka about the progress on the book and she suggests that she might have an angle on a Japanese translation for the book.
Bill Nelson makes an appearance and I say hello mentioning that I am also a diarist on the DGM website. It turns out that Bill not having a computer has never seen the diary site so hasn’t a clue what I’m rabbiting on about. The terrace bar runs out of free beer and wine and quite mysteriously the place starts to empty.
An after opening party in a pub in the west-end has been arranged but its strictly for artists and their chums. A letter of invitation is required and of course Kimber and I don’t have the necessary documentation. Of course being a Geordie fat bastard, this is no obstacle and having got the address of the secret hush-hush soiree, Kimber and I grab a cab which we share with Stephan von Huene (one of the artists)and his partner.
As we wait at the door to get in, Yuka slips me her letter of invitation, which Kimber nonchalantly waves at the two people on reception saying "You don’t need to see this do you ?".in an aloof and bored kind of way. As we slide in, I note that the letter begins "Dear Robert Fripp".
There’s a couple of hundred people crammed into this pub which is serving free drinks the whole night. I can’t imagine what the bill must have come to but Kimber and I did our bit to make it an all time high. Met up with people like Steve Beresford, Paul Burwell and Hugh Davies who I have not seen since 1980.
At that time I worked in an arts centre in Newcastle where I was involved in performance art and the like and we commissioned these folk to do strange and wonderful things for the good folks up in Geordie Land.
Elsewhere in the pub the great and good of the art world throng and thrum with bonhomie, élan and free booze. Looking around I see Michael Nyman wearing a pair of what Lonnie Donnegan (who wasn’t there) would have described as Gor Blimey trousers.
There is much talk of projects and the importance of wearing black and looking angst-ridden. Eventually, Russell Mills and Ian Walton turn up and the evening goes into overdrive. Lots of networking, lots of exchanging business cards and lots of beer.
Needless to say Kimber falls in deep love with a blonde woman in a close fitting red dress. As she leaves the pub, Kimber’s eyes glaze over and for a moment his world is filled with the sadness of what might have been.
Coming back to what was passing for reality, Kimber asks if I could put out a message on the diary in the vain hope that she reads this. As we stagger out into the night air, I tell him it can’t be done and the DGM web site must remain committed to the pursuit of purity in art. "So no on-line dating agency then ?" he quips in a gentle and endearing slur.
Somehow Kimber and I manage to stay upright long enough to catch a cab back to leafy Highgate.
Tuesday, April 25, 2000
Established base camp in leafy Highgate at Hotel Akimbo, where I’m happy to report the "great" Kimbrini is in rude health. Actually, now I look at him, he is in fact, just rude.
Last night there were e-mails from David Cross, Peter Sinfield and Gered Mankovitz. Gered M you’ll recall is the man who did the classic With The Beatles cover as well as GG&F and Red.
Happily for KCTxT he has kindly agreed to let me take a look at all the photo’s from both shoots in the hope that they might be used for the book. Additionally Bill Smith Studio’s (who did the bulk of the Crimson covers in the 90’s) have also indicated their willingness for me to look at the alternative cover ideas for inclusion in the book.
There’s a part of me that knows that to be concerned about alternative images and rejected art work has more than a whiff of nerdy, trainspotter fandom about it. However, being a nerdy, trainspottery kind of guy, I happen to believe that people (i.e. other nerdy, trainspotter types - are there any others ?) like to see this kind of thing.
Of course, getting access to this stuff is one thing. Being able to afford to use it is quite another. I’ve also got a meeting this week with a prospective publisher and will hopefully be in a position to close a deal (not closing a deal but building a relationship ???) and get a production timetable sorted out by the end of this week.
The book is building up a pace which at the moment seems unstoppable. The numbers of ex-Crims who have agreed to take part means that a critical mass is building. Their involvement in turn attracts others who might otherwise have declined the opportunity. For example, I’ve tried several times to talk to George Chkiantz. My numerous phone calls have been left unreturned. However, once John Wetton had rang him on my behalf, lo and behold George Chkiantz is now on board.
According to Wetton, Chkiantz’s contribution to the overall sound of Crimson during the recording of the Starless sessions at Air and Red was vital. Recently, Q magazine acknowledged the key position which Red occupied in terms of that killer drum sound it has. So to be able to have access to Chkiantz’s memories and recollections of those sessions is very good news indeed.
Though I’m not sure why, it feels like the right time for the book to come out. For many ex-Crims, it must be a source of some ire to see their contribution overlooked. Well, if the book can act as a vehicle for giving their part in Crimstory the recognition it deserves, I’m more than happy to oblige.
There are two important factors which are helping the book along.
Firstly, a tremendous amount of goodwill from a supportive community.
Secondly, I’m not Eric Tamm.
The Tamm book restricted itself to a musicological analysis of Robert Fripp’s work both solo and in King Crimson and making some large assumptions about the attribution of ideas, it would appear several ex-Crims and quite possibly a present Crim, were mildly irritated as a result.
Whilst I do not make any extravagant claims to not irritate ex or current Crims, I am trying to be inclusive in my approach to the book, recognising that a simple recounting of "Fripp’s the leader" does not do the story justice.
Monday, April 24, 2000
Another stunningly beautiful morning. The children are up a good hour before me and I’m feeling tired. One reason for the lethargy on my part was having spent from around 11.30 p.m. till 2.30 a.m. last night / this morning talking to John Wetton.
The discussion this time centred mostly on views on the industry, children, early Crimson, marketing and merchandise and John’s love of The Fast Show. His reputation as a raconteur is well justified on the evidence of this discussion.
I begin the process of listening and digesting over ten and a half hours of conversation. At the risk of sounding sycophantic, Wetton provides a fascinating commentary and insight into many of the processes involved in putting together some classic Crimson moments. His affection for his era KC remains undiminished despite the intervening years.
Talked to Debbie who is having a lovely time in Birmingham (somebody has to I suppose) and I feel the ache of absence as we talk. We don’t get to see each other until Thursday and at the moment that feels like a long, long time away.
E-mail from Ian Boddy telling me that The Wire magazine are going to review his latest album Caged. Regular readers of this dairy will recall that it’s a collaboration with Chris Carter (ex-Throbbing Gristle) and has even got the Pat Mastelotto thumbs up.
Hopefully The Wire will give a good plug. I get a credit on the sleeve although it must be said my contribution was fairly slight – I came up with a fairly derivative strap-line for the album and a review which can be seen by clicking on the DiN link above.
Outside, the gorgeous weather suggests the kids and I will get on the lawn and do some drawing and painting. A cunning strategy, if ever there was, to get out of all the house work and chores that need to be addressed.
Sunday, April 23, 2000
Up at 7.00 o’clock to find the front room bathed in glorious light. Totally stunning. Out at sea, beautiful blues are flecked with burnished gold. It’s at times like this there’s only one thing to do. I pad downstairs and wash the dishes.
Although there are three less people in the house at the moment (Debbie and clan are away in Birmingham) we still seem to generate a fearsome amount of dishes.
Tom and Joe get out of bed an hour later and run through shouting “Hooray – it’s Easter !” by which they mean “Oi Fatso hand over the chocolate”. I blink and cough and suddenly the Easter eggs are de-foiled and consumed. I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
I phone call Gordon Haskell but it’s not a good time so we re-arrange to do our interview next Saturday. Around 11.00 o’clock I ring John Wetton and re-convene our marathon session where we left off yesterday.
We cover the formation of his incarnation of Crimson, touring, his hitherto undocumented fondness for ping-pong and the making of Red in almost forensic detail.
After a couple of hours we call it a day and I make food for the kids and we head off for the beach. The sea is right out and the beach is full of folks enjoying the golden sun, the blue sheen of light coming up off the waves and a light crisp breeze.
Tom and Joe have such boundless energy as they career about finding stones, errant pieces of pottery and a huge piece of driftwood nearly six foot long.
Back at the ranch Andrew Keeling rings me from the Inner Farne Islands up near Seahouses. As he talks, I can hear Seagulls wheeling above him. He’s excited about our discussion about Present Moment the previous day and can see a lot of potential in the Present Moment people getting together to discuss the bones of a marketing strategy. He’s on holiday for another week but will convene a cyber conference then.
John Wetton calls again and we wander off down some more side tracks and fornensic verification of Red. Another half an hour plus later we sayta-ta.
Downloading e-mail an hour later, I discover John is also the author of the strangest e-mail in the Smith mail box this week.
I'm not sure if my last e-mail went through but I just got out of the shower, sat on my office chair starkers , and now have an arse like a Mandrill ie (appropriately) RED.
Back to shower.
I'm around so call to confirm, please.
So, with the image of John Wetton’s backside hanging metaphorically and quite possibly literally, in the air, I’ll say good night.
Saturday, April 22, 2000
A day of departures. . .
Spent most of this morning talking to Andrew Keeling about the Present Moment series on DGM which carries the work of Matt Seattle, Opus 20, Jacob Herringman and Mr.McFall’s Chamber.
It strikes me that there is a lot of good music contained on this series but (reading Matt’s diary recently) not much in the way of sales. Over breakfast Andrew, Sue and I brainstorm a marketing strategy for Present Moment which might include;
a separate page on the DGM website to give the Present Moment series it's own identity with audio samples
a special mid-price sampler along the lines of “God Hides and Smiles” which might be carried at Crimson gigs
Three for the price of two loss leaders on Present Moment to tempt prospective purchasers
Targeted media strategy designed to maximise the network of contacts and utilise the collective knowledge that all the Present Moment artists have.
And so on.
The music on this series is of such a high standard it seems a great pity that the wider world doesn’t get to hear it. Given that DGM will have their hands full with Crimson and BTV for the next couple of years, then it makes sense to me that the artists whose work is featured on Present Moment get together and work out the best way of helping DGM get more sales. That way, they keep a brave and exciting idea alive, well and making new friends all the time.
Andrew is going to talk to the other Present Moment people to gather their views and perhaps suggest we all get together to discuss ideas and strategies.
In the middle of all this, John Wetton rang telling me he has now had a chance to listen to Central Park of which he comments “There is enough confidence, protoplasm and testosterone on stage to run an F-14.” Sounds like a good advertising slogan if you ask me. We make arrangements to talk over some more tracks later today.
Andrew and Sue then make tracks and speed off into the brightening morning they leave us with a great toy cat for us to add to our collection and a bottle of Australian wine called Up A Gum Tree ! The one he brought last night was called Original Sin. Is this Keeling bloke trying to tell me something ?
Debbie, Sam and Alys also leave not long after to spend a week in Birmingham visiting friends and family. This morning she tells me that she loves me despite the fact that I sat on the phone yesterday for more than five hours while she got the house shipshape for the Keeling visit.
She’ll be gone for a week and I’ll miss her dreadfully. The only compensation is that I’ll be away myself in London schmoozing up the Crimson book and generally annoying John Kimber of leafy Highgate.
Tomorrow I’m interviewing Gordon Haskell and hopefully Keith Tippett and so spend an hour or two preparing questions by listening to KC from Poseidon through to Islands.
Friday, April 21, 2000
Tom and Joe were up early and grooving with little Sam who slept over. I pad around in my dressing gown, scratching my balls and feeling a little groggy with a touch of flatulence.
I only mention this detail as John Kimber of leafy Highgate has recently condemned my diary for painting too rosy a picture of life here at Victoria Avenue. You want grit and patina ? You got it. All I can say is I’m glad DGM don’t have a scratch and sniff section on the diary page.
Checking e-mails: A couple in from Robert both relating to his pre-Crimson career and a question about the transition from GG&F to KC.
“So, now over to the Sidney Smith. How are you going to explain the transition?” says Roberto.
Buggered if I know kidda ! says I.
E-mails also from John Wetton as we managed to miss each other the previous night. At 9.30 a.m. the phone rings and it’s Wetton himself in a moment of awesome synchronicity.
We agree for me to ring him back once I’ve got my tape recorder set-up. The only trouble is that Tom and Joe and the chums are using the PC which has all my questions for Wetton on it.
I take a copy of Wetton’s Battlelines off the shelf and say to the boys “You see this man here on the cover of this CD ? I need to ask him some questions but they are all on the PC.” Tom looks him up and down and says “He looks pretty ugly . . . we’d better clear off”
So on Good Friday at 10.00 a. m., the first formal interview with John Wetton for King Crimson: Track By Track begins.
At 12.00 o’clock and several cassettes later, I tell John that we’ll have to take a break as I have a gaggle of kids demanding to be fed. I had tried swiping at them with a rolled-up copy of the yellow pages but to no avail.
During the first couple of hours we managed to cover a wide range of questions relating to the formation of the Larks Tongues era, individual tracks and how they were recorded, his thoughts on his own contribution to Crimson and more drummer jokes than you can shake a stick at;“How do you know Carl Palmer is knocking at your door ?”. . .
I rush downstairs throw a slapdash meal together and then hurl it in the direction of the kids. Then at 1.00 p.m. the interview re-commences and goes on until around 4.30 p.m. Throughout the period Wetton was witty, engaging and his powers of recall for tiny details around the recordings of certain tracks was particularly impressive.
John also indicated his willingness to allow me to access his own archive of memorabilia when I get down to his end of the Country in a month or two.
At around 6.00 p.m. Andrew Keeling and his wife, Sue arrive for a brief stopover in Whitley Bay. Andrew has brought with him a mock-up of the cover of his hopefully soon to be forthcoming DGM CD Quickening The Dead. The said cover features a painting by yours truly and in my totally unbiased opinion, it looks great. Mind you, when and if it appears on the cover will be up to the great and good at DGM.
He also brings with him a couple of CDR’s of his orchestrations of RF’s soundscapes played by Opus 20. They are Midnight Blue from A Blessing Of Tears and Pie Jesu from Gates Of Paradise.
They are both quietly stunning, filled with a glowing light and a shimmering beauty. After a large meal Debbie, Andrew, Sue and I hit the town centre of Whitley Bay and head off to the Fat Ox for a swift pint. Believe me, if you saw the Fat Ox on a Friday night, a swift pint is the only pint to have.
Thursday, April 20, 2000
Yesterday was a mad, bad and dangerous to know kind of day which began in the office at 8.00 a.m. and finished with a large scale meeting which ended at 9.00 p.m. Consequently, I feel frazzled and my brain feels pan-fried.
The book has had a couple of helpful twists and turns in the last 24 hours. Robert has agreed to let me access his personal archive of photo’s, etc., and Bill Smith (designer of such KC items as the FxF and TGD box sets, etc.,) has agreed to let me access some of the alternative and rejected album sleeve designs.
I’m in London next week at the private viewing of the Sonic Boom exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and have arranged to meet Bill at the studio’s. Interestingly, he’s also expressed an interest in providing the design for the book itself. All of which could be jolly interesting.
E-mails in from John Wetton who has declared himself happy with the list of 25 questions I sent him a couple of days ago. We are hopefully doing an interview in the next couple of days.
An e-mail from John Stevens up in Lauder (a village in the Borders of Scotland) who apart from giving me a weather update and some views on the music of Frank Zappa (he’s a fan) provided me with some anagrams. Thus;
“ITWOP - Wife Spoke: Hide at noon
Discipline - I spliced in
Exposure - O pure sex
No Pussyfooting - Sing, O poofy nuts
This way madness lies!!!!!!!”
Crikey – it must be something in the water up there.
Finally a late night/ early hours conversation with Sean Hewitt who tells me that my ample physog can be seen at one fleeting moment on the archived web-chat with Robert Fripp. Of course my PC won’t render the stream or whatever and thus I'm unable to view the damn thing myself.
Tuesday, April 18, 2000
Dull grey when I got up to 5.45 a.m. Unable to get back to sleep. The sea has a yellow tinge to the slate grey and in the space of ten minutes the sky emerges from it’s dull shroud. Blues and oranges fleck through the flatness.
Now just past 7.00 a.m. the sun is shining so strongly, the sea is virtually obscured under a bright white light. Vast scudding blue skies open up in the South.
Spent last night doing e-mails and listening to the radio. Late Junction on Radio Three was particularly wonderful. Highlights included some stunning throat singing from Siberia, the live version of Suzanne by Leonard Cohen (a big fave in the house at any time of the year), traditional songs from Albania, an acoustic version of Little Wing by an outfit called Kennedy (acoustic guitar, bass and chilling strings), Nyman, devotional traditional music from France and A Cathedral Of Tears by Robert Fripp.
On this occasion, the presenter played a recording of a writer (missed who it was) reading Shakespeare’s sonnet 22. So for a minute and a half we heard RF giving it the blue-scape groove thang and a frail and fragile voice dusting off some beautiful words.
Also had a telephone call from David Symes who has booked into the sprawling chaos that is our house for a week-end in early May. I met David at a Crimson gig at Shepherds Bush a few years ago and we’ve kept in touch on a sporadic basis ever since.
He’s coming up to the North-East for a wedding (not his, he emphasised) and will be able to slip an evening in Whitley Bay. I just hope life has prepared him for the white-knuckle ride of excitement that is the Fat Ox on Friday night.
Monday, April 17, 2000
It’s wet and windy in Whitley Bay once again with rain and bits of sleet hammering at the window. The children are on holiday but I have to go into work which means rousing the troops much early than they would like. If you hear a terrible groan and violent thrashing this morning it’s likely to be Tom and Joe mounting a full scale protest at having to leave the house as though it’s a regular school morning.
The power of the Internet is astonishing. Last night I put up a post asking if anyone knew the whereabouts of Andy McCulloch on a prog-rock newsgroup. This morning no less than five people have fired back convincing leads for me to follow up.
Also spent part of last night preparing questions for John Wetton, Gordon Haskell and David Cross. Tried to talk to Ian McDonald but got the answerphone instead. If I get a chance today, I’ll frame up the areas of discussion for Bill Bruford and Ian Wallace.
Spent last night listening to Earthbound. This brought back a frantic rush of memories of time and place.
1972 was a magical time. For me it was all about opening doors and new possibilities as things began to fall into place in my personal life. The soundtrack to my life at this particular point had been the albums of KC. The latest instalment , Earthbound had just been released and my chums and I were having a tough time of it. This was certainly an odd Crimson compared to its predecessors.
Released on the mid price HELP label for £1.35, the album was a rough, almost ready and badly recorded affair. Mixed down from cassettes and sounding like it, Earthbound charted a band whose members appeared to be pulling in different directions. Compared to the vast gothic halls of the first two releases or even the tasteful restraint of Islands, Earthbound seemed positively crude and so out of kilter with what we’d come to expect from Crimso.
Frankly, we didn’t really know what to make of it.
This is not to say we didn’t like it – why at the drop of a hat we would often be heard to break into an a capella version of Fripp’s wah-wah contributions on Peoria whilst in Newcastle’s Old George pub.
In the days when a unison chorus of the fast bits on Schizoid man would get you a cheer and quite possibly a free pint from a cheery landlord, a rousing excerpt from Groon (even the VCS3 bits at the end) just didn’t have quite the same effect.
It all seemed as though King Crimson were falling apart before our very ears. I guess they were.
Now of course with hindsight it all fits together and makes sense. At the time though the sense of dislocation was profound. Especially when the next time I saw Crimson was with the Muir line-up Talk about changing things around !
Sunday, April 16, 2000
Exhausted after a long march along the beach and back again via Whitley Bay market and the town centre. By the time we get back the kids need hosing down such is the unmitigated stickiness of it all.
Debbie is much calmer now that we've heard from her daughter Alys who is in France. This is her first school trip abroad, so there's a bit of nerves all round. Her brother, Sam is delighted that she's away of course and has been walking around today looking like the cat who got the cream.
Speaking of which, Gordon Haskell rang to say that he's delighted to be interviewed for the book. We've arranged to talk next week and I'm especially interested in getting his eye-witness account of late sixties London and the community of musicians and aspirant rock stars that would hang out around Denmark Street and Soho.
Spent yesterday wandering around Newcastle forgetting what I came into town to do. Instead Debbie, Sam, Tom, Joe, Heather, Jordan and I all went to The Hatton Gallery which is in the University grounds and took in the new installation by Mark Vollmer.
It consists of around 25,000 books carefully built up using dry stone wall techniques into a maze. Good fun and very enjoyable. The kids had a great time racing around the various nooks and crannies and after around 40 minutes they’d had enough. Not a bad time at all.
The only downside was that I missed a step on the way out and sprained my ankle and spent the rest of the afternoon foolishly hobbling around looking for Keith Tippett’s newly re-released Septober Energy. No luck I’m afraid.
Since getting back from leafy Highgate, my foot has dried out and I’ve been able to afford to replace the offending split soles and have happy dry feet despite the April showers that have been coming my way.
E-mail in from Travis Hartnett (Bootleg TV person and tall Crafty) on my recent Tull extravaganza;
"I lost the plot after Thick As A Brick and Passion Play remains a complete and utter mystery to me." Said I.
Travis fires back
“I think it's more accurate to say Ian Anderson lost the plot after Thick As A Bricks. Let me explain Passion Play to you: it's utter crap. Tull's first five albums, great stuff. After that it appears that the trout farmer's quality meter lost calibration.”
You know I wish these people would stop sitting on the fence and say what they mean.
Missed the Radio Two programme on prog-rock last night as I got wrapped up in a game with the kids and watched a fascinating documentary on TV about the building of the new Tate gallery. Amazing how that at that high powered level, they can get things badly wrong. Only difference is that a mistake by these folks ends up costing anywhere between £20,000 - £60,000. Turns out that the design of the staircase hasn’t left enough headroom. Still why let people get in the way of a good design eh ?
Then later in the night, with throbbing ankle (now wrapped in one of Debbie’s leopard skin patterned scarves) we sat and watched a movie by John Carpenter called Vampires. Quite possibly one the most stilted, unimaginative, movie by storyboard pieces I’ve ever seen.
Earlier in the week I talked to the Boz Burrell residence only to discover he’s up in Scotland with Tam White prior to taking off on a tour of the States. I think it’s unlikely that he’ll respond but you never know. Irons in the fire with Gordon Haskell and Michael Giles. Slowly but surely the book is moving and gathering a momentum.
Wednesday, April 12, 2000
Spent the back end of last night watching Aliens with Kimber. It was on DVD and I was really impressed by the all round sharpness of it all. Up till much later than I had intended (i.e. 1.30 a.m.) and then I struggled to go to sleep.
…Strange dreams. . .
In a large dark cathedral, vaulted ceilings, portions of painted plaster. A profound feeling of being alone and lost from those who love me…Part of a long queue of people, its cold and windy and I itch all over I try to buy some fruit from the counter but all I get offered is some bruised and battered remains and scraps…walking along a street I don’t recognise where I am but it’s on the way home, two dogs bark and yap at me and then each other all the way. I swing my two carrier bags at them and they run off…
Wake up this morning feeling oddly out of sorts and disgruntled. I try to lie in bed and go back to sleep but can’t. As ridiculous as it is, I actually feel sorry for myself. Though what I’ve got to be sorry about, other than a case of trench foot is beyond me. Get out of bed and pad along to Kimber’s office and download some e-mail.
A firm offer from one of the publishers regarding the KC has come in. Some nice compliments about my writing contained in the e-mail which is also a bonus. The terms seem reasonable enough although I’ll talk to Andy Mabbett (author of several Pink Floyd books) and one or two other folks to get their opinions. They want a first full draft by September with view to publishing in the new year. The bad news is I’ll have to pull my finger out and get busy.
In the same batch of e-mail, Jeff Fayman sends me a note of support and good luck regarding the KC book hustle. Thanks for the good vibes Fayman - looks like they might be working.
So the book takes another step forwards…
Understandably cheered up by this news, I take a cup of tea up the slumbering mass that is the "great" Kimbrini. It seems he too has been plagued by unsettling dreams. Stuff about being in buildings that collapse and women asking to have their eye make-up removed. Kimber told me not to mention the bits of his dream that involved the extreme weird sex, so I decide to omit these parts.
We spend the early part of the morning setting up the conservatory to take some photographs of Kimber’s paintings. These are large fields of colour usually with a brighter contrasting tone dragged or smeared across the surface. There’s also quite a lot of texture to them and it’s these that are my favourites. Although firmly abstract, many remind me of flowers and a pastoral feel about them. They have a confidence about them which is very appealing.
Unfortunately for Kimber the camera I’m working off is a digital camera and I remain unconvinced about it’s ability to get an accurate focus. Or should that be that I remain unconvinced about my capacity to get them properly focused ?
We shoot 12 of the best of the bunch and then try and grapple with the technology to download them onto the Kimber PC but without success. I’ll e-mail them to him when I get back to Newcastle.
Listening to lots of Jethro Tull this morning. I saw Tull in the 70’s around the time of Aqualung. I lost the plot after Thick As A Brick and Passion Play remains a complete and utter mystery to me. However, it was wonderful to hear Stand Up. The last time I heard the track Fat Man was probably around 1975 and I was then a very thin man then.
The intervening years have not been kind to my svelte physique and after a week of living the high life in Highgate I can sense at least one pair of trousers of my acquaintance will be receiving little or no attention for the next couple of weeks.
Tuesday, April 11, 2000
Leafy But Very Wet Highgate
It rained today in London and then it rained some more. I discovered to my chagrin, the sole of my right shoe was taking water on board at a frightening rate. Within minutes of leaving Kimber’s house, my foot was squelching and moist.
When I was a child, my mother couldn’t always afford to provide new shoes when they were needed. So, ever resourceful, she would wrap my foot in a wax-coated bag which had previously contained a loaf of bread, replace the deficient shoes and off I would go.
The upside was that my feet would be dry. The down side was you would be the object of much ridicule by your chums in the playground.
Thankfully, Kimberman and I cabbed it from Euston up to Virgin Records as my foot would not have withstood the lengthy walk to the offices on the Harrow Road. We signed in at reception, made contact with Declan Coglan and then made contact in a deep and meaningful way with the nearest pub to dry off and get some food.
An hour later we made our way back to the offices and an extremely lucky Robert Fripp had the stunning good fortune to have his dinner interrupted by the pair of us. As we sat tuning in on the small talk, I was happy to discover I was now only half damp which is at least better than being all wet.
Not long after, Declan ushered us along a few corridors and into the plush basement which is the Virgin Records conference suite. There was a group of several journalists from around the world sitting on a semi-circle of sofa’s digging into the hospitality. I grabbed a cup of tea and got myself settled down with notebook and tape recorder at the ready.
Robert was seated next to the urbane John Bungey and the pair were framed by a couple of display boards upon which were several large posters of the new KC album cover. As the thing went live, Robert displayed remarkable reserves of stoic interest as he patiently answered questions from John, the floor and several from the internet.
With a break in the middle of about five minutes, Robert and John Bungey went at it for about two hours. Not bad at all. Talking to folks in the conference suite, everyone felt it had gone very well indeed. Robert had appeared relaxed and witty although one knows that the sheer predictability of the questions (mine included) must be a grind.
Afterwards at great personal risk(those staples can be a bugger), I helped Kimberman carefully remove one or two of the ConstruKction Of Light posters and then got the bus back into town.
Kimber went off to meet a chum and I hit a couple of book shops on Charing Cross Road. The rain was still pouring down and my foot was once again reduced to a squelching lump.
Awake at 6.30 a.m. feeling surprisingly alert after last night’s huge Chinese meal. In Kimber’s guest room I listen to the unfamiliar sounds of London waking up and getting ready to go to work. Somewhere close by, someone is playing what I take to be a particularly minimalistic dub bass solo.
After a few moments of paying careful attention to the rise and fall of these two deep sonorous notes, I realise that it’s the sound of the mighty Kimber nostrils snoring for England.
Elsewhere, I can hear traffic speeding, bird song and the mournful droning arc of planes on their way to and from Heathrow. The sky is a dulled featureless white.
I get up and after raiding the Kimber cupboards for tea bags, I jump into cyberspace. E-mails await from Sean Hewitt, Peter Sinfield and fellow diarist, Jeff Fayman. Some readers might be curious as to the tone of conversation which passes between fellow diarists, keen to see the deeply incisive insights on music and philosophy. So, here’s what was said;
Fayman to Smith:
I'm going into the studio with a drumkit this weekend and I plan to build a few blistering rhythms which will simply part your pubic hairs.
I'll put it all together when I get back from Seattle in the middle of next week
I hope this works for your timeframe...
All the best,
Smith to Fayman:
Hi there Fayman,
long time no speak. I've been out of the loop for a while. Currently in London and doing the KC book hustle. Looking good so far. Glad to see you've got my pubic hair uppermost in your mind - which is decidedly better than having them uppermost in the gap between your teeth.
In terms of time scale, the Bodman has put back our next historic appearance in the studio for a couple of months. He's currently preparing for his jaunt to the States in May. He's doing a show somewhere in deepestPhiladelphia and then some live radio broadcasts. I've asked him if he wants someone to carry his modules but he's declined.
So any blistering groove thang your Malibu sun soaked hands can come up with will be the dog's scrote.
Did somebody mention something about Basements ????
Monday, April 10, 2000
Finished meeting with book publishers which went rather well. They liked the sample chapters I’d sent them and asked quite a few detailed questions on the structure of chapters and the like. The meeting lasted over an hour and they’re going to e-mail me later in the week with a firm offer or otherwise.
I’m still waiting to hear from a couple of other publishers so I’m not counting my eggs before they’re hatched or even putting them all in one basket…oh well you get the idea.
Debbie phoned me about 15 minutes ago to tell me that Ian McDonald had phoned from New York. She told him I was in London and he’s arranged to ring back at the start of the week.
E-mails in from Declan Colgan at Virgin Records and Peter Sinfield. Also notes from Ian Boddy regarding some advertising blurb he’d asked me to write for the DiN advert that is going to appear in the Wire magazine.
And now…the largest Chinese feast known to modern mankind has appeared in cute little foil wrappers on Kimber’s floor…so it’s goodnight from a tired but happy Side Smite here in deepest Highgate.
A dark and grey morning although a thin strip of bright orange burns just above the horizon over the sea. It feels very warm this morning. Britten’s Four Sea Interludes seems made for the occasion. The luminous quality in the unfurling clarinet lines are wonderful, evoking birds in flight or the catching sunlight on the waves.
Out last night with Kimber for a curry. The trouble for me is that whilst the theory of curry ingestion seems to be pleasurable, the practice is often less appealing. The restaurant was populated by football fans who earlier in the day had seen the home team soundly beaten.
Accordingly, their mood was sombre and belligerent and as Kimber and I were leaving, they were starting to turn ugly i.e. shouting rude and racist remarks at the staff and so on.
The other unpleasant aspect of eating curry is the explosive after-effects on my bowels. So the early part of this morning has been spent closeted away in the ceramic surroundings of the bathroom parping and tooting like a hyperactive foghorn.
Off to London for a couple of days on book related matters. I’m establishing a base camp at Kimber’s gaff in leafy Highgate and thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I’ll be able to update the diary and receive e-mails and the like whilst being away from sunny Newcastle.
Received a couple of e-mails yesterday or so from Peter Sinfield who I’m hoping to interview whilst down the smoke. In talking about the structure of the book with Sean Hewitt, we both regard Sinfield’s participation as being vital to the project’s credibility.
It seems his influence was as important as that of Ian McDonald’s in shaping GG&F from the shipwrecked musical oddity albeit from a different direction. Love them or hate them Sinfield’s words were certainly distinctive and I would argue, head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries.
I spent a while listening to the Moody Blues last night with the great Kimbrini and I was struck by the loftiness and insipid worthiness of much of the lyrical content. Though it’s true that a lot of Sinfield’s imagery and potential meaning is obscure, they are never less than striking and at least as demanding as much of the music.
Taking a peep over at some of the other DGM diaries this morning and I’m glad to see Matt Seattle has decided to soldier on. As I already said in my diary at the end of last year, his CD Out Of The Flames was one of the best I’d heard. More please Matt – as and when you can. How about an album of hard core electronica and the pipes eh ? Now that would make the folk purists curl their lips I’ve no doubt.
Ok that’ll do – signing off for this morning and the next entry will be from Hotel Akimbo, somewhere in leafy Highgate.
Sunday, April 09, 2000
Walking along to Tynemouth Station and Kimber picks up a Best Of The Moody Blues. As we walk along, I tell Debbie about Kimber's inclusion of Skin from Skunk Anansie in King Crimson. Alys, Debra's daughter and queen of the teenage sneer, reckons Sweep would be better. For those readers of this diary who are unfamiliar with children's TV in the UK, Sweep is a glove puppet who has a deeply irritating squeak. Alys reckons that Sweep's unique vocal characteristics would fit Crimson to a tee.
After a walk along the beach via Cullercoats harbour we get back to the house and listen to the Moody Blues. I hadn't heard much if any of the Moodies and so listening to this compilation is very interesting. I wonder how much of an influence the Moodies were on the likes of Ian McDonald and the other members of the first Crimson ?
Grey and grim weather today. Feeling a bit grey and grim on the inside as well this morning following a night out with ace housepest John Kimber of leafy Highgate.
Yesterday afternoon we went into Newcastle and took a walk around some shops. I picked up the two Sylvian / Czukay CD’s which were languishing in the bargain bin at Spin. Also spotted were copies of Discipline, 3OAPP and The First Day all at £4.99. Now that’s what I call a good price.
In Waterstones Kimber picked up a large coffee table book on the art work of Pink Floyd. A very handsome volume and lavishly illustrated it is too. We muse on the notion of a similar book for KC given the highly graphic nature of their covers.
We take in a couple of beers and head off back to Whitley Bay for a meal and then meet up with Debbie and her mate Heather. After a beer in The Station pub, we move onto the fleshpots of South Parade. We try to gain entry into a bar called The Hairy Lemon but the chappie on the door tells me that I’m not allowed in because I’m wearing trainers.
The dress code for the rest of the bars on South Parade is mercifully much simpler. Women wear very little other than skimpy pvc bustier’s and other items of their underwear. And that’s it. Blokey’s can wear what they want as long as it’s not trainers. We pile into one bar in which the music is so loud I cannot hear what Kimber is saying to me despite the fact that he’s only an inch away from my ear.
Then I realise the reason the I can’t hear anything is because he isn’t saying anything. Instead his eyes have glazed over and a look of idiot glee has settled over his finely sculpted features. I notice a sliver of drool running down the corner of his mouth. Kimber nirvana has been achieved.
After twenty minutes of crushing, shoving and general thronging, Debbie and Heather decide to move on. We leave the bar and find another at the top of the street which isn’t so crowded. Kimber protests saying “I was happy in there ! Why are we leaving ?”. A look of genuine pain and loss crosses his features as Babe heaven fades into the distance and dour half-empty-UK-pub see-your-drinks-off-please-and-do-your-talking-outside-please reality sets in.
Back home and a nightcap playing Wreckless Eric, Trex, The Only Ones and Weak As I am by Skunk Anansie with Debbie and Heather shouting the chorus out at full bore. Kimber contributes Burlesque by Family which sounds quite stunning – I’d not heard this for donkey’s years.
I almost choke on my glass of wine as Kimber, in a post-Babe reverie muses that he’d like to hear a Crimson consisting of Gunn, Mastelotto and Fripp fronted by Skin from the aforementioned pop-metalers. We put on “They’re Selling Jesus Again” to see what things might sound like in the alternative universe which the Kimber brain inhabits.
Even in the midst of Whitley Bay, beer and bountiful babes, you can count on him to dig deep into the anorak and come up with a fantasy Crimso line-up. Crikey – can’t some people get a life ?
Friday, April 07, 2000
Up this morning up at 7.30 a.m. as Debbie left for work. The living room was bathed in the most glorious yellow / orange light. The quality of the light in this room is the best in the house which makes it perfect to use as a studio in which to scrape and daub paint around a canvas.
Keith Tippett rang yesterday and confirmed that he’s willing to take part in the book. As we talked about the logistics of meeting up, he looked in his diary and discovered that he and his wife Julie are playing in Newcastle at the end of May. We’ve arranged a time to talk after they get back from a series of concerts the couple are playing in Russia.
Dashed up to Newcastle to meet John Kimber off the train from leafy Highgate. John is staying over for a couple of days which will give us an opportunity to let our anoraks flap in the wind for a while.
When we got back to the house, I discovered that Bill Reiflin had rung earlier in the morning just as I had left to take the children to school. Rather spookily, a package from Bill had also turned up in the morning post. How’s that for a bit of synchronicity ? It was sent care of Mr. Slater’s Parrot and contained Bill’s recent releases which are quite stunning.
After cooking some food and listening to Shania Twain at full blast (courtesy of Debra’s daughter Alys), Kimber and I head out for a pint in Whitley Bay. Earth-shattering topics include the team up of Mark Fenwick and Roger Waters, Pink Floyd in general, the merits of Beat and approaches to painting.
The latter conversation was carried on until 3.30 a.m. interspersed with some arthritic stumbling and noodling on acoustic guitars. It’s a good job it’s a big house and thankfully Debbie hadn’t heard any of our scraping.
I've just received an e-mail from Kimber asking where his cup of tea is !
The fact that Kimber is downstairs makes this e-mail even more ludicrous than those he normally sends. I wonder if it's possible to send his cup of tea as an attachment ?
Wednesday, April 05, 2000
Up this morning feeling groggy and very tired. Unable to concentrate on anything for any length of time. Only just managed to let the cat out of the front door.
As I did, the rush of cold air nipped me into a slightly higher form of consciousness in as much as I noticed it was light, not as windy as yesterday, the sea was still high though not as rough as before, the horizon was slashed open with a silver light AND that my dressing gown was wide open at the front leaving my dangly bits open to public scrutiny. The good news is that there’s not too much public around in our street at 5.45 a.m.
Last night was the opening for the Tom Phillips exhibition. The leader of the local Council gave a good speech welcoming the crowd of the arts glitterati and warming to the theme that the arts play an important role throughout society. Sadly she had to fly off to another event but it was useful to get this kind of political endorsement for what is quite simply a stunning exhibition.
There are over seventy prints and it is the first exhibition of this distinguished artist in the north-east of England. Pleased as punch to have pulled it off ? You bet.
E-mails in from Matt Seattle, ace crafty Tobin Buttram and John Kimber of leafy Highgate advising me of his time of arrival in Newcastle tomorrow afternoon.
Monday, April 03, 2000
Up early this morning. Rain battering the window, grey and black sky pressing down. This is somewhat alleviated by this months picture on the Rothko calendar consisting of a vibrant red and orange against a purplish background. It’s called “Untitled” and it’s quietly stunning.
As I download my e-mail, I notice both my wrists are aching. I may well have overdone the typing malarkey over the last few days. Or maybe it’s something else altogether more unsavoury. Several e-mails from Sean Hewitt regarding possible outlines for a future and as yet unwritten chapter in the book.
Also there are two e-mails sitting side by side – one from the East Coast of the States and the other from the West Coast. Both e-mails play around with the notion of the one Fat Geordie Bastard flapping over the pond in the near future. Strange how these possibilities seem to rear up seemingly out of nowhere.
I rouse Tom and Joe from their slumbers and get a pot of tea made for Debbie. An hour later Tom, Joe and I leave the house, coats and hats being tugged and dragged by the biting wind. By the time we reach the bus stop Joe’s round face looks like a beetroot.
At work today I look at the catalogue which we’ve commissioned for the Tom Phillips exhibition. There’s a private view tomorrow night at The Ad Hoc Gallery.
The catalogue looks wonderful and it is in fact a snazzy looking collection of 12 postcards in a wallet. We’ve done it as a limited edition with the artist and it is one of the most adorable pieces I’ve come across in a long while.
E-mails in from Russell Mills (graphic artist and recording associate with the likes of Sylvian / Hassell / Eno and all that crowd). We’re getting Russell to do some work with us in the near future and I’m hoping to get down to the opening of The Sonic Boom exhibition at the Hayward Gallery at the end of April where Mills is contributing an installation.
More e-mails arrive and indicate that the guest room here at Victoria Avenue is now fully booked for the month of April.I’m thrilled to note that one of the potential recruits for Debbie’s newly formed “Peter Hammill Cooks His Sunday Breakfast” Re-enactment Society is non other than vibe-guide and vision blokey, John Kimber of leafy Highgate
Sunday, April 02, 2000
Spend Sunday recovering from the night before. We’d gone out to the Newcastle Playhouse to see an evening of contemporary classical music and Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell.
Tickell opened the concert with a couple of jolly pieces but after that it was sadly downhill. The first half of the programme consisted of a piece for pipes and tape which was just too pedestrian and musically obvious for words and a bit of Stravinsky which may have been called Ragtime. It was interesting that so many people in this sell-out concert were so readily enthusiastic about it.
Tickell unveiled her own composition for pipes and small chamber orchestra which was vastly superior though not in anyway challenging on the ear or expectations.
The second half of the concert was taken up with some witty music by John Adams but by then I had lost the will to live. Afterwards, Debbie, Dude, Mike, Ann and I all agreed that there was less to this programme of music than met the ear.
On Saturday afternoon we spent a stunning afternoon walking on the beach, collecting bits of pottery, shells and sea-polished glass. However, changeable weather means that the boys are in and out of the house throughout the day. We’d intended to watch the stars over the week-end but the sky has been so overcast as to make this impossible. Now it rains and drizzles on and off all day.
Talking to Peter Sinfield was quite inspirational. His sense of wonder and affection for this period of Crimson has galvanised me into action and I spend much of the day revising my first draft of the Court album. I also spend much of the day listening to that music.
Epitaph in particular grabs my attention. . .
The rolling timpani heralds the first landmark appearance of the Mellotron on the album. More than any other instrument, this keyboard lends the track its gothic feel with eerily frosty spine-shivering strings. With a subtle use of studio reverb, it pervades the whole track, greatly enhancing the sombre aspects of the music.
If 21CSM was describing the entropic breakdown of a ravenous society split by greed and a lust for power, then Epitaph foresees a future where the technological time bomb is ticking away, unleashing Armageddon by mistake.
Such weighty themes are contained in a taut and sparse arrangement which avoids any sense of overkill or bombast. Instead the studied and measured instrumentation gives the piece a stately air, bordering on the funereal, adding to Epitaph’s brooding quality with great understatement.
The solo flute restatement of the verse brings to mind the feel of the Moody Blues, which might explain Tony Clark, the albums original producer, initial attraction to the group.
After the second verse in one In one of the most remarkably cinematic moments of the entire album, the production opens out leaving only the echoing snare and cymbals, marching into the emptiness while the Mellotron maniacally climbs the scales, lost and out of control.
The smouldering woodwind arrangement which follows is punctuated by refreshing splashes of sparse acoustic guitar which heighten the tension remarkably without resorting to any obvious histrionics or needless grandstanding.
More than anyone though, this track belongs to Greg Lake. In a simple song of only two verses, his vocals throughout are delivered with a surety and confidence which makes this performance one of the best on the album and perhaps of his entire career. Little wonder then, that the song was incorporated into his live solo slot with ELP following his departure from Crimson.
The ominous and chilling processional toward the end of the track is underpinned by the portentous use of timpani and the stabbing mixed brass chords on the Mellotron. Here there is no cosy resolution. Instead, everything seems to hang in the balance, the future remaining unresolved and unknown.
Epitaph is a landmark in the whole sub-genre of progressive rock. Though many groups would try, few would be able to emulate the brooding presence in this remarkable performance.
Saturday, April 01, 2000
Had a lie-in this morning with Debbie until 8.00 a.m. Fog horns sound across the small bay. Brilliant warm sunshine touches everything. As I hang the washing on the line though, I notice my breath clouding.
In the post last night were five A3 pages of musical analysis from Andrew Keeling concerning Court. Comprehensive or what ? Check out Andrew’s current diary page for a break-down of some of his main findings. Fascinating stuff – I even understood some of it. Cheers kidda !
Also last night e-mail from Markus Reuter requesting text for the virtual gallery he and Bernhard Wostheinrich are setting up. I’ve supplied them with slides of three paintings but they need some contextual information and some biographical content as well.
Speaking of which, I e-mail Dan and tell him I like the diary background as it was. I find the white just a touch too austere and much prefer the cuddly cream beige. A compromise might be beige with musical staves ?
I had a lengthy conversation with Peter Sinfield and we were able to set up a date for an interview for the book. Sinfield spoke with much warmth and affection for the Court era and it’s easy to see why. The combination of talent was truly remarkable and the power and impact of this music still reaches down through the years and grabs you by your vitals. It doesn’t sound like 30 years old.
Peter also mentioned the quality of the Summit Studio KCCC release and talked animatedly about the work of Mel Collins on that album. Actually there’s an APB out on Mel Collins. It’s believed that he’s working somewhere in Germany. I’d like to be able to get Mel’s eye-view of the life and times of KC at that time.
Our house guests are up and need to be attended to. This means cutting up a loaf of bread, toasting it and getting out the spread and Marmite.