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Sunday, July 30, 2000

Posing & Painting

Urgh....full of cold.

In lieu of any diary entry, I've asked Dan the Mainman to post a couple of pics taken in the upstairs living room from where these entries are dispatched into cyberspace.

First we see debbie in the Yellow Room larking about. . .

followed by Joe (nearest the camera) and Tom whipping up a watercolour or two.

Friday, July 28, 2000

Low & Lousy


Feeling low and lousy. A bit of a cold and of course being a man, I’m wilting. I’ve felt it coming on for the last couple of days so, I’ve indulged myself and let the tide sweep over me.

64 Spoons‘ Landing On A Rat Column has been getting some heavy rotation here in Whitley Bay. Jakko gave me a copy when I was down at his place last week-end but I wasn’t able to play it until Tuesday.

Recorded between 1978 and 1980 though not released until the early 90's, it's a whistle stop tour of difficult time signatures and don’t-try-this-at-home stunt songs. OK it's a touch showy in places but never pompous or self-important.

Witty, knowledgeable, fast and furious, you can hear the Cow and Zappa-esque tinges but they're done with real panache that makes one sit up and smile. The line-up was drums, keyboards bass, guitar and trumpet and it’s the inclusion of some neat and nifty brass outings that really add a bit of sparkle and verve.

Eclectic, free-wheeling and formidable but without the earnest, furrowed brow. Living proof that you can lark about in 10 / 8 and still have some fun.

More e-mail from Nick Evans on the subject of Lizard and the period when it was recorded. Also managed to fit in a swift brain-storming session with Chris Wilson who not only does a nice line in jaffa cakes but is coming up with some bright ideas for the book cover.

The title of the book is changing. It’s always been called King Crimson: Track By Track but the more I write, the less suitable this feels. Banged a few ideas around with Chris. Nothing conclusive. Whatever it’s called is bound to piss some people off. So, I’m letting the name arrive under its own steam.

Talked to Matt Seattle who has accepted a commission for a piece of music celebrating a new piece of sculpture which the local authority I work for has erected. Matt sounded chipper and I’m looking forward to working with him.

God, I feel awful.

Thursday, July 27, 2000

Clearing The Air

Met my sister Lesley and her family on Cullercoats beach last night. She lives In Milton Keynes (well, somebody has to) and is up for a few days visiting family and friends. It would be true to say that our relationship has been somewhat strained in the last few years and though we were once very close we’ve drifted apart.

Last year we managed to address the issues that were causing the difficulties head on and that clearing of the air did much to help. Of course, it needs much more than that. Knowing what the problem is doesn’t mean that you’re any closer to solving it. Since Christmas, we’ve been edging a little closer bit by bit and whilst our informal and totally impromptu meeting last night was a lot easier than previous gatherings, there’s still a way to go.

Also heard from Ian McDonald who’s back in New York safe and sound after his trip to the UK. Ian’s been such a help with the book and continues to provide pointers and insights into the events of 1969. The set of photo’s are being scanned by Chris Wilson (even as I speak) and should be back with Ian in NY sometime next week.

Following a truly dreadful nights sleep, I pounded along the beach in my usual five mile run and felt a bit better. This was followed up by even more bracing phone call from Bill Bruford. Bill was after the telephone number for The Dome in Whitley Bay where Earthworks will be performing in October.

Nick Evans who played trombone on Lizard has been in touch. His memory of the sessions is particularly vivid and provides one or two different perspectives on the recording of the album.

After trying to contact the man by phone without success, I sent off an e-mail off to Matt Seattle with an offer he surely can’t refuse. Watch this space.

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Brittle Things

07.35 a.m.

Brittle knots of pale sunshine crouch on slabs of grey vast clouds as fragile as lichen. Yet its warm and the air feels heavy. I’m feeling very tired despite another night of getting to bed early and falling asleep straight away.

Talked to Charlotte Bates last night. Charlotte became Ian McDonald’s girlfriend around the time that KC were recording their first album and of course was featured on the cover of McDonald & Giles.

We talked for around 45 minutes and covered the story of how she and Ian met, seeing Crimson live and flying out to the states with David Enthoven to meet up with Ian, the spilt and the recording of McDonald & Giles.

Also left messages for Mel Collins, journalist Richard Williams and Stephanie Ruben rang to leave me a contact number for BP Fallon. I’m going to have draw a halt to the interviews soon so that I can concentrate on ordering and filing all the material for a draft assemblage.

Tuesday, July 25, 2000

The Knack of Moving Words

7.45 a.m.

Grey drab morning. Drizzle on the road makes the cars hiss along like metal snakes. Last night when I got in I felt so tired and flat that I almost fell asleep waiting for the kettle to boil. Two cups of Earl Grey later and I still found myself dozing. Sure enough, I got to bed and was gone before my head touched the pillow.

Yesterday was also Chris Taberham’s birthday. Chris and I have known each other since around 1973 and he’s a good chum. We used to be a performance art duo called French Attic (I don’t know why) which involved dressing up in white boiler suits, moving piano’s around gallery’s, throwing paint around and doing odd things with torches in darkened upstairs room in pub’s.

This would be late 70’s – 1980 and it all made some kind of sense at the time. I think I made more of a living from doing that kind thing than from more regular work.

Chris is one of the best writers never published. He has a knack of moving words into all sorts of strange and jumbled connections which produce new meanings and associations. In 1983 I collected several of these fragments into a crudely self-published pamphlet entitled “One Dream To Last A Week”. There were only ever a few published and when I came to look for mine, it was gone or misplaced in one of my many house moves since that time.

Chris along with film-maker Eric Oliver, is part of Cave 11 – a studio duo who produce loops and things the old fashioned way. These are dark, brooding lo-fi excursions into a dank soundworld where voice, music and static meld and merge.

Once again, I think it would be wonderful for somebody other than a few close friends to hear this stuff or read his poetry but quite how it reaches such a small market place baffles me.

E-mails from David Enthoven (who’s in Australia) and John Gaydon indicating that they are still willing to help with the book. Also an e-mail from Mark Pearman who tells me that the Peter Giles gig was splendid. I had hoped to stay down for that one but in the end couldn’t spare the time.

Also in the e-mail, a possibility of hauling an installation by Brian Eno up to the north-east. It’s extremely early days and of course may come to nothing. However, it’s little glimmers like this that make the day job more than palatable.

Sunday, July 23, 2000

Having Lunch With Ian McDonald

Leafy Highgate

Had lunch with Ian McDonald in central London yesterday. Apart from the fact that it’s nice to be able to put faces to names, we’d met so that Ian could pass on some photo’s for inclusion in the book. There were over 30 items in all covering some early KC sound-checks and gigs through to documentation during the recording of McDonald and Giles.

As interesting as this was, the real gold dust was when Ian produced an A4 page-a-dairy which he kept during 1969. Each entry was written in a different coloured felt-tip pen and details the hectic late night-night life of a young man in sixties’ London.

The dairy details the gigs, the social comings and goings, the recording of the classic first album and the fateful American tour. And as if that wasn’t enough, it reveals the address of the bed and breakfast establishment where King Crimson stayed when they played a week-long residency in Newcastle all those years ago !

Ian and I shared a chuckle, as we imagined the look of bafflement as I knock on the doorof the landlady, microphone in hand, barking at her with my best Alan Whicker voice "Tell me Mrs. Trellis, what were the boys like back in those days ?"

Ian has kindly consented to let me use the diary in the book though was understandably reticent about leaving the item behind. Happily, his son Max has scanned most of the dairy and following a quick phone call, we’ve agreed that Ian and Max will mail over the pages in all their Technicolor glory.

In the evening I made my way over to the other side of London to meet up with Jakko Jakszyk. Apart from admiring the fabbo Catley, I was able to hear some bits and pieces of Jakko’s work in progress in his small but perfectly formed studio. One piece featured a brass band who played some gorgeously exotic chords and lines under which Danny Thompson could be heard laying down some deep grooves. Spine-tingling are the words that come to mind.

After a while we said bye to Jakko’s wife Mandy and her chum, heading off in search of food somewhere in darkest Highgate. Over a pleasant meal Jakko and I swapped views and stories about Crimson, Michael Jackson and Millwall Football Club. Good crack and good company.

Back at Kimber HQ, I potter about but felt unable to carry on with any more writing. Thus collapsing into bed reading one of the many music books taken from the Kimber archives. Zonked, as Ian McDonald used to say.

Thursday, July 20, 2000

God, Aubergines, VdGG, Curry and Uri Geller.

Last night made arrangements with Ian McDonald to meet up in London on Saturday and also made contact with Charlotte Bates to set up an interview for next week.

The main event of the evening was meant to be a telephone with Pat Mastelotto but as we were speaking, my son Tom was turning a whiter shade of pale. In a moment of prescience, I quick bade farewell to the Mastoman and managed to get a bowl under Tom just as he parked his breakfast, dinner and tea – wallop.

He then proceeded to barf for another couple of hours culminating in a grand wretch and a zinging temperature. There was no chance of getting back into the interview and so it fell to Debbie to call a hopefully not too pissed off Pat and officially bring the proceedings to a halt.

After a night of high fever, Tom was drained but the worst was over. He was clearly fragile but rallied round when he realised that he was going to get another day off school this week.

At Chris Wilson’s house tonight looking at some ideas for book cover designs. Chris had already played around with some ideas a while back and we revisited some of these. He’d come up with a melange of images taken from the various albums hanging out in space all covered by a (you guessed it) crimson reddish sheen. The titles and text were in a classy white and I have to say it looked jolly good.

I got a hard copy to take down to London this week-end to show a couple of people for their views and comments. Chris was nervous about letting me do this as he stressed that this was very much work in progress.

I came away from Chris’s a very happy chappy with all of the desired shots from taken from Stephanie Ruben’s scrapbooks and photo albums, all scanned and digitised onto one CD-R.

Got in tonight to discover Tom had had a fine day and seemed back to his normal self. Also received a copy of David Cross’s new CD. Only played it through once but I was very impressed with the strength and force of the playing. I’ll post a review of this once I’ve managed to give a couple of plays. Thumbs up so far though.

Got an hilarious call from Jakko Jakszyk tonight . A conversation which covered God, aubergines, VDGG, Curry and Uri Geller. Jakko’s the only bloke I know how makes me sound like I’ve taken Trappist vows. We’ve made plans to meet up on Saturday night for more nattering.

Peter Giles sent up a flyer advertising a gig his group is playing in London this coming Sunday night.

The band is called ALUNA and features Matt Cheadle on Vocals / guitar, Yasmine Giles on vocals / keyboards, Peter Giles on vocals / bass and Danny Bryan on percussion.

The gig takes place in the music room at The Pizza In The Park, 11 Knightsbridge, SW1, kicking off at 9.00 p.m. and costs £10.

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Talking To Phil Miller

Another beautiful morning with blue skies and golden sunshine on the waves.

Spent yesterday at the local hospital with Tom getting the dressing on his finger changed. A fortnight ago, Tom managed to snip off the first joint of his right index finger. He was very brave while the dressing was painstakingly removed and had to endure the pain of the thought of what might happen as opposed to what actually did happen. Either way, when your nine years old, whether the pain is psychological or physical, it’s bad enough.

Of course being something of a wiseacre, he negotiated an award for being so brave and when we left the hospital a couple of hours later, we headed straight for the shops and tracked down the Pokemon cards.

On the book front at the moment I’m trying to fill in details or eye witness accounts about the Bournemouth music scene. Working through Peter Giles’ account of this period in the interview I did with him a while back which covers the Dowland’s etc. in great detail. However, the other side of the family tree remains a bit patchy, so in the end I spoke to Gordon Haskell who provided me with the telephone numbers of a couple of members of the original League Of Gentlemen.

Stan Lawford who played drums for the League and he indicated that he would be willing to have a chin wag. Also spoke to vocalist Tino Lucinio who said he’d have a think about it. I think perhaps both people thought that I was maybe looking for some kind of muckraking angle although I was a great pains to point out that this wasn’t the case.

Nevertheless, you can understand there suspicion; some blokey you don’t know, rings you out of the blue and starts asking you questions about the band, its material, rehearsals and any memorable anecdotes.

Later in the evening, I talked to Phil Miller (Matching Mole, Hatfields, etc.) about his recollections of the recording of Matching Mole’s Little Red Record in the August of 1972. Phil also offered some complimentary views on RF’s playing and technique though I don’t think he’d regard himself as a KC fan by a long chalk.

Received a shed load of junk e-mail today. In one sense it’s not a problem as one simply hits the delete button. What I resent is the time it takes to download the things in the first place.

Separating the wheat from the chaff as it were to find a post from Pat Mastelotto. We’re trying to fix up a time to get Pat’s eye-view of the KC thing from the Double Trio onwards.

Monday, July 17, 2000

Talking To Dave Gregory

Beautiful blue skies today and warm summer sunshine. Only the sound of k.d.lang’s vile new single spoils the ambience.

Sometimes when you dislike something you can put your finger on it and sometimes, the precise source of irritation and ire remains oblique. Well, apart from the derivative, insipid melody, I figure it’s the knowingly -ironic and in-jokey cheesy string arrangement that really does my head in.

I heard this number in the car of a colleague today and during the said record, I fumbled about the dash-board searching for either an off-button or failing that an ejector switch for the passenger seat. Yes, dear reader, it is that bad.

Managed to get through a few contacts provided for me the laddo Jakko Jakszyk which included Dave Gregory from XTC. I talked to Dave tonight about his take on KC. It turns out he’s a seasoned Crim-watcher from Court onwards he shared his views on their work, naming some of his favourite KC tracks along the way. He also recalled seeing Crim in 1971 when they trucked into Devizes.

Nattered briefly to veteran journo Chris Welch. Chris was happy to talk (at a more convenient time) and provided me with one or two extra leads to chase up. We've arranged to chinwag tomorrow.

Also left a message with Canterbury legend Phil Miller who has also expressed an interest in giving an interview about his views on Crimson and the recording of the Matching Mole’s Little Red Record which Fripp produced in 1972.

On the Crim-related front, Peter Giles got in touch to say that he’s playing a gig in London this week-end. Although I’m coming down to the smoke, it's highly likely that I'll miss the show as I’ll be on the train heading back up to Newcastle.

Listening to lots of John Surman (splendid re-issue of the two albums The Trio made) and the Tony Oxely Sextet. Though it causes some protests from the kids (who are trying to play floor games or do homework), it really gets me ears going.

Sunday, July 16, 2000

Making Teenage Girls Sick

6.00 a.m.

Gorgeous sheafs of clouds filled with sun blossom out over the sea this morning. Everywhere else is grey and drab.

Yesterday was pure RnR with Debbie. The kids were engaged and looked after and so the two of us took off into Newcastle and did exciting things paying bills and buying train tickets. It’s such a treat to be able to spend time with just the two of us (i.e. without children) and I get such a buzz from her company.

We pootled around various shops looking for ideas for a chum’s forthcoming birthday. This is a mad way to shop (I don’t know what I’m looking for but I’ll know it when I see it) and is more likely to be an indicator of laziness and lack of thought on my part than any kind of adherence to the infinite possibilities of letting chance or fate govern one’s life.

We end up buying things we didn’t know we wanted and probably don’t need. In one shop full of mock-ethnic sculpture and third world candles and bells, I spied a CD rack up on a shelf. It looked like it would do the business and so we hauled it over to the counter whereupon the chap by the till pointed out a different unit behind us. It was nicer and in the sale ! What a guy ! So instead of paying him £30 for a CD rack, I gave him a tenner. What a bargain.

Interesting to see the arrival of a more cosmopolitan coffee culture in establishing itself in mainstream town centre locations. Whilst there have always been nice places to sit and drink of pot of tea, the general experience has been more akin to entering into a transit camp where the staff are eager to get you processed and gone asap.

It now seems that people (both punters and staff) are starting to get comfortable with the notion of sitting down and taking their time, drinking and writing or chatting. So, Debbie and I declined our usual watering point and tried Starbucks. We weren’t hassled to finish our drinks by cod-enthusiastic staff trying to wipe the table the instant you pick your cup and we were able to consider what we wanted to do on the evening.

Debbie loves the cinema and I suggested that we go pick up a movie but instead we opt to go back to Whitley Bay and gorge ourselves at a favourite restaurant, the aptly named Kismet.

As we walked toward to the Metro (the local underground train network) a small group of teenage girls heading towards us suddenly burst into laughter and dramatically pretended to be sick. I gathered that their sudden attack of nausea had been brought about the sight of an obviously eccentric-looking middle aged couple holding hands. This in turn caused Debbie and I much amusement. When you can still offend teenagers, you must be doing something right.

Forgot to mention that I spoke to Andrew Keeling the other night. His Quickening The Dead cd is going to be released on an another independent label called Riverrun.

Andrew tells me that the album will see the light of day toward the end of the year and with my painting plastered in some shape or form –feeble art joke in there somewhere.

Friday, July 14, 2000

Doing Interesting Things With Root Vegetables

2.00 a.m.

Spent part of last night round at Chris Wilson’s house near Byker just outside of Newcastle. Chris has kindly volunteered do some scanning of photo’s for the book. It was also useful bouncing ideas around about the look and feel of the pages and how the plethora of illustrations can be utilised.

On the way back home, the clouds were tinged with a luxuriant pink and gold as the sun went down. Several E-mails await and one from Jonathan Brainin regarding the forthcoming Guitar Craft course in NJ in September. It’s a reminder to tell me that I need to get the flight bookings sorted out.

So I find myself in bit of dilemma. The course takes place at the start of September and that will be around the time when work on the book will be at its height. So can I really take the time out from the book at what might well be a crucial point ?

On the other hand there’s no denying the focus that the GC environment brings. So maybe it’s possible to attend a guitar craft course without a guitar but with a laptop, some paperwork and a desire to do interesting things with root vegetables and Formica top tables ?

As I was considering these points, Patrick Shuleit rang. He’s been leaving rude messages on the machine for weeks now, so it’s wonderful to finally meet up (or least talk over the phone). I met Patrick on both the level one courses I’d been to and it was wonderful to hear him tonight – and what a piece of synchronicity (of sorts).

Patrick’s take on my dilemma (to go or not to go) was that if anyone could manage to sneak under the wire without a guitar then I could. Well, thanks for the vote of confidence Patrick but the jury is still out.

God it's late.

Thursday, July 13, 2000

McDonald & Giles

Joseph, my youngest son, looked a bit peeky when I picked him up from school yesterday and sure enough when I got in just after five he puked up big time. Since then he’s been running a slight temperature and giving it the old Technicolor yawn from time to time.

Despite being up and down in the night, Joe seems bright and most definitely up for going to school.

Spoke to McDonald and Giles last night though not strictly speaking in that order. Ian has been over at Michael’s place doing three days of recording. Prior to that Ian had met up with John Wetton to lay down an alto flute part for the forthcoming Wetton release, Sinister.

As Michael was dubbing off a cassette of their work, Ian and I made plans to meet up in London in a week or so. He’s brought over some pictures, memorabilia and his diary from 1969 for potential inclusion in the book.

Thanks to John Relph for allowing me to use his excellent discography which can be found via the Elephant Talk website

Tuesday, July 11, 2000

David Jackson & VdGG

Had a wonderful chat tonight with David Jackson from Van Der Graaf Generator. David was sharing some of his views on King Crimson and was re-counting his experience of working with RF during the recording sessions for H To He.

Van Der Graaf are all getting together this Friday to pool their memorabilia and do some reminiscing for a scrapbook which will be included in a forthcoming VDGG box-set. David said he will have a chat with Peter Hammill with a view to finding out whether he’s willing to offer any views on Crimso.

I was put in touch with Jackson via Jakko Jakszyk who I also talked to last night about his memories of seeing Crimson live. Jakko also sent me a couple of things he’s been working on more recently. This included a solo piece featuring the massed ranks of Jakko’s guitars and drum machine in the splendidly titled Kevin Costner’s Golf Course. A vigorous and sprightly piece it features a cavalcade of tones and textures including a Holdsworth-esque flourish or two.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, the two track CDR opens with a stunningly forensic recreation of Soft Machine’s As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to hear this classic song given new life by Jakko on guitar and vocals, ex-Hatfield Dave Stewart on keyboards, ex- Eggman Clive Brooks and the old Softy himself – Hugh Hopper on a snaking fuzz bass.

Along with some lovely flute and sax arrangements, they’ve breathed new life into an already terrific song with a gorgeously evocative coda.

I gather that this track may well be featured in a compilation celebrating the Canterbury Sound which is soon to be released on Voiceprint. If the rest is as good as this then all Canterbury fans (of which I am one) are in for a treat.

Also in the post tonight was a CD of tunes penned by a writing partnership featuring Neil Talbot. I met Neil via the pages of Elephant Talk and then in person at the Epitaph playback a couple of years ago. The songs are fronted by a young singer called Joanne Laporte. Haven’t had a chance to play it yet but Neil, if you read this can you drop me an e-mail ?

Also talked to DiN supremo who has at last emerged out of a period of purdah. Ian mentioned that he might now have some time to re-activate our musical project which DGM diarist and all-round beachcomber, Jeff Fayman sent over a couple of drum tracks from his Malibu eyrie. We’ve arranged a time to meet up and chat through some further ideas and who knows – we might even get to play something. Any readers of this diary want to loan me a double bass ?

Monday, July 10, 2000

Wendy House Rent Asunder

A day of howling gales up here in the North-east resulting in damage to several garden fences and sundry wendy house rent asunder. Spent the day with Tom who is not quite up to getting back to school following the severing of his finger-end last week.

Spent part of the morning dealing with colleagues from work and dealing with some internal matters such as the Post Office misplacing a registered delivery item (grrrr – it was a birthday present for Debbie !) and then some e-mails and telephone calls including Bill Bruford who was just about to depart for a tour of Italy. Exchanged some views about the KC gig in London a week or so ago and arranged to finish off the interview for the book later in August.

Also talked to Keith Tippett and got his perspective on the KC albums he was involved with. Rather depressed to learn from Keith that he hasn’t been consulted or involved in the programme of Tippett re-issues which have been emerging over the last few months i.e. Centipede. Keith’s question which someone should answer is “who’s been getting the
royalties ?” because he hasn’t.

The honourable exception to this shady practice is the stuff that Voiceprint have been putting out.

Speaking of which, Voiceprint very kindly sent me a couple of Jakko Jakszyk cd’s this morning which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. I’m talking to Jakko about his views on KC and some of his memories of seeing them live.

He’s also been incredibly helpful in putting me in touch with one or two musicians who were around when the original line-up were creating a buzz and their commentary, though not central, adds colour and tone as well as couple of anecdotes I’d not come across before.

Sunday, July 09, 2000

Anticipating Photek

Last night on Mixing It on BBC Radio Three I had the pleasure of hearing the very first playing of Photek’s newest release for some time. Titled DNA it’s a highly evolved and specialised kind of drum n’ bass.

When I was on tour with P4 I discovered that Pat M and I had a mutual liking of Photek’s album/e.p. The Hidden Camera which later appeared on the wonderful album Modus Operandi.

DNA is part of an e.p. which isn’t released until August but on what I heard last night I’ll be first in the queue to secure a copy. Crisply edited drum samples with a large funky edge (not unlike Jack deJohnette’s playing circa Miles) and deep wonderous bass grooves which simply propel the thing relentlessly forward.

Over this there are beautiful creamy textured electronica drones and echoes which seem to evaporate before your very ears. He’s added a jazzy guitar sample which slices in and out of the shifting breaks and beats. Crikey I can’t wait for the album !

It’s been a non-stop kind of day. Playing with Joe in the front room whilst sneakily listening to Miles Live At The Plugged Nickel and Where Fortune Smiles by Surman, McLaughlin, Dave Holland et al.

Then it’s onto helping Alys do a bit of research for her school project on Picasso. She’s actually thinks he can’t paint for toffee but takes the viwe he’ll be what the teachers regard as being a “proper” artist that and the fact that there’s tons of material to be found in books and the internet on Picasso.

As we delve into this stuff the frenetic playing of Harry Miller’s Isipingo brightens the dull-ish morning. The blistering solos between Tippett, Charig and alto player Mike Osborne are wonderful. I used to have this album when it came out on the much missed Ogun label and haven’t heard several house moves ago.

Happily it’s been re-issued as part of a Harry Miller box set and is coupled with Miller’s debut solo album Children At Play which I never had first time around. So it’s thumbs up for dead painters and bass players this morning.

Boy is it raining today. . .

Saturday, July 08, 2000

Sounds of Morning

6.00 a.m.
“These are the clouds of Michaelangelo, muscular with gods and sungold” so said Joni Mitchell and by golly she’s right. A thick band of burning gold smoulders above the grey of the sea.

Standing on the doorstep this morning feeling the warm air, just listening. . .
The intermittent morse of birdsong. . .
The occasional Doppler drone of passing traffic at the bottom of the street. . .
A phone ringing in a nearby house. . .
The metallic jangle and purr of a passing milk float. . .
The gentle white noise of waves. . .
Gull cries. . .

The garden is a small riot of colour and now the row of poppies is providing a wonderful location for the visiting bees. We love bees in this house (Debbie’s name apparently is Hebrew for bee) and it’s a fantasy of ours to become bee-keepers. Not too many (i.e. none) around this morning though.

We were up late talking last night with our house guest Beige Peter. The bulk of our discussion centred around a mutual friend in Birmingham who is currently going through a lot of personal trouble. She seems unable to break out of the cloud of despondency which pervades her world view. For some the pint glass is half full. For others its half empty.

For all her reading of mind-improving self help books, they seem to offer little in the way of practical strategies for escaping the fog of self-pity.

It's 7.25 a.m. and the first child is stirring. As I type, I hear the still groggy voice of Joseph (my youngest) shouting to his brother "'s morning !" For Joe, the glass is most certainly half full.

Friday, July 07, 2000

Meeting Jakko

Heard this morning from Ian McDonald who’s over in this country from his home in New York. He’s over here on a mixture of business and pleasure and somewhere in the middle we are going to try and meet up. Ian has brought over some photo’s and other material which might well be useful for the book.

Speaking of which, Toby Howard from ET has e-mailed me to say that yet another person is producing another book on King Crimson. This makes the third or fourth I’ve read about on ET in the last few weeks !

E-mail from David Cross today regarding the release of his new album which should be winging its way Smithward in the next few days.

Also in the post apparently are some items that might be of interest from Jakko Jakszyk who I met the other night with Michael Giles at the Crimson gig at Shepherds Bush. Jakko also had some useful suggestions to make about the content of the book and we are going to speak over the week-end.

Once again we slaved over a hot barbecue, charring innocent items of fruit, vegetable and animal, sipping wine and avoid the children and all their chums. Tom was off school again today having recently been parted from a portion of his index finger.

He’s fine within him although as the flesh begins to knit he’s in some discomfort. As I type he is on the playstation with some of his chums from the street. His injury has some credibility amongst his peers and it allows Tom to be brave and nonchalant.

Listening to the original Italian recording of PFM’s Photo’s Of Ghosts courtesy of the Kimberman and rather enjoyable it is too. Production wise there are many differences and its quite intriguing to hear this one next to the Sinfield-enhanced version.

The week-end starts here. . .

The Story of Tom Smith's Finger

On A Train Somewhere Between London & Newcastle. . .

After a few weeks of patient negotiation, I finally signed the contract for the KC book. The deal has been done with Helter Skelter who run a specialist book shop out of Denmark Street in London. I’m pleased to be going with HS because;
a) they’re really enthusiastic about the project
b) they have a good reputation
c) they have good national distribution
d) they have some good international links
e) they advertise nationally on a regular and ongoing basis
f) they don’t do books on any subject other than music.

Some other subjects which they’ve published include The Beatles and Bob Dylan, so the book will be in good company. They tell me it will need to be ready in draft form toward the end of the year and expect to publish in April / May 2001.

I’ve been asked to write some blurb for the trade magazine which will list the book in attempt to drum up interests amongst chains and buyers. Also needed for this is a cover image. Sean (from HS) wasn’t keen on the Jamie Muir painting. I road tested it with one or two Crimchums over the last couple of days and although they all like the image, there’s a view that it isn’t quite right for the cover, though it’s certain to be included somewhere within the body of the book itself.

Sean is keen on a single photo and because his favourite KC is the Court -era, he’s keen for something from that period. I’m not too keen on a single photo because it suggests that whoever has their mug on the front is somehow seen to be THE line-up.

Personally, I’d like something less literal and had thought about asking Bill Smith to come up with a more impressionistic cover. Anyway, it’s early days and Sean is insistent that the image used for the trade journals doesn’t have to be the final version that is used for the resulting book.

The pleasure at starting this relationship with Helter Skelter was compromised somewhat by the news that Tom, my oldest son, had managed to forcibly remove the tip of his index finger on his right hand last night.

The first thought was that some kind of minor surgery would be needed to effect some cosmetic repairs. However on closer inspection this now appears to be unnecessary. Tom is in good spirits and is positively over-joyed at the prospect of being off school tomorrow. The view coming from my mother is that Joseph is wondering how he too can get a day off school at the same time.

Tom’s accident was itself subject to a piece of strange sychronicity. In the morning Kimber found me an hilarious passage from one of Bill Bryson’s books concerning farmers form the mid-West chopping off digits and appendages in agricultural machinery. Then later in the evening, I got the phone call about Tom’s accident and his top-slicing episode.

Finally, after all the panic and worry, I picked a film totally at random from Kimber’s collection to watch. The movie was a thriller called Arlington Road and the opening moments contain footage of a small boy who has injured his hand in a freak accident.

I swear I’m not making this up. Ask Kimber - he’ll tell you.

Back home, I discover that I’ve left my mobile phone on the train. Bizarrely we get a message from a taxi driver telling me it’s been recovered and to make the arrangements to hand over.

A full answerphone including a message from John Wetton regarding some transparencies he loaned me a month or so ago. Debbie’s chum Halina is visiting us and so we all troop off to a pizzeria overlooking the beautiful Cullercoats harbour. Tom’s finger is wrapped in lashings of gauze and he’s enjoying being the centre of attention.

We eat enough food to feed the five thousand and take a slow walk along the sea-front. It’s wonderful being back near the sea !

Thursday, July 06, 2000

Tom Good Dad Bad

Tom was in good spirits this morning although his finger was throbbing quite a lot. Half an hour after some pain killer he was as right as rain. Loving the fact that he was off school and having the prospect off slumming it on the sofa being attended to by doting grand-parents. As I went off to work, he looked like he’d given a masterclass in smugness.

Debbie’s chum Halina did an overnight stopover with us and got off to her meeting in Sunderland safe and sound. She was spellbound by the raging sea thrashing about down on the promenade below and in the howling gale mentioned something about being so lucky to live by the sea.

Later in day and I’m feeling ghastly and completely moribund. A reaction to living the high life in London for the last few days. We boys from up North pride ourselves on being roughy-toughy but a combination of four or five late nights and early mornings have done for me.

This evening our next arrival, also from Birmingham, came to stay for a few days. Beige Peter is an old friend of Debbie’s and is quite possibly the worlds greatest living expert on JS Bach and hammer action drills.

You Are Here...I Am There by The Keith Tippett Group

Young Turks Delight

You Are Here...I Am There
The Keith Tippett Group

17 April 2000

Justifiably lauded as one of the greatest pianists of his generation, Keith Tippett’s talent as a composer of lyrical warmth has often been overlooked in favour of his considerable firepower at the keys.
Recorded in 1970, at a time when jazz in the UK had only recently begun to walk unsteadily in its own distinctive UK and European direction, Tippett and his colleagues were determined to carve their own niche within the movement.
Not entirely helped by its production, the disc nevertheless features some vintage Elton Dean soloing and fiery contributions Mark Charig on cornet and Nick Evans on trombone.
Though Tippett turns in some incisive and telling moments on acoustic and electric piano, it’s really his position as a composer which gives him the authority here.

The graceful "This Evening Was Like Last Year" which opens and closes the album is an ornate piece with extended orchestration and punchy arrangements. When all the band are in full flow on "I Wish There Was A Nowhere", it’s reminiscent of "Facelift" from Soft Machine's Third. Not surprising really as Elton Dean gives a bravura performance which will be familiar to fans of the Soft’s brand of early jazz-rock. The standout track is "Violence" - fairly apt given that these young turks have more than enough attitude to go around.

Often overlooked in favour of the following album, Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening, despite its occasional weaknesses this is a solid album that showcases the fire in the belly of these young men still in their early 20s with something to prove.

Tuesday, July 04, 2000

King Crimson at Shepherds Bush Empire

Last Night In Shepherds Bush. . .
A couple of years ago The Daily Telegraph sat in the balcony reviewing Crimso’s last appearance at the Empire theatre in Shepherds Bush. The review was extremely favourable but mentioned being bedazzled at the sea of shining bald pates from the audience below.

Well, I watched KC 2000 from a similar position and from what I saw last night, things have changed. There was a profusion of hair indicating that either the demographic of the audience was widening or that the international wig market might be a shrewd investment.

There were also more people of the female persuasion in attendance - more than I’ve ever seen at a Crimson concert before. I mention these two facts only because they are taken to be some kind of indicator about the degree to which new and contemporary audiences are finding their way to KC.

A lot of new fresh faces and a lot of new fresh material for them to listen to. Despite what one has read on the various diaries, this Crimson seemed at ease with itself - trusting and playful in equal measure making for a night of ambitious and dynamic music.

The TCOL material has developed and benefited from its time on tour and the new arrangements of some of the older songs have added a necessary bit of sparkle. LTIAiv was quite simply astonishing with its remorseless and unrelenting slabs of shifting rhythm. Especially breath-taking was the newly added frenzied unison playing between Fripp and Gunn right at the end of RF’s blistering arpeggios. I couldn’t help bellowing with gusto when the pair took that corner at break-neck speed.

The mighty Seizure - a firm favourite of mine since the P4 tour - manifested itself last night, deceptively emerging out of the pre-set drum sounds that begin Heaven & Earth. Once again it has a re-worked and now boasts an enhanced arrangement over which Belew polished off one of his most spectacular solos of the evening.

Improvisation has always been a prominent feature within Crimson and it was wonderful to hear such a full-blooded and committed sequence as last night’s. Mastelotto guided the piece through two or three different moods, taking in a piece of jokey P4 territory along the way, which provided an almost comic interlude, releasing a bit of tension and giving the band and audience a bit of a breather.

Over an hour or so, there was so many marvellous moments to reflect on - Sing-along-a-Adrian and 30APP, a deeply moving Deception Of The Thrush and some of the most brutal and uncompromising music I’ve had the good fortune to hear in a long while.

Afterwards, I felt slightly dazed by it all and a bit sad that it had all come to an end so soon. After a bite to eat along the Uxbridge Road, we made our way to leafy Highgate. I felt exhausted and at around the 2.30 a.m. finally went off.

Today In Leafy Highgate. . .
After lunch in the excellent Banners Café in Crouch End, Kimber and I make our way to the local library to have a flick through some trade directories from the late sixties and early seventies.

The object was to try and find the addresses of some of the studio’s where Crimson recorded. Kimber was like a tenacious terrier and in a matter of seconds, the obscure object of my desire had been located, noted and duly photocopied. Yet another triumph for the great Kimbrini, the hero of the archive.

Monday, July 03, 2000

Goosebump Moments

The last few days spent febrile, dreaming, moving in and out of the cross-hairs of a fluctuating body temperature. My whole sense of time stalled like a train waiting to enter a station – ticking over but not moving.

I don’t feel . . .connected at the moment and because work is so busy I’ve really had to be operating on automatic pilot for the last few days. The sole aim has been to get through through to the other side of this and then to be able to take sometime off work with the children.

E-mails from Robert Fripp regarding his work with Keith Tippett which will find their way into the cd booklet I’m finishing for the re-issue of Tippett’s classic Blueprint.

A comedy of errors and answerphone messages as Andrew Keeling and I fail to actually talk to each other. Andrew confirmed that Riverrun Records (who are putting his album out) are going to use my painting for the front cover – which I’m thrilled about.

Also exercising my mirth muscle has been one or two amusing messages from Patrick Shuleit or Mr. Methane as those who get too close know him as. One e-mail from the Shuleit man really brought a smile to my face at a particularly low point – cheers Patrick.

Decided against attending the Guitar Craft course in New Jersey in September. This is largely on the grounds of cost (although there was some threatening talk about some members of the Jersey circle doing a Sid-Aid concert) but is more to do with taking the time out from the book.

Saw Chris Wilson today who has finished scanning all the Ian McDonald and Peter Giles photographic material. Chris also gave me a hard copy of the draught cover which looks…majestic. Rang Sean at Helter Skelter to find out his reaction but he’s not back in the office until Monday.

Also talked about the internal lay-out of the book and Chris clicked me through some of potential effects that can transform the presentation of photo’s.

Some beautiful moments tonight;

*The yearning stratospheric strings on the “And I need you more than want you” passage on Glen Campbell’s original version of Witchita Lineman.

*The moment of desperate, pleading realisation in the big finish of The Big O’s It’s Over.

*Reflection and remembrance beautifully caught in Arvo Part’s haunting Spiegal im Spiegal.

Goose-bump moments all of them.

The Sound of the Seventies

Last night Kimber came back with a couple of his mates and we all watched the final of Euro 2000 which I gather has been a high profile pan-European soccer tournament. The game was played out between France and Italy and jolly exciting it was too. I don’t normally watch football (no great reason other than it never connected with me) but last night I had a ball !

The banter was good and the football was entertaining. It never ceases to amaze me when they kick the ball that goes in a direction which they intended. This is not my experience.

After the chaps left, Kimber put on some old chestnuts from the likes of Uriah Heep and Alex Harvey. Donning our anoraks, talked about which bands we went to see in the early 70’s and how much of that music we still listen to either because of nostalgia or for current interest.

As we talked I realised just how much live music was available at the time. Looking back I wonder how I ever afforded it all but somehow one did. I didn’t smoke or drink and apart from the occasional bit of what would now be called recreational use of drugs (dope, speed, acid) all my available resources went on seeing bands live.

So a list of bands from the 1970’s might look a bit like this;

Atomic Rooster
Wouldn’t cross the road to see / hear them play ‘em now

Where are they now ?

Barclay James Harvest
Fond memories of wiffly Mocking Bird song but nowt else

Bad Company
The only reason we all went along was to see Boz. He wore red leather trousers - confirmation of his rock god status.

Be-Bop Deluxe
Saw them on the Axe Victim tour. Now who played the guitar ?

Note from Kimber - isn’t this man sad?

Jeff Beck
Liked that Blow by Blow tour but otherwise my listening has been Beckless for many a year.

Blodwyn Pig
Ex-Tull memfest with an outstanding Jack Lancaster on soprano. No Pig CD’s in the Smith archives

I went with a mate. Pass the Trill

Something about a Snow Goose. Now I’d run ‘em over with a snow plough

Totally wonderful years ahead of their time band. Saw them several times during their heyday and the Smith shelves groan under the weight of Can CD’s

Captain Beefheart
Saw the Captain a couple of times. Though unfashionable, I really rate Bluejeans and Moonbeams. Several Beefheart albums are frequently consulted

Curved Air
Sad to say that my motivations to see CA were not entirely musical.

Deep Purple
Aahh extreme dandruff exchange. Saw them several times with Gillan and had to wear a neck brace for weeks after. No Purple passages in my current album collection - none wanted either.

Queued up all night once to buy a ticket. Lost it on the bus coming home. My mother pleaded with venue manager and I got in. The show at Newcastle Queens cinema was then cancelled when there was a problem with the PA ! Three ELP albums on my shelf filed under nostalgia.

Saw them a couple of times. Hadn’t heard them for years until Kimber was staying at our house a couple of months ago.

Rory Gallagher
More distribution of dandruff. Developed a life-long taste for red checky shirts but that’s all.

Assured that it would be all right now, I left Free at the City Hall and never looked back.

I can’t conceive of growing up without admiring Tony Bank’s pullovers.

Saw all the classic line-ups and even the one with BB. Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy is the donkey’s todger !

Spilt is what happened to me and my Groundhogs albums many moons ago.

Stacia - pure and simple. No space cowboys in the Smith household at present.

Hatfield & The North
I think I once paid as much as 42 pence to see these guys. All their albums and often played.

Henry Cow
Fabbo Agit-prop band which I was lucky enough to see supporting Beefheart. A fine set albums. I even bought the re-mastered versions so I could hear the orginal mixes - you work that one out. Totally wonderful.

Alex Harvey
A great live act but never worked on album for me. Heard some last night at Kimber’s house and it didn’t cut the mustard.

Roy Harper
I lurve the Harperman big time. Many albums owned and many a song provided the soundtrack to teen-age (and a bit of middle-aged) angst.

King Crimson
Heard the band - my life changed.

Led Zeppelin
Never has the humble sock known such abuse in the service of inside leg enhancement ! Currently re-discovering lots of the Zep back catalogue and getting into it thanks to Kimbrini.

Mahavishnu Orchestra
The day after they played the City Hall, my sister phoned all the Mclaughlin’s who lived in Whitley Bay saying "Is the Mahavishnu there please". Eighth call in an elderly sounding lady said "Just a minute, I’ll go and get him." We squealed in delight and horror and slammed the phone down. I can’t play that first album without thinking of this incident

Matching Mole
Loved their stuff. They were great live but oddly cast in a support role for

John Mayall
Enjoyable live but again I found the albums less convincing and thus there’s a distinctive gap in the section marked M.

Mott The Hoople
Never did a bunch of geezers look so daft in lip gloss and platforms. Sadly missed but not by me.

I loved Flowers and Nantcucket to death and they were so loud live that I swear my hearing has been permanently damaged. I’ve had no desire to go Mountain climbing in the years since leaving the two albums on a bus.

National Health
Saw them several times on the college circuit. BB was stunningly entertaining battering away while reading the sheet music. The Complete NH and Missing Pieces are the business in our house. Debbie hates them.

Pink Floyd
Saw them before the release of WYWH. Awesome and all that. Several Floyd toe-tappers regularly hit the player.

Roxy Music
Saw them on their first big UK tour and I have the photo’s to prove it. For me they lost the plot when Eno went. Thus first two albums are the one’s that do it for me. The rest is crooning and a well dodgy dress sense.

Saw them with Earth Wind & Fire supporting. Read a book, raised a family, hitched around Europe and caught crabs during a guitar solo. Abraxis was one album cover you didn’t want your mother to take an interest in.

Al Stewart
Loved it all at the time and still have a soft spot for the roads to Moscow thingy. No Stewart in the collection other than Andy.

The Strawbs
A bit of the old histrionics but who could resist Brave New World ?

String Driven Thing
Loved them live avoid their albums like the plague.

Always the bridesmaid never the bride. No souvenirs of the occasion please.

Stone The Crows
Part gawp and part squirty lurve thang. No Crows on the shelf these days.

Soft Machine
The softs were great live and Hugh Hopper and Babbington were bass hero’s for me. There entire back catalogue is a feature of the collection.

Tangerine Dream
Teutonic knob-twiddlers induce catatonia. I confess I have Pheadra.

Ten Years After
Wearisome guitar pyrotechnics loved at the time but now best akin to a relative that one doesn’t speak of except in hushed tones when the children have left the room.

Phil Mogg once gave me a bottle of brown ale from the stage at the City Hall. Upon receipt of brown dog, I was promptly escorted from the building by a steward vigourously enforcing the no drink policy. Git. Consequently a deep scepticism of UFO product.

Van Der Graff Generator
The day after I saw them play I went out and bought a pair of clogs to emulate the Hammill look. Godbluff and Pawn Hearts still get some regular playing if only to rack Debbie off !

Wishbone Ash
If I’m honest I only bought Argus because it had a cool over.

Saw them around Topographic but it’s only Fragile and Close To The Edge that do it for me.

Enough already ! I'm late for Tom Phillips !

Sunday, July 02, 2000

The Sound Of One Hand Counting

Leafy Highgate

A splendidly sunny morning marred only by the school adjacent to Hotel Akimbo having a carnival day. I say marred only because it would have been nice to sit outdoors, drink tea, read the papers and keep a look-out for the squirrels in the trees.

As it was, Kimber and I contented ourselves to sitting in his dinning room and chewing the fat about families and relationships and the various methods one has for coping with their ups and downs.

I grew up with a father who not only beat-up my mother on a regular basis but took little or no interest in his children. I can count on one hand the amount of times I did some kind of activity with my Dad as a child. I can count on one hand the amount of times he asked me about my school work or took any interest in what I was doing.

As Kimber and I spoke of these issues, I felt the raw emotion of those days as a child, welling up in me producing an outburst of the wobbly lip syndrome. The events of my childhood continue to exert a profound influence on who I am and how I relate to the rest of the world and my own children in particular.

Then as if on cue, Debbie rang from a rain-soaked Whitley Bay. She was in a deep despond at the prospect of doing school reports for the rest of the day. She also gave me an update on a good friend of mine had called round yesterday only to find I’d flitted off to London. He’s in a lot of pain as he’s just parted from his girlfriend of the last five years.

He knows it’s doomed but can’t help the wracking emotions of loss and grief that are moving through him at the moment. Debbie was able to offer him a female perspective which roughly goes "it’ll get worse before it gets better and when it happens to you again, it won’t hurt as much".

Kimber and I took a look at his web-site and I chipped in with a couple of ideas about the text and some bits of presentation. Also took a look at some of the new Blue’s he’s been working on. He seems to be on a definite groove with this stuff and I admire his stamina and diligence in trying to follow where the stuff is leading him.

Late in the afternoon, after the Kimberman has gone out to meet some of his mates, I take a peek at his copy of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. The last time I saw this was the first time it was ever broadcast on British TV. It was a mystifying but enjoyable experience even then. Today it was more akin to looking at someone’s embarrassing holiday video; You like the folks in the shot but their antics are painful to watch.

Back to the book for an hour and listening to a glut of David Crosby and Stephen Stills solo albums from the Kimber archives. Very enjoyable ear-candy. Crikey, when those geezers sing togther, they could charm the squirrels from the tress.

Saturday, July 01, 2000

Bandying around phrases

Leafy Highgate

Last night despite the somewhat inclement weather we all sat out in our back yard and incinerated all manner of beasts. If you closed your eyes, there was an almost Mediterranean feel to the proceedings. Tom and Joe buzzed about in a state of high excitement around the sizzling barbeque and thoughtfully invited half of the street in without asking us first.

We opened the wine and drank a toast to Debbie’s good fortune in getting a new job and anything else we could think of. My mother wandered around commenting on the health and identity of the various potted shrubs and plants which now occupy the back yard. Beautiful little blue and pink cornflowers present vivid bursts of colour which are breath-taking.

This morning I slept till around 8.00 a.m. and then pottered around in the front garden in the most glorious sunshine. The sea was deep blue and the bees were making the most of the burgeoning poppies.

E-mails from Ian McDonald who rang last night while we were all out in the back yard. Ian enquires whether I’ve made contact with Charlotte Bates (featured with Ian on the front cover of McD & G). Sadly, our telephonic paths have yet to cross. He also mentions he is busy working on his sleeve notes for the impending KCCC release of the Hyde Park concert.

Speaking of which, farewell e-mails from Julie O’ Hanlon at DGM and "Hello there, you fat Geordie Bastard" kind of salutations form Laura, who now occupies the marketing / PR hot seat at DGM.

Also some words of encouragement and support from diary and guestbook readers. As I’ve said early, it worries me when people get their expectations up about the book. You’re bound to be disappointed. Everyone has their own version of what the thing should include and what questions should be asked an so on. So please, before people start bandying around phrases like the "ultimate" or "definitive" remember that it will probably be neither. It’s probably best to reserve those kinds of judgements until you’ve got the thing in your hand - which will hopefully be sometime around April or May next year.

Several correspondents have offered me their recollections of Crimson live. I’m planning a follow-up book on Crimson which just looks at their work in concert. In part this will enable me to use (and or invite) contributions from enthusiasts from all era’s and will provide a chronological patchwork quilt of impressions of KC live in concert. It will match dates and concerts and provide a platform for commentary on some of the most remarkable moments of KC in full flight.

There’s no date set for publication but the potential publisher of the KCTxT book is interested. A follow-up book will also enable me to use some of the pictures which might not make it into the first book.

However, believing you should be able to walk before you can run, I’m putting all my energies into getting KC TxT dropping onto the doormat of the publishers.

On the train down to London, I work on a draft of my sleeve notes for the Voiceprint re-issue of Blueprint by Keith Tippett. I’m establishing base camp in leafy Highgate for a few days at Hotel Akimbo and have brought down a copy of the CD to give it some heavy duty listening. I’m also hoping to talk to Keith Tippett over the course of the stay in leafy Highgate although don’t tell the Kimberman that I’ll be using his phone.


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