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Saturday, December 30, 2000

Painkillers, Prozack & Advocaat

Quicker than you can say "touch the monolith, Dave" it's about to be 2001. Cliché though it is the year has flown over. Somewhere between The Book and The Back it's been a very instructive year for me. I've struggled with the task of biting off more than I can chew and had to deal with the consequences (this does not only refer to the writing of a book about King Crimson btw) and yet I feel buoyant and optimistic although this could be as a result of a winning combination of painkillers, prozack and Advocaat.

My mother will be joining us to see the new year in which I'm very pleased about. She's lost some of those nearest and dearest to her and I think she could use the company.

We've nothing extravagant planned; a game of Star Wars Monopoly with the kids and then at midnight we intend to light some fireworks. I'm not sure why we're doing the last bit but it seems like an idea whose time has come.

Watched a video of LA Confidential and recalled that this was quite possibly one of my favourite films of last year. It's adapted from James Elroy's novel of the same name and even though the film script takes some liberties with the original story it all works very well indeed. Elroy is a thoroughly hip writer who manages to create a convincing seedy world of Los Angeles in the 1950's. LA Confidential is actually part three of what is known as his LA quartet and anyone who likes their crime fiction particularly hard-boiled, realistic and about as unsentimental as it's possible to get should check him out.

Also well worth looking it is his biographical book My Dark Places which is an investigation into his mother's murder. It's a sombre and unflinching account of growing up in LA in the fifties and as a young boy of 12 dealing with the horrendous consequences of death and betrayal.

Hey - I'm not usually so down as this !

More snow and the kids as high as a kite. We all go into the back yard and make a traditional Christmas Dalek with a bucket for its head. You know, that sink plunger looks like its been waiting all its life for this moment.

Friday, December 29, 2000

The Snowman Cometh

There was a knock at the door last night and when I opened it, I was greeted by the sight of a huge smiling snowman. Quite a sight. Debbie and I roared when John and Jude (our next door neighbours) and a whole bunch of kids from the street leapt out shouting "Merry Christmas".

Sadly the handsome snowman was sadly reduced this morning having fallen over onto his ample face. Debbie is going to re-build him later today. The post arrived with its usual collection of competitions and bills and also a card and photo from Mark Jx from Colorado. In the e-bag there were birthday greetings from John Stevens, Andrew Keeling and world leader David Symes.

Also in the e-post were a couple from Darren Woolsey regarding some KC factoids and asked him to think about. With thirty years worth of facts and trivia to consider, I'm bound to have forgotten some blindingly obvious items. Hopefully Darren and one or two other members of the gang will be able to make sure some of the gaps are plugged.

I got this e-mail from Trevor Lever last week describing his experience of going to Hyde Park in 1969. I liked it a lot and thought I'd share it with the readers of this page.

I didn’t go to Hyde Park in ’69 to see King Crimson; I went to see The Rolling Stones. Actually, I didn’t go to see The Rolling Stones either it was just a day out with my school chums and I went along for the ride. Having just turned 14, I was allowed for the first time, by my Mum, to go into the London “sans-parents”. The day out was only approved off as a consequence of one of my mate’s older brother was coming along for the trip as well. Getting to Hyde Park involved taking a bus from where I lived (Swanley) to the Elephant & Castle and from there going on the underground.

So with enough sandwiches, tuck and pop to last me for several weeks we arrived, along an estimated half a million others, on the outskirts of Hyde Park. To be honest I remember being a tad nervous about the size of the crowd and very nervous about losing touch with my chums, as I wasn’t sure I could remember the way home on my own. So keeping close together we headed straight for the stage. This was a bad move. Everyone else it seemed had a similar plan and many had several hours head start on us. The end result was that we were some distance from the action - at least the length of a football field - maybe more. Now, this was in the days before huge projection screens at concerts were used for the sad folks at the back. Even with my trusty 8 x 40 astronomy certified binoculars there wasn’t much of a view.

During the first act everyone talked and occasionally glanced towards the minute stage in the distance. After all we were here to see The ‘Stones. I do recall some of the music. I remember thinking that the first song had a tremendous riff and then went all jazzy and complicated. I turned to my jam sandwiches, which were more interesting and digestable. I recall that the music went all “folky and hippy” and thought another band were playing. The conversation around me did not touch on the music that was being played. I thought this strange, but as this was my first concert, I assumed it to be the appropriate etiquette. At one point I thought an orchestra was playing but through my binoculars saw only four blokes on the stage. “Where’s the orchestra?” I asked Colin’s elder brother. “Dunno” was the informed reply. “Who is this playing?” I said to no one in particular. “King something” I was told. I made a mental note to check this music out at a later stage. No one seemed interested in the support band. But then that’s true of most gigs, I guess.

Towards the end of the year I was in Dartford with my Dad shopping when we walked past our local record store. Staring out at us from the shop window was this large red face with mouth open and large teeth glistening. There was no name on the record cover so I went inside to ask the shop owner who the album was by. “King something” he told me…

I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who was at other memorable KC gigs such as the first few in the USA, Moles, the Beat play-in gigs and so on. Please send any observations and the like to me care of the usual address.

Stairs and Bridges

Last night Debbie and I decided not to go and see the new Cohen brothers movie and instead we went to eat some Chinese food at one of the buffet bars that have sprung up in the city. On the evidence of last night, some patrons interpret the invitation to "eat as much as you like" for "eat as much as you can". As people wandered past on their way back from the buffet table I was gobsmacked at the teetering piles of food, wobbling vicariously on their plates. These proportions seemed to defy the laws of gravity never mind any notions of sufficiency - and this coming from a fat bastard who has been known to put away a fair amount of food in his time. Yes dear reader, even I was unable to compete with the zeal and fervour exhibited by our fellow punters. For the record, Debbie and I had a starter and a main meal. That was it. And very nice it was too.

After which, we left Lau's and walked down through the West Gate of the old city walls, past the vast Victorian halls of the Central Station. From there we crossed over and continued our trek toward the river, passing the sleeping cathedral but pausing by the Castle Keep or "new" Castle (from which the city takes its name). This huge 11th Century construction was a favourite place of my childhood. From there Debbie and I plunged into the gloom of the Castle Stairs.

Going down these stairs is akin to delving into a bizarre form of reverse archaeology - the deeper you go the closer you get to the present. The walk down begins at street level with the remains of a medieval archway. However as you descend, the 18th and 19th Century rise up on you, brick by brick continuing all the way down until to reach that particular street level at the bottom of the bank and arrive at the 21st Century. (See more excellent photographs of the area by Brendadada)

Here Newcastle's Quayside has been transformed from its old slum / industrial past into dazzling colonnades of drinking establishments all dripping with neon and chrome. Eventually we arrive at the new Millennium bridge which spans the Tyne - the latest in a long succession of such enterprises. It's meant to look like the arc of an eye and I think it's rather successful. Municipal architecture often has a troubled origin and more often, a disastrous execution. Usually overspent and unfortunately over here, so to speak.

Debbie and I walk across to Gateshead where they are converting the old Baltic Flour Mills where my father used to work as a chargehand, into a prestigious centre for contemporary art - the biggest outside of London and Tate modern someone told me recently. Next to that is the shell of the Gateshead Music Centre which is going to house the Northern Sinfonia, FolkWorks, a whole load of other music related projects and numerous venues of different sizes.

After all this culture, Debbie and I head back over to Newcastle and walk the twenty or so minutes to meet up with Chris Wilson, his wife Pauline and later on a chum of mine, John Sargent and his missus, Lor. The Tyne is a jolly pub and we have a grand old chinwag. Afterwards Debbie and I call back into Chris's house to await a taxi. While we wait I strip most of Chris Wilson's CD collection of the shelves and into Debbie's little black bag. Chris doesn't seem to mind too much. We get home sometime after 1.00 a.m. and sit up chatting until well after two in the morning. Needless to say, I felt slightly smeared about the face when I got up today. We are meant to be going to the cinema and a party tonight. Urghhhhh. . . .

Thursday, December 28, 2000

Happy Birthday To Me

Last night we had little Sam from next door sleeping over but unfortunately Joe had a terrible hacking cough which necessitated me bringing him to sleep on the sofa next in the upstairs living room. Eventually he fell asleep but coughed and spluttered and hacked and wretched through the night, requiring several nocturnal visits to administer water and reassuring presence.

This morning its grey, overcast and very, very cold but the day gets off to a grand start with Debbie scooping up the mail and giving me a clutch of promo postcards advertising Andrew Keeling's forthcoming CD. The artwork looks great and I feel really chuffed to see my own little daubing included. It's my birthday today so this is a lovely present.

Other goodies include Peter Ackroyd's biog of Thomas More from my mother, a bottle of deluxe olive oil from my sister and the Oxford Dictionary of Music from Debbie. It's now snowing and the kids are pelting snowballs at each other. Time to roll and throw I think . . .

Tuesday, December 26, 2000

Another Christmas Day

The kids were back from their visits yesterday and the day celebrated by snowing. This is such a rare occurrence now. We even had poppies flowering in our garden in December. The gang played out in the powder-like layer of snow and there was a respectable snowman built complete with large carrot.

My mother joined us for the day and we all exchanged gifts and tokens. Being a lucky lad, Doreen has bought me Peter Ackroyd's biography of London which charts and documents the steady accretion of villages and hamlets which eventually made London what it is. Though I do understand that the streets are not exactly paved with gold, the place does have a resonance for me and I've been a regular visitor to the city since 1981.

I'm a sucker for origins of place names and at a cursory glance of the book reveals that Ackroyd's eye for detail will not let me down. His biography of Blake which was bought for me at this time last year contained some brilliant depiction's of 18th and 19th Century London which were so animated and vibrant.

Half of the day was spent constructing the various items of lego technics which the boys had received which went down very well indeed. The other half was spent eating and oddly enough watching the James Bond movie Goldfinger en masse. The boys had kindly invited other inhabitants of the street to see this old chestnut and so in a living room packed to the gills we watched Sean Connery (surely the definitive Bond ?) stroll through a script which was firmly of its day.

After my mother's taxi had gone and the children were all bedded down Debbie and I watched Alec Guinness in Tinker Tailor Solider Spy a classic piece of television which I haven't seen since it was first screened during the mid-seventies. Not a lot happens and when it does it's mostly its people with public schoolboy accents wandering round saying the name "Georrrrge".

Speaking of which, our George (El Gato) is having ointment in his infected eye four times a day. He's such a friendly sociable animal he never runs away or gets his claws out despite the obvious discomfort of the application. What a hero-cat. He wandered out into the snow for a while yesterday and is almost back to his old perky self.

This morning the weather is bright and sunny and there was a gorgeous slow pulsing sunrise. There's still some snow on the ground and it feels chilly enough for their to be some more on the way.

Monday, December 25, 2000

A Cat's Christmas

This is the first Christmas Day that Debbie and I have spent on our own. It's strange not having any children marauding around the place - her children are at their Dad's in Birmingham and my two are with their mother. So we've got the house to ourselves. Our Christmas day is very relaxed and neither of us open gifts until the late afternoon after a walk up the beach and a marvellous lunch of home-cooked crispy fried duck with pancakes and enough Dim Sum to fell Rasputin the mad monk himself.

I was shocked, stunned and speechless when I unwrapped Debbie's package to discover Ghost Town by Bill Frisell. I'd heard a track of his sometime ago on Late Junction and remarked to Debs that I hadn't got any solo material. So blow me if she hadn't snuck out and bagged me this groovy little fucker. She'd also got me Ian Carr's substantially revised biog of Ian Carr and Iain Sinclair's dark meditation of book selling and murderous goings on in the east-end of London - White Chappell Scarlet Tracings.

In turn I'd bought Debbie Pearl by Janis Joplin which is one of her favourites from her teens. Oddly enough it was also a big hit with my sister Lesley when it hit the streets the first time around. In addition to the CD I'd also got her a couple of fat burgeouning specimens of crime fiction and upon spying them she positively purred with delight.

One pussy who didn't purr very much yesterday was one of our cats - George Ted (aka Hooch and Smuggly Booje or the Boojemeister). In the last few days he's not been himself and on Christmas eve we noticed that he had some kind of infection in his eye with a white milky puss trickling from it on a regular basis. At that point I'd said to Debbie that we'd have to go to the vets between now and New Years Eve.

Last night at about six o'clock he let out a long yeowl and ran around the house in a distraught manner. Picking him up we discover that his eye was now bleeding and had what appeared to be minute slivers of chopped liver hanging down from his grey inner eye-lid.

We phoned the emergency vet who was very unimpressed about coming out it being the day it was. We then phoned a friend who had a car who could get us to the surgery just outside Newcastle. Lil was just about to start imbibing some alcohol but held back on our account and headed around to pick us and the £50 the lighter, we emerged with a well sorry cat who'd just been pumped full of anti-biotic and had a vile cream drizzled into the infected eye.

The grumpy vet expected the laddo to show some signs of improvement in the next couple of days. Sadly our respective bank accounts will have to wait a while longer for anything similar.

The rest of the night was spent with Debbie and I reading and playing our Christmas booty. We did turn on the Telly and quite by accident came upon the top ten Christmas Songs programme on Channel Four. This featured Peter Sinfield and Greg Lake talking about their Xmas perennial I Believe In Father Christmas. The whole snidey feel of the programme made me shudder at the likely outcome of the forthcoming top ten on prog-rock which I recently took part in and which will be transmitted in less than three weeks.

Best wishes to everyone on the DGM site and everyone who kindly looks in on these pages. . .

Sunday, December 24, 2000

Best of 2000

Bright blue skies with gold white fluffy clouds. A perfect summer day in December. . .

The morning was spent playing the carpet game which Tom and Joe now called Battle Skirmish. I put Holst's Planet suite on as a suitably aggressive backdrop. The aim of the game (which is entirely of their devising) seems to be that you move your armies around the carpet by throwing a dice with the possibility of carnage and mayhem only a throw away.

Thing is, they seem to want to avoid any kind of battle or skirmish of any kind. At one point, Joseph announces that his armies are having a cup of tea. So as far as I can tell it's a war game for kids who don't like war games. I gamely try to launch an offensive or two but they react so badly that I immediately sound the general retreat. Counting the session yesterday, they have been playing this game for over five hours and show no sign of flagging.

On a different tack, I think about the music that I've come across in this last year which has given me pleasure. Debbie tells me that I've listened to more classical music this year than anything else and certainly a majority of my listening time has been tuned into BBC's Radio Three.

However moving away from the classical side of things, Radio Three's Late Junction has provided me with a nightly diet of the obscure, the exotic and the downright beguiling over the last 12 months. So its impossible to single out any one of the 200 plus programmes broadcast this year but it has consistently introduced me to more new music than you could shake a baton at. Highly recommended.

One of the bi-products of having this DGM diary is that I've been lucky enough to meet some canny people and get to know their music. One such is Andrew Keeling. Earlier in the year he sent me a CDR of some of his compositions and right from the off I was entranced. His music has such a diverse vitality, moving between light and shade with consummate ease. It was whilst listening to O Ignis Spiritus performed by The Hilliard Ensemble that I had a kind of epiphany and it took me somewhere else. This went far beyond the old tingle factor.

Also his composition Quickening The Dead impacted and propelled me into a series of improvisatory paintings which were as much a surprise to me as anyone else. Andrew has used the original painting for the cover of his forthcoming CD release on Riverrun Records and I'm as chuffed as a visiting lecturer at the University of Chuff who has just been given tenure of contract.

Arvo Part's Alina was another Smith fave rave this year because of its inspired simplicity. There are times when its like listening to snowflakes falling on the piano…so delicate and fragile.

Other notable musical highlights include (in no particular order)

Mustard Gas And Roses by Jakko Jakszyk - deftly crafted tunes filled with an effervescent centre (a bit like the geezer himself).

Hughscore by Delta Flora - sizzling little numbers from Elaine di Falco, Fred Challenor and Canterbury legend, Hugh Hopper in a dreamy trance of swirling post-pysch vibes and subterranean grooves.

Gentle Giant - Out Of The Wood - topsy-turvy, in, out, up, down, doodly-dang dweeb. Err…that means I like it. Thanks for this one Kimberman.

Blueprint by Keith Tippett - one of the great thrills of the year for me was hearing this music again on CD. It sounds like it might have been recorded yesterday and it reminds me how influential Tippett was for me. On a related topic, the most bizarre experience was a brace of answerphone messages Julie Tippetts and I kept exchanging during the drafting of the sleeve notes concerning a pair of ear-rings she was wearing during the recording of the album in 1971.

Saturday, December 23, 2000

Lesley Calls Around

Chris Taberham (long-term chum of over 27 years) brings me his annual Christmas music compilation tape. Chris has a huge collection of Christmas albums of varying degrees of cheese and those attentive readers of the ProjeKct Four West Coast Live CD, will recall that Chris had me scouring the record stores in search of The Partridge Family's Xmas album.

Happily The Partridge Family are entirely absent from this collection though it does have a bizarre montage of baritone singing from what sounds like the WWF Christmas Choir. Be afraid.

It's this music that accompanies the small feast which I prepared for the arrival of my sister and her family last night. Lesley, Bernard (her husband), Verity, Errin and Isaac and my mother Doreen, piled through the turnstiles a little after five and we ate and quaffed in a celebratory style for a good few hours.

The children, of which there eight, divided up into the various bedrooms unearthing keyboards, board games, playstations and numerous items of drawing and sketching equipment. This wasn't so much a family get together as a supervised play session.

A good time was had by all and brother and sister (i.e. Lesley and myself) felt like they were having a normal family natter - the first in five or six years. It felt good to have the old team back again. I have missed her.

Debbie is out christmas shopping whilst Tom, Joe and I are on the floor trying to play a game of thier inventing. It involves throwing a dice and moving a little figure a few notch's forward on the carpet. They are both enthralled as I am by their capacity to have their attention held for so long by such a simple thing. Clearly the main action is taking place somewhere a long way away from the carpet.

Friday, December 22, 2000

Remembering Adrian Henri

Heard last night on the news that the poet Adrian Henri has died. He was in his late sixties and died after a long battle against liver disease. Like many of my generation, I first came across his poetry in the Penguin anthology first published in the late sixties - The Mersey Sound along with fellow Liverpudlian's Brian Patten and Roger McGough.

As a wee lad at school, his poems, along with Japanese Haiku-master Basho, were introduced by a student teacher who had to cope with the unruly mob that was Form 3b. As paper planes whizzed aloft, ink pellets scarred shirt collars and dead legs were dispensed with impunity, this sad benighted teacher in the making told us in sonorous tones that he was going to read us some poems. A look of collective incredulity descended over out faces but read them he did and the whole class was silent for a full 30 minutes as he read and shouted out these strange poems.

What he read was a piece called Me (if you weren't you who would you like to be) which was a recitation of over 80 iconic names from the avant-garde of various arts movements of the 19th and 20th Century. About the only name I recognised at the time was that of Paul McCartney. Yet over the years I've found myself mentally checking each name off the list as I've recognised their work and their inclusion on Henri's list.

The poem and its declamatory delivery had a huge impact on me and the book was duly purchased at a cost of 4 shillings by my mother. Although a lot (i.e. all) of the poems in the book The Mersey Sound were largely incomprehensible to me at that the time, they provided me with my intuitive and slender connection to the pop art culture that seemed to blossom after Sgt. Pepper. I think I learned more in that half hour lesson listening to the poetry of Henri, Basho, McGough et al than I learnt in the whole year.

Henri was a painter before he became known for his writing and those early poems reflect the images taken from his own work and his observations on the work of the surrealists. In the early sixties, Henri and co were reading their work in the pubs, cafes and cellar bars of Liverpool including the Cavern. These were not the usual venues for poetry and in breaking out of the normal academic climes where such activities normally took place, they tapped into the Underground current and the infant counter-culture that was beginning to sneak its way out of London and round the provinces. Henri loved Jazz, Blake, Beat, The Beatles, Braque, Bartok and was impossibly hip.

At the very start of the 80's I found myself in Liverpool's Academy Of Art doing a sound sculpture with fellow performance artist and ace photographer, Chris Wainwright (he's now head of fine art at one of the countries leading Universities). The pair of us would leap around in the dark wearing white boiler suits, banging on bits of resonant metal and amplifying the noise made by a re-charging flash gun - generally getting large-ish sums of the tax payers money in the shape of arts grants.

Adrian Henri was in the audience at one of the show's and I was well chuffed when we got to chat afterwards. He was enthusiastic about our work but even more enthusiastic about his own. He signed a photo/poem montage for me and then we all got pissed in the pub across the road. I think we had a great time.

Around the same time, Debbie was working in Birmingham's Arts Lab and also met Adrian Henri - he gave her an inscribed book of poetry which oddly is at the side of the bed as she was reading it only last week.

I don't know if Henri was a "great" poet but he was a warm, witty man who lived life with relish and although I only actually met him briefly in terms of minutes, hours and pints of beer, I felt I knew him intimately through the body of his work. Cheers kidda, those at Victoria Avenue salute you.

Thursday, December 21, 2000

My Sister And I. . .

Commentary from the classroom. . .

Colleague of Debbie: So what does your bloke do in his spare time ?
Debbie: Oh he's writing a book on King Crimson
Colleague of Debbie: Oh that's a kind of butterfly isn't it ?

Listening to Arvo Part's I Am The True Vine. Though I have not one religious bone in my body, I do find this music spell-binding and ideal for finding a calm space. As those voices build and swell in truly luminescent harmonies one can't help but be transfixed. It's impossible for me to regard this as background music- you try dusting your plastic garlic plants but this spectral music draws you in.

Soundscapes can have a similar effect on me. The darkness of Gates Of Heaven and the asperity of 1999 and Radiotronics are anything but easy listening. It describes an altogether different kind of place to that invoked by Part, yet it does seem to me to be in a continuum of sacred music. Can it still be sacred music if you're not a paid up subscriber of some kind of organised faith ?

My sister Lesley and her considerable family are visiting us in a pre-Xmas get together on Friday. Seven years older than me, Lesley was a major influence on my musical taste and development. As a kid in the sixties she bought The Beatles into the house and much later she got into blues and what was then called The Underground.

When she went off on her travels around the world, her record collection stayed at home and I used to spend a lot of time disappearing into the beckoning exotica of The World Of John Mayall, Blues For Your Pocket sampler, Led Zeppelin Two, Keith Tippett's Blueprint, Bessie Smith, Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain, McDonald & Giles, This Was by Jethro Tull, Harmony Row by Jack Bruce and of course, you know who.

She was really responsible for pushing me off on my own musical journey which from Crimson took me into all sorts of territory and particularly Jazz and the avant-garde. Music that might well have been strange and alien to ears acclimatised to blues and rock had in a sense been given permission to go awol by my exposure to Crimson. Although the worlds of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Stockhausen and Cage were a world away from what Crimson were doing on that first album, there was a current of experimentation which I warmed to and wanted to explore further.

For me those early Crimson albums were partial maps into uncharted waters. If I was ever confronted with something that was so strange and outside my musical ear at that point, I would find myself unconsciously relating back to KC albums for points of reference.

Time moved on and so did Lesley but throughout the years we remained very close and as we each got married and had kids and so on - holidaying together and so on. I stayed in the North and she eventually settled in Milton Keynes.

In more recent years however, I would describe our relationship as strained due to changes and turmoil in our respective families. Lesley found it hard to accept that my marriage to my then wife, was on it's way to being over and when the end came it was messy, protracted and not what you would want to wish on anybody. My relationship with Lesley subsequently coalesced into polite cordiality and anyone who has experienced that kind of cooling will know how difficult it is to come to terms with for both parties.

In more recent times, we've all made strides to move on and address the cause of anger and difficulties and there's been some closure on the wounds inflicted by the break-up of my marriage (on all sides). This rapprochement has been like a slow thaw, leading to infrequent and slightly awkward contact mostly by telephone as well as the occasional, stiff and clumsy visiting to family occasions. In the last twelve months however, we've both covered a lot of emotional ground, opening a more meaningful dialogue, which is now leading to her first visit to our house in over six years.

Talking to Debbie (they've never met before) about this last night highlighted how vital and important my relationship with Lesley has been throughout my life. Taking a positive view on events, the last few years could be regarded as a ground zero where all the petty and ephemeral concerns are pared back and cast aside. What you end up with, if you have to wit to catch it, is what's important. Her impending visit marks a first step in a new phase of our relationship. For me Christmas will have come early this year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Postcards Straighht From The Heart

Impending Christmas good vibe is in the air… kids with ruddy cheeks build snowmen, the strains of Ray Coniff seep from the open doors where neighbours stand to talk to each other, mistletoe glistens and the blurry cheer of Christmas tree lights twinkles in a friendly kind of way…yes it’s almost Christmas here at Victoria Avenue, Whitley Bay.

Seriously though, the children are revving up and are as high as kites with anticipation. Due to the bad back scenario Debbie has done the majority of my Christmas shopping although I did get out for an hour or two yesterday into Newcastle city centre and picked up a couple of items for friends and family.

Upon my return there was a little package of aural delights from Ian Boddy and a small set of postcards from the Smith Vibe Guide - John Kimber of leafy Highgate. There are four cards which feature neat colour reproductions of individual paintings - Dragon III, Nocturne (which was premiered on this diary some months ago), Cathedral I and A Kinder Blue II.

Well I can safely say that they are the donkey's todger (sorry for the heavy art critic jargon). You can take a look at them by pointing your browser to Kimber's website and see what all the fuss is about.

I was sorry to hear of the death of the UK singer Kirsty McColl today in a boating accident. I always loved her soaring voice and regard her reading of Billy Bragg's excellent song as definitive. Never saw her live but I'm told she was a great performer.

Saturday, December 16, 2000

Having A Teenage Daughter Flouncing Around The House

Back on line after having had the phone cut off for a while. The telephone company seem to think that they should be paid for the amount of calls I make. Then when I don't pay them they have the temerity to cut me off ! Strange but true.

The one or two kind souls who look in on this page might have wondered what I've been up to these last couple of weeks. So, in no particular order. . .

House News. . .
Sam has just been taking his mock O-levels in the most laid back kind of way. I remember exams at school used to scare the living jobbies out of me but not Sam. He has a cool confidence which if he isn't careful will tip over into arrogance. Alys continues her interests in theatrics and appears to be rehearsing and practising for a play of some kind. As far as I can tell the production she is in requires her to slam doors whilst shouting that nobody understands her. Debbie tells me that the play might called "Having A Teenage Daughter Flouncing Around The House".

Tom and Joe ripple with excitement at the imminent arrival of Christmas. Sadly Tom has been struggling with a bad bout of asthma but continues to be buoyant with expectation. Joe's on a high at the moment having recently had a staring role in the school nativity play as a donkey AND getting a consistent run of 10 out of 10 in his spelling tests.

And because it's nearing Christmas, there is demand for endless games of Stars Wars monopoly. Last week-end a game was arranged and the children thoughtfully told all their friends in the street. As the board was being set up, I noticed a stream of kids of varying ages gathering in the Green room downstairs. It seemed like half the street was in the room - and so they were. Eventually we had to organise the bunches of kids into teams and then explain the rules to over a dozen kids aged between five and sixteen.

Once you'd taken a turn, you had to wait an age for it to come round to you again but they didn't seem to mind. In fact there's been a fairly constant stream of enquiries at the front door from children I've never seen before in my life asking if we were playing Star Wars monopoly ! I asked Tom who one of the inquirers might be and he casually said "oh he lives in the next street".

Book News. . .
E mails from Gered Mankowitz about using the Red photos for the book - discussions ongoing. Clarifications, chronologies and corrections from Robert Fripp, David Enthoven, Bill Bruford, Gered Mankowitz, Peter Sinfield and David Cross.

Spent some time revising, nipping and tucking the text and realising how much more there is to do. On this point Sean Hewitt has manfully agreed to knock some of the numerous sidebars into shape. The sidebars will act as updates on various Crims past and what they've been up to since leaving Crimso.

Kimber the vibe guide has given some text the once over as I was concerned that one ex-Crim came over as one chant short of a mantra. The word from leafy Highgate was that all was well (well sort of. . .)Back News. . .
On the mend slowly but surely…surely ?

Listening To . . .
Travis Hartnett from BTV in Seattle has sent me through a CD of his Electrochakra outfit. A delightful mix deep grooves and ethereal filigree's of shimmering guitar - Where's The Fruit and Upand Atom pulse along in a pleasing mesmeric kind of way. Way to go Travis !

Sunday, December 03, 2000

The Return of The Hotpoints

Blimey - a year. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun ? The snazzy On This Day feature at the top of the page gives readers of this diary another opportunity to re-experience the depths of monotony which are to be found within its cyber-pages. For more recent visitors, this facility enables them to delve into the Zen-like levels of ennui for the first time.

Sunday afternoon - Debbie is out at the shops and I'm listening to Fracture (not that the two are linked in any way). Alys is digging in the old photographs bringing up some old treasures and some things we'd probably rather not display in polite or contemporary company. I find a picture of myself in a band called The Hotpoints circa 1979.

This is of interest to devotees of the UK TV soap Emmerdale because the photograph has the face of John Middleton, known to millions as the vicar from the soap. He's at the very far right of the picture. Elsewhere in the shot, a youthful me on bass and loud backing vocals deafening sax player Keith Morris.

Last night;
Debbie and I watched Final Destination - a movie in which a small group of people cheat death, who then sets about reclaiming them one by one. Kimber reckoned it was OK as mind candy, so we got it out to rent. After watching it Debbie said that if she caught up with him, she'd go at his gonads with a cheese grater.

Right then, with that gripping entry finished, I'm off to listen to the programme on Vaughan Williams on Radio Three. Love that blokey's work.

Saturday, December 02, 2000

A Christmas Card From Yuka Fuji

Got my first Christmas card this morning from Yuka Fujii. Yuka and I first met outside the toilets in the Jazz Café a couple of years ago while ProjeKct One were hammering and banging away at a potential future. Last time I saw Yuka was at the Sonic Boom opening at the Hayward Gallery earlier this year when she got Kimber and myself into the private party afterwards. Good on yer, Yuka.

Also received an e-mail from Jacob Heringman this morning with a list of Alexander Technique practitioners in respect of the back. Cheers Jacob.

Up early with the boys who have just re-discovered the joys of Chess and at a little after seven in the morning, I lay down on the floor and start to play Tom and Joe. The boys are much better at the game than I am and are always quick to give me a moment to reconsider my inept move. Joe's been a bit under the weather again but has such a cheerful disposition that it's easy to forget that he's feeling a bit fragile at the moment.

Around mid-day, the boys and I go for a hobble down at the end of the street and look at the magnificent ultra-marine sea. Little boats, buoys and the lighthouse all give the scene a picture postcard feel. Upon returning, Debbie is putting the finishing touches to a stained glass window she's created after having completed a short course in the subject. It's a big rectangle with red, blue, yellow and clear glass and quite wonderful it is too. She's very pleased and proud of her first creation as she should be. I think it looks great, which Debbie informs me, is just as well as it's very likely to be my Christmas present from her.

Friday, December 01, 2000

History Repeating

Reading Andrew Keeling's diary today and I was struck by the similarities in our listening habits when were both teenagers. Andrew describes playing the Crimson albums in strict rotation whilst doing prep for his O levels. Well, I never did that much prep for O levels (teacher to nascent Sid; "with a little bit more effort your work could be almost unsatisfactory") but one out of two isn't bad is it ?

Actually, in a sense the parallels don't quite stop there. Just as Andrew worked out the parts for KC tracks and now finds himself all these years later repeating the exercise, I did a school history project on KC. We had to take some aspect of contemporary history and so I asked, in a smart-arse kind of way, if I could do a project on KC.

The teacher, who's real name escapes me although we used to him Mary (not to his face of course), amazingly said yes and I spent the next couple of weeks listening to album with more fervour than usual and writing up little charts and family trees and so on. Like Andrew, I now find myself repeating the exercise only on a bigger scale.

My back continues to cause me grief and I'm waiting for a hospital appointment to talk to the specialist with a view to some kind of surgery. Clearly this isn't something I'm keen on but it seems like my options are running out. I've been laid up for the best part of two months. The last time I recall feeling well was when Bill Bruford was playing in Whitley Bay.

Still I've managed to do a little bit of work on the book though this is more thinking than writing at the moment. I was sorry to have missed meeting up with Ian Wallace who left the country to return home to the USA. He did however mail me his priceless collection of KC clippings and some pre-Crimson piccies.

This stuff is invaluable and has filled in numerous gaps as well as opening up some new paths in my dealings with that era of Crimso. He also deposited with me a copy of Take A Train (his album with Brian Trainor) inscribed with the legend "To Sid - 'King' of the interviewers" - and I thought this man had taste ???

Ages ago, the great Kimbrini (of leafy Highgate fame) gave me a surplus copy of Out Of The Woods by Gentle Giant. Initially I was a bit cool toward it but slowly it's crept into my subconscious. Sensing this in his prescient kind of way, Kimber has followed this up with a copy of The Power And The Glory by GG and I've been playing it non-stop.

It's definitely of its time and some of the vocals seems a bit more stretched than is good for them BUT I've really been enjoying the stuff. Funny isn't it how I never really "heard" this music at the time ? Its Egg meeting Henry Cow saying hello to VDGG on their way to have scones and a pot of tea with Yes. In other words - it's right groovy and no mistake.

So a big caps aloft and general carrying about on the shoulders for John Kimber for opening up my listening habits a bit further - even if it is my retro listening habits.

The Heavenly Music Corporation was played in its entirety on Radio Three's Late Junction and reminded me of the time when it came out and we used to play at 16 rpm making it sound like a block of treacle oozing its way forward slightly slower than the drift of the continents. Whatever speed you play it at, the piece has a freshness and inventiveness which has remained undimmed since it was first played. Anyone who reckons Fripp's playing lack emotion needs to listen to this one.

By the way, I received a note from Peter Giles who tells me that his group Aluna are playing a gig at the Pizza On The Park, 11 Knightsbridge SW1 on Sunday 10th December at 8.30 p.m. Tickets are a tenner.

And finally. . . recently Alan Clarke (aka Nod the performance poet who I was chummy with back in the late seventies / early eighties) got in touch. Well, last night I got an e-mail out of the blue from Chris Barron. I first met Chris around the mid-eighties when we shared an interest in the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Dr. Who and Jack Daniels (surely somebody has to do a thesis on this great triumvirate of contemporary culture ?). Anyway, we haven't seen each other since the late eighties so hopefully arrangements will be made to have a natter before Crimble.


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