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Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Review: Largo by Bill Rieflin & Chris Connelly / The Longest In Terms of Being by Markus Reuter

The skies over Northumberland have dark with storm clouds and black with smoke from burning pyres of livestock contaminated with Foot and Mouth disease. Heddon On The Wall, about ten miles outside of Newcastle city centre in some picturesque countryside, is reckoned to be the source of the current outbreak. The disease is airborne and extremely virulent. From just 27 infected pigs it now looks as though the UK is on the brink of an epidemic which will result in economic ruin and the slaughter of millions of animals. The virus has spread to other parts of the UK and although an export ban has been imposed European farmers will be waiting with baited breath to see if the disease develops over there. Grim.

Yesterday in the post four CD's arrived. Two from Markus Reuter and two from Bill Rieflin. Here's a Sid's earview of two of them. . .

The Longest In Terms Of Being is Reuter's official follow-up to 1997's Taster and contains ten tracks which blend into each other in a seamless swirl of luxurious textures. Using looping technology, Reuter constructs an opulent sound-world with layers of luminous harmony resting on one another to gradually build up an intensely seductive environment. If there is a criticism with the album it is that Reuter the soloist is largely subsumed in his role as colourist and orchestration.

The relatively low costs of decent looping technology and the CD burner has seen a proliferation of cottage industry Fripp and Eno's springing up in recent years. Where Reuter scores over many of these noble attempts, is his artful use of tone and a restless movement to each of the pieces (composed and recorded in real time), never resorting to ill-advised gimmick's or unnecessary displays of flash dexterity.

Sombre without being po-faced and portentous without being pretentious, with it's first class production, design and packaging, The Longest In Terms Of Being show's that Reuter could easily show some of the old hands in the world of looping and electronica a thing or two about grace and poise.

It looks like this year's black is going to be black. Largo is the name given to an album of ten songs and two instrumentals performed by Bill Rieflin and Chris Connelly. Rieflin will be known to many in the DGM universe for his superb Birth Of A Giant and his collaboration with Fripp and Gunn on Repercussions Of Angelic Behaviour. Housed in a spartan sleeve with a glacially bleached out portrait of the pair, Largo as the title suggests has a slow, broad dignity about it. For the most part the songs are presented in simple paired-back settings, using sparse keyboards supplied by Rieflin and highlighting Connelly's pleasantly woozy vocal delivery as it drifts and scrapes between the octaves. Don't let the sparse setting fool you into thinking that this is an angst-ridden, miserablist expedition for one second however.

There's a wry humour present in many of the tracks but the gorgeously off-kilter Pray'r comes in on top with its winning combination of sardonically unsteady piano, playful shuffling groove and climbing strings. Similarly Connelly's deadpan delivery of the histrionics of Wake 2 is bound to bring an indulgent smirk to your chops, as will the breezy, cheesy, carefree summer travelogue sounds of Rondo.

On Wake 3, Connelly neatly articulates that dread that we've all felt from time to time, that we'll wake up from a night of troubled dreams only to discover that we've metamorphosed into David Bowie. They play it straight long enough however, to provide an effective rendition of John Cale's heartfelt lamentation, Close Watch in fine style.

Throughout the album, they receive glorious support from the gifted Fred Challenor on flowing bass (one of the talents and energies behind the excellent Hughscore) and a string section which adds a warm lustre.

Several of the pieces stray into those unexpected minor-key territories explored by the likes of Michael Mantler, Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt, where songs acquire an epic, ponderous grandeur whilst only drawing upon a minimal set of motifs and themes. This impression is strengthened by Rieflin's use of woebegone organ lines to describe the stark outlines of lonely tunes somehow making their cover of Robert Wyatt's Sea Song a fitting and inevitable conclusion. Largo could well be the record of the year in this neck of the woods.

More later as they say. .

Saturday, February 24, 2001

Not So Much A Bible But More Of A Parish Guide

God it's a beautiful morning here in Whitley Bay. Blue skies, silver seas and the sound of this weeks house guests packing their bags. Yee-haaa !!!!

John Kimber of leafy Highgate gets a lot of music magazines (all the main UK ones plus a few specialists types from overseas) and when I was last sitting in his living room, I asked him where he stored all his back issues. He looked at me as though I was as mad as a bag of badgers (the way he does) and told me that once he's read them he gets shot of them. I was stunned and had to ask him to tell me this again.

This time his brow furrowed with annoyance and he took on that lecturing tone (the way he does) as though he was talking to an five year old. "I read them. And then …I throw them away. This means that I've inwardly digested what I need but I'm not left with miles of shelves groaning under the weight of magazines whose content you'll mostly never look at again."

I reckon the world is divided into two halves - those who do keep their mags and those who don't. Then it sub-divides. Of those who do, only half will keep some kind of database which details items of interest by issue number. Much to my chagrin I don't. Sometime ago I remember reading a copy of Q or Mojo which had a feature on the Hyde Park concert in 5th July. Yesterday I tried to find it. Firstly I went on-line to look up both magazines index only to discover both sites were currently being re-vamped.

So that meant there was nothing for it but to start looking through the back issues which line one or two shelves. An hour later Debbie joined in the fun. An hour after that and the yellow room totally grid-locked by piles of paper I was schtupped, no longer able to see the wood for the trees. Does this article ring any bells with any readers of this diary ? It had lots of commentary from people who were there (various muso's and celebs) and even had a photograph of RF watching the Stones from the side of the stage. If anyone knows of the article and more importantly the number of Q or Mojo in which it resides, well you'll make a fat man very happy.

Eventually got to catch up with Ian McDonald over the phone and we chatted for quite a while. Ian seemed in good spirits and we talked about how many rock biog's are sycophantic in the extreme. We both agreed that the KC book needs to be a warts and all account of the band and its times. Given my experience as a rutting teen-ager of warts in certain locations, I think I'll be able to bring this kind of material to light. I'll be disappointed if the book reads like a ham-strung homily to Fripp or McDonald or any of the other folk which reveals that they are kind to animals and do a lot of work for charity.

Coincidentally I had a post from Neil Ingram which raised this very concern, the both of us having just read the ELP biog.

Dear Sid
by chance, I too, have just finished reading the ELP biography. I felt a bit disappointed by it, really. The temptation to call the book 'definitive' is clearly driving the main author. No book can be 'definitive' whilst the band are still alive. Libel laws and the expectations of the fan base will see to that.

Thus, at the end of the book, I can find only stereotyped images of E, L and P. The most interesting parts are at best only alluded to.

L, for example, complains that his work in Crim was inadequately acknowledged (presumably affecting his royalty position) yet seems to do exactly the same thing to Fraser (Kinfe Edge) and Sinfield (welcome back..). Why Peter Sinfield chooses to 'gift' the best lyrics ever seen on an ELP album to the band is unclear. Why L wants to work with Sinfield after Crim is, again unclear. What are L's pre-occupation with religion that powers most of the imagery on the early albums? And so on.

I think this kind of book is very hard to write, partly because of the powerful (but limited) expectations of the readership. A track by track analysis is probably best, and the readers will want all of their favourite tracks covered. Editors will see to it that the public gets what the public want. 'Themes' are harder to handle. Actually, I think the best part of the ELP book is the index - I was able to trace lots of ideas across different chapters.

The focus of this book is clearly ELP, and other important characters pass across the pages like shadows. Sinfield's role as lyricist is drawn as a support to the ever creative Lake ([sinfield] came in half way through and finished a song off..). Hmmm, I find that as almost as hard to believe as 'Father Christmas'. 'The Lennon-like acidity of the lyric comes from Sinfield... oh really? This from the author of 'The only way'?

Your Crim book is probably even harder to write than this because of the increased number of players all of whom are keen to establish their provenance for what happened thirty years ago. Good luck with it!

Best wishes
Neil

Expectations run high about these kinds of things. I get a lot of post from people telling me that my book will be the KC bible and how brilliant it is - bearing in mind nobody has even seen the thing. Not so much a bible but more like a parish guide I tell them.

Then I often get a post telling me not to be so modest and it's obvious that it's going to be the best book on KC of all time. Well I guess when there's only a field of one to compete with then I'm in with a shout. However, the thing just won't be as comprehensive as people want or expect. There just isn't the room to include everything that's out there.

Tackling the great themes which may or may not be behind the music isn't something I've even touched on. If that's what people want then the best thing to do is to look at Jon Green's work. All I'm trying to do is patch together a chronicle of a band with commentary from some of the key people and eye-witnesses. Inevitably this will disappoint huge numbers of people but I'm OK about this.

In recent days I've had much contact with Robert who continues to be helpful in clarifying, contradicting and generally helping out with the mountains of questions I continuously hurl in his direction. As each e-mail downloads I always half expect this one to say "Pax Vobiscum" which is of course Latin for "Piss off Hippie" (as you can see my Latin is almost as good as my German).

Talked to the Bodman regarding DiN developments. A DiN sampler is currently being prepared as a give away to subscribers to The Wire magazine and we've made arrangements to meet up in a couple of weeks time. I've had an attempt to persuade Ian to fund a sure fire business idea (which Kimber will no doubt claim is his) which is fizzing in the silly putty-like material that is the Smith brain. Failing this, at least allow sidsmith.com to use his secure on-line ordering service. Sadly he's not convinced on either count. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.

WANTED
Benevolent moneyed person with a deep interest in music to invest or loan a couple of thousand in a sure-fire piece of collectors / heritage niche marketing aimed at initially at the 35 + music fan who likes to adorn their CD collections with well-written and beautifully packaged background information about their favourite albums by artists as diverse as ABBA to Zappa. No timewasters.

That should do it.

Thursday, February 22, 2001

Review: Crossings by Herbie Hancock

What a girl ! Debbie came home last night with a copy of Crossings by Herbie Hancock. Released in 1972, I missed out on it at the time and have always wanted to get a hold of it. I'd mentioned it to Debbie in passing but then I mention at least twenty albums a day in passing to Debbie. Although the music is still under the influence of Bitches Brew, the flow of Hancock's playing over some tenacious grooving is wonderful.

Hancock saw Crimson in 1973 and was reportedly impressed and indeed Bruford and Wetton used to throw some of the grooves from this album around in soundchecks. I'm not suggesting that you should check out the album for any Crimso connection but it must be one of a handful of jazz albums to feature the use of a Mellotron (spelt Melotron). Hearing it swirl up and down on Benny Maupin's track Water Torture was a real thrill.

Finished reading the biography of Emerson, Lake And Palmer by Forrester, Hanson And Askew. Published by Helter Skelter (who are also publishing the KC book) it's a comprehensive look at the work of the band and their turbulent history. I was only an ELP fan up to but not including Brain Salad Surgery but I was interested to see how the authors approached things like chronology and the lay-out of their track by track analysis. One of the recurring problems I wrestle with is how to present a particular slice of history. For example take Gordon Haskell. His story intercuts with Robert and the band and interestingly with the Giles brothers (albeit rather obliquely). So does one take Haskell on from his childhood up to the point where he leaves Crimson as one big block or do you weave his narrative in with everybody else's ? The advantage of the latter approach is that it vividly highlights the inter-connections and co-incidences which are a striking feature of Crimson. The problem with this approach is that it can take an age to get to the dénouement for those that like that kind of thing.

Unlike the ELP book, I'm committed to including the track by track stuff in the main body of the text although I sense the editor isn't too keen on this approach. Whereas the ELP book largely sticks to a musical analysis, I'm tending to use the track by track parts as a way of telling the story or expanding on a point. I suppose the test of any musical tome is whether or not it makes you want to listen to the tracks and on this count the ELP book has worked and since I've been playing ELP a lot this past couple of days (albeit in conjunction with head lice removal), I even found myself wanting to hear BSS again.

Ian McDonald rang last night but sadly I was doing bedtime stories with the kids ("once upon a time there was band with terrible dress sense and then they met a nice hippie called Peter. . .") and Debbie was downstairs forcing charred food upon our house guests. Thus Ian was left unanswered. I hear from Chrysalis TV that Channel 4 have now moved Top Ten Progressive Rock forward to Saturday March 3rd. I'm interested to see how the thing finally turned out. I expect my nine seconds will say something "King Crimson are really one of the worst bands in the world" or "Robert Fripp is the leader of the band." I know Ian had some misgivings about the conditions surrounding his interview Although I have to say my own session filmed in Muswell Hill was very pleasant by comparison.

Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Crabs

A beautiful sunny morning and the sounds of Julie Tippetts sing Mind Of A Child accompanied by Keith on harmonium which seems to be the perfect sound track.

The perfect soundtrack to head lice removal (or dickies as they are more colloquially known round these parts) happens to be Eruption from Tarkus by ELP. Got a special treatment from the local chemist, washed the boys hair through and applied the lotion. After ten minutes we rinsed it off and that's where Eruption comes in. The fast moving music was the perfect soundtrack to the fast moving hair drying. Two minutes later and Bob's your uncle - dry, de-loused hair. However Dickies are stubborn critters and so we plan to do more combing and picking for the next seven or eight days.

I remember once catching crabs - pubic lice - and were they bad news or what ? I attended the local clap clinic and was given a powder which destroyed the boogers and any vestige of self-respect in one easy shake. This was at a time when I used to live in a communal house in the mid-seventies when communality seemed to be the solution to everything. Food was cheaper, living was more social and loose sexual liaisons led to the kind of infatuations and infestations you'd rather not be sharing with your fellow commune members. Telling the assembled throng in a house meeting led to people almost imperceptibly, beginning to put a little distance between the person sitting next to them.

Still however bad the ignominy of telling people I had a case of crabs might have been, this was nothing compared to the discovery of a genital wart on my dick - no photo's please. But that's another story. Suffice to say that I continue to have a deep and profound aversion to liquid nitrogen as a result.

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Head Lice R Us


The kids have headlice and so the evening is spent in deep combing action watching the little boogers fall and writhe before being squidged into lice heaven where the lice play little harps whilst blowing along on wispy clumps of hair. The kids are stoic throughout the lengthy, tedious and at times painful session. More tomorrow I'm sure.

The day started off well enough with the arrival of a package from Gary Weisel containing several articles and a set of slides taken of KC circa 1973. I was stunned with the quality of the shots and whisked them up to the copy shop in preparation for digitisation by the evil Dr. Wilson who does what he does when he does it. They'll look great in the book and I'm thankfully to Gary for sharing them with me.

After Lesley (my sister), her kids and my mother had been up the beach we all had a big tea which would have felled a bevy of roman's intent on orgiastic excesses of an Epicurean nature. As the squad were demolishing the food reserves of the world, Jakko rang and we managed to grab the conversation that we've been trying to have for the best of a week now. We're hatching up plans for a sonic dalliance sometime during April.

Later in the afternoon, Debbie took a message from the editor a monthly music magazine who is also interested in an article on the making of In The Court Of The Crimson. This is different to the one I mentioned the other day - which makes Sid a happy camper.

Gorgeous blue skies and a brave sun and I even found an hour to do some painting - the first time in nearly a year.

Monday, February 19, 2001

Leapy Lee

A lovely week-end spent in the company of Neil and Halina Gammie who are two of Debbie's oldest chums from her student days. Too much to eat and drink but great company and a total break from the humdrum and ordinary. Neil regaled with tales of seeing the Soft Machine circa 1968 and being confined with appendicitis in the general hospital, Weymouth in the company of Leapy Lee in the very early 1970's.

Leapy had a hit with a chirpy Tin Pan Alley tune Little Arrows but after another kind of hit (i.e. punching Barbara Windsor's husband on the snout) he got banged up on a charge of GBH. Now it must be said that Barbara Windsor was a star of countless British "Carry On" movies and her old man was well connected to various shady characters in the underworld. Anyway, Leapy got banged up in Parkhurst prison for his trouble but had managed to con the governor that he was suffering from some dread disease and so got to sample the easier conditions in Weymouth Hospital.

So Neil Gammie, after being stricken with abdominal pains and a burst whilst rowing in Weymouth harbour appendix wound up sharing a ward with Leapy. He remembers the fallen entertainer as a jovial cove fond of telling tales and enjoying the comparative luxuries of the NHS's best. Sadly Leapy got his comeuppance when Weymouth Carnival came past the hospital to entertain the children and patients inside. Ever the showman, Leapy was persuaded to give the procession a celebrity send off, saying a few words and pleasing the crowd with a few well-chosen bars of his greatest hit. His moment of triumph was capture by the chief smudger for the Weymouth Post and that night a shot of Leapy complete with oversized cigar and glass of champers raised in salute, graced the front pages. Sadly for Leapy, the governor at Parkhurst was an avid reader of the same newspaper and the very next day Leapy was bundled off to serve the rest of his sentence, leaving Neil's ward a quieter but duller place of convalescence.

Downloading e-mail tonight I opened a newsletter from The Artists Shop to see that Blueprint by Keith Tippett is mentioned as a forthcoming release on the Voiceprint label. The item in the newsletter has a lengthy sequence which describes the music. As I read it I suddenly recognised that I'd written it myself. The blurb is taken from my sleevenotes. Also in the post a couple from Robert, a couple from Peter Sinfield and a couple from Cunty McFergus in Seattle who is obviously in fine fettle and limbering up for the release of his new album Largo.

More house guests currently arriving in the shape of Debbie's sister Dude and her new bloke Gavin. Tomorrow my sister, Lesley arrives from Milton Keynes for a brief stopover. If you were thinking of coming to stay in the next few days - don't.

Friday, February 16, 2001

Review: Sunset Glow by Julie Tippetts

Another bright sunny day. Kept the boys off school though. Although they were probably well enough to go in today it frankly seemed like a waste of time. The last day of term is traditionally one where little actual work gets done so instead they've helped me do housework and other worthy chores.

Those nice people at Voiceprint sent me a couple of vintage Gordon Haskell CD's yesterday. First up is a collection of the Fleur De Lys, Haskell's first proper band. A wild mixture of soul and psyched-out pop under which Haskell is able to demonstrate his pumping Motown bass. Apart from Circles, I'd not heard anything of the band and so it's been good catching up with this stuff. I guess it doesn’t add much if anything to understanding his time with Crimson other than to prove what a square peg in a round he was.

The next thing in from canny Rob Ayling was Sail In My Boat by Haskell. This was his first solo album. When I last talked to Gordon a couple of weeks back I mentioned that I'd like to hear the album. He warned me off it in no uncertain terms, citing producer Jimmy Duncan's soporific production. The basic songs are somewhat arranged to death, coated in a thick syrup of strings which make the pieces sound somewhat laboured. Having said that both Debbie and I thought it sounded so sixties, it's difficult to believe that the album hasn't been -picked up by the producers of TV programmes where sixties music is used in the background (in the UK we have a police drama - I use the term loosely - called Heartbeat, which actually had Fruit Tree by Nick Drake as incidental music).

Also in the bag for no other reason than he's a lovely geezer was a copy of the recently re-issued album by Julie Tippetts - Sunset Glow. I used to have the vinyl version of this yonks ago and I cannot tell you what a joy it was to hear this album once again. Beautiful sparse songs performed by Julie along with such luminaries as Keith T., Nick Evans, Mark Charig, Elton Dean, Brian Godding and a couple of others besides. Gently and reflective, these are timeless little gems with Tippetts gloriously strident voice stretching out across the top of simple but effective arrangements.


Thursday, February 15, 2001

Boz Burrell Speaks!

Beautiful morning. Blue strafed with pink and gold. The sea almost white and a bracing bite in the air.

Live at Plymouth arrived yesterday and how timely it was to get this vital piece of archive. As a result I've been able to bring that chapter to life a little more than before. Interesting to hear the group at this point, rocking and lurching in equal measure for the first couple of numbers. Certainly the group doesn't settle down until Cirkus and Pictures Of A City are safely, if a little shakily, out of the way.

It's not until the third number in to the set, "Sailor's Tale" that the band noticeably relax. It was after all, material in which everyone on stage had had a role in creating and clearly went on to shape and fashion right up until the recording of Islands just under a month later. Substantially different from the finished studio version, "The Sailor's Tale" at this stage of its development has a looser feel quite with none of the brisk urgency or solemnity of its studio counterpart.

Wallace's driving use of percussion imbues the piece with an ethnic "world music" feel, an impression furthered by the sax and guitar's sensuous reading of the principal theme, sounding remarkably like a traditional Doudouk. Can anyone else hear the eastern / Turkish vibe in here or am I one sliver short of a double reed ?

Inspired by the set I rang the singer and bassist of this set and on this occasion he was in and open for business. I've rang and written to Boz a couple of times over the last year and the message was got to me that he wasn't really interested in raking over the past. Well today I thought my luck was in and he seemed to waver for a few seconds, asking me who I'd talked to and the like. I asked Boz directly if he'd simply update his views on his time on Crimson rather than me relying on old press clippings - even if it was just "Piss off you fat bastard". He laughed, coughed, paused and said "OK . . . Piss off you fat bastard".

Well I regard this as 100 % improvement on the previous policy of non-contact. There's nothing like an insult or two to whet the appetite and my antennae detected a mild but discernible softening in Boz's opposition. I confidently predict that within the next 18 years I'll have him on board in time for the King Crimson Pet Care Manual. No problem.

When Debbie got home last night (full of cold and half dead) she'd bought home a copy of one of the two free newspapers given away outside the train stations and which subsequently clog and clutter the floors and seats of our local transport system. Yesterday's 60 Second Interview was with Al Stewart of which it said by way of introduction;

Al Stewart, 56, has released 16 albums in a 35 year career, yet is still best known for his hits Year Of The Cat and Time Passages. The Glaswegian folk singer was taught to pay guitar by King Crimson's Robert Fripp, bought a guitar from The Police's Andy Summers, played the first and 25th Glastonbury and was once in a band with Tony Blackburn.

The interview then asks about his connection with Fripp.

I did take a dozen lessons from Robert. He lived down the road in Wimbledon and he was an astonishing guitar player, even in our late teens. He tried to teach me jazz chords. It was like learning algebra in school. They're the two things I have never had any use for in the subsequent 40 years of my life.

Many thanks for the numerous e-mails and contacts for the States. It'll all go toward a media onslaught I'm planning which is sure to secure me the front page of Time magazine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Postcards From Somewhere

You know how it is when you've misplaced something ? Last night I'd lost an item of moderate insignificance and after nearly half an hour of unproductive rummaging, I traipsed over to the CD's looking for some music to act as the backdrop to my searching. I took out Cirkus and slipped on the Fractured disc and then abandoned my quest to get on with something more useful. After it had finished I delved into the handsome package to retrieve the Neon Heat Disease only to discover it wasn't there !

I then embarked on another search but to no avail. The good side about this was I turned on Radio Three's Late Junction and a short but effective piece by an outfit called Threnody. Quietly stunning mixture of electric guitar, violins and cello. Also in the same programme was a piece by John Adams which the presenter informed me was a tribute to Morton Feldman and Toru Takemitsu. Didn't catch the title but blimey it was wonderful.

Also in the Blimey And Wonderful Department is an e-mail from Travis Hartnett from somewhere in Seattle. The big fella tells me I must listen to "Lift Your Skinny Fists Up Like Antenna" by Glum Rocker's God Speed You Black Emperor. I'm familiar with but don't have the other GSYBE album with the longish title - something about they will know us by the trail of bodies or something along those lines. Loved that one. One of my fave CD's a while ago, until it too mysteriously gave up the ghost, was by Travis's groovebeast which traded under the name of Futura.

Onto potential marketing matters . . .
Can any American reader of this diary supply me with the contact details for Goldmine ? Thought I might contact them regarding the impending book. What about Progression magazine ? Any good ? Once again if anyone has the details I'd be grateful if you could pass them on. Naturally, this approach was a Kimberman idea but once again I'm claiming the credit.

Thinking about the potential content for the forthcoming Postcards From Somewhere site. This you will recall is likely to be the on-line Sid Smith archive chock full of embarrassing pictures of me very thin doing arty-type things in arty-type galleries in the 80's. Along with this there'll be the even more cringe worthy diary / notebooks section which date back to late 70's. The aim with this project is to establish a web presence ahead of the publication of the book in order to support the book and some potential off-shoot projects. I've not done anything yet about approaching the several people who have volunteered their web designing skills as I want to work a bit more on the content and concept. One way or another, things seem to be slowly coming together.

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Ideas Fizzing About In The Firmament

A bright day without any rain and a light icy blue sky. Tom and Joe continue to be ill and off school with flu-like symptoms. Debbie also is dragging herself into work with a nose that would stop traffic in the street were she to stand by the road.

Last night had a long conversation with the Kimberman regarding some whizzo ideas for off-shoots and shameless marketing ploys regarding the book and its potential after-life. Then tonight yet another telephone conference with the great Kimbrini nudging ideas around a bit further. Just for the record, Kimber would like it to be known that any good ideas expressed in these pages are exclusively his and that I merely misappropriate his creativity and prosper accordingly.

A flurry of separate and unrelated e-conversations going on with Robert, Jakko and Rob Ayling at Voiceprint and the creative team at Helter Skelter. Again, lots of potential ideas fizzing about in the firmament none of which are ready enough to go public with. But hey I'm excited !

The editor of a UK based music magazine got in touch today and is interested in me doing a feature on Crimso. Though discussions are not concluded I'm pleased about this development which will obviously tie-in with the publication of the book later in the year. Once again, I'll keep people posted on further developments.

Listening to;
I Am The Vine - Arvo Part
The Impossible Bird by Nick Lowe
Oranges And Lemons by XTC
Preludes - Volume One and Two by Scriabin
Mixed Up by The Cure

Monday, February 12, 2001

FAQ Me !

The great thing about have a south facing room painted a deep lurid yellow is that when the sun blazes in the morning the effect is to bathe everything in a golden halo. It's possible to sit entranced just watching the play and flow of light as clouds move, subtlety changing the quality and texture. Also recommended is Copland's Organ Symphony which is grand and witty in roughly equal measure.

Along the corridor are two groggy boys off school and unwell. Joe has a head which looks like beetroot and Tom has the pallor of a soused hake. I made an executive decision not to put them through the half hour bus ride to school this a.m and with some justification as it turned out - double barfing taking place which would not have gone down well with the driver or fellow passengers on the 355 to Forest Hall. After checking for spots rashes and any other indicators, I've confined them to bed and books. Obligatory chicken soup and a ban on any kind of enjoyment would appear to be the order of the day.

The publisher tells me there is considerable interest being expressed by members of the public in the book. They also tell me they are interested in doing a limited edition version of the book in hardback. This might also come with a CD featuring extracts from the hours of interviews I've gathered over the last year or so, although most of those tapes are me stuttering and asking painfully convoluted questions, lasting an age only to be followed by a terse "yes" or an irritated "no" from said Crimpersonage. Having said that, it's nice to hear the original voices and I think there would be some interest in such a release albeit in a limited edition format. Or would there ? You tell me ? I'll need to cost it up and look into the logistics involved.

Talked to Peter Giles at some length the other night getting autobiographical infill on some of the points we missed. Today he sent me the complete pre-Crim Giles Brothers discography for inclusion as well as one or two other items of interest which will be making their way into the pages of the book. Also e-mails from Robert, Peter Sinfield and Sean Hewitt who tells me that the book is mentioned within the pages of ET's excellent FAQ section. Thus;

"King Crimson Roadmaster Sid Smith is currently working on an English-language tome to the band. Supposedly this will be more "authorized" (by RF), and will feature interviews with past and present members. Check out Sid's DGM diary for his progress on this document."

FAQ me till I fart. I better start writing this bloody thing !

Sunday, February 11, 2001

A Frail Son

Bright but grey here in Whitley Bay. A little after 8.00 a.m. and Joseph is on the sofa running a slight temperature and generally feeling unwell. Red in the face, hot to the touch and potentially prone to the Technicolor yawn, Joseph is a good patient. Tom does less well at being a concerned brother opting instead for the cynically unconcerned model.

Talking to John Kimber last night. The vibe guide from leafy Highgate was in fine fizzing form. His latest set of paintings have really fired him up and me too as it happens. Plans may well be afoot for a solo Kimber show in the not too distant future. Talk of me and the boys painting today but this could easily be subsumed by the allure of Sam's latest game for the playstation.

Painting as it turned out was subsumed by a gruelling bout of maths homework belonging to Tom. I was never particularly good at maths when I was a kid and oddly enough I'm not much better now. Try as I might to grasp the numbers, they dribble through my head like water through a seive. In a case of the blind leading the blind, Tom and I crack the back of the stuff in a little under two hours. After this we both need to chill out for a while.

He does this by drawing and I do it by listening to the Miles Davis Quartet circa 1965. Tony Williams super light touch lifts the spirits and refreshed I now begin with Joe's spellings. Joe is running a slight temperature and is now resting up on the sofa feeling very sorry for himself. Our week-end house pest Beige Peter (up from Birmingham for a few days) takes solace in a walk along to the sea front to Tynemouth. It's a scenic route whatever the weather and now there's a frail sun playing off the waves.

E-mails from Robert and Jacob Heringmann. It turns out that Jacob's ex was born in Warkworth (see previous diary entry). Small world or what eh ?

Digging about in the reference section of the Yellow Room for details on The Gods, The Shame and The Shylimbs, not necessarily for inclusion in the book but I find it always helps in getting a sense of where someone (in this case Greg Lake) has come from. Does anybody out there have a copy of publicity hand-out for The Shame which features a picture of a cherubic looking lake with a large rose superimposed over his slender midriff ? It's advertising "Don't Go 'Way Little Girl" and says " There's A New Way. His Way." It'd be great to include it in the book.

Saturday, February 10, 2001

Warkworth Memories

Sheets of rain streaming and pounding against the windows. It's the kind of morning that makes you glad that you're safely tucked up indoors. The kids sit leafing through an encyclopaedia on leaves and the British countryside. To do this day I am frankly unable to tell my oak from my sycamore, despite having spent a fair portion of my childhood as a regular and frequent visitor to the countryside.

My mother's parents, Dora and George, owned a cottage just outside of a one street Northumbrian village called Warkworth. Sitting on a bend in the river Coquet, the village is dominated by a magnificent castle, parts of which date back to the 11th Century. By the 16th Century it was really just a picturesque ruin and much of the village below the castle and many of the surrounding buildings dotted around the countryside are built from stone looted by locals. But don't let that fool you into thinking Warkworth Castle is just a pile of rubble. It sits heroically atop a hill, it's walls, ramparts and keep largely intact and has one of the most strategic and commanding views of that part of the coast as you're likely to find. It's original scale and splendour remain mightily impressive.

Warkworth was a dream come true for a child - the perfect setting for fantasy games of knights in shining armour, slaying dragons and all sorts of boyhood heroics. Running down the steep sides of the moat, climbing the Grey Mares Tail Tower or the vast green of the outer bailey, all made a perfect setting for a child with an unbridled imagination. Two miles outside Warkworth is Bank House - a row of about six stone built cottages which huddle against an exposed hill on the road to Guyzance and Shillbottle.

It was here that I used to spend week-ends with my sisters and the rest of the family. At the back of the houses there was a small but wild wood and we used spend a lot of time in it making camps and dens. My grandfather's party piece was to come out of the house at dusk, standing at the entrance of the wood, tie a white handkerchief to his walking stick and wave it aloft. The darkening sky would suddenly fill with a huge colony of bats which would swirl and scatter above the rooftops as the children ran shrieking with howls of excitement.

1965 and every Sunday morning we would make the short drive into Warkworth and visit the Presbyterian church. Cold and rank with fust, the church service was something to be endured rather than enjoyed. A modest congregation of rural folk in their stiff, creaking Sunday best would stoically plough through drab, threadbare songs of praise. I used to sit on pews, vibrating with the bass notes of the croaky organ and throbbing with cold, tracing my finger over the gold embossed lettering on the damp dark blue hymn books, imagining it to be a racing car traversing chicane and finishing line.

After the service, my father and grandfather would cross over the road and sit in the Mason's Arms whilst my mother and her mother would go for a chat in my Auntie Nora's house on the main street. My sisters and I were allowed to go to The Pop - In which was Warkworth's solitary concession to the 1960's and the encroaching youth culture.

The site of the Pop-in as it is now


The Coffee bar had a hissing Gaggia which snorted and spurted with a startling ferocity. In amongst the formica table tops and spindly chairs was the other vital accessory to any self-respecting establishment - a jukebox. Here my sisters used to put a sixpence piece into the juke box, opening a doorway into a wonderfully strange and exotic world. The song which dominated that time (this was 1965) was the Rolling Stones' The Last Time and Play With Fire. Whatever qualities the songs had and whatever their subject matter might have been, it was the sound of the songs which would make me close my eyes and shiver in a kind of esoteric revelation.

In those two records wreathed as they were in studio reverb, I seemed to hear a place which sounded like midnight, a plush cushion of sound a light as a cloud but as warm as a child's eiderdown. I was a seven year old, sucking on my frozen orange jubbly, unsure of what it was I was experiencing and why this music should have that impact on me. I knew it was important but couldn't say why. Caught between two incongruous times and cultures, the abandonment of medieval stones and the abandon of the Stones.

We left the Pop - In for good when my grandfather died a short while later. Bank House was sold and we never went back again as a family. I've since made several day trips out to Warkworth. In a car it's one hour from our front door in Whitely bay to the castle. The bus from Newcastle takes nearly two hours taking as it does the scenic route. As you leave the fishing port of Amble, the bus comes over the brow of a hill and then delivers your first dramatic sight of the white stoned castle in an abrupt shock. Proud and defiant, it rears up from the hill, totally out of character with the local landscape yet wholly timeless and comforting.

Friday, February 09, 2001

The Greg Lake Interview Re-enactment Society

A vast blue cloudless sky running off to forever this morning. The white plume of a plane arcing over the heavens. Calm sea and biting cold. Frail sunshine does its best to warm the ground but so far is making no impact on the frost which coats the ground.

Been listening to Morton Feldman and Alfred Schnittke. Dark and somehow brimming with optimism. Also been listening to the new Andrew Keeling CD Quickening The Dead with its fabbo cover painting. It's been totally re-sequenced since the CDR I heard of it and works much better for it. Andrew's music seems to delight in sprinting off along the path in front and then suddenly veering off in an unexpected direction. Melodies are skeletal traces briefly dallied with and then thrown up in the air to see where they might land. On the whole if you like your new music subdued and somnolent then you'll have a hard time keeping up with the Keeling. Of course this is not to suggest that Quickening The Dead is without calm pause and reflection. The piece Tjarn for piano has a fragile beauty which demands (at least of me) repeated listening. Some audio samples of O Ignis Spiritus Tjarn and the title track up at the top of Andrew's page would be an excellent idea I think.

Oh and did I mention the totally wonderful fabbo cover ? If you go to the top of the page you'll see a link to Studioflokati. This is an on-line gallery run by Markus Reuter and Berhanrd Worstheinrich with a whole load of artists from different parts of the world and me. If you click on the link it'll take you to my part of the gallery which features four paintings inspired by Andrew's music. I call this lot The Keeling Quartet and by clicking on them you can get a close up of each painting in turn. Given my increasingly stretched finances Debbie says I should put them up for sale. So get your browser pointing and your chequebooks at the ready.

Also on the site is vibe guide and the blokey who always makes me laugh as he falls downstairs soiling himself, John Kimber of leafy Highgate. Kimbo, as those who know him like to call him when he's fumbling with shoelaces, also has space up on Studioflokati and I would urge you to go and visit his part of the gallery as well. Just don't forget the splatterguard before you go.

Kimbo sent me a whole load of his very latest painting for feedback and commentary and rather marvellous they are too. He also tells me he's loving the latest collectors club release - best yet he tells me.

Talked to Greg Lake at some length the other night. I had originally asked Greg for an interview over a year ago but was told by Bruce Pilato that he wasn't giving interviews. Once in a while I kept sending off hopeful requests but kept getting knocked back. Having recently completed revising the chapter on Court I really felt that Greg's perspective was sadly lacking and so thought I'd have another attempt at talking to Greg. This time it was bingo !

I have been asked to provide a few scenes of our conversation by the Whitley Bay Branch Of The Greg Lake Interview Re-enactment Society. Greg and I had just started talking when there was an almighty commotion going on outside the door. Sam and Alys were having a huge stand-up punch-up and dust-up directly outside the room. Just as Greg is settling into describing what a dead loss GG&F were, there's all sorts of screaming and shouting

SS : Hang on Greg …sorry to interrupt. . .could you hang on a second ?

GL : Err…OK

Sound of fat bastard footsteps plodding lumpenly across wooden floorboards. Imagine the scene in Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum stares down at the cup of water on the dashboard and sees the ripples moving across the surface suggesting that something unfeasibly large and nasty is heading right this way.

Sound of door being violently wrenched open letting in a flood of teen-age pip-squeaking verbiage suddenly silenced by a mad, wild-eyed stare of such smouldering malevolence that any thought of protest dries in the throat.

SS : (Loudly) If you must beat each other up then beat each other up else where please.

Sound of door being slammed and footsteps smartly springing over polished wooden floorboards. Think of Nureyev and Nijinsky crossed with the welcoming smile of a meeter and greeter at your favourite Burger chain.

SS : Sorry about that Greg. The joys of two teen-age children who want to kill each other.

GL : Heh Heh Heh.

So there you have it in all it's incisive glory. Life at the cutting edge of interviewing the Greater Crim. Maybe I should put it up as an audio sample at the top of my page ?

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