Crim’s Lead Hat Ink

Of crimson kings and talkin’ heads… I said as I read what had prompted Facebook Fripp to post:

From Adrian Belew’s FB page. A longer discussion is possible of this, and most likely not a happy one. The happier version is, both the excellent AB Power Trio and King Crimson are playing live, and both have interesting repertoires.

Dave Dreyfus: It’s a fun video from Rome and especially cool to hear Adrian trying out sounds that one year later turned into King Crimson’s Discipline album. Interesting to hear some of those arrangements rearranged by the mostly Brit KC team out touring in 2016 and 2017. For example the current lead singer now sings the spoken word Indiscipline lyric.

Adrian Belew: I don’t find that interesting. we had an agreement they would not perform anything I wrote. hmmm

The comment Belew was responding to was in response to his own reminiscing his tour with Talking Heads after watching some of the great footage from their tour together in Rome in 1980:

“…it really is a stunning amazing concert by an incredible group just reaching their height of fame and creativity… reading the comments is intriguing. one person thought I was fripp. another thought I was eno! many people thought I added great stuff, one person found me distracting. another person thought I was too loud (as though I was the person mixing the concert!) I was just contributing what I had been asked for. energy, sounds, solos, and creativity. I didn’t have time to consider the impact of it all. I was having a ball. I always loved the Heads. chris, tina, david, and jerry were an awesome band. that was a good time for music.”

The Heads’ eventual falling out with David Byrne was enough to spawn a great album without him, which featured on each track a contribution from a different of several of the remaining band’s favored lyricist/vocalists. It was called No Talking Just Head, which is amusing not just for the oral innuendo but the thinly veiled comment on who wasn’t on the album. Maria McKee’s contribution “No Big Bang” seemed to go in that vein and Johnette Napolitano did a bang up job capturing the energy on that, as well as her own and other’s, when they toured it. Alas, even that band was soon to be no more for good. I was lucky enough to see them at the Park West in Chicago.

See, there’s a thing about “the lead singer” who also happens to be the primary lyricist: David Byrne is just one example, there are many others in the Pop realm whose artistic drive was not satisfied by the constraints afforded them with the notoriety of their band. As egos go, though, Adrian Belew carries humble along with his. His exclusive use of the shift key might render the typeface of his non-existent autobiography lone I, but he is a singular talent. At any rate, unlike Byrne, he was not there for the founding of the band he was to become most well-known for — at least, not once they decided to take on the Crimson moniker. Nevertheless, when the lyricist/singer is a competent musician, the issue of song writing credit and how to share it with the rest of the players, if at all, doesn’t trail behind.

In the No Talking, Just Head liner notes, for example, the post-Byrne band members were careful to give all of themselves compositional credit on each respectively performed track, which was a detailed departure from the practice on much of the pre- post-Byrne albums. On the other hand, it is interesting if not ironic to note that bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Franz are on record expressing their notion that producer Brian Eno may have tried to encourage Byrne to claim an unwarranted amount of authorship for himself and the producer, because the former pair has since been accused of having done just that on the first album of their Tom Tom Club project by none other than contributor Adrian Belew. Also, as concerns whatever it is that constitutes not having co-written what makes it into the mix, some of the songs off Talking Heads’ last Eno-produced album, Remain in Light, wouldn’t be themselves in their overall creative glory if you removed Belew’s guitar work from them.

Dollars are of course the reason compositional credit is an issue. Beyond that, however, getting fair payment for creative work is not solely down to the extent one is credited for the creation in question; there are accounting practices that come into play. Which brings me to George Clinton and how his affected the life & death of Funkadelic co-author from way back, Bernie Worrell.

Adrian Belew knew the late-great Bernie Worrell because they toured together for that The Name of this Band is Talking Heads era group, which preceded the Stop Making Sense that Worrell stayed aboard for. Now, Bernie met his nasty cancerous end last year, which played its circuitous part in re-familiarizing me with with the traditional bad blood run deep between brothers in music. Where-thru? Facebook.

For what is Facebook if not the place to have a closer relationship with your… fans… if you can avoid getting troll’d into commenting on matters of what might be left to yourself. As Bernie’s wife was updating everyone on his health status, she busied herself, as well, railing against Bernie’s former Parliament-Funkadelic partner, George Clinton. The guy who notoriously, much like Robert Fripp, had headaches with the industry and getting ownership of his band’s music, and, therewith, dollars, also has had issues with his former bandmembers regarding the same — such that there’s enough smoke there to indicate exploitation of his own damn doing. Strictly from the Facebook of things, Belew doesn’t look to fully realize how fortunate he is, still, as an off-duty Crim: having your words wrung by the new guy is a far cry from having your default ex-band leader always tell you there’s never any money.

Up to a point, Belew appears to enjoy basking in the on-line glow on his fans’ Facebooks. Indeed, many of them seem to be an extension of the artist as they vicariously experience his trips & tales. Twenty-five years ago, when I saw him solo (the first of twenty times) on his Inner Revolution tour, I would have tended to my projection of his feeling under-recognized yet somehow above it all. As things are today, I would say that Belew & Fripp’s dueling passive-aggression’d almost stand up to the virtuosity of their interlocking guitar sorties.

Some people say this potency of artist collaboration cannot exist without a requisite emotional tension. Bullshit. There’s been plenty of greatness of the highest order between partners who got along well otherwise. The strength of Discipline and TCoL is in spite of whatever snippiness came between it, not because of it. Then again, what do I know? I don’t. Then why should I even have an opinion on it, let alone comment? Touché. I confess undue interest. That is, unwarranted credit. Still, and most cheekily, I extend a credit of consequence to Facebook.

Facebook is good for next to nothing. It’s good enough so that Judie Worrell, in the throes of watching the slow death of her husband, a master composer who had been cheated right down to his deathbed, could decide to vent a bit of that frustration on the forum. It’s also good enough that Bernie’s fans could then scold her publicly for not taking a more charitable view of George Clinton, who — if you’re considerate of all conditions of charity — you might be inclined to say carries the onus. Regardless, maybe a charitable guest might least of all choose to chastise the bereft? Oh, who cares? The main thing is we can hash out the nuances, or lack thereof, of financial & social and interpersonal & emotional trespasses and debts on an open forum for the better understanding of the human condition!

Facebook is good enough for Adrian Belew to get countless comments from fans still unaware he’s not with the current KC — if they’re at all aware KC is active — saying things like, “Ade, mate! When is King Crimson coming to the sticks of this continent very far away that I live on? Nobody ever comes here! ;-(” This logically prompts someone more up-to-date on these things to extend kudos to Belew for being so much more charitable to his fans because he brings his trio to their town, whereas the cold-hearted Crimson-proper never bothered, which is obviously down to that foul Fripp, who, depending on the telling, kicked Ade out of the band!

Facebook is good enough that eventually ole Ade cannot resist — feeling slighted & slightly whakk’d — and lets slip a passive-aggressive tone or two, which, be-musingly enough, his fans will take for an opportunity to laud him for “taking the high road” while they rip Fripp a new one on his behalf. Facebook is good enough that fans can fix from afar as Belew lets that outpouring go unchecked until it gets so over-the-top that he’ll chime in with how Fripp and he are still friends. I wonder if they’re Facebook friends.

Facebook is good enough that Fripp can evade reply on everything his commenters say, but chirp when he gets wind of something he saw elsewhere on Facebook. Having once not been one to let an uninformed view go unchallenged, now he can not do that in Facebook fashion. Maybe he won’t be able to resist.

Don’t get me started on the fruitful back & forth between FB friend & foe (Facebook acquaintance & non-acquaintance) as they discuss politics. There’s no discussion of politics. It’s just Facebook. I’ll bet you a billion Zucker-bucks it’s wicked-baaad for your health.

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A less buoyant heart plays its part as the wester most coast of the new land embarks upon the twenty-fifth of June. An hour later in red river country, and last night to be more precise, probably twixt 6 & 3 hours ago beginning to end showtime, I miss again my chance to accompany sibling in consanguinity to the current Incorporation of the Crimson King. At the risk of repeating myself under duress, I recapitulate the hot dates on which Gock & I have been in a row:

22 June 1984: Twenty days after his twenty-first, seven weeks before my eighteenth, we drove with Haas & Hoffman from Naptown to the Chicago ‘burbs (of Hoffman Estates, no less) to see the Discipline quartet form the finale of their experiment in gamelan guitar on their Three of a Perfect Pair tour.

14 June 1995: Eleven years thereafter, that quartet reformed with an additional duo to establish their double trio, which we audit-& spectated twelve earthly spins after his thirty-second, two months left from my twenty-ninth, this time with Gock driving up 65 to join me in my new hometown in Chicago proper. I’d commented beforehand how I thought the new configuration melded old-middle w/ new-middle, lending themselves to “Red” re-rendering. Gock agreed. He sat two rows in front of me. I saw him enthuse the brightness of my prescience when, not fifteen minutes in, they kicked into the number in question. It was a moment for sure. So what if neither his recognition of mine, nor mine of itself had been in any sense astute. Forgetful maybe: they’d played “Red” in ’84.

30 October 2000, 31 October 2000 & 1 November 2000: This quartet was the next step in the Restrukcturing of Crimson. Out were Tony Levin & Bill Bruford, behind were the duo who joined them for the Thrak exKcursion, Pat Mastelotto & Trey Gunn.  Again Gock joining me further north, we were together for three shows at Fripp’s famously faved Park West with us both well into our thirties. The title track opener to The ConstruKction Of Light on night number one presented proof that the replacements were world class players. Though I was so moved by sitting close enough to Fripp’s face that it was tempting to hide behind his monitor speaker, being able to witness his fretting fingers fly on “FraKctured” and the newest “Larks’ Tongues” elevated the experience to thitherto unwitnessed breadths. On night number two, Belew wore bunny ears for the Halloween “Heroes” encore.

6 & 7 August 2008: Now both this side of forty, Gock rolled up for two of three again at the Park West, where MiLkBabIES B & J, along with C, the man of my sisterly K as well as K herself joined us from within the city. There’s vid online of us waiting in line. The twist in this short-lived lineup is Levin rejoining to replace Gunn and drummer G. (not George) Harrison providing the original brain & brawn behind the script of the “BBoom”: an arrangement for two drummers. This is the first time I saw Belew sit to play, and it was lower than Fripp, on a stool that worked like a bouncy mushroom. (There’s irony there for those who’ve frequently followed all fings Fripp.) T Lev was obviously capable enough to recapture Gunn’s “ConstruKction”. The linked live variation is fab. I recall being disappointed that the audience didn’t allow Fripp’s soundscape at the end of one of the songs fade before letting loose with their response. I still feel it was an indication of their not really being in the moment, and rather responding how they’d been trained. Well, you can’t have everything. You can sometimes lead the audience to applause, but you can’t always make them listen.

11 September 2016 : Last summer’s waning flew Gock to Berlin, where he hadn’t been before. All I had to do was buy an extra ticket and give him a bed. Not a bad deal. Renewed this time, as well, was the repertoire as much as personnel. Notably absent was Adrian Belew, who we’d seen solo in Indy in addition to every other concert we’d been to. Jakko Jakszyk was/is on first &/or second guitar and singing when’s to be sung. A lot of old pieces, the titles of which it used to be hip to laugh about other audients’ screaming — as we who were hip knew, after all, would never be played again in public. Some things change. Rearrange. With this in mind, absolute highlights here are “Fracture”, “Cirkus”, “Easy Money”, and “Starless”, a vid of which version is also online.

Regarding this round’s encore of “Heroes”: In light of Bowie’s passing nine months prior, along with the Berlin backdrop of the song’s history from its conception & production to its legend lending status to the artist, the audience didn’t seem overly moved. Contrary to my earlier observation on the Chicago crowd’s not listening, I think the Berlin public had heard the song too many times, and in too many contexts (e.g. every commemoration of the fall of the Wall and to sell loads of crap) to feel just how moving it might have been. I was a little moved; but it was tempered by the crowd, or, maybe rather the subversive phenomenological view of the world post- misappropriation. Well, you cannot have everything.

In shortsighted retrospect I wonder if, of the two clusters of 21st century performances, it might not have been ’00 when we went to two of three and ’08 when it was all three. Or maybe we only went to two each time. What I seem to believe I can recall is that I went to all six, with or without Gock.

Speakin’ o’ which, we saw the sequel to the Oughts’ Four unit apart from one another, he in Chicago, me in Prague in 2003. And for the 2014 trio of shows in Chicago, Gock invited me to attend any one or more of the three. I was hard-pressed infused with guilt. He invited to pay my airfare, in addition to the tickets he’d already bought. I just couldn’t do it. Like last night.

While we have a tradition of seeing KC together when they go on the road, I am fast becoming traditionally truant.

Gock & me: ObsKcured by Cam & Head, Foto by Fripp – Berlin, 11 September 2016

On the title: as often, it’s both pun and reference; this time to a title that’s an anagram

 

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