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Adrian Belew, part 2: 1981-1984 (King Crimson)

Previously on part 1 of this article

The European leg of the Talking Heads tour commenced on December 1st, 1980 in London. The night the band arrived in town the whole entourage went out to a dinner in a fancy Russian restaurant, wasting no time in consuming large amounts of vodka and engaging in food fights, like rock n roll bands do. Adrian Belew, not a hard drinker, crushed in his hotel room in the wee small hours, dead to the world. Not for long, though. A 9AM call woke him up: “Hello Adrian, I know you’re not one to go raving so I figured it was safe to call you early. Did I wake you up?” A groggy Belew uttered something incoherent, to which the caller replied: “Well look, Bill Bruford and I want to start a band with you.”

Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew

And now for part two, the tale of King Crimson in the 1980s…

Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew have crossed paths before. Back in 1978 when Belew was touring with David Bowie, they went to see Steve Reich performing his mesmerizing composition Music for 18 Musicians after its release on the ECM label. The show was at the Bottom Line club in NYC, and who should be in attendance but Robert Fripp. Bowie made the introductions and Belew met for the first time the man behind the guitar parts on the song Heroes, so intimately familiar to him after playing them live with Bowie. He did not know at the time what impact Fripp’s role would have on his career.  Some months later, after the tour with Bowie ended, Fripp would call Belew and invite his band Gaga to open for The League of Gentlemen on five US east coast gigs. On that tour Belew met Brian Eno and members of Talking Heads, sparking his collaboration with the band on the milestone album Remain in Light. For more details about the events listed above, go to part 1.

When Fripp called Belew that December morning in London, his idea for a band featuring Adrian Belew was to pursue the second of his three-year career plans that started in 1978 with the Drive to 1981. That phase included his solo albums Exposure and Under Heavy Manners, and The League of Gentlemen’s self–titled 1981 album. That band was his foray into post punk and new wave, which he described as “a new wave instrumental dance band.” One more album of frippertronics was released in 1981, Let the Power Fall. In its liner notes Fripp hinted at things to come: “The next step is Discipline, the first step on the incline to 1984, my second three year campaign in the market place.”

Robert Fripp

Belew was a long-time fan of Fripp and King Crimson and knew well the music of the previous incarnations of the band. That music was an escape during a time of creative limbo in his life as a travelling musician in a cover band. He tells the story of that early period in his career: “In the early seventies during the disco rage it was near impossible for rock bands to get live work in northern Kentucky where I lived. All the live venues had converted to discos. One afternoon by chance I was walking through a hotel when I heard two guitarists rehearsing. One of them recognized me from my recent days as a drummer. After just a few minutes of conversation he offered me a much needed job as their drummer. He explained they were a Holiday Inn lounge band (a duet actually), and that they played 6 nights a week, 5 sets a night at various Holiday Inns around the country, usually a month-long stay at a time in each location. He said each of us were given our own rooms and free meals. He offered me an astounding $400 a week! At that time $100 was a good week’s pay for me. I sold my electric guitar in order to buy a small Ludwig drum kit and for the next two and a half years traveled the Holiday Inn circuit playing insipid hits like ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree’ five hours a night.” Tony Orlando and Dawn indeed took middle of the road to new peaks of blandness, and Belew had to find other outlets to keep his creative juices flowing: “In the day times I honed my writing skills with my acoustic guitar, and taught myself to play cello, flute, and piano. But my secret pleasure was late nights spent under headphones listening and studying King Crimson records. By then King Crimson had become my favorite band, second only to The Beatles. I couldn’t actually play most of their music but I knew every detail.”

Adrian Belew and a Gibson Firebird, soon to be replaced with a Ludwig drum set

Like many progressive rock fans, King Crimson’s 1969 debut left a profound impression on him: “A best friend of mine had seen King Crimson play in Florida at a festival and he brought back that record and rushed right over to my house saying ‘You’ve gotta hear this!’ I’ve loved it ever since. To this moment I can remember that opening sound, that strange sound. I’m not even really sure what it is, perhaps I should ask Robert someday.” Asked which of their albums he liked the most, Belew answered: “I like the very first and the very last of that realm of King Crimson music, the late ’60s/’70s music. I like In the Court of the Crimson King and Red, those were my bookend favorites.”

With that history, being invited out of the blue by Fripp to join a band he was starting with Bill Bruford was a dream come through for Belew.

Adrian Belew

Fripp started rehearsing the new band, at the time named Discipline, in February of 1981. Bill Bruford described the use of the word discipline as a band name: “The discipline referred to was that required from the performers of the piece to avoid attracting attention to themselves, to affect the posture of the village musician who may have a modest part, requiring no virtuoso technique, but which is an essential element of a slowly and subtly changing fabric of interwoven parts.”

This commentary from Bruford is in line with Robert Fripp’s concept for this incarnation of the band, which went beyond the musical content. In a 1981 interview he tried to explain it: “I’m very interested in the idea of the gamelan, because it’s a system of music which you can’t divorce at all from the societal system or the value system which gives rise to it. I mean, it’s impossible to have a star system in gamelan.”

King Crimson, 1982

The band consisted of Fripp on guitar, Adrian Belew as lead singer and guitarist, Tony Levin on bass and Bill Bruford on drums. This was the first time a second guitarist was part of the band. Ten years earlier Ian McDonald said “If you’ve got Bob Fripp in a band you just don’t play guitar.” Fripp quickly realized that he had the formation of something special. He also knew that the quality of musicians and the music they created together qualified this group as a bona fide evolution of his legendary band: “In the first week of rehearsal, I knew the band I was hearing. There was no doubt that the band playing was King Crimson.”

Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew

The first weeks were a challenge for Adrian Belew, trying to find his own voice in the band while having to fill the roles of a front man, lyricist and guitar player next to Robert Fripp. Quite an intimidating position. In a 1982 interview he said: “When I came into this band, I was insecure for the first time in my 21 years of playing music. I thought everything I was doing was a load of crap. I couldn’t write songs and I began to feel maybe I wasn’t a singer. I honestly felt maybe I didn’t have an artistic contribution to make, and I knew this was going to be a heavy responsibility – to be singer, lyricist, and share guitar responsibilities with Robert.”

During the first rehearsals he experimented, like Fripp, with the Roland guitar synth. But then he changed his strategy: “I realized, ‘Hey, I’m not playing my guitar. I’m just basically sounding like Robert. Where’s my voice in this?’ So I picked up my Stratocaster, restrung it, and everything changed…When I started making my sounds and doing my thing, everybody kept saying, ‘Yeah, Adrian, you’re finally into the band.’ I only came into my own in the fourth week, just before the live concerts started.”

Adrian Belew

The initial rehearsals took place at Bill Bruford’s practice room in his house in Surrey, but soon were moved to Kingston Lacy Hunting Lodge in Dorset, a place Adrian Belew remembers as “a very old and very cold structure. An old English stone barn!” In those early days of the band they wrote the longest piece of music on their first album: “I remember the day we wrote Sheltering Sky in that barn. In between takes we quickly put on our gloves, grabbing for coffee or hot tea to help warm our freezing hands.” Temperatures rose above freezing conditions when rehearsals moved again to the nearby Holdenhurst Church Hall, a warmer building with a small kitchen. This proved to be an ideal situation to gel as a band, simply because there was nothing to distract them. Belew: “The two Americans in the band were ensconced in a sleepy country inn, The Horton Inn, which was literally surrounded by fields. Nowhere to go and nothing to do for weeks on end but write, rehearse, and play scrabble by the fireplace. Boy, was it dull!”

King Crimson rehearsal, Holdenhurst Church Hall 1981

The task facing Adrian Belew at that phase was formidable. The first challenge was nailing down the guitar parts he was expected to play along with Robert Fripp, that concept of gamelan music translated to guitar parts. Belew remembers: “It was very difficult for me at first because it meant I had to learn to play the fast picking guitar style Robert so favored which required a skill set I didn’t have. He and I usually did four-hour sessions of playing figures together over and over and creating variations of those figures. We did that nearly every day. It was finger and mind-numbing stuff and took me six weeks to adapt to. When we weren’t practicing fingering skills we were creating building blocks for our budding songwriting partnership or rehearsing with the band.”

Odd meters have always been an important part of King Crimson’s repertoire, but Adrian Belew was promised otherwise. In an interview he did with Fripp on their first tour of the US he said: “When I first went to rehearse with these guys, Robert had been telling me how much they were going to play things in four/four, or things, at least, that felt like they were in four/four. And the first thing we played was that thing in 17/8 from Discipline. Bill said — This is just a little something in 17/8: [imitates Bill singing the 17/8 pattern] Now that’s the 17/8, okay? You got that?”

Bill Bruford, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew

Another major influence on the music of King Crimson in 1981 was the African rhythms that Belew experienced while touring with Talking Heads, playing material from Remain In Light. With King Crimson these rhythms got much more complex and syncopated, which brings us to the story of Thela Hun Ginjeet.

In December of 1980 while touring Europe with Talking Heads, Adrian Belew heard that John Lennon was shot in New York City. The band checked in at the Amsterdam Hilton where a decade earlier Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their Bed In for Peace. The circumstances prompted him to write a song about someone being assaulted in New York, titled Heat (gun) in the Jungle (NYC). During the early rehearsals with King Crimson a few months later, he introduced the song to the band. Fripp liked it but went meh about the title. The song was shelved for a few weeks and revived after Belew started playing with scrabble pieces that spelled ‘heat in the jungle’ during a flight to London. When he landed he had the perfect anagram to match his funky rhythmic song: ‘Thela Hun Jingeet’.

Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp

The lyrics to the song had to sound like a man being interviewed after a frightening experience of street violence. Fripp suggested that Belew should take a walk in the neighborhood, saying the phrases into a Walkman while picking up street noises. Belew complied, but made the mistake of wandering into a side street and bumped into a group of mean-looking rastafarians. They grabbed the Walkman and played it back, only to hear some of Belew’s recorded gems, such as “he had a gun…this is a dangerous place!” Belew saw his time on earth nearing the end, but the group, thinking he was a policeman, finally let him go. Shaking like a leaf he went back to the studio and told the band what happened. Fripp signaled the engineer to record what he was saying, and that exact recording is now part of the song. The vocal delivery here is fantastic, and drummer Bill Bruford commented on Belew as a singer: “No matter how lousy the front-of-house PA or my on-stage monitors, Adrian’s vocals were always clear as a bell, intelligible, rhythmic, sassy. There must have been something in the frequencies of his voice that was extremely microphone-friendly, and I think of this every time I have to struggle to hear singers caterwauling down a mic.”

Here is the song, with a great slap bass work from Tony Levin. Notice the energy Belew instills into a King Crimson performance with his guitar wizardry and presence:

In a 1981 interview Fripp commented on the use of African rhythms in conventional popular music: “Very few western rock musicians who are based in 4/4 time, can even begin to grasp the complexities of African music, or even European folk music. Some example here is Bulgarian folk-singers, they sing in five naturally. It’s going to take about twelve years before you can keep a pulse in four, play five against it, and keep a part of your attention entirely free to do something else as well.”

At this point of the interview Belew, also in attendance, attempted to play a rhythm by slapping his hands on his thighs, juxtaposing four against five meters. Fripp: “You could do it, Ade. You can tell this man’s been playing Discipline for a month or two.” The confused interviewer asked: “Discipline is in five?” and got a simple answer: “Basically, it breaks down that the rhythm section is in seventeen, and the front line are in fifteen.” Piece of cake.

King Crimson

Bill Bruford liked this incarnation of the band and the new direction it was taking with two versatile American musicians in it: “How could you not enjoy a group that could make something interesting with those people? If you couldn’t make a good record with those guys, then you could never make a good record. Now we had American funk in the band, and we had the two Brits arguing away with their brainpower. It was great!”

Brits arguing may be an annoyance, but it did inspire one of the best loved songs King Crimson created during that time. Belew remembers the process of writing the material: “We would play passages for long periods of time, arranging and re-arranging sections and working out how many quavers it took each of us to land together on the next chord change. This was necessary because we were so often playing in different time signatures from each other. Monty Python-like conversations about the confusion of who changes to what-part-when often ensued.” This was where the Atlantic divide became noticeable between the musicians: “Tony Levin and I, the Americans, soon noticed how often when we stopped between takes Robert and Bill, the Englishmen, would engage in drawn out discussions about ‘the inner mosaic of the polyrhythms’ or which British schools were better, private or public, or who knows what. Tony and I would go off for coffee, come back ten minutes later, and they’d still be at it! So I wrote about it:

Frame by frame,

death by drowning,

in your own analysis.

Add these lyrics to the hypnotic guitar lines that Fripp and Belew mastered and you get a miniature masterpiece. These guitar parts are indeed a staple of that band. The way in which various instruments in a gamelan ensemble interact with each other was a clear influence. They created rhythmic guitar cycles that were often played in different meters, thus creating an effect not unlike Steve Reich’s experiments with tape loops that shifted in time. A fine example of this is the tune Frame by Frame. Playing an odd time meter in 7 while Fripp is playing a different meter, plus singing on top of that is no easy feat when performed live:

One more major aspect of Discipline was music technology. The band surrounded itself with the latest and greatest music gizmos available at the time, which contributed significantly to the sonic palette they came up with. Bruford went for the Simmons electronic drums and octobans (those long tube-like clear drums), Tony Levin was playing the Chapman stick bass, while Fripp and Belew were experimenting with the then-new Roland guitar synth. Adrian Belew was an early adopter of that gizmo, after meeting with Roland in Japan during the last leg of Talking Heads’ tour in February 1980. On discipline you can hear him using the Roland GR-300 guitar synth on the tracks The Sheltering Sky and Thela Hun Ginjeet. This is a fine example of how innovative musicians take a new technology and use it in ways beyond the imagination of the instrument maker (Keith Emerson and Moog also come to mind). Robert Fripp recalls another meeting with Roland after the release of Discipline: “When we were in Japan, Roland met with Adrian and told him that we were using their guitar synthesizers in a way that they had never anticipated. I think they expected, if you like, beginner guitarists or less proficient guitarists to play fairly simple things that sounded relatively amazing. Whereas we took them really as new instruments and tried coming up with something that was quite novel.”

Roland GR-300

Technology brings us to another great song created during that time, where wild bass and guitar riffs, guitar effects, lyrics and frantic vocals come together. Adrian Belew tells the story: “One day I was fooling around with a funky kind of guitar riff. Tony took over playing it on the Chapman Stick, leaving me free to make noises and soon I was making sounds something like an elephant trumpeting! Bill and Robert joined us and it became a pleasing enough of a racket to be added to the ‘possible songs’ list. Trying to be a writer, I always carried with me a pocket-sized Merriam-Webster dictionary. Back at the Horton Inn that evening I went through the dictionary and began marking words with a yellow highlighter pen. I marked words that had to do with speech or talking. I started with words beginning with ‘A.’ Arguments, agreements, answers, advice. By the time I got through the ‘E’s’ I felt I had enough of something to work with. The words didn’t rhyme so I figured I’d speak them or even shout them. It seems like a simple thing to do but in fact took me hours to organize. Then I remembered my elephant sounds and added a final flourish: Elephant Talk!

Listen to the track and you will understand why Adrian Belew gets an ‘Elephantosity’ credit on Discipline:

Adrian Belew’s contribution to that phase of King Crimson was multi-faceted. The guitar parts alone gave the band’s sound a whole other dimension, but one cannot forget his melodies, lyrics and vocal delivery. As in previous King Crimson incarnations, the great melodies and vocal parts were the glue that held everything together and made the listening experience more palatable and balanced for many fans. Belew was the first King Crimson singer to write all of his own lyrics. This was a monumental task for him: “An even bigger shock came as I realized these ‘finger exercises’ were to be the basis of the songs and I was to be responsible for turning them into songs with melodies and lyrics! This was to be my ‘coming out’ as a singer/songwriter and front man.”

What a hill to climb on your first major ‘coming out’ as a songwriter when the band you need to provide material for is King Crimson: “This material was nothing like the songwriting I had been honing in my Holiday Inn rooms! I quickly felt a frightful sort of expectation developing that I was to come up with the goods for songs for our first record, and fast! There were many late nights in my lonely inn room where I wondered what I had gotten myself into. When it was decided the name of the band would be King Crimson the pressure intensified a hundred fold.”

King Crimson

But as a difficult as the task was, there were brilliant moments of song writing collaborations that made those early songs a gem in King Crimson’s repertoire for years to come. In true form to all King Crimson albums of the past, along with the display of virtuosity, madness and aggressiveness present in their music, there are always lyrical passages and compositions that leave you in emotional awe, an experience not unlike listening to Mozart’s Requiem, Elgar’s Adagio for Strings or Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Adrian Belew on one of these songs: “No one understood my dilemma more than Robert who had always suffered the brunt of creation for a band with huge expectations from its fans. One of our first breakthroughs was a new ballad he had written on guitar. It was one of the few departures from the gamelan guitar form he was willing to consider, but being of a more traditional songwriting ilk, it was very helpful to kickstarting my processes. I came up with good melodies and Robert was very willing to work with whatever chord changes were necessary to accommodate my ideas. He wrote some beautiful chords and I played slide guitar parts around them.” That song is Matte Kudasai, which has its roots in the beautiful song North Star on Fripp’s solo album Exposure, then developed into Northa Kudasai with The League of Gentlemen, and finally settled as Matte Kudasai. Belew on the lyrics writing process: “Though we had numerous possible songs in the works all at once, it was this more traditional ballad which made it possible to finally write words I felt we’re suitable to this band. Having just been in Japan I carried with me a Japanese to English phrase book. The simplistic sound of one phrase in particular caught my ear: ‘Matte Kudasai.’ It meant ‘please wait for me.’ With all my recent globetrotting and long absences from home the words nearly wrote themselves.”

Discipline holds a special place for Adrian Belew fans. For many musicians it set a new high bar of how great music is made: “Musicians come up to me and say how much that record changed their perspective of how to play and what to play. There’s no greater accomplishment than that as far as I’m concerned. I’d take that over fame any day.”

Like his fans, Belew also cherishes Discipline as a cornerstone in his career: “Of the music I’ve been involved in, I have to say that Discipline is my favorite, although there are lots of favorite moments from all the records. Discipline has to stand out to me because it was our first record and we really changed course quite a bit. It didn’t sound like the King Crimson of old and it wasn’t supposed to. I’ve got great memories about that record. We always called it our ‘honeymoon record’ because everyone was so excited and so in love with playing together and sometimes that results in some extraordinary music.”

Following the intense preparation period of six weeks, King Crimson started to perform the songs live prior to recording them for an album. The first live performance, while they were still named Discipline, took place at the tiny Moles club in Bath in April of 1981, a historic event not only for being the premiere of the Discipline material, but also for the first time the title track from the 1974 album Red was performed live. Fripp was very excited after the performance: “This band will be colossal – it’s that good. For me, this is the band I’ve spent four years getting ready for.” Future members of Tears for Fears can be seen in the front row enjoying what they see and hear.

King Crimson at the Moles Club

Belew recalls the challenge of coming up with enough material for a live tour: “The trouble was there wasn’t quite enough material to do a proper show. So we added in Red and Lark’s Tongue. Still, not quite enough, I remember a German audience that got a bit irate at the length of our set so we went out and played a few of the songs a second time!”

The visual aspect of the band during live performances was not lost on Bill Bruford. His view from behind the drums gave him insight into the contrast between Belew and Fripp. In his dry wit British manner he wrote of Belew: “His fluid post-David Byrne body language existed in stark contrast to the impassive, slightly suspicious owl, and he was going to get away with a lot. Occasional forays back to his amp for some feedback, the trumpeting of elephants, or the extraction of a shriek from his harmonizer would be accompanied by a sly smile in Robert’s direction. ‘what do you think of this, sir?’”

In his autobiography Bruford paid Belew a different sort of compliment, this time focusing not on his musical prowess, but a certain part of his body. Talking about one aspect of his solo career Bruford said: “I love seeing the whites of an audience’s eyes instead of being stuck in back and seeing John Wetton’s ass. Life for me is a series of asses that I’m behind. Adrian’s got a very nice ass, slim. John Wetton’s is fat. Jon Anderson’s is very small. Nice legs, lousy ass. It’s a series of asses.” Rated above John Wetton and Jon Anderson in the top of your legs department. Asstounding.

King Crimson

The 1980s King Crimson was able to perform a formidable feat compared to earlier incarnations of the band: it maintained the exact same personnel over three consecutive albums. In 1982 the band recorded and released their next studio album Beat, lyrically influenced by Beat culture and literature. Belew: “I was at the time reading through the works of some of the so-called ‘beat writers’, my favorites being Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Robert sat down next to me and we had a conversation about what I was reading and how I might apply ‘spontaneous prose’ to my next lyric writing efforts. He said, “I have a suggestion for a starting point: ‘I’m wheels, I am moving wheels!’” And so I started writing the words for ‘Neal and Jack and Me’ and the Beat record began in earnest.”

Neal and Jack and Me is inspired by Jack Kerouac and his best known book of that era, On The Road, who’s main character Dean Moriarty was modeled after Neal Cassady.

Beat included many references to the Beat generation, with song titles Sartori in Tangier (a nod to Satori in Paris, a Jack Kerouac novella and Tangier, Morocco – a favorite Beat writers residence), Neurotica (after a Beat magazine published between 1948-1951) and the band’s attempt at an MTV-success Heartbeat (a book about the Beat experience written by Neal Cassady’s wife). In an interview Belew gave during the Beat tour he said of that video clip: “It was meant to be one third of a 14-minute video piece which would have also included Neurotica and Neal and Jack and Me, but the financing never came through.”

Time to mention one of Adrian Belew’s hidden talents, that of a drummer. This was his first instrument, performing in a marching band as a young kid and later on a drum set as a teenager in the Beatles and British Invasion cover band The Denems.

The Denems, with Adrian Belew on drums

Fast track almost 20 years into the future and Adrian Belew is playing next to one of the most celebrated drummers in progressive music. In Bill Bruford’s autobiography he described Belew as a ‘respectable drummer’ and recalls his drumming talents in detail: “Waiting Man saw the two of us standing at a set of six hexagonal pads, arranged tabletop-flat in a honeycomb shape and played from either side. We had two interlocking motifs, which ran for a while until cue. On a balmy night at some European show the moths and fireflies, attracted by the lights, would weave their perilous way between and around the choreography of the four sticks of the two drummers as the airy but persistent marimba-like rhythm soaked into the subconscious.”

Here is a clip of Waiting Man, performed live with Adrian Belew sharing drum/percussion duties with Bill Bruford on the then-new Simmons drum pads that were a staple of Bruford’s drum kit in the 1980s.

Beat was released only nine months after Discipline, but it took the band almost two more years to release their third and final album of the 1980s, Three of a Perfect Pair. A couple of attempts were made early in 1983 to record new material, but they did not prove successful at completing enough material for an album. Solo projects outside the group kept its members busy in 1983. Bruford worked with Patrick Moraz as a duo, Fripp toured solo with his Frippertronics gear, Tony Levin was busy as ever with studio work and touring with Peter Gabriel, and Adrian Belew recorded and released his second solo album Twang Bar King. The band reconvened later in the year at Bearsville studio in Woodstock, NY to complete the recordings. The visit to Woodstock proved to be spooky, but that in turn yielded the band’s next single. Confused? Robert Fripp tells the story: “When we were recording the album we stayed in two colonial terrace houses in Woodstock. If you lived in a house which is fairly old, the people who lived in the house before tend to stay around even though they’ve left. The bedroom I was staying in was like plugging in into someone else’s mind. Wild dreams. In Adrian’s bedroom he was terrified. He would leave the light on when he went to sleep. He couldn’t sleep, he was sleepless.” Hence the lyrics:

Silhouettes like shivering ancient feelings

They cover my foreign floors and walls

Submarines are lurking in my foggy ceiling

They keep me sleepless at night

Here is Sleepless, with Tony Levin slapping like no one can. This is as close as King Crimson came to a dance floor hit:

The recording sessions ended with an album of two very different sides. The band’s popularity was growing amidst new and younger audience, and the band was producing singles and music videos. When Robert Fripp presented the album at Polydor’s international marketing conference in London, he said: “Good Afternoon. It’s time that King Crimson extended itself. We would like a new audience so that we can get away from the expectations of our reliable audience. New music, new audience. This is what you can do for us. We have a little taster of the left side of the King Crimson album, which is accessible. The right side is excessive.”

That left side certainly included some of King Crimson most commercial output, if you can call any King Crimson music commercial. Adrian Belew was asked about the pop outing of King Crimson: “At the beginning it was thought that maybe my style of songwriting combined with Robert’s sensibilities would make a more pop-sounding band. But I never really thought of King Crimson as a popular band. I really felt that we were still making the traditionally select, elite kind of music that King Crimson were noted for.”

Here is my favorite piece from the album, the schizophrenic, complicated, cyclothymic and contradicting title track:

And if you thought this tune cannot be performed solo, here you go. It takes skill, lots of it, to sing a song like that and play the accompaniment on acoustic guitar, switching between 6/8 and 7/8:

Like all good things, this phase of the band had to come to an end. In a 1984 interview Fripp gave after the release of Three of a Perfect Pair, he was asked if he was planning for that lineup to continue working together. He replied: “When we came together we made a commitment to do three albums, and now the commitment would be at an end. This gives us the freedom to get together again. It is far nicer to get together again if you don’t have to.” A few months later, after completing the tour to promote the album, the band was no more. The incline to 1984 was over, but what an incline that was.

Part 3 of the Adrian Belew series continues here, focusing on his early solo albums and guest appearances:

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