Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hope Flowers Eternal… RACHEL FLOWERS Takes Up The Torch

213926730-a8ad3b16-2892-447d-878d-e7276cdb8c25.jpgRachel F Live.jpg

On March 11th I was preparing a tribute to Italian horror director extraordinaire Lucio Fulci to appear on my film blog houseoffreudstein.wordpress.com two days later, marking the 20th anniversary of his passing. As usual, whenever my attention wandered I’d check my social media to see what was going on. What was going on, I learned, was the breaking news that Fulci’s sometime collaborator (on 1983’s Murder Rock), Keith Emerson, had died.

The most positive development in the immediate aftermath of this awful news was also the least predictable. The central tenet of revisionist “rock journalism” (if that’s not an oxymoron) has always been the risible “Year Zero” paradigm, by dint of which any music produced before 1977 was dismissed as dinosaur dropppings / boring old fartery and so on… particularly reviled was the perceived “pretentiousness” (read “musicality / ambition”) of Prog Rock… and the most pompous of all the Prog prannies, by this account, were Emerson, Lake And Palmer. Neglect can cut as deeply as vilification and while standard histories of electronica in popular music routinely rhapsodise about Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk, they are more likely to mention Chicory Tip than Keith Emerson. It was with equal parts surprise and delight, then, that I noted the outpouring of love and respect for Keith (if there some negative snittery going on in the more troglodyte corners of the internet I didn’t see it, nor would I want to) from across the board. The consensus emerging from the rapidly accelerating flood of tributes was that a genuine giant had vacated the stage, somebody whose renowned showmanship was outstripped only his musical genius. There were plentiful testimonies too, some from the unlikeliest sources, as to what a good bloke he was.

keith_Johnny.jpg

Whenever I’ve found myself being drawn into those idle pub conversations about “The Greatest Living Englishman” I would always cite Keith Emerson on the grounds that he was present at the conception of Prog Rock (which mutated out of Psyche, by my estimation, at some point during the Nice’s second album Ars Longa, Vita Brevis in 1968)… the fact that he scored Italian horror movies by Fulci, Dario Argento and Michele Soavi into the bargain didn’t exactly decrease my estimation of him.

Although I managed to meet and interview many of my heroes before they died, Emmo always eluded me. My last serious attempt had been on the publication of his autobiography Pictures Of An Exhibitionist (currently out of print and being touted for silly money online) in 2002 but his publicist’s promise to “get back to you” proved as reliable as such promises usually are. I did catch The Nice, briefly reformed to promote the book, at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall… a memorable evening, from which two memories retain a particular power and poignancy. Firstly, entering the auditorium to find the house lights dimmed and a spot illuminating THAT moog, surmounted by THAT bank of switches and spaghetti… talk about an iconic image! Then, at the conclusion of a storming performance, a fan leaned over the front of the stage and offered to shake Keith’s hand. His reflex

Emmo @ The Moog.jpg

response was to reciprocate but, after a split second’s reflection, he sharply withdrew and followed up with an apologetic gesture. Precisely such concerns about the state of his hands and his ability to continue playing at the high standard he had set himself were allegedly tormenting him the night he took his life.

“It’s taken me some time to adjust to Chris Squire’s passing. I probably won’t” was Keith’s response to the passing of the Yes uberbassist and following hard on the heels of that woefully premature demise, the news of his own death (and even worse, the circustances of it) constituted a particularly bitter pill to swallow. For some time I’d been addressing the humdrum headaches and hassles attendant on bringing this blog to the light of day, to celebrate the music that’s inspired me for so many years. The news that Keith Emerson had so conclusively run out of inspiration on March 11th made me wonder whether it was worth pursuing such a project… and so I moped around feeling depressed for a few weeks, not getting much done.

RACHEL-FLOWERS-FILM-MARKETING-AD-VCR-8.21.14-841x1024.jpg

Appropriately it was David Flint, via whose twitter account I had heard the news of Keith’s death, who suggested to me that I might want to check out somebody called Rachel Flowers on Youtube. On the specific clip to which he directed me, a cute girl – possibly in her late teens / early twenties – is playing the piano introduction to ELP’s Trilogy. Hey, not bad. Then she walks, hesitatingly (oh… OK) over to a moog synthesiser (correction… Keith Emerson’s moog synthesiser) and tears into the main body of the piece with a will. Now, this is seriously complex music. This kid is not messing around. Obviously intrigued, I had a quick peek around Youtube to see if I could find anything else on her. It wasn’t hard… there she is, picking up a Chapman Stick for the first time and  commenting on what a difficult instrument it is, before noodling away impressively on it…   and here she is, onstage with Zappa Plays Zappa, contributing keys on Inca Roads

Rachel : Dweezil.jpg

.. not content with that, at the same gig we find her trading  guitar solos with Dweezil (big shoes to fill? The last time I saw FZ’s fingers moving this nimbly around a fretboard, they were animated by Bruce Bickford!) … now she’s giving a video tutorial on how to get the correct harmonics out of your bass when attempting Jaco Pastorius’ intimidatingly intricate Portrait Of Tracy… elsewhere on Youtube you’ll find Rachel participating in several of those nifty “international collaborations”, whereby musos on various continents get to groove together on some canonical piece… my particular favourite from these is Hamburger Concerto, with a certain Jan Akkerman guesting on guitar.

Over on Soundcloud you can hear Rachel playing her own compositions and covering more Jaco and Zappa, Weather Report, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Grateful Dead, Bach, and Debussy, among others… including The Nice, for Keith Emerson is clearly her major inspiration in life and in music (and you’ll glean from the great man’s Youtube testimonials that the admiration is entirely mutual): Tarkus, Karn Evil 9, Hoedown, Fanfare, Pictures At An Exhibition (great hat, girl!)… you name it, she nails it. Rachel’s commitment to music goes way beyond cold, clinical concern for technique, though. She is clearly consumed by it. On the rare occasions that an Emerson composition doesn’t demand the use of both her hands, the spare one is beating out some complex Carl Palmer polyrhythm on her stool. Her enjoyment of what she’s doing is almost palpable and at the completion of some pieces she just trembles with joy… her unselfconscious expressions of ecstasy at such moments recall nobody so much as Stevie Wonder, an artist with whom it’s all too easy to draw comparisons and yeah, in another of her Youtube clips Rachel does justice to Stevie’s sublime Superwoman (a title which could have served as an apt title for this piece.)

avatars-000063483059-7b5gms-t500x500.jpg

California’s Rachel Flowers was born on December 21, 1993. Arriving 15 weeks premature, she lost her eyesight as an infant due to Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Her mother Jeanie showed her how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when she was two. When she was four she was studying at The Southern California Conservatory of Music. Among the countless accolades she has collected since them are the John Phillip Souza Band Award and the Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Award for excellence in musicianship. Her official web-site http://rachelflowersmusic.com tells us that “at present Rachel is in the process of composing the original material which will form the basis of her musical career. Rachel’s music is informed by her extensive musical background, with jazz, classical, and progressive rock music all playing a part in helping Rachel to forge a style that is uniquely her own.” It’ll be a while before we get to savour some of those original compositions but the wait is almost over for Rachel Flowers – Hearing Is Believing, a documentary by Lorenzo DeStefano (who previously directed Los Zafiros: Music From The Edge Of Time [2002] and Talmage Farlow, a 1981 homage to the J.D. Salinger of bebop guitar) that premieres in Ventura, CA on June 9th.

VFS-2016-CAPS-GRAPHIC-4.18.16 copy.jpg

Here is not the place to get into speculation over whether Rachel Flowers developed her extraordinary talent in spite of or somehow because of the challenges that she has faced. Suffice to say, she’s a bona fide phenomenon and you’re going to be hearing a lot more about her. Nor, as her career blossoms, will the spirit of Keith Emerson ever cease to burn brightly.

Truly Ars Longa, Vita Brevis…

10449085_855214301191135_1333814333_n copy.jpgrachel1_7475701_ver1.0_640_480.jpg

the-official-keith-emerson-tribute-concert-tickets_05-29-16_17_570bcf58eb89d.jpg

Rest In Peace… and thank you.

http://www.facebook.com/RachelFlowersMusic

http://www.youtube.com/user/12stringbabe

http://www.keithemerson.com

Advertisements
Categories: Features | 3 Comments

Return Of The Prog Prodigal… IAN McDONALD Interviewed In 2004

00d33410a788f7da01990a47e9eed85b.jpg

Forced into the army by disciplinarian parents, Ian McDonald (born 25.06.46, in Osterley) spent The Summer Of Love square-bashing but was out in time to co-create the influential dark psychedelia of King Crimson in 1969. Having answered the obligatory ad in Melody Maker with girlfriend and sometime Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble, he became a member of Giles, Giles And Fripp in time to appear in a Dunlop commercial with them (as “groovy guys.”) Shortly thereadter, G,G&F metamophosed into King Crimson, the Prog pioneers whose light burned twice as brightly and half as long. Leaving the band at the climx of a hugely successful U.S. tour in December ’69, McDonald worked as a highly respected session man (for artists as diverse as T. Rex and Centipede) and was a founding member of Foreigner, as well as releasing his underrated solo album Drivers Eyes in 1999. When we spoke in May 2004 his career had just come full circle, with his involvement in The 21st Century Schizoid Band, an impressive collection of Crimson alumni…

Ian, I’m so grateful that you could take the time out to talk. I really enjoyed seeing Schizoid Band last Saturday night in Rotherham and also at the Stables Theatre in Milton Keynes last year…

That was our first gig!

What, the very first one?

Well, the first proper one. We did previously play the Canterbury festival but that didn’t count as a proper gig, it was just running on and running off again

If I was to play the devils advocate, can you tell me what value there is in reassembling these players and reviving this repertoire at this moment in time?

Well, for one thing this group of players has not played together before as a group, we’ve all played at various times in various configurations and its a great opportunity for us to work together, you know, I mean obviously you are aware of your contemporaries and it’s a great opportunity to work with one another but in terms of the material, much of it hasn’t been played for many many years and in some cases it’s never been performed live. It’s a great opportunity to perform these pieces for the public and for ourselves as well, you know it sounds fresh to me, it’s not as if we are reviving old material that has been done over and over again, so its great and I think its valid to do it and the audience are really enjoying it.

Who was the prime mover in  getting the band together?

Stillusi.jpg

Well the idea really was Peter Sinfield’s, the original idea was to put some kind of big extravaganza together, all ex-King Crimson members playing at big venues, going right through the history of the group and that sort of thing, but that original idea got distilled down a bit and became The Schizoid band. Rather than starting out on a big scale we’re starting out with a core group of musicians and building it, allowing it to grow from there. It was originally Peter’s idea though, that’s where it came from.

Will Peter be collaborating with you in the Schizoid Band?

I hope so, yeah, part of the idea of the group is not just to do the same material as the Crimson in the 60’s and 70’s etc, but to bring new, original material to the repertoire and that’s what we’d like to do, in fact next year our hope is to record an album of new material and I would very much like Peter to be involved in the writing of it and I think he would too… so yeah, definitely.

I very much liked the track Catleys Ashes, which sounds good as a studio extra on your “Live In Italy” CD but really takes off live…

That’s an original composition by our singer / guitarist Jakko, yeah a very good piece and that’s the kind of thing we want to bring in. That’s new material, and we do one relatively new song of mine and Peter Sinfield’s called Lets There Be Light from my solo album Drivers Eyes and we do want to record an album or original material, as I said we’re treating this like a real band… it’s not about nostalgia or a “tribute band” or anything… I wish I hadn’t said that, I really hate that whole “tribute band” thing…

It’s more of an organic thing…

Yeah, we’re all original members, every piece that we play, one or more of us was directly involved in the original version of that… its the real thing!

History has repeated itself, with Michael Giles leaving the band at a very early stage…

Yeah…

So what happened there?

Well, that’s a complicated question, but to answer it, he had trouble with the touring and also making the commitment to the band which was very upsetting at the time because everybody else was committed to the group… but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Ian Wallace who, as everyone knows, has also played drums in King Crimson is now in the group and it’s just gone really well and as I say, it turned out to be a blessing because morale is now that much higher, the musicianship is developing, it’s a really good band and it’s turned out for the better.

5a105976.jpg

The thing that struck me strongly the other night in Rotherham, in comparison with your show at The Stables, was that Jakko was really stepping out much more as a guitar player… at the earlier gig he was playing and singing well but he was leaving most of the lead stuff to you and Mel Collins,  now he seems to have stepped out of the long shadow of Robert Fripp…. do you think that’s a fair comment?

I suppose so, you’d probably have to ask him how he feels about that… I’m very pleased to see Jakko really stepping out, he just goes form strength to strength. I have an awful lot of admiration for him because either singing vocals or playing guitar on these songs is no easy matter, but to do both at the same time is really quite remarkable. Were very lucky to have him at the centre of the band, up front, he’s also done an incredible amount behind the scenes as well in terms of the organisation, using his contacts and that sort of thing. He’s been invaluable.

When the band was being put together, before you settled on Jakko, was anybody else in the frame for guitar and vocals?

Not really, Jakko’s name came up through Mike Giles…

… who I understand is his father-in-law…

Yeah, Mike suggested Jakko to me in the first place, I wasn’t that familiar with his work but as soon  as we got together for a trial run it worked just great.

Going back to your departure from the original King Crimson, I  just wondered how you felt about it now, and how your thoughts about it have changed over the course of 30-odd years…

Yeah well, you can’t change history. I’ve always said, many times, that it was an impulsive decision. Perhaps I should have given it a little more thought. It was rather an immature thing to do, I wasn’t quite aware of how good the band was at the time and what it was I was leaving, I was a bit sort of cavalier about it, and impulsive. In hindsight perhaps yes, I should have stayed at least for the second album but there’s not much can be done about that and this group, the Schizoid Band, in a way is a little bit of a redemption for me, because we are playing a fair amount of that material which the original band did…

You play all of the first album except Moon Child…

Yes and we do later material from In The Wake Of Poseidon and Red and Islands… and Lizard, so that brings the conversation full circle, yes I feel slightly redeemed playing in this band. It was probably an unfortunate decision to leave, but with hindsight I realise how important the band was…

They say that the candle which burns twice as bright only burns for half as long…

OK, it certainly was like that, it was an odd mixture of personalities and it did burn very brightly for a very short while…

What do you think of the archive releases that Fripp is putting out? Do you have any say in whether they come out or not, or how they are presented?

When anything like that is coming out all of the relevant members are informed, we all sort of stay in touch in that regard and we generally approve of these releases.

Has Fripp made any pronouncement on the Schizoid Band?

I don’t think he’s seen the band live. He certainly supports it, which is nice, you know… support is nice wherever it comes from, but it’s gratifying that he does approve.

I wonder if you had any memories of your guest appearance on the Crimson album Red, which one gleans was recorded at yet another turbulent point in the band’s  history… do you remember it being a particularly difficult session?

I remember doing the session, as far as what was going on around it I wasn’t that aware of the internal politics of the band or what was going on… it certainly took me by surprise and I think John Wetton and Bill Bruford were taken by surprise too, when Robert disbanded the group so suddenly, because I had just agreed to rejoin…

McDonald : Wetton.jpg

Wetton / McDonald

I wondered how solid that was, I mean were there any rehearsals with you in that line up?

No, there were no rehearsals… I believe it was in the recording studio after I’d done my solo on One… what was it called?

One More Red Nightmare.

… One More Red Nightmare, right, and Robert asked if I would be interested in touring with the group. I said yeah, John and Bill were really in favour of that, of going out as a four-piece then Robert for his own reasons, I don’t know…

… he was supposed to have experienced some sort of spiritual epiphany or something.

I don’t know about that, it was a difficult time for everybody, I don’t know and I don’t want to guess but it was all a big surprise and a great disappointment, really…

… for all of us. When Sid Smith talks about the album Red in his book about Crimson he says, of the track Starless, something like: “it’s a fantasy King Crimson featuring both Ian McDonald and Mel Collins, imagine how cool that would be” and here you are of course now, both playing horns in the Schizoid Band…

Yeah (laughs)

So what’s it like, playing off Mel?

Oh its great, and again it reinforces the idea of this being a legitimate group, playing this material… I’m really enjoying playing with Mel, we’ve known each other for many years but never actually played together… our contributions to Starless were recorded separately… he’s great to work with.

He seems like a really shy person.

He’s not as shy as me, actually.

Well, you seem pretty shy, too.

Don’t be fooled by that, though.

Well, you’ve got to judge people by what they achieve, and your track record is beyond dispute.

Oh, that’s nice

It’s a fact… speaking of Sid Smith’s book, did you like it? Did you think it gave a balanced picture of what went down?

I did enjoy it, I think it was very fair and well written, yeah… it’s not easy to write about music but he made the albums sound very interesting and actually made me want to listen to them again. He’s a great guy, actually.

book2wet.jpg

Signing Sid Smith’s In The Court Of King Crimson with J Wetton and M Giles (sidsmith.blogspot.co.uk)

Listening to the material recorded by Giles, Giles & Fripp, both before and after you joined the group, I’m always amazed that that band never got anywhere…

Yeah, perhaps it was a little quirky for the time, I mean they were probably a hard group to market. When I joined with Judy Dyble it was going through a transitional period which turned out to be the transition into King Crimson, so the original trio of Giles, Giles And Fripp wasn’t around for that long in that form. I don’t know if the record company ever really got behind them.

I also think that the album which you made with Michael Giles stands up very well. What do you think of that album in retrospect, and is there any possibility of you and Michael making another?

tumblr_ny6wvryo9k1u1aff0o2_r1_1280.jpg

The chances of us making another one are very very slim at the moment, but you never know… I don’t know how to describe it really, it’s very much of its time. There was some very good writing on it and I was really glad of the opportunity to remaster it. When the album originally came out there were all sorts of time and budgetary constraints which meant we didn’t really have the chance to put the finishing touches to it. I was happy to go into the studio and just trim it up a bit here and there, now there are some really subtle editing and timing changes, little changes in the silences and that sort of thing… to me it sounds much better now than the original. I’m proud of Birdman as a piece of writing, it’s pretty good, even though I do say so myself.

Presumably you’d agree that the legacy of King Crimson has been criminally underrated, if you consider the influence the band exerted over the likes of Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Roxy Music… Tony Blair recently cited 21st Century Schizoid Man as his favourite song ever, which you might have mixed feelings about…

Oh yeah…

M&G Album Cover.jpg

Is the problem that “Prog Rock” has become such a reviled term?

That’s a big question and it’s hard to answer from the inside, you know… we never really thought of ourselves as “Prog Rock” it’s not the kind of label we’d apply to ourselves and I don’t particularly care for it. The definition of it has sort of narrowed into something medieval with very flowery lyrics… on Court Of The Crimson King, Peter Sinfield deliberately wrote in this stylised, colourful language but the lyrics were actually very current, commenting on the state of things at the time, it was just sort of phrased in this way, but most “Progressive” bands and writers then tried to emulate that style. This applies to the music as well, “Prog” has become a very narrow term whereas originally the idea was to be expansive, more inclusive of other styles of music rather than just the same old “two guitars, bass and drum” rock band format, so we included classical and jazz elements… you’ve got me going on this “Prog rock” thing, now! Going back to your original question, King Crimson obviously have influenced people but whether it’s been for the best or not, I don’t know. I’m proud of what we did and if people are inspired by it then I’m really happy about that, but we never decided to form a “Progressive Rock” band together, it was just the times…

… the Zeitgeist…

Exactly! The opportunity was there, groups were given more freedom in the studio, we were able to produce our own album, you know… The Beatles had a lot to do with what was going on, this idea of using the studio as an instrument and just being free to make the music that they wanted, that impacted on the rest of the music business for a while… after a few years record companies started demanding more control over producers and budgets and that sort of thing again, but there was a time there when bands had a lot more freedom to express themselves in the studio. We weren’t given a lot of time though, I must add the first album was done very, very quickly, eight days from beginning to end I believe, including the mixing.

As opposed to somebody like Boston, who shipped a load of albums and were then given four years or something to record the follow-up.

(laughs) Yeah, that’s what happened later.

We haven’t said anything about Peter Giles yet, he comes across on stage as the joker in the pack…

Oh well, I really don’t know how to respond to that, whether to agree or disagree… but he’s a wonderful bass player and I’m sure that he is really enjoying this opportunity to play in the group. It must have been difficult for him in the beginning when Giles, Giles & Fripp became King Crimson and he was no longer a part of it… I’m sure it must be very satisfying for him to be able to go out and play this music. It’s great having him in the group and I hope he uses the opportunity to really go for it and at the same time take this group really seriously in terms of being a professional, creative endeavour.

The oft-touted reformation of the original King Crimson never happens, is this largely down to the apparent animosity between Fripp and Greg Lake?

trio.jpg

Peter Sinfield keeps Fripp & Lake apart in 1970

As we mentioned earlier it was a very odd mixture of personalities… that hasn’t changed (laughs) and has possibly even got worse as the years go by. I never say never but again, it’s very unlikely that it will ever happen… for a number of reasons. The Fripp and Lake thing might be part of it, there are also other members who might not want to work with each other, it’s a very difficult thing… and I think the Schizoid Band is equally important in a way… I don’t really want to make a categorical answer because stranger things have happened, but it’s really unlikely.

What’s in the immediate future for the Schizoid Band?

Definitely more touring, it’s being set up right now for us to tour The States in the spring, which I’m really looking forward to, then hopefully we can get in the studio that summer and record an album, then tour again… more shows are being organised all the time, and I can’t stress enough that this isn’t merely a one-off, its an ongoing undertaking. We’re going from strength to strength at the moment, morale is good, energy levels are really high and everybody is really relishing this opportunity to play together, to play this wonderful material and to develop, to write new material and we’ll treat it as a viable band, y’know, because that’s what it is.

It’s been a great pleasure speaking to you.

It’s my pleasure, too. I appreciate your interest.

Categories: Interviews | 1 Comment

The Zombies Resurrected… COLIN BLUNSTONE and ROD ARGENT interviewed in 2004

Zombies_time_of_the_season.jpg

zombies-c-n-r.jpg

Few musical careers have proven as paradoxical as that of The Zombies: working class St Albans lads who got lumbered with a toffee-nosed image, they scored the second US number one (She’s Not There) by a British act after The Beatles and topped the Billboard charts again with Time Of The Season, though by that time they’d broken up due to lack of commercial success. Their swan song album, Odessy and Oracle (a psychedelic milestone made without the aid of drugs) failed to sell on its release but is now regarded as an all-time classic. Despite the band’s critical stock continuing to rise in every successive year since the split, Singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist / composer Rod Argent have stubbornly resisted every inducement to return as The Zombies… until now (2004). Touring heavily to promote the new album, As Far As I Can See, with a kick-ass band that includes long-time Argent associate Jim Rodford on bass, his son Steve on drums and Keith (brother of Don) Airie on guitar, Colin and Rod took time out to set the record straight.

Why revive the venerable name of The Zombies at this time?

CB) I know that Rod has thought this through very deeply… the most obvious reasons are that for the first time we’ve got the hit writer from the bad writing specifically for the person who did the lead vocals… we’ve also got a real band identity going, having played with these guys for two and a half years, now… also, when the new tracks were played back there seemed to be a thread linking them with the past, so it seemed like the right time. I’d been resisting the use of the Zombies name ever since we split up, but it suddenly seemed honest to acknowledge that connection. In some melodic terms and in terms of harmonies and chord structures, there were all these resonances from the early days. We try and make it very clear that this is our version of The Zombies, which is why own names also appear on the album cover.

Were any of the other founder members pissed off by this move?

RA) I was most concerned about Chris White, who did a lot of writing, particularly on Odessey And Oracle. I was very careful to explain to him what we were doing, he seemed OK with it and sang on three tracks. When the album came out he wasn’t happy about the way it was presented, but we’ve smoothed things over now. This hasn’t been a contrived thing, it’s very much to do with new material and the way the band has developed and the pleasure of being on the road with them. This is our take on The Zombies, just as Chris has his own take when he put together a different version of the band some years ago… the really sad thing is that our original guitarist, Paul Atkinson, passed away a couple of days ago.

Zombies On Stage.jpg

The original zombies “were the unluckiest band in rock history”. Discuss…

CB) It’s obviously very difficult for us to judge our own position in the hierarchy of rock or whatever, but sometimes I do think there were so many occasions when we were unlucky … for instance, My Girl had been a big hit for the Temptations in America and we were very well aware of it because we were spending a lot of time there and we used to do it on stage. It had never been a hit here and we did a demo of My Girl, we were taking it to our producer Ken Jones when we put the car radio on and Otis Redding’s version of the song came on the radio so that was the end of that. Nobody’s ever been able to find that demo, whenever they’re putting together these complications and box sets, that’s one track they can never find.

RA) I think it’s an overstatement to say that we were unlucky. In some ways we were really lucky. When our first record – She’s Not There – came out, the timing was absolutely impeccable, just after The Beatles had kicked open the gates of America. We just trotted in behind them. George Harrison happened to be on Juke Box Jury when it came out and he loved the record. Stuff like that was extraordinarily lucky, but we should have been managed in a much better way.

CB) We were definitely unlucky when we toured, we weren’t particularly well advised. I could talk to you for hours about The Philippines, it was so weird. We were pretty much kept captive there, which was very unpleasant, playing to huge audiences… we’d agreed to do it, not knowing that we had about half of the records in the Philippines Top 10 at the time. We played to forty-odd thousand people for ten nights. Of course we were getting a pittance, and even though we were very young we could see that somebody was making a killing.

The Zombies’ problems are more usually attributed to what went on in the studio.

CB) Well, we came back from The Philippines to discover that we had a single out called Going Out Of My Head, and the mix on that had been done while we were away. It was really… what can I say? Substandard…

RA) Many of our records had the balls taken out of them in the mixing. We had a very good but very misguided producer, Ken Jones, who was just brilliant on the first session we did, Summertime and She’s Not There. Being of the old school, he tried to analyse what had made it successful and in his mind it was the breathiness of Colin’s vocals. Thereafter he emphasised that above everything else, rather than taking every song on its merits and getting the best out of it. When we tried to get in on any of the mixing sessions, he blew his top. Frustrating, but that’s the way the contract was set up.

CB) We had a manager, who was also our agent… if he’d planned more for the future, he’d have made more money too in the end, but he made a lot of very short term decisions, just took any work that was offíered, and as you say there was the lack of control in the studio. When we started in this business we were so young, I was only 19 when She’s Not There came out. Ken Jones was forever trying to recreate that first, million-selling single, but times had changed, so had we and we were growing up. Ultimately we reached a position where we could produce ourselves, Rod and Chris White were producing…

… and when you finally got off the leash you came up with what is now regarded as an all-time classic album, Odessey And Oracle.

O&O.jpg

CB) We went into Abbey Road, we were the next band in after the Beatles had recorded Sgt Pepper, and we worked with the same engineers, Peter Finch and Geoff Emerick. The very studio was like hallowed ground, it was just magical recording there. We used studio 3 and the Beatles had mostly used studio 2, but we were using a lot of the advances in technology that they had instigated, it was a very fortunate time to find ourselves there.

RA) Paul Atkinson and I saw the lash-ups the tape machines… as I recall it was two four-tracks that had been lashed together, one of the tracks was used as synch so it would basically have been a seven track machine. Immediately our eyes lit up, we said: “We’ll have a bit of that” and they were like: “Oh no, we’ve just been through all this for months!” Eight track machines already existed in the The States, we were way behind, but we definitely took advantage of the technical advances that had been worked out for Sgt Pepper.

You must wonder what you could have come up with then if you’d had the benefit of today’s technology.

RA) You use what’s there and sometimes the limitations themselves can be quite stimulating. For the first time we had control and we were the proverbial kids in the sweetshop, but everything had to be done very quickly. Even though we went into the sessions very well rehearsed… for instance on Changes, one of Chris’s songs, we did it as rehearsed and immediately on playback I heard all these extra harmonies in my head. These extra tracks immediately enabled to us to whizz back into the studio and put a whole counter-line onto it.

Is it true that you got the album down on a budget of just £1,000?

RA) A grand, yeah, but when we delivered it to CBS, who weren’t particularly excited about it, they said: “OK but you need a stereo mix to go with it.” Stereo was just emerging as a big deal in popular music, so we said we’d go back and do it, but we were told we’d used up our whole budget so Chris and I had to fork out another £200 for the stereo mixes. Even though it was a very long time ago, it still wasn’t a lot of money, I can tell you.

Odessey and Oracle is now regarded as some kind of psychedelic milestone, though I gather it was made without the aid of any psychotropic substances at all.

RA) Completely! The timing of everything is always very interesting with The Zombies… we recorded that album in 1967, and I had heard of LSD but only just. Dope was around but still very underground. Both of those things only became ubiquitous in the two or three years after The Zombies split, and Argent didn’t get going until 1970 when all that stuff had peaked.

CB) The album had a psychedelic cover, painted by our friend Terry Quirk, that in retrospect became kind of iconic for those druggy times, but in fact I never saw any drugs at all. We were a million miles away from that culture. The most decadent thing we ever did while recording it was to nip out to the pub at lunchtime for steak & kidney pie, mashed potatoes and a couple of pints! None of which is very good for your voice…

Colin, we’ve already mentioned that you’re renowned for your “breathy / delicate / intimate” singing voice… is any of that compromised during live performance by the need to project into the auditorium?

CB) I have fewer problems now than when I was younger. I’ve been working with a coach called Ian Adams who’s helped me to build up the strength of my voice, and you need that to sing for two hours, night after night. I mean, She’s Not There is written in A minor but on the top notes you’re sustaining an A, for like… forever1 In concert we acknowledge our history, including the Argent catalogue and some of those are quite tough rock and roll tunes so, you know, I have to really go for it on things like Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock And Roll To You.

ATN.jpg

Rod, we’ve talked about The Zombies being unlucky, but Argent have become a very neglected band… long overdue due for a critical reappraisal, I think.

RA) I really hope so, I think that Ring Of Hands for instance, the second Argent album, is as good as anything the Zombies ever did, but the ’70s are still not as fashionable as the ’60s. Also, The Zombies had a lease tape deal so the rights reverted back to us. Carol Broughton manages our catalogue, she’s constantly licensing and relicencing stuff. Unfortunately the Argent stuff is owned in perpetuity by Sony or CBS as it was… there’s not the same sort of cottage industry, hands-on approach that enables things to be built up lovingly over the long term. I don’t have any communication with Sony at all.

When Kiss covered God Gave Rock And Roll To You on the soundtrack of the second Bill & Ted film, how come they got co-writers’ credits with Russ Ballard?

RA) They cut Russ’s line ‘”love Cliff Richard but please don’t tease”, which I particularly like, and substituted something of their own, just changed those few words around and awarded themselves writing credits.

I thought that stuff went out with Chuck Berry!

RA) It still happens, you know?  I won’t name names because I don’t want to fall out with people but they’re in a powerful position, they know the writer needs the financial benefit of them covering the song.

It was interesting to hear what Carlos Santana did with She’s Not There… it’s been suggested that The Zombies would have been more successful with a more upfront guitar sound.

RA) I never thought we could have gone that way, we were what we were… we were up against stuff like You Really Got Me, which has a more immediate impact, but our sound seems to have given us a great longevity. Every week I hear some young band saying something flattering about us and Rolling Stone recently voted Odessey and Oracle the #80 album of all time… it only charted at 92 when it came out!

CB) I think the success we had was down to Rod’s keyboards. Hopefully I contributed something, and we had two prolific and talented songwriters, but without Rod’s keyboards we would have sounded very ordinary.

Apart from guitar bands in the 60’s, the other thing that was in vogue was angry young men from the working class…

CB) They still are!

zombiesHL.jpg

But you were lumbered with this image of being a bit “posh”…

CB) When we had our first record out, we went to to meet somebody in the Decca press office and I’m sure the poor bloke thought: “What am I going to do with this lot? They’ve just left school, they’ve done nothing!” so he went on about how many “O” levels we had…

RA) Half the population had the same amount of “O” levels… we were just working class boys, we all came from council estates. That story came out when we had our first hit but in this country we never had another hit, so the story just followed us around and around…

CB) The “O” levels just aren’t very important in the scheme of things… it’s like this other myth, about me being in and out of the industry, I mean I’ve spent about 18 months out of the industry in the last forty years! You asked if we’d have done better as a guitar based band, in fact the one thing I would like us to have done differently is for us to have had more control over our image. Some of the early photos that went out were just awful and they kept coming back to haunt us, no matter how hard we tried to retrieve them from photo agencies.

Pratt & Son.jpg

Despite the “O” levels you still managed to misspell the word “Odyssey” in the title of your masterpiece…

CB) Well Rod, Chris and Terry Quirk were mostly involved in the album sleeves, I really didn’t have any input at all and for years they told me that the misspelling was on purpose. It was only about 18 months ago that they owned up and told me it was a mistake… I was flabbergasted that they’d gone to all this trouble, I mean I wouldn’t have had a clue how to spell it!

So much for “O” levels… the band’s name proved to be rather prescient one considering that you had your biggest hit “from beyond the grave”, so to speak.

RA) It’s funny how things happen, you know, they often turn on one little incident. Time Of The Season came out in the States and was getting zero airplay, there was just this one guy, a DJ on a little station in Boise, Idaho or somewhere who kept playing it and over six months he worked it up into what became our biggest ever single, selling two million copies in America. In fact although it never did anything over here, it became a big hit pretty much everywhere in the world and despite that and the critical praise for Odessey And Oracle, the album never sold… its highest chart position in America was only about number 92! But 15 years after we broke up, for some odd reason, it gradually started to sell and now, year in year out, that album along with the rest of the zombies stuff, on compilations as well, sells really substantially. Which is bewildering but lovely because it gives us the financial cushion to go out and do what we want to do now.

CB) I know Rod feels we’d come to the end of our creative cycle and it was time to end the band but I think it would’ve been nice to have ended on an up rather than a down. When we finished it was very amicable but it was inevitable that we felt we finished at… not one of our most successful points, whereas if we’d managed to keep the project afloat for another year or 9 months, perhaps we could’ve finished on a big “up” with Time of the Season. By then everyone had got involved in different projects, it was never really ever considered to get back together which I think a lot of people find very difficult but it was just the way it was you know, people were just too involved in other things.

When Time Of The Season became a big hit in The States and internationally, The Zombies were no longer around to capitalise on it and you were faced with the same situation that Fleetwood Mac once encountered, i.e. bogus line-ups of the band going on tour…

CB) I used to have this clipping from Rolling Stone where they asked the manager of the bogus Zombies what was going on and he said that the lead singer of the Zombies – me – had been tragically killed in a car crash and they we’re trying to honour his memory. How weird to read that about yourself!

RA) I didn’t lose too much sleep about it. Some of the other guys got very upset though, particularly Paul Atkinson who resorted to litigation in the end.

CB) It’s very difficult to do that when these bands are on the move all the time. I think all the bogus Zombies just seemed to peter out at the end of the ’60s, although in the late ’80s there was another bunch of English guys touring America, pretending to be us.

RA) That’s why why Chris White put together his own New World Zombies or whatever it was called… I couldn’t be bothered, I think these things always get found out .

CB) With hindsight, we probably should have just let them truck on, because they were obvious impostors. In fact the story goes that they were so bad, a guy pulled a gun on them backstage and threatened to kill them. Apparently that was what made them stop, where all our litigation had failed. So perhaps the gun is mightier than the writ, after all.363552.jpgIn his book on you, Claes Johansen postulated that The Zombies’ unique sound was a result of you aiming for jazz when you began the band but not quite having the chops to carry it off… according to him the result was that you evolved this very sophisticated rock sound instead.

RA) It’s an interesting take on us but I don’t agree with it, actually… I never thought for one moment that we were trying to incorporate Miles Davis influences into what we were doing, I just thought we were a rock and roll band and we just played what came out… 

He did say very sophisticated rock and roll…

RA) I just wanted to be excited, I was caught up in the whole wave of rock and roll, basically, when we started the band. I’d always loved improvising and when we got to the solo on She’s Not There it was just a very natural thing for me to do, not one per cent of me was trying trying to emulate Miles or any jazz I’d ever heard, it just felt right for me on that record at that time. Back in the ’70s I went with Jon Hiseman to see Pat Metheney, who was just emerging as this incredible talent. We were introduced to Pat by Jeff Berlin, who had never heard of me and there was no reason why he should have, but he was amazed when Pat told me: “Oh man, She’s Not There, that’s the record that made me feel like I could go ahead and do whatever I wanted to do.” He was talking about the modal influence I’d had on him and I was thinking there’s nothing modal on She’s Not There but when I went back and listened to what I’d thought was a very simple A minor to D chord sequence, I found the way I’d actually played over those chords was indeed done in a very modal way. I hadn’t thought about it for one second but it probably was listening to all the Miles stuff, along with everything else, that made me fashion it in that way. That’s the way the influences came through, I think. I grew up liking classical music, the pop music of the time was people like Perry Como and when I heard Elvis sing Hound Dog my world was turned around but I didn’t stop listening to classical music and very soon after that, when I was about 14 years old, I bought Milestones and discovered Miles Davis, then the Beatles came along but I never stopped listening to or loving Elvis.

And allegedly the feeling was mutual…

RA) Allegedly… when we were promoting the Zombies box set in about 1998, I did an interview with a DJ in Ireland and I told the story from 1965 when we knocked on Elvis’s door and his dad answered and said he was filming but he would be really sorry he’d missed us because he liked our music and I thought that was just Southern hospitality, because he was a sweet guy and he showed us around the house and everything but I thought it had no more substance than that. But when I was telling this story to the Irish guy he stopped me and said: “Listen, I’m an absolute Elvis freak, and I can’t believe you didn’t know this but Elvis had all your singles on his home juke box”… absolutely amazing!

Bunny Ad Mat.jpg

You also had a brush with film stardom, scoring and appearing in Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is missing… alongside Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward, no less.

CB) Preminger was a very interesting character but he was a bit of a… he was quite aggressive towards us, but we treated it like water off a duck’s back, really. I did notice that he was an absolute terror to the people he was working with, I saw two or three of them in tears. He was a real shouter but we didn’t take that much notice because he wasn’t really in a position to influence our career very much… certainly an interesting character, though.

RA) I remember Otto Preminger being a complete bastard actually, which was really quite amusing in a way but I could see that he was screaming and shouting at people who depended on him for their income so they had to put up with it, nobody ever challenged him. I was thinking: ” I don’t have to kow-tow to this guy.” I remember one day, we’d endured a recording session that he’d come along to and spent being rude to us so the next day we were filming and when he started I stood up and said: “Don’t ever speak to me like that again, I don’t have to sit here and take all this shit from you” and there was a stunned silence. He jut smiled and he was fine after that, although there was only about another day of shooting left.

CB) The irony is that although we filmed for two very long days, we’re in the film for all of about 30 seconds. I still refer to the time when dear Larry and I were in a film together, we often crack that gag on stage but as I remember it, my face is on the TV in a pub and Olivier walks across the room and turns the TV off… he obviously didn’t think very much of us! 

Blacksmiths_Arms_St._Albans_and_Zombies'_Plaque.jpg

10247316_643204135760192_3009878653236957397_n.jpg

www.thezombiesmusic.com

Categories: Interviews | Leave a comment

The Purple Piper Picks A Peck Of Crimson Pepper… PETER SINFIELD Interviewed In 2004

manticor.jpg

Having just about invented Prog Rock with King Crimson (in which band he pioneered the role of the non-performing member), Peter Sinfield further refined that much-maligned musical genre by his collaborations with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, taking time out to produce Roxy Music’s landmark first album and their ground breaking, hit single Virginia Plain, then record his own, unjustly neglected solo effort Still. To confound the critics who dismissed his lyrics as airy fairy, obscurist acid casualty stuff, he spent the ’80s and ’90s writing smash hits for the likes of Bucks Fizz, Five Star, Barry Manilow, Cliff Richard, Cher and Celine Dion (the zillion-selling Think Twice). No wonder he was supping champagne during the following exclusive interview.

After his parents divorce, Sinfield (born 27/1/43 in Putney) was brought up in a distinctly bohemian atmosphere by his eccentric, bisexual mother. Blessed with what Robert Fripp would no doubt call “a liberal education for a young man”, Sinfield was eventually faced with a choice between his growing creative aspirations and the dreaded day job…

I left school after my GCE’s and started work as a trainee travel agent. I naively imagined that would enable me to see the world. Since it didn’t I found a job in computers, where, among other things, I got to check the printouts from Pye Records revealing the money made by e.g. the Emile Ford record What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? i.e. a hell of a lot of money for such a piece of nonsense. It’s possible that planted a seed though it was certainly not the main reason I became a songwriter. Time passed and 5 years later I was auditioning people for my band. Ian McDonald came along. I thought I’d found… Mozart! He could play anything. You might call it luck, but of course I prefer to think I put myself in the position to be lucky.

paimc copy.JPG

Out of the ashes of Giles, Giles and Fripp, King Crimson just exploded onto the scene… what were the factors behind that, and were they the same factors that led to the band imploding shortly afterwards?

(laughs) Wow… they were the same. Rarely have five such talented and interesting people found themselves coming together with such power and such ambition. Later, the same power and ambition caused the break-up of the band, which I mainly put down to Michael Giles. Giles, Giles & Fripp had been good, but they needed Greg Lake and they needed me…. they needed a voice and something to say, to go with the incredibly sophisticated music that they were capable of playing. King Crimson were like nothing anybody had heard before. They’d heard bits of it, in The Moody Blues, in Ornette Coleman and whatever, but never all together in a rock band… with a dash of Donovan on top! As a live act, the cliché is that Crimson people blew people’s minds, and that’s exactly what happened.

Although you were a non-playing member, it’s said your lighting played as much a part in the improvisations as any of the instruments…

It’s half true. I started off roadying and amused myself by building a lighting rig. I did it so well that some people were convinced the music was cueing the lights. I was the one sitting there at the controls and if I thought an improvisation was dragging, I would flick a green light or a blue light and they would take the music to green or blue… sounds strange, but that’s how it worked.

Atlpub.jpg

In the second touring incarnation of Crimson you used the VCS3 synthesiser to treat Boz Burrell’s vocals and Ian Wallace’s drums… were they happy with that?

Nope! Not at all. Ian put up with it. Sometimes that worked very well indeed, usually on Mars, and other times it didn’t. Unfortunately most of the recorded instances are in the latter category. There were much better and funnier ones. Of course Eno later did something very similar with Roxy Music.

He was also a non-playing member of that band, recalling the role that you had in Crimson…

Yeah, but Eno did it with feathers!

Were you amused or horrified when Tony Blair cited 21st Century Schizoid Man as his favourite song?

What he actually said was that Schizoid Man contains his all-time favourite guitar solo, and it is indeed an extraordinary solo. I wish he had said it was his favourite song, because he’s obviously never listened to the words, which are about… justice and injustice. Even the pop hits that I wrote in the ’80s and ’90s had this edge of social comment to them…

… like Heart Of Stone…

 … exactly, thank you! Even The Land Of Make Believe… “Something nasty in Your Garden / Waiting to steal your heart” is my feeling about the political climate of that time.

2398816-look_in_v1983_198305_pagecover.jpg

Bucks Fizz are considered a bit naff now but they made some beautifully polished pop singles.

Some of my work I can’t listen to, but oddly enough I find the Bucks Fizz stuff holds up really well: You And Your Heart So Blue I like a lot… I Hear Talk, which was ahead of its time with the invasion of privacy thing. I like them. I had to write in the style of Bucks Fizz, and they had some great tunes, big productions…

Your co-writer Andy Hill also produced those records, didn’t he?

Yes. He is magic. I’ve a theory that many good producers and songwriters are mediocre but often anarchistic musos, which enables them to ignore the rules.

Going back to Crimson, you stuck with it through various personnel upheavals, then Robert Fripp announced that he didn’t want to work with you any more…

I was never sacked from King Crimson, because I owned 50% of it. Fripp rang and said one of us had got to go, and of course with a U.S. tour lined up, it was never going to be the guitarist. If I’d been more business-minded or bloody-minded I could have got a 3% override on everything, but at this point I was tired, you know, I just said OK, let it go. Fripp wasn’t happy that I’d been pushing for the music to go in a different direction… something a little softer, warmer, more Mediterranean.

premiata-forneria-marconi.jpg

Something like PFM, the Italian band you later produced?

Exactly! I love PFM!  They’re wonderful players, almost as good as the Crimson guys and they have that great feeling of joie de vivre. Producing them was an excellent experience for me, though we had to do a lot of work on the vocalist’s English.

What did you think of Sid Smith’s book about Crimson?

It was good, though it verged on becoming a list of occasions. I personally wish he’d got more behind the characters, which would have given more clarity to the series of events… to understand Ian McDonald’s situation, for instance, how his parents forced him to join the army, in which he was deeply unhappy for 5 years. All of that pain played a large part in making Ian the person that he is, and I don’t think that comes across in the book. I mean, virtually none of the many characters that have participated in King Crimson, be they good, bad or indifferent, have been uninteresting. And Fripp, of course, is uniquely, forever Fripp…

Ladies Of The Road.jpg

Sinfield, Fripp and some Ladies Of The Road

Was it a tense situation making your solo album Still in the same studios where the new Crimson were making Lark’s Tongues In Aspic?

The sessions might have overlapped by a day or so, but I really didn’t notice because I was so busy that I just didn’t have time to notice anything else in the world except trying to finish the bloody album. I had to do everything, at the end of it I just collapsed with exhaustion.

There are some digs at Fripp on Still, and it’s said that the Crimson track Great Deceiver is a bit of tit-for-tat…

The stuff on Still is my How Do You Sleep… it’s pathetic, really. I’m flattered to think that Robert would even have bothered write Great Deceiver about me. Ha! I hope it’s true…

How do you feel about Fripp since your split?

Although initially, in my opinion, he made some naive mistakes – business rather than musical – I have to admit that he’s persevered, learnt and done many good things on behalf of KC, past and present. He’s always been peculiar and I’ve mostly admired that. He’s a good band leader, though he always says he isn’t one… methinks he protesteth too much! He took the band in that urban, metallic direction epitomised by tracks like Red through to the stuff with Adrian Belew. I’m bemused and delighted that the 21st Century Schizoid Band continue to play what he chose to leave behind.

What do you think of the archive releases that he’s putting out?

I have quibbles with some of the covers but it does gives people who never experienced the band an opportunity to hear what all the fuss was about and they do get some value for money. Also, we get paid – not very much, because they don’t sell millions, but it’s a very interesting collection of work that should be heard.

Original Crimmers.jpg

Original Crimmers…

One gathers that a reunion of the 1969 band is never going to happen.

No, the nearest we got was… after seeing a one-off concert at the Barbican by Gary Brooker, who used to be a neighbour of mine, playing Procul Harum songs with an orchestra and a choir, I mooted the idea that we should take as many members of Crimson as we could get, do the same sort of thing and record it. That got taken over by Mike Giles, who decided to put together a sort of retro King Crimson which became 21st Century Schizoid Band. Fine, except for the fact that Mike annoyed everybody so much… he’s the most brilliant drummer, but he’s not the most diplomatic of band directors. He wouldn’t let me go to rehearsals, I was banned because I’m a troublemaker, famously so… I understood his point of view.

Now that he’s been replaced by Ian Wallace, are you likely to collaborate more actively with The Schizoid Band?

Insofar as it’s possible, yeah. I speak to them all the time and Mel Collins attended my 60th birthday party. The problem is they live all over the place and they don’t collaborate properly with each other, let alone me. Most of them are in their fifties, so they’re not computer literate. If they were they could swap music files around… it’s a logistical problem. It might get solved.

Presumably you got the job of producing the first Roxy Music album through the EG connection.

Exactly. Bryan Ferry had allegedly auditioned unsuccessfully for Crimson and would have got on with David Enthoven and John Gaydon of EG management, who had this public school background. They told me: “You’ve got to work with these chaps, their ideas are amazing”. We had considerable problems making the album. I was at the rehearsals and we had to sort a lot stuff out. They weren’t that experienced but Paul Thompson was wonderful, rock solid, and a band can only be as good as its drummer. They were exploring but we had so little time we just had to bang it down as best as we could. I dunno if Bryan specifically wanted that Crimsonesque sound but that’s how it turned out. The album is messy but it’s very atmospheric, because I love atmosphere and texture. They learned a lot from me – I’d been making albums for three years – then they went to Chris Thomas to get this crystal-clear poppy sound they wanted. That wasn’t my bag.

ELP: Sinfield: Giger.jpg

Emerson, Sinfield, Giger, Palmer, Lake… this photo not approved by PETA.

Did you read Keith Emerson’s autobiography?

No, I’m still waiting for him to send the signed copy he promised me.

One thing that emerges from it is that there wasn’t much love lost between him and Greg Lake…

Two huge talents, two huge egos… it couldn’t have happened without Greg and he had his spots in the act, but really it was Keith’s band with Greg and Carl. Greg will hate me saying that. But lots of fights, yes, they fell out all the time just for the hell of it, as a sort of continual power struggle, wasting fortunes along the way. I put some of the blame on ELP’s manager, Stewart Young, who should have said: “You cannot take a 60 piece orchestra around, it will cost you millions!” He should have stopped that before it started, it was always going to bankrupt them and somebody should have noticed. Those were the days of indulgence… bands had their own labels and it was just like vanity publishing. They had a lot of opportunities to waste their own money.

tumblr_mkvdtljbDW1ro9c3qo1_500.gif

Is it true that you wrote the lyrics of Pirates while riding the Disney roller coaster over and over with Greg Lake?

No, not true, we just watched a lot of Errol Flynn movies! The idea was pirates as an allegory for a rock band on tour. When I read up on the subject it soon become obvious that pirates weren’t at all romantic, they were reprehensible people… like the Kray Twins at sea! Keith’s music was very Gilbert & Sullivan, it was extraordinarily difficult to get the true nature of piracy into it, and I wrote most of it in Montreux, perhaps the least piratical place on Earth. I had to write to music that was already fixed and I only had 20 minutes to unfold this epic narrative. It should have been at least twice as long.

Nevertheless, it still stands as one of the true epics of Prog Rock. Are you happy with the legacy of Prog, whose detractors usually cite you as one of the main culprits?

I should hope they do. The thing is, no matter how Dylanesque some of us were… and my mother brought me up, railing against injustice… the musicians were full of bombast and ego as well as, it has to be said, great playing skill. Those are the things that came to the fore. But I’m proud of my involvement in Prog Rock. Some of it sounds archaic now, some of it still comes across as very relevant to the times we’re living in. Epitaph, for instance, which started life as a poem and which I’ve turned back into a longer poem… it was labelled pretentious at the time, y’know, but pick up any newspaper and you’ll see that it’s more pertinent than ever.

ITCOTCK.jpg

Pete-Sinfield-TODAY.jpg

http://www.songsouponsea.com

Categories: Interviews | Leave a comment

Doctor Who Vs Prog Rock… THE ENTROPY COMPOSITION Reviewed

entropy.jpgentropy.jpgentropy.jpg

No, it’s not an episode of The Big Bang Theory… that would have been a marginally less painful way of wasting thirty minutes of my life, had I been in an uncharacteristically undemanding mood. This is a radio episode of Dr Who from 2010, one of four that were made from 1,200 scripts submitted by fans in a BBC competition.

Recently rebroadcast on Radio 4Extra, Rick Briggs’ effort (directed here by Ken Bentley) tells of The Doctor (Peter Davison)’s visit to the music library planet of Concordum with assistant Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) in which they encounter a composition (“White Waves, Soft Haze”) which infects all other music with which it comes into contact and ultimately “rends the flesh from the bone” of those unwise enough to listen to it… and you thought backwards masking was scary!

To stop WWSH from immolating every sentient being, The Doc and Nyssa travel in The Tardis back to 1968, where noted Prog musician Geoff “Coop” Cooper is invoking primal sonics, entropy sirens, the music of the spheres and all manner of related quantum shenanigans. Can our heroes (aided only by the BBC sound effects department and an outdated dictionary of hippy lingo) head off The Apocalypse? More pertinently, was the phrase really “Prog Rock” in general usage during 1968? (Nah, didn’t think so…)

Adding insult to injury, Davison’s Doc wastes no opportunity to diss and bitch about Prog. Thanks, pal… have I ever mentioned that you’re just about the lamest Tardis jockey of them all? You’re welcome. Have a nice eternity…

This review previously appeared on the now defunct Bootroom Of Ozymandias blog.

Categories: Radio Ga Ga | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: