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About progcroc

Old geezer, learning to embrace and enjoy oldgeezerhood. "... and I looked and I saw... that it was GOOD!"



John French suffered many ups and down during his on / off career as drummer and amanuensis for Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart. The lowest of the lows unquestionably occurred during the making of that celebrated oddity Trout Mask Replica (1969), an album still disturbingly unlike anything else ever recorded. This extraordinary artefact was conceived under cult like conditions at 4205 Ensenada Drive, LA, where French and his Magic Band-mates were assigned new identities (French became “Drumbo”), worked around the clock, subjected to marathon lectures by the Captain, surreptitiously dosed with acid and abused psychologically, verbally and physically. Systematically deprived of sleep and subsisting on a daily cup of soya beans, French was reduced to shoplifting and had to be bailed out by the album’s producer, Frank Zappa. Literally thrown out of the house when TMR had been recorded, he was replaced in the band by a “new” Drumbo (who couldn’t even play the drums) and left off of the album sleeve. Incredibly, he returned for more. On more than one occasion. Much of French’s subsequent career reads like a strictly personal attempt to explain to himself why he did it, also to reclaim the credit that he was so often denied. The door stopping memoir Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic (2010) is his minutely detailed take on the whole shocking saga. His solo album O Solo Drumbo (1998) presents, in pristine audio, the intricate drum parts which were usually obscured by the lousy production that Beefheart albums routinely received. On City Of Refuge (2008), with the aid of fellow alumni Bill Harkleroad, Mark Boston, Greg Davidson and John Thomas, he faithfully recreated the sound of prime time Magic Band and even managed a scary approximation of the Beefheart bellow. He’s also revived the band itself for a series of tours so authentic that even the the world’s number one Beefheart evangelist, the initially skeptical John Peel, extended his blessing. On the eve of TMB’s 2017 World (and allegedly “Farewell”) Tour, John spilled the stolen soya beans to The Ozymandias Progject…


John, you’ve described The Magic Band as “a play that should be rolled out from time to time”. Now you’re getting ready to roll it out again, possibly for the last time…

I’m working on US dates but I’m also planning an extension into Europe from the UK. I haven’t locked in a keyboardist yet, as Brian Havey has gotten very busy and won’t be able to make it. I don’t think that this music was really his cup of tea, anyway.

We heard that Mark Boston (aka Rockette Morton) wasn’t up to further touring with you because of his health…

Mark is an interesting guy and a friend since High School days. Jeff Cotton saw him play at the local fairgrounds with a band called BC and the Cavemen in August of ’65. Our bassist at that time was Larry Willey, who was a great singer and bassist, but extremely hyper and he’d lose focus quickly. He made good money in his father’s concrete business, and sometimes wouldn’t even show for rehearsals. Mark Boston was the first guy we saw who seemed like a great candidate to replace Larry, but he was in a group, so we didn’t approach him until about 8 months or so later, in the early Summer of ’66 when we formed Blues In A Bottle. I joined the Captain in October of that year. I’m not sure, but it seems like about 2 years later, when Jerry Handley quit the Beefheart group that Jeff and I suggested Mark replace Jerry. 

Sadly, in recent years,  Mark has had pretty bad health. He’s very simple in his philosophy and has always appreciated life on a “stop and smell the roses” kind of level. His priority has always been to avoid stress and just enjoy himself. In prioritising that, he neglected the health issue and didn’t discipline himself in the physical sense. This resulted in him having to undergo a five-way bypass two years ago. He was really scared and called me several times. We’ve kept in touch via phone. He lives with a good friend in Oregon, I’m in Southern California. Although he’s feeling OK, he’s still easily-winded and can’t walk 200 feet without having to rest. This makes touring nearly impossible. It was tough for me to hear him say: “John, I think my touring days are over”. That’s why I’m doing a “farewell tour” with The Magic Band. It’s just not the same without Rockette Morton. Having said that, there was a lot of stuff that he and Denny Walley didn’t want to bother to learn that the new guys did, so it was refreshing to have the chance to perform pieces like Bellerin’ Plain and Glider.


Did you ever have problems with the Beefheart or Zappa estates about using the names “The Magic Band” or “Drumbo”?

Never anything from the Zappa Family Trust, and almost nothing from Van Vliet Estate, except for one note from the personal agent, Mike Kappus, saying: “With regard to your proposed project, noted below, I have checked and please be aware that this is not approved by Don Van Vliet’s estate and you should not put any further work into this.” I was extremely angry, then I decided to thumb my nose at their non-approval and go right on. The “proposed project” was that I’ve been experimenting with orchestral versions of some of Van Vliet’s music and was asking for my original transcripts. My anger was due to the fact that they have no power to disallow any performance of VV music and the VV Estate only stands to gain through performance royalties and record sales of live performances. It all has to do with control, a bit of snobbishness and perhaps resentment.

Do you still see any of the other Magic Band members from Beefheart days?

Jerry Handley and I hadn’t really been in the same room since he left the band in 1968, but I spent some time with Jerry and his wife earlier this year. He’s raised his family and is now retired. Our time together was very cathartic and I was so happy that we were able to discuss the issues that caused the breakup of the original band. He was the last guy to go, when Mark replaced him. 


Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo, above) and I communicate via email and occasionally talk. I would have loved him to be in the reunion group, but he’s locked into giving private lessons locally, in Oregon (about 2 hours from Mark) and also by SKYPE. He studied hard and understands guitar from top to bottom, including jazz improvisation, scales, theory… very accomplished. I did get him in on an early MB reunion rehearsal in 2001 (less than a month after 9/11) and was amazed to watch him casually play One Red Rose That I Mean as though it were a basic garage band piece. He left the reunion project after the first investor failed to make it work, and never looked back.

I speak with Doug Moon on the phone occasionally. He lives near me, but has gone into more bluegrass / banjo kind of stuff, so we’re not really doing things where we cross paths. We never had a particularly strong bond, as he was replaced within months of my joining. I just re-connected with guitarist Jeff Cotton (“Antennae Jimmy Semens”) and was happy to hear from him. He’s been through a bit of family grief, but is healing nicely. He’s been a very successful businessman since leaving the music business. As he’s a very private person, I’m not going to go into more detail. 

The California that is so often celebrated in popular culture by The Beach Boys or The Eagles or whoever is a very different one from the California that spawned The Magic Band’s music … can you tell us something about that desert environment and the kind of people and Art it produces?


The isolation of that high, dry desert in the ’60s made it a kind of enclave. Kids were bored. Some committed crimes, took drugs, and joined gangs, while others got involved in music. Frank Zappa and Van Vliet both lived here during their High School Years and I think the isolation spurred their creativity, but in very different ways. Yes, we had top 40 radio, but we also had Wolfman Jack (before he went more commercial) broadcasting from Baja and playing some unique stuff. That plus Frank and Don’s early love of the blues were strong influences but drove them in opposite directions. Don was more earthy, intuitive, and gritty. Frank was more intellectual about music, he trained and studied to understand music in a more accessible way. Many musicians who have played with Frank… Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Terry Bozzio, Chester Thompson… were able to springboard into successful solo careers. Not so with Magic Band members. I’m not saying none of them had success, but the solo careers of former Zappa affiliates just seemed to soar. I think this is due to Frank’s music being more accessible and Don’s being specialised and unique. 

TMB progressed from purist blues to psychedelic blues (a transformation that a lot of bands were making at that time) with Ry Cooder but then went on into the outer fringes of the avant garde… what were the factors that made this happen? The desert? The drugs? The genius of Zappa and Beefheart? The exceptionally talented musicians that played in The Magic Band? All or none of the above?

Frank’s influences included Edgar Varese, and I think that had a lot to do with his later desire to compose music for orchestra. He trained himself and studied. Unlike Don, his workaholic tendencies cause him to become a composer. In Frank’s book, he wrote that The Mothers and his “rock” music (coupled with his demented sense of humour and parody) was basically performed to support his classical composer ambition. I always thought of his commercial efforts as a latterday version of Spike Jones, who did a lot of parodies with a group of accomplished musicians. 


Don’s influence was more Blues and Jazz than classical. The late Gary “Magic” Marker, a bassist from Santa Monica who played in The Rising Sons, became a friend of Don’s through occasionally subbing for Jerry Handley on local club dates in the early days. Don was something of a blues emulator but later came into his own, with the primary influences including Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Marker was the one who introduced him to avant-garde jazz artists such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and Roland Kirk, a guy Marker occasionally played for. There’s a funny story in my book Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic, where Gary relates in an interview how Roland, who was blind, actually talked Marker into letting him drive his car around Hollywood, late at night! Imagine the chaos!

Is it true that Don recorded with Miles Davis, or is that just another bullshit story?

Sounds like BS to me. I think Miles was in the audience (according to Don) when when we played Ungano’s in New York in 1971. I never saw him. Ornette Coleman was there, for sure. Anyway, Van Vliet and Marker went to jazz clubs together. Don loved what he was hearing, and started pushing more for this kind of sound with the band, but he didn’t take into account the obvious discipline that it takes, thinking that he could learn everything as intuitively as he had learned the harmonica. You can watch the progression into musical madness from Safe as Milk (rather tame but with some odd interjections) to Strictly Personal / Mirror Man (more experimental, less structure on the blues-jam stuff and definitely more ambitious arrangements) into the seemingly chaotic (but almost completely arranged… often by yours truly) Trout Mask Replica and the follow-up Lick My Decals Off, Baby.


Part of the impetus was Don’s almost insane rivalry with Frank Zappa, and the turning point came when we went to his cabin in Laurel Canyon and, as we were leaving, he spied Frank having Ian Underwood play what Frank had composed on piano. Frank couldn’t really sight-read, so he would write stuff and then have Ian sight-read everything to make sure it worked. Don decided then and there to get a piano – an old upright thing that was delivered by two guys who almost duplicated the Laurel and Hardy piano delivery but then discovered the back entrance at the top of the hill, avoiding a huge flight of stairs up to the front of the house.

You copped the job of transcribing his keyboard creations…

Van Vliet’s original plan was to endlessly play onto tape and then have us cull the good stuff from it. I didn’t like the plan and pretended that the tape recorder was broken by removing the fuse, as I had spent hours dealing with tape. Don seldom bought any new tape, so it was just an endless mess for me. I originally thought that he would just teach the guys stuff as he played it, but then I made the mistake of writing down one or two of his phrases and he saw me and asked if I could play it back. When I did, I was delegated most of the responsibility for conveying his creative spurts to the band. It actually worked out well, but was a giant leap away from anything he’d done prior to this.

It was a hodge-podge of ideas and I quickly realised the parts he was giving me didn’t really fit together, so I started taking piano time (with my very limited skills) to sort through everything, like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I would mark the beginning and end of the mostly-untitled sections, and then sort through the parts, sometimes referring to the lyrics. After a while, I was very confident in my work, and used basically the same arrangement structure from beginning to end with the exception of Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish and Frownland. On the former, I arranged the parts so they overlapped, rather than the guys changing to a new section at the same time and on Frownland, I just tossed them the parts and invited them to have at it. Listening to the album, you can almost distinguish the “pre-piano” and “post-piano” work. “Pre” is stuff like Moonlight on Vermont, Veteran’s Day Poppy and Sugar and Spikes. “Post” is stuff like Hair Pie, Steal Softly Through Snow and My Human Gets Me Blues though on the latter, Don sort of “dictated” some of the parts, and had a lot more to do with the arrangement. 

How was your own relationship with Frank Zappa? I know he admired your playing…. was there ever a possibility of you joining The Mothers?


I wouldn’t have done it. The thing I didn’t care about in Zappa’s music was some of the lyrics. Don told me: “He never seemed to quite get past his potty-training”. Hell, the guy even posed for photos on the toilet. I didn’t like that stuff, though I really had great respect for his work ethic and musical knowledge. He was very approachable, and when I asked him questions about his compositional approach, I was always impressed by the enthusiastic way he answered. I feel that I was strongly influenced in my approach to creating music, though I’ve seldom had time to work on my own. City of Refuge is the best thing out there that I’ve done, but it was barely promoted, so although the critics loved it, the general public barely knew it existed. 

You were just a kid when you joined TMB and you were required to play a bunch of complex and unorthodox drum parts… have you always been gifted with formidable technique?

It was largely because I was unfettered by technique. Most of the time, conversations with drummers were boring to me, as they talked about stuff I never studied. Plus, I don’t really care that much how drums are built and who makes the best – though I must say that Yamaha and Taye are two of my favourites. Also, I transcribed a lot of my own parts – and they are the most advanced and challenging. The stuff that Don wanted me to play was so simplistic, he would sit and play with his modest abilities then demand that I reproduce exactly what he played, which was so limiting. I wanted more of a challenge, so started transcribing stuff combining two and three rhythms at the same time. I snuck these ideas into the music, and I think it made for a much better album. However, Don’s drum ideas were sometimes amazing. Ant-Man-Bee, for example, has one of the cleverest beats I’ve heard in my life. I believe this is probably because he was more unfettered than me. I approached writing parts more like Frank Zappa, whereas Don did it all from intuition and feel.


You’ve said that you’d like to run a drum clinic to teach the drum parts from Trout Mask Replica and other of those records to young drummers… don’t some of the parts require a degree of limb independence that a lot of drummers (including some very celebrated ones) just don’t have?

I haven’t really pursued the Drum Clinic idea, as I was given a pretty harsh “reality check” from a Remo representative concerning how much trouble it is to set up. Basically, I would be lugging a drum kit all over and setting up and tearing down. If I could just walk in somewhere, have a drum kit already set up, with a mic and sound system to play my accompaniment tracks, it would be great. They only do that stuff for drummers whose bands have posters pasted on young girls’ walls, not for old geezers like me. 

It does take a great deal of limb independence but learning those parts actually increases that, which is why some of them would be beneficial for any drummer to learn. Magic Band drummer Andy Niven gave me a great compliment one day. He said that he had learned Zappa’s Black Page while in college and that he considered it “simple” compared to learning Hair Pie, which is almost entirely my parts. Unfortunately, conventional drumming really hasn’t progressed much in the last hundred years past playing 2 and 4 on the snare. Some of the metal drummers shred on the double kick, but that conventional 2 and 4 is still there and the conventional fills are still the strong interjections. That’s mostly limited by the music. I do greatly admire speed-metal drummers with good double-kick technique though, like the late “Rev” from Avenged Sevenfold. 


Everyone knows that Trout Mask Replica, in particular, was made under circumstances that probably breached many of the Geneva Conventions… why did you stick with Van Vliet and keep going back? Was it because the music was like nothing that was being made anywhere else?

Well yes, also I thought I had entered into contractual obligations there or I probably would have left. The situation at the “Trout House” was horrible.  There’s nothing like having a band leader who’s an only child, also a paranoid schizophrenic (his own words) and a pathological liar (his former girlfriend’s description… she told me he was attending therapy in High School). With Van Vliet, it was all about him. I remember once hearing him say that he was probably “The most important person on the planet”.  That just shows his extreme narcissism. Read my book for an explanation of all that and why I was in and out of the band for years. It’s too involved an explanation to go into here. One clue, however… Stockholm Syndrome. I’m glad I stuck it out, however, because of the amazing music. 

You talk in your book about going through an actual exorcism… can the book itself and a lot of your post-Beefheart work be construed as alternative forms of exorcism? Is it important for you to set the record straight and reclaim some of the credit that you were denied?

It was very cathartic, but also you must realise that this music, whether it’s mine that sounds like Don’s or me performing his, is my roots. It isn’t something I can just walk away from, it’s ingrained in my very being and identity. Hence my intense anger when told that “The Van Vliet Estate disapproves”. What pomposity! It’s like Hubert Sumlin, post Howlin’ Wolf. Can you imagine Howlin’ Wolf telling Hubert: “Once I die, you can’t play the blues no more, boy!”?   

Will we live to see the day when Trout Mask, etc get digital re-workings and we are finally able to hear all the parts clearly?

I doubt it. The Zappa Family Trust just approached me, saying there’s going to be a big box set of all things Beefheart coming out on vinyl soon. I mentioned to them the horrible production values on Trout Mask Replica and how I’d really like a chance to re-mix it. They completely ignored my offer. Ironic, isn’t it? Frank’s kids, who weren’t even born, are now going to profit from an album they had absolutely nothing to do with. And they aren’t offering any of us who worked so hard to bring that piece into fruition anything. I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off. I’ve watched TMR re-released over and over, and I’m just not able to even think about it anymore. It’s beyond anything I could have imagined in terms of complete lack of regard for the players. 

It’s doubly annoying that the stuff which features you and Art Tripp playing off each other is so hard to hear… what was it like playing with Artie?


He was so good, but also was a conservatory musician. This both helped and hindered, as he was more conventional in his approach. He gave me some wonderful pointers in technique (which I seldom used) but I really have to say that he knew how to “cook” way better than me, and the stuff he played on Clear Spot really makes the music. He used to listen to me play and say: “What an amazing style!” But at the same time, I heard a version of Steal Softly Thru Snow that he played on after I left and I thought he did a marvellous job. We complemented each other quite well, I thought. 

How did it feel putting together the Grow Fins box set?


It was very cathartic, in one way, and also wonderful for me, as I was given the ability to interview many key players, which is important for perspective. All the interviews for my book were obtained during that time. Originally, Revenant wanted to put the set out as a Christmas release with the entire (at that time unreleased) Bat Chain Puller album, but at the last minute Gail Zappa bailed out and they had to find a lot of other stuff. The best find was the “field” recordings of the band at the house. They prove that we had rehearsed all the material and got it down prior to going into Whitney Studios and yes, we really did knock out the tracks (excluding Moonlight on Vermont and Veteran’s Day Poppy) in 4 ½ hours.   

In your final stint with The Magic Band you were handling other instruments than drums and you were set to play guitar on a big tour but dropped out on the eve of that… what was your thinking at that time?

Ah, you’re referring to the Doc At The Radar Station period. Don reverted from humble guy to the same powerful but illogical leader he’d always been. Yes, I played guitar, bass, drums and even a little bit of marimba (not great, but enough to get by). I was also singing on Dirty Blue Gene. I thought we had really come to terms and he seemed a different person. My main role was playing guitar, however, and I told him I needed him to decide soon what tunes we would be playing on the upcoming tour because I wasn’t “a guitar player” and would need a lot of time to learn them. Just a few weeks before the promo tour, he handed me a list of forty songs to play. I crumpled the list up, threw it on the floor and quit. I never looked back after that. 

Did you read Bill Harkleroad’s book? Or the one by Mike Barnes?

Yes, I did. Bill had a lot of mistakes in time-frame but other than that, a lot of the events in his book happened when I wasn’t around, so it’s hard to say how accurate it is. I enjoyed it. It’s a quick read. Mike Barnes and I are good friends, but I purposely withheld information from him as I wanted to write a book based on interviews with all the Magic Band members and I felt like I would be giving away a lot of what should really come from me. I’ve got to say that he did a great job with fantastic research… he’s a great writer.

I think that all three books should be read by anyone who follows the music, as between them all there is a pretty good perspective and overview with virtually no details whatsoever overlooked. Barnes was able to get interviews with Jeff Tepper and Eric Feldman, who wouldn’t give me interviews, sadly. They were still quite close to Don, who would have disapproved. Zoot’s book is basically his recollections, and I think it comes off quite well, but is, of course, more limited in scope.


Do you know if Don saw your book in the year between its publication and his death?

No, I have no idea. He completely shunned me after I left the “Doc” band. I did call him once and threatened to sue him if he didn’t get my name put on the first CD release of Trout Mask Replica… in case anyone didn’t know this, he had left it off the original release. Anyway, he called Carl Scott at Warners and had it done. 

Don famously blew the Monterey “audition” gig… is it also true that he turned down Woodstock?

I’m actually working on a screenplay regarding that incident at the Fantasy Fair in Mt. Tamalpais, the week before our scheduled performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Don didn’t really want to appear. He wanted to stay home and write in his pyjamas. What happened was the result of high-anxiety coupled with hypochondria, brought on by high doses of LSD. I wasn’t around for Woodstock, but I don’t doubt he would have turned it down. He thought hippies were “disgusting.” 

Can you tell us anything about Don’s brush with Charles Manson?

Not much. I know they went up to this place called “Fountain of the World” one night and Bill said later that Manson was having a conversation with Don, but they were off in the distance, so he didn’t overhear it. Everything I know about that is in the book. I just remember that I refused to go. My instincts kicked in, and Don wasn’t very pleased with me… but he was never very pleased with anyone who showed that they were capable of independent thought. 

How do you regard Don now? Was it important for your own piece of mind to forgive him for all the stuff that happened?

I view him as highly-troubled and larger than life. He certainly was a tyrant at times, but there were definitely strong redeeming qualities. I certainly wouldn’t have spent so much time performing his music if I didn’t admire him as a great writer and composer. It was important to forgive him. It took me a long time, but finally, I heard a pastor by the name of Kenneth Copeland (who a lot of people don’t like, I’m sure) explain what forgiveness is. It’s an act of the Will. You forgive but you never forget. Every time those memories come up, you say: “I already made peace with God about this”. Seems awkwardly religious to most people, but it definitely worked for me. 


Were Don Van Vliet and “Captain Beefheart” two separate entities?

Well, it was a stage name, but Don definitely had a charming stage personality who I refer to as Captain Beefheart and then a private, much darker personality. I truly believe he was never a very happy person and this was a symbol, in a sense, of his own daily battle with contradiction. 

Are John French and “Drumbo” two separate entities?

As far as I’m concerned, “Drumbo” is just a stage name. I have definitely made a few enemies since initiating the reunion, but I’ve yet to really compare notes with others about their behaviour. I feel as though I’ve never purposefully abused, cheated or lied to anyone. My conscience is clear.

John, thanks for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to say which we haven’t already covered?

I’ve been working on a show in Austin, Texas with some musicians, horn players, and backup singers. It will be recorded and might be released. I’m also working on orchestral versions of Beefheart material and might some day get a chance to play it with an orchestra. That would be nice. I’m going to open a Patreon account, where people who want to help me financially can arrange for a monthly donation. If that works, I’ll probably continue performing. Finally, a big-time manager has expressed interest in handling me. It could be a big break, or just more BS. We’ll see. 


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On The Rooftops, Wailing… Steve Hackett’s THE NIGHT SIREN Reviewed


The Night Siren by Steve Hackett.

Special Edition CD/Blu-Ray Mediabook featuring 5.1 surround sound mix & making of documentary: 88985410452
Standard Jewel case CD: 88985410462
Gatefold black 2LP vinyl + CD: 88985410471
Digital Download

Steve Hackett is very concerned about the state of the world. Me too. But what you gonna do about it? Hackett’s response is to fill the lyrics of his 25th (and, he claims, best yet) solo album, The Night Siren, with pleas for peace, love and understanding (after all, what’s so funny about that?) while stuffing its grooves with an embarrassment of eclectic musical traditions, recruiting collaborators worldwide and blending their efforts seamlessly into his signature sound. As you do.

Opener Behind The Smoke juxtaposes a juddering riff against stirring Indian strings in a way that can’t help but make you think of Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Martian Sea yokes sitars to psychedelia in an organic manner that neatly side-steps the clichés of countless previous plastic hippy anthems. Fifty Miles From The North Pole sounds like Steve Miller pitching for a Bond theme, employing Hank Marvinesque guitar before more Indian strings, a children’s choir and Miles-like muted, snarling trumpet are thrown into the ever mutating mix. El Nino is Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds underpinned by Riverdance style drumming before signature Hackett guitar heroics, heavy on the whammy bar, before Other Side Of The Wall cleanses the palate with simple acoustic guitar, strings and vocal harmonies. Anything But Love kicks off with a flamenco flourish before settling into a West Coast groove, with Hackett’s vocals channeling Gerry Rafferty while Amanda Lehmann does her best Stevie Nix harmony bit… there was a time when this kind of thing would have been considered a sure-fire hit single. Inca Terra weds Gilmour pastoral to the Gabrielesque tones of Nad Sylvan before segueing into “CSN&Y do El Condor Pasa”, resolving itself in a classic Genesis coda. Troy Donockley of Nightwish contributes Uilleann pipes to the Celtic-flavoured In Another Life before Hackett’s guitar ignites once more. Those stirring Indian strings are back for In The Skeleton Gallery before the album climaxes with West To East, a hymn for peace on which Palestinian Mira Awad and Israeli Kobi Farhi add backing vocals over an Afterglow-ish chord progression. The Gift concludes matters in Frippy fashion, with some lyrical soloing over a strings soundscape.

Did I mention that this album is eclectic? It’s as deep as it’s wide, the densely layered production by Hackett and right hand man Roger King impressing even on the mp3 version I’ve heard so far. One imagines the 5.1 variant that’s getting a simultaneous Blu-ray release will be a wonder to behold. The World Music leanings of this material are such that you could imagine much of it being performed at WOMAD. A collaboration with Peter Gabriel has always seemed more likely than those two reuniting with Genesis and anyway, what useful purpose would the latter scenario serve for Steve Hackett? The Night Siren confirms what we already knew, that after their 1977 divorce Messrs Collins, Banks and Rutherford grabbed the brand (and put it to lucrative use) but it was Hackett who walked off with the music.


The Night Siren is released on 24th March, courtesy of InsideOut Music (Sony). Steve embarks upon his 15 date Genesis Revisited With Classic Hackett tour (celebrating forty years of Wind and Wuthering) on 26th April, culminating at the London Palladium on 19th May.

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John Kenneth Wetton, singer, bassist, guitarist and composer (b. Willington, Derbyshire, 12 June 1949), died 31 January 2017 in Bournemouth, Dorset, of colon cancer, aged 67.

John Wetton enjoyed relating how in 1982, when record sales and tour receipts indicated that Asia were the biggest band in the world, his mother Peggy would tell him: “This is all very well John, but when are you going to get a proper job?”

Growing up in Dorset, Wetton showed a ready aptitude for music, rehearsing pieces for church services with his brother proving a formative experience. An early road outing saw him backing Helen Shapiro on a mini-tour of Scotland, an interlude he remembered none too fondly. Back in Dorset, Wetton formed several bands with life-long collaborator, future Supertramp member and King Crimson lyricist Richard Palmer-James. He also made the acquaintance of Robert Fripp.

In 1971, after stints in Mogul Thrash and Renaissance, Wetton passed on Fripp’s invitation to enrol in King Crimson (then in a state of turmoil) and instead joined Family for two of their least Proggy but commercially most successful albums, Fearless and Bandstand. Hit single Burlesque saw him on TOTP and his harmony vocals on the beautiful My Friend The Sun remain one of many career highlights. Wetton was, however, itching to develop as a player, vocalist and composer and in 1972 Fripp finally got his man. “John was the leading bass player of his generation…” the guitarist remembers: “a player of international class.” The reconstituted Crimson, widely perceived as the primo configuration of that protean outfit, paired Wetton with Yes defector Bill Buford in a monstrously powerful rhythm section. The volume and tone of his bass could be described as brutal, but for its harmonic sophistication and melodic inventiveness. Wetton’s vocal deliveries in this period ranged from the harsh rasp of Lament to the tenderness of Fallen Angel and soulful melancholy of Starless. The latter has been covered memorably by The Unthanks. Kurt Cobain cited the Red album (1974) as the template for grunge. Nevertheless, Fripp split the band before it was released.


After service with Uriah Heep and Roxy Music, Wetton reunited with Bruford in 1977 to try and recapture the elusive Crimson magic in U.K., with Eddie Jobson replacing David Cross on violin and Allan Holdsworth taking Fripp’s guitar seat. Bruford and Holdsworth soon split, feeling that the band was going in too commercial a direction. Terry Bozzio was recruited on drums and UK continued, in stark refutation of Bruford’s charge, as JW and two Zappa alumni…

That band folded in 1980 and after lending his talents to Wishbone Ash, Wetton took a genuine tilt at the mainstream with supergroup Asia, comprising fellow Prog titans Steve Howe, Geoff Downes (Yes) and Carl Palmer (ELP.) Restraining their virtuoso chops in favour of radio friendly AOR, Asia cleaned up internationally with hits like Heat Of The Moment and Only Time Will Tell, plus their platinum selling eponymous debut album. The band persisted through various fluctuations of fortune and line-up (Wetton was to have participated in the band’s 2017 world tour, co-headlining with Journey, before his final illness overtook him.)

While pursuing a near-40 year solo career Wetton continued to share his writing and performing talents promiscuously, in Asia offshoots Quango (with Palmer) and iCon (Downes), one-off and short lived collaborations with such peers as Steve Hackett, Ian McDonald and Phil Manzanera, also endorsing young up’n’comers like District 97 by sharing a stage with them (documented on the album One More Red Night – Live In Chicago.)

A serious musician and a deeply thoughtful man, Wetton is also remembered by his various collaborators for his wicked sense of fun. He was not above performing the lyrics of Lonnie Donegan’s My Old Man’s A Dustman to the tune of Crimson’s epic Prog chestnut In The Court Of The Crimson King (try it!) Somewhere along the way hedonism shaded off into excess… Wetton was scathingly honest about his long battle with alcoholism and active in his support of those facing the same and similar fights. In later life he achieved sobriety and happiness in his marriage to Lisa. He bore his final struggle, against colon cancer, with the same courage and good grace, regularly posting social media messages of positivity and stoicism, encouraging his followers to take their health seriously and seize the day.

Geoff Downes remembers: “His bass playing was revolutionary. His voice was from the gods. His compositions – out of this world. His sense of melody and harmony – unreal. He was literally a ‘special one’.”

John Wetton did a proper job. He is survived by wife Lisa, son Dylan, brother Robert and by Peggy.


Categories: Obituary | Leave a comment



Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (Vangelis to you barbarians) still can’t read a note of music, apparently, but he has written plenty of it: psychedelia and prog (e.g. the landmark Aphrodite’s Child album 666), electronica… ambient, jazz and orchestral music… but mainly, lots and lots of glorious music, as evidenced by the humungous box set coming your way on February 3rd. Delectus collects just the Vertigo and Polydor albums (remastered under his personal supervision) and throws in a bunch of bonus tracks and b-sides. You also get three of the albums he made with Jon Anderson (after declining the latter’s invitation to replace Rick Wakeman in Yes) under the Jon & Vangelis handle,  memorable couplings of his electronica and Anderson’s angelic vocals.

The resulting thirteen (!) discs come housed in a lavish box alongside a 64-page book booklet comprising essay and rare photographs. No wonder you won’t get much change out of a hundred quid!

Albums and Track Listing:

EARTH: 00600753682081
1.            Come On
2.            We Are All Uprooted
3.            Sunny Earth
4.            He-O
5.            Ritual
6.            Let It Happen
7.            The City
8.            My Face In The Rain
9.            We Are All Uprooted
10.          A Song

1.            Apocalypse des animaux – Générique
2.            La petite fille de la mer
3.            Le singe bleu
4.            La mort du loup
5.            L’ours musicien
6.            Création du monde
7.            La mer recommence

CHINA: 00600753682104
1.            Chung Kuo
2.            The Long March
3.            The Dragon
4.            The Plum Blossom
5.            The Tao Of Love
6.            The Little Fete
7.            Yin & Yang
8.            Himalaya
9.            Summit

Vangelis & Dali.jpg

SEE YOU LATER: 00600753682128
1.            I Can’t Take It Anymore
2.            Multi-Track Suggestion
3.            Memories Of Green (which later turned up in the Blade Runner soundtrack)
4.            Not A Bit – All Of It
5.            Suffocation
6.            See You Later
7.            Neighbours Above
8.            My Love
9.            Domestic Logic 1

ANTARCTICA: 00600753682142
1.            Theme From Antarctica
2.            Antarctica Echoes
3.            Kinematic
4.            Song Of White
5.            Life Of Antarctica
6.            Memory Of Antarctica
7.            Other Side Of Antarctica
8.            Deliverance

MASK: 00600753682166
1.            Mask: Movement 1
2.            Mask: Movement 2
3.            Mask: Movement 3
4.            Mask: Movement 4
5.            Mask: Movement 5
6.            Mask: Movement 6

OPERA SAUVAGE: 00600753682111
1.            Hymne
2.            Rêve
3.            L’enfant
4.            Mouettes
5.            Chromatique
6.            Irlande
7.            Flamants roses

CHARIOTS OF FIRE: 00600753682135
1.            Titles
2.            Five Circles
3.            Abraham’s Theme
4.            Eric’s Theme
5.            100 Metres
6.            Jerusalem
7.            Chariots Of Fire

SOIL FESTIVITIES: 00600753682159
1.            Soil Festivities: Movement 1
2.            Soil Festivities: Movement 2
3.            Soil Festivities: Movement 3
4.            Soil Festivities: Movement 4
5.            Soil Festivities: Movement 5

1.            Invisible Connections
2.            Atom Blaster
3.            Thermo Vision


SHORT STORIES: 00600753682180 (Jon & Vangelis)
1.            Curious Electric
2.            Each And Every Day
3.            Bird Song
4.            I Hear You Now
5.            The Road
6.            Far Away In Baagad
7.            Love Is
8.            One More Time
9.            Thunder
10.          Play Within A Play

PRIVATE COLLECTION: 00600753682203 (Jon & Vangelis)
1.            Italian Song
2.            And When The Night Comes
3.            Deborah
4.            Polonaise
5.            He Is Sailing
6.            Horizon
7.            Song Is

THE FRIENDS OF MR. CAIRO: 00600753682197 (Jon & Vangelis)
1. I’ll Find My Way Home
2. State of Independence
3. Beside
4. The Mayflower
5. The Friends of Mr. Cairo
6. Back To School
7. Outside Of This (Inside of That)
8. One More Time
9. Thunder
10. Play Within A Play

There are 4 bonus tracks, the previously unreleased:
Neighbours Above – 2015 Remastered version – Bonus track for See You Later
The other bonus tracks are:
My Love – 2015 Remastered version – Bonus track for See You Later
Domestic Logic 1 – 2015 Remastered version – Bonus track for See You later
Song Is (Jon & Vangelis) – 2015 Remastered version – Bonus track for Private Collection
Previously released on singles, they make their CD debut here.

Delectus will be available from all good record stroes from 4th Feb but if you can’t wait that long, it’s possible to pre-order the box set at
Vangelis Website:

536-820-7-VANGELIS-Delectus-3D-packshot-copy-300x300.jpgDelectus Sleeve.jpg

Categories: Box Sets | Leave a comment

“Muted Melodies Fill The Echoing Hall…” New STEVE HACKETT Album, 2017 UK Tour Details

SH, 2017.jpg

Guitar god Steve Hackett continues to wave his Prog flag high with a new album (it doesn’t seem five minutes since Wolflight.) The Night Siren, his 25th solo studio set, is released on 24.03.17. through InsideOut Music (Sony), supported by a 15 date “Genesis Revisited / Classic Hackett” UK tour in April / May, culminating in a show at The London Palladium that is just about sold out at the time of writing.

Wed 26th          Dublin, Vicar Street
Fri 28th             Cardiff, St. David’s Hall
Sun 30th           Reading, Hexagon

Mon 1st            Birmingham, Symphony Hall
Wed 3rd            Sheffield, City Hall
Thurs 4th          Bristol, Colston Hall
Fri 5th               Manchester, Bridgewater Hall
Sun 7th             Liverpool, Philharmonic
Mon 8th            Portsmouth, Guildhall
Wed 10th          Southend, Cliffs Pavilion
Thurs 11th        Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall
Sat 13th            Oxford, New Theatre
Sun 14th           Cambridge, Corn Exchange
Tues 16th          Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall
Wed 17th           Sage, Gateshead
Fri 19th             London, Palladium

Tickets available from and venue box offices.

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Steve’s final album with Genesis, Wind And Wuthering, these gigs will showcase several tracks from that one alongside other Genesis standards, some of them never previously performed by Steve in a solo context, as well as classic Hackett and new material from The Night Siren.

Night Siren.jpg

The Night Siren: Full Track Listing:

1.      Behind the Smoke
2.      Martian Sea
3.      Fifty Miles from the North Pole
4.      El Niño
5.      Other Side of the Wall
6.      Anything but Love
7.      Inca Terra
8.      In Another Life
9.      In the Skeleton Gallery
10.    West to East

The Night Siren will be available in the following formats:

Special Edition CD/Blu-Ray Mediabook featuring 5.1 surround sound mix & making of documentary: 88985410452
Standard Jewel case CD: 88985410462
Gatefold black 2 LP  vinyl + CD: 88985410471
Digital Download

Steve is claiming (and has he ever let us down before?) that this is his strongest album yet, a heartfelt statement against the polarising forces currently at work in the world. Appropriately then, as well as usual suspect collaborators such as Roger King, Nad Sylvan, Rob Townsend, Amanda Lehmann, Dick Driver and Gary O’Toole, featured world musicians include Israeli and Palestinian singers / peace activists Kobi and Mira, Azerbaijanian Malik Mansurov on the Tar and Troy Donockley on Celtic Uilleann, as well as other Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American contributors.

Steve Hackett: “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world. From territorial frontiers to walled-up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide. But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato, ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’.”

Yes indeedy.


Plato (left) and Aristotle debating the respective merits of Foxtrot and Spectral Mornings, yesterday…

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Wayward Sons Carry On: This Just In From Our KANSAS Correspondent…


Can Americans really play Prog? The very idea Styx in the throat of some traditionalists. What about Kansas? Are they Prog… or Pomp Rock… or Symphonic Rock… or Melodic Rock… or Harmonic Rock? Well, you’ve had fifteen albums from them to help you make your mind up, most recently last year’s The Prelude Implicit (their first in 16 years!) Now the track Rhythm In The Spirit has been lifted from that and coupled with a live concert video in support of their long-awaited European return with appearances at select summer festivals. To wit…

9th June – Sweden Rock Festival, Sölvesborg, Sweden
6th July – Peace & Love Festival, Borlange, Sweden
16th July – Night of the Prog Festival, Sankt Goarshausen, Germany
29th July – Burg Herzberg Festival, Herzberg, Germany
30th July – Ramblin Man Fair, Maidstone, UK

Watch Rhythm In The Spirit now at

“It’s been a long time since we’ve made a one song concert video and we had a great time doing it!” the band tell us: “Rhythm in the Spirit was our unanimous first choice and we are very happy with how it turned out.”

Here’s what some others have had to say about the current sound of Kansas:

“Listening to The Prelude Implicit, you hear echoes of everything that Kansas has been – the heartland prog-rock group, the rowdy bar band, the group with the chart hits, the hard-edged version from the late Eighties.” (Rolling Stone)
“A roller coaster distillation of all the hard rock, prog, pop and orchestral elements that made Kansas the most unlikely world-beaters of the 1970’s.” ( Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine)
“This album will remind you why these guys collect Gold and Platinum albums time and time again.” (Classic Rock Society)


The Prelude Implicit’ is available as CD, 180g gatefold double vinyl & digital download.

The album features 10 all new tracks written by the band and co-produced by Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, and Richard Williams.  The signature Kansas sound is evident throughout… Ronnie Platt’s soaring lead vocals, David Ragsdale’s blistering violin, Williams and Rizvi’s rocking guitar riffs, the unmistakable sound of David Manion’s B3 organ and keyboards, Ehart’s thundering drums, and Billy Greer’s driving bass and vocals.

The president of their new label, Thomas Waber,  says “Kansas is the biggest and most important Prog band to come out of the United States. I grew up listening to them, and their music is part of my DNA.  The Prelude Implicit undoubtedly adds to their already impressive musical legacy.  I can’t stop listening to it, and we are proud to be releasing the album.” “This is definitely a Kansas album” agress founder guitarist Richard Williams. “Whether it is the trademark Prog epic like The Voyage of Eight Eighteen, biting rocker such as Rhythm in the Spirit or mindful ballad like The Unsung Heroes, there is something on this album for every kind of Kansas fan.  After years of pent-up creativity, the entire band is very proud of The Prelude Implicit.”

Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt adds” “Recording The Prelude Implicit was an incredible experience and I couldn’t be happier with the results. It is my hope that, knowing the intense listeners that Kansas fans are, the continuity yet diversity of this album will be pleasing to them.”

“Without a doubt, this is a new musical beginning” offers Ehart, explaining the album’s title. Tattoo artist Denise de la Cerda executed the oil painting of the front and back cover, depicting a Phoenix flying from the past into the future.


The Prelude Implicit Track Listing:
1.) With This Heart
2.) Visibility Zero
3.) The Unsung Heroes
4.) Rhythm in the Spirit
5.) Refugee
6.) The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
7.) Camouflage
8.) Summer
9.) Crowded Isolation
10.) Section 60

Kansas will be debuting songs off The Prelude Implicit this autumn, live in concert, as part of their Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour.  More information at


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Soul Survivor… The P. P. ARNOLD Interview


Patricia Anne Cole, better known as P.P. Arnold, took the opportunity to escape an abusive teenage marriage by joining The Ike n Tina Review, arriving in London just as The Swinging ’60s were igniting. Encouraged by Mick Jagger to break away from what had become another exploitive situation, she embarked upon a successful solo career, garnering her own hits and working with a veritable Who’s Who of ’60s (and subsequent) movers and shakers. The Nice, rightly revered as the inventors of Prog Rock, were formed to serve as her backing band. A by-no-means exhaustive roll call of other collaborators includes Steve Howe, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, The Small Faces, three quarters of Led Zeppelin, The Bee Gees, The Move, Rod Stewart, Nick Drake… and she was an intimate confidante of Jimi Hendrix.

I was fortunate enough to meet P.P. Arnold in November 2003 when she was guesting on that year’s tour by The Manfreds, alongside Alan Price and Colin Blunstone. Shortly after that I interviewed her (regrettably over the phone rather than in person) in Spain, where she had recently made her home… not on the Costa Del Crime though arguably she risked arrest, so comprehensively had she stolen the show on that Manfreds tour…

(tape starts rolling) … I’m in the process of filling in a lot of blanks because I’m in the process of writing my own book.

I’m looking forward to that…

Yeah. me too. I’m looking forward to getting to it. I’ve done a lot of work but I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m looking forward to speaking to a lot of different people because I want it to be really objective, I want to meet a lot of people that were there and pick everybody’s memory banks to put together a really honest, objective, real true story… warts and all!

Should be quite a story.

It will be!
So, how did the recent tour with The Manfreds go?

The tour went great, fantastic as far as all the gigs, the audiences, the fans… that was all great. There’s always the politics of the business that sometimes make us all wanna stop doing what we do but you can’t stop. I can’t, anyway, because I was born to do this and I’ve been doing it all my life. God has left me with my health and strength so I hope to be able to keep doing it… for the right reasons, you know, not just to be out there and be a celebrity. I always think that the gift … and it is a gift… that God has given me… I think of myself as a healer. As a singer I’m healing, so when I’m singing my objective is hopefully to be able to touch the hearts and the minds of people and help lift them, elevate things and do my bit for love, peace and happiness.

Your voice is such a beautiful instrument on record but when I saw you with The Manfreds I was really struck by the sheer power of it and I guess this must be a legacy of your Gospel background…

Most definitely… it’s also the legacy of being out on the road for 40 years, y’know? That’s gospel, that’s soul, that’s R’n’B. My first years were with Tina, she’s my teacher as far as learning to project and reach out and just let go, really. It’s time that does that and even though I haven’t been able to do my own solo bit, as a result of the politics of the industry, I’m always working with different people. I’ve never stopped making records and recording. I have so much unreleased material, it’s not funny. I’m gonna do something with a lot of the stuff I have… yeah, I’ve never stopped.


Do you think the record business just doesn’t know what to do with you?

I think so, that’s part of it… and then there’s all the prejudice. Right now I guess I’m dealing with ageism. I’m not 21, I’ve had a lot of experience and the wool can’t be pulled over my eyes that easily anymore. It’s a lot of different things… in the industry, “When you’re hot you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not” and sometimes when you’re not it might have a lot to do with your own personal life. I’ve been through a lot of personal tragedies as well as all the exploitation in the industry so people are kind of scared of that. I’ve found that when things were really hard for me, people just did not want to know. I’m quite a sensitive person so I don’t know how to do that hard, cold-blooded hustling thing. I think that’s been a lot to do with the fact that I haven’t found  anybody prepared to just believe in me and do what has to be done to get me projected as an artist… y’know, it’s a business and the music is only a small portion of it, these days. It’s all about The Biz and you have to find people who are prepared to work really, really hard so you have a chance to get placed and … it’s like Catch 22. I have the support of all the musicians but I don’t get a chance to work with really good producers because I don’t have a record label and now record companies want you to do all the work before you actually sign, you to have have everything in place for people like me before I could get a deal. I don’t have management and I’ve tried doing that whole thing of dealing with my own management and that’s hard. Not only am I a woman, I’m a black woman…

… and you’re a strong-minded, independent woman…

First of all I’m a recording artist, I was a recording artist before I was a performing artist so that’s my love, recording, but I can’t perform because I don’t have any records out there and you need management to be out there in the arena of what’s going on today… I don’t know what’s going on out there.

There are lot of manufactured puppet acts out there …. the executives are happier dealing with those people.

I think there are but for a long time, the companies didn’t really want to pay artists so DJs became the artists of our time, the DJs were being paid to be producers and the singers were just glorified… I stopped doing sessions because people were treating me like a glorified session singer and they wanted me to sing behind people who couldn’t even sing. I turned on Top Of The Pops and there was somebody miming to my voice on The KLF’s 3 Am Eternal. I even did records… it’s not just pop, it could even be gospel… I worked with The London Gospel Community Choir then I turned on the TV and they had some young girl miming to my voice, I mean, nothing is sacred in the industry. The whole thing about having to sing behind people who don’t have talent, well, I’ve been out here too long and I take a certain pride in myself. People might say: “Who does she think she is? She needs the money, why isn’t she doing session work?” The answer is, I got tired of people just prostituting my sound, they want me to go in and do demos, to  give my sound away, which can’t be done because – thank God – my sound is distinctive. It can’t be copied, but people try to and I think: “Well wait a minute, I’m not finished yet!” I’m not gonna give my sound away so that when I’m getting ready to do something people say: “She sounds like someone…” who’s sounding like me! It’s just ridiculous…


Being a child of the ’60s I kinda thought for a while there I was quite revolutionary about what was going on, then when I did stuff with The Beatmasters, like Burn It Up, I couldn’t get a record deal, there I was in the Top Ten and I couldn’t get a record deal and all those guys who worked on the record were being given record deals, I was the only live element on the record and I couldn’t get a deal so I just thought: “OK what am I gonna do? I’m gonna get my own record company!” So I did that, I formed Full Circle Productions and Full Circle Records and I wrote this song after Burning It Up called Dynamite, with the late Kenny Moore who used to play keyboards for Tina and The Beatmasters produced it for me. I went out there and tried to do it myself, without any backup and basically I couldn’t compete, I couldn’t afford to give records away to record shops which is what the record companies were doing so I just couldn’t compete. I had a video and everything, on the underground scene the record did really well but I couldn’t get the support I needed to cross that record over to the Top 40 where it needed to be.

At one point I believe there was an attempt to turn you into a punk star!?!

They wanted to, I rebelled against that and sometimes I think I should have gone along with it, gone out there and established myself a bit more. That was right after I worked with Barry Gibb. There was so much politics going on with that…

What was the story of why that stuff never came out?

Well, the Bee Gees split up so they had their own internal politics. I’m an artist that’s always tended to be produced by other artists so if you’re working with somebody who’s got internal politics like the Bee Gees had at that time, you get caught up in those politics and Barry wasn’t with Robert Stigwood. My relationship was more with Barry than it was with Stigwood, who didn’t know what to do with me, basically. He had signed me because Barry was producing me and Ahmet Ertegun said: “Wow!” Barry and I did a little acoustic set at a dinner party Ahmet was at and Ahmet turned to Stigwood and said: “Stiggy – why haven’t you got this girl signed up?!?” and Stigwood told him: “We’re getting all the paperwork together and we’re signing her next week” which he did, because he realised that Ahmet was interested, but he didn’t sign me for the right reasons, to give me direction. My relationship with Immediate and Andrew Loog Oldham was a proper management relationship, direction orientated…

Immediate sounds like it was a real family thing…

It was a real family thing, it was really sad when all that broke up behind the greed and drugs and all the other politics that went down there. It’s really funny, Andrew waited too late to kind of own up and fix things, there. I’ve been in touch with him in recent years… it’s a pity not only for all the artists but for him as well because he really knew what to do.

You were really tight with The Small Faces…

Yeah, we were just like the brother and sister group of Immediate, we were the babies, all the same age and all like mates. My relationship was really with Steve, he was like my brother, my soul brother, y’know what I mean, we were all that same age and Immediate also had the whole thing that was going on there… I had always been inspired by the whole Motown thing and we were all into that concept of having so many great artists on one label, the idea was for people to write for each other and produce each other and record together and that’s what we were doing. We were all friends, we use to do all these great tours together and just work together really closely.


People like Oasis, Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene are fans of that music and certainly in the case of Oasis they’re trying to be what the Small Faces would have called “ravers”… bad boys, but without any of The Small Face’s charm and certainly nothing like their talent… is there any comparison in your mind between these acts and what was going on in the ‘60s? How do Oasis, e.g. compare with The Small Faces?

They don’t. Neither does Ocean Colour Scene. Paul Weller’s got his own thing, but to me, neither does Paul.

I agree.

I had a horrible, nightmare experience with Ocean Colour Scene. I don’t think I’ll talk about that now, I’ll save it for the book. Basically a lot of intimidation and stuff went down, there were a lot of egos going on and I wasn’t impressed. A lot of promises went down and they all wanted me to be there for them but when it was time for them to be there for me, they weren’t, so… same old story. There’s the real deal but there’s a lot imposters out there as well.

Tell us something about what happened when Immediate went on the rocks…

We were all so young, we were just kids, you know? I really didn’t know the inner working of the business, who Andrew Loog Oldham was, when I first came over here as an Ikette. I knew nothing about the music scene here in England, I knew nothing about the past history of pop music in London so I just put my trust in Andrew and Mick Jagger, really. Mick was the whole reason I stayed here, he wanted to produce me. I was working with Mick and Andrew at Immediate then The Stones split from Andrew so there I was with Andrew and The Stones were off making more money somewhere else…

You knew nothing about the British scene but you arrived slap-bang in the middle of it at its creative zenith…

Exactly, which is why I think if I do stand a chance at regenerating my career it will be for that reason, because of the work that I did at that time… exactly what happened, being a part of all that. There weren’t too many female artists out there and the ones that were out there weren’t on the same scene that I was on. I was on the road with the whole rock’n’roll side of everything, even though I was recorded as a pop artist and the songs were mostly pop hits… First Cut Is The Deepest and Angel Of The Morning rather than R&B, but my stage act was always an R&B, soul, pop, rock crossover thing, I was doing that long before Tina started doing it which probably gave Tina a lot… I mean Tina’s Tina, I couldn’t give her anything but I think after being an Ikette I  broke away from that and was able to make it on a solo level without any history behind me, which probably had a lot to do with motivating her to cut loose and get away from Ike. I wouldn’t be surprised if the thought did cross her mind a couple of times. I mean, she wasn’t allowed to see me after I left, she would come back to England but Ike tried to keep everybody away from me because I was a bad example for an Ikette…

So it was as bad as portrayed in the movie…

Oh yeah it was as bad as that but there was a lot of good things that didn’t get portrayed in the movie…


Ike was such a talented guy…

He was, Ike was like one of the young blues men and a real trend setter for what was to come…

He made the first rock’n’roll record, Rocket 88, but never got the credit for that because he was a black guy…

Well hey, let’s be honest, even Chuck Berry… he got what was due to him eventually, but look at everything he had to go through in the meantime. That’s how it went and how it still kinda goes unless you’re really strong and you do the whole independent thing. I’ve been on the independent trail for a long time which is why I’ve got all this unreleased material. I’ve recorded so much. You know a guy called Chas Jankel?

…of Blockheads fame? Sure!

Well, we’ve got an album’s worth of material that we’ve written, recorded live with great musicians… some technology but mostly real live stuff. I’ve also done a lot of stuff with a guy called Tony Remy, he’s played with a lot people… he’s just been on the road with Annie Lennox. He did all the guitar stuff for Craig David, he’s worked with Phil Collins, he’s a great guitarist, just this young Jamaican guy who’s got this great feel. I’ve done a lot of stuff with him. Chip Taylor and I have tried to do an album but its just so hard to do when you don’t have the facilities right now. I’ve got a whole production package together that I want to get in the studio and do right now, I’ve been trying to do this album for the last two years and suddenly everybody’s doing a classic soul album. It’s gonna happen and hopefully it’s gonna happen this year, I’m just getting down and getting this book finished because I know the book, I need the book.

Will there be more touring?

I always wanna tour, I always wanna work. The reason I’m not touring at the moment is not because I don’t want to but I’m stuck in Catch 22… I can’t tour if I don’t have a record out and I can’t put a record out if I don’t have a record deal so I dunno, this whole year is about breaking chains. Chip has actually written me a great song called Break These Chains and that’s what I’m working on this year, breaking those chains…

Are you still writing yourself?

I am. I haven’t been writing songs lately because I’ve written so much stuff that’s backed up. I’m really concentrating on the book and I’ve been touring a lot, I’ve been on the road with Roger Watters since 1999, the only year I didn’t tour with him was the year I moved to Spain and was studying Spanish and renovating this house, then I did the tour with The Manfreds at the end of last year.

Does Waters live up… or down… to his “difficult” reputation?

Roger Waters Press Pictures (13).jpg

He’s fantastic! I’ve heard a lot of stories about Roger, but all I can go on is my experience of him. He’s a great man as far as I’m concerned… very professional, his standards are very high and that’s where they should be. He’s very generous, I have no problems whatever with Roger… I don’t have really have problems with anybody because everybody has their own personality and what people feel about his personality, that’s up to them. It’s like people always asking me what I know about the inside story of Ike and Tina’s personal life, whether Tina’s a lesbian or whatever and I just say: “Look, I don’t know that part of them, I just work with people.” I have always been my own entity, since I was 17 years old when I went on the road, I had a child and was involved in an abusive teenage marriage. I had two kids, I have my own life, I love what I do, I’m good at what I do and I like working with people who are also good. I like working with great artists and musicians and Roger is a great artist.

Back in the Ike and Tina days, did you have any connection with Phil Spector?

I never got to know Phil Spector… the Ikettes and I were really young girls, like Maxine Knight, who had been with Joe Cocker… Gloria Scott… y’know, we were the personification of teen girls of our time. We knew all the hot moves, we were at the start of the whole “go-go girl” scene and we were really naive, very green and had never been out on the road. We were behind Ike and Tina, we never got invited to any special parties or introduced to anyone or anything. I never even had a conversation with Phil Spector.

We hear that The Stones treated the Ikettes better than Ike and Tina did…


Well you know, Mick was great. Mick knew that I was really unhappy when we came to do that tour, he and I became really close friends. We were lovers for years, a lot of people know that but they don’t really know the whole story, which will go in my book one day. We were just friends, he used to make me laugh… when I first saw this guy at the Albert Hall, trying to dance and sing the blues, that was just the funniest thing I had seen in my life. We used to laugh at The Stones, they used to laugh at us, they were in the back, you know, watching the… OK, the booty, but we were all young, we were just kids having fun. Mick was my friend before he was my lover and he really, really helped me, he saw something in me that I hadn’t even seen in myself. If it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t ever have been a solo artist, it was his idea for me. Andrew had the record label and he would produce half the album, so I should stay in England. After I stayed we were seeing each other and Ike was pissed off over that, because he didn’t have any control over me, so he was fining me for everything and I decided I was going to leave anyway. I had been with him for two years, had definitely seen enough there… I couldn’t deal with all the violence that was going on, that was really affecting me because I already had a history of that myself. I love Tina dearly and I couldn’t stand all of that heaviness so I mentioned to Mick that I was gonna leave when I got back to The States and the next thing I knew, he made me this proposition for me to stay in England and become a solo artist…

Was he a real, “hands on” producer or was that just some kind of honorary job description?

No, he was my producer… he opened up my whole creativity. I had never even thought about writing a song! He came back early from meeting the Maharishi to produce our track and I really appreciated that because everybody had gone away, the Beatles and The Stones, to meet the Maharishi… not in India, I think it was in Ireland somewhere.

It was Bangor in Wales…

… in Wales, right…

That was round about the time that Brian Epstein died…

That’s right and we went in that studio and we didn’t have a clue what we were going to do so everything we did, it was done with Mick producing and he encouraged me to write. He produced and got it all together, yes he was a “hands on” producer.

You were asked to sit down and write songs and I think the first one you came up with was Though It Hurts Me Badly… I mean, that song could have come out the Bacharach and David songbook, quite an achievement for a young girl writing her first song.

Well those were my influences y’know? I mean, Aretha Franklin first and foremost, who was influencing me back when I was singing in Church… the first thing she did, Never Grow Old, that was one of my first solos when I was a little girl… but also Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Martha And The Vandellas, Mavis Staple… that’s me, that’s the heart of me, they were my influences. Dionne Warwick… I love Dionne. From my own experience, that song was about my relationship with Mick. It was my first inter-racial relationship and that’s what that song is all about, so all of those things went in there. I don’t know how to do this thing in a contrived way… if you sit in a room with the right people and the right energies come up out of the ether then something good is always gonna happen so yeah, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing… I still don’t (laughs) but I love collaborating with people because for a long time I didn’t believe that I was a musician, until I came to the realisation that my voice is this instrument, and that all of the melody that I hear in my head is what it’s all about.

Somebody that you never collaborated with, but I know you used to hang out with, was Jimi Hendrix…

We hung out all the time. Jimi was my brother, he lived right around the corner and we were both came to England at the same time. Jimi was like a strong support for me as far as my identity in the middle of everything that was going on… we were kinda like a support system, identity wise, for each other. I just participated in a documentary about Jimi and it was the first time I ever spoke about my relationship with him… it was very strong and powerful and it helped me to stay grounded during that period. He helped me… unfortunately I wish I could have been more help to him. I think I was, to a degree, but he was just bombarded, you know…


He helped you to stay grounded but ultimately he couldn’t stay grounded himself…

It was easier for me being a girl I was quite shy and very withdrawn, even though I was out there… it’s a very different thing. I’ve never been a party girl, y’know, I did my fair share of partying but partying to me was work. I’ve always been in clubs so being in a club is no big deal, it’s just like being at home but I’ve never been one of those bad party girls and I had my own responsibility just being an artist myself and I didn’t know anything about that. I didn’t really go after it, I didn’t have an ambition to be a solo singer, I didn’t have any ambition to be a secular singer either, I mean… one day in my life changed my direction, the day I met Tina Turner. It was a freaky day when that audition came up, I never planned to be in show business…

You went to that audition just to support your friends, right?

I went to help them out yeah and at the same time time I needed some help out of the situation I was in… and that’s what the Universe sent me to save me from that and looking back on it now, that’s how I see that and it was the same thing with Jimi… but Jimi knew more about what he was doing, he had gone after this plus he was, you know what I mean… he was The One! So everybody wanted to be with Jimi, all the girls and all the boys, too… the Stones, Eric Clapton… everybody wanted to be around Jimi and Jimi Hendrix had to come round to my house to get some peace and quite and drink a cup of tea and rest up because his house was always full!


He was bombarded, plus he was older… those guys were all like 4-5 years older than me, I was the baby with the Small Faces, me and Steve Marriott were the babies.

You said you were shy, but in Keith Emerson’s autobiography he says that he was really bashful about meeting you because you had some kind of front and having met you, I know exactly what he means…

Yeah, I was shy but I would pretend not to be. What I was doing then was just a front, to protect myself really. I didn’t know what was going on, I really didn’t have a clue. When everything fell apart at Immediate, I was lost but they all knew what they were doing, that they were moving towards certain things in themselves and certain ambitions within the industry and they knew how that industry worked.  

Was it only in retrospect that you realised what a Golden Age you’d been living through and working in?

Well of course I realised that a lot was going on because I was an American woman in the middle of this sort of musical revolution that was happening in England and at the same time the civil rights movement and all that stuff in Vietnam was going on so I was aware but at the same time, y’know, when you’re young you tend to take things for granted, you think everything’s going to last forever. I don’t think anybody really knew what was going on in the business that much, it was a new scene going on but we didn’t know what it was, we just loved the music and we were playing that music and sort of moving with the times. What was going on business-wise, nobody knew… that’s why we all got ripped off!


I had a vision of me… I mean that Kafunta image of me, that we put out there on the cover of my second album, was where I was going, culturally, within myself. I had to get to grips with my roots in England, in The States, that whole Afro identity thing was going on in America and I was over here in England trying to grow up and realise who I was and at the same time doing this whole thing being in the music industry and like you said, being right in the middle of it all with two children. I had my babies with me which, I think, saved my life, my kids saved me really because I couldn’t go that whole drug route that everybody else was going on, that whole party scene, I couldn’t do that because I had to work and look after my babies…

Just looking at the cover of Kafunta… what an amazing image. What is the story behind that?


Well, there was this famous hairdresser at the time called Leonard’s of London and this was Andrew’s idea, he got this guy over from Leonard’s and put that together, the whole thing with the hair…

Was any of it photographic trickery? It looks at least like you’ve got major lash extensions going on there…

Oh, that took hours, we had ostrich feathers for eye lashes, that was a whole make up deal. I remember we had done it for Top Of The Pops and we had forgot that this was before colour so all that colour in my hair showed up white and looked awful! I think it was at the time that we had a showdown with Billie Davis, it was a question as to who would take it higher.

When The Nice went out on their own and became such an influential band in there own right, did it make you proud that they used to be your backing band?

PP & KE.jpg

I was always aware of how good they were… I went home to get my kids and when I got back, Andrew had stolen my band… but they were always their own entity. If I had wanted to get all political about it I would have registered the name and kept it because it was my name which I gave to them but it was OK… they were great and they had their own thing and that was fine.

We hear different versions of the story of how that name came up and who came up with it…

It was definitely from The Nazz, Lord Buckley’s The Nazz which we all used to listen to… Steve and The Small Faces, we used to hang out and listen to Lord Buckley and there was also the whole thing of everyone saying “Nice one!” It was the combination of all that and I just said: “Why not call them the Nice?” Some people day that Steve told me to call the band The Nice but that’s not right, it was my idea but Steve and the influence of The Nazz and “nice one” was part of it. There are a couple of people who know that, that’s one of the great things that you keep meeting people who remember stuff… you can’t remember everything.

Another future prog rock luminary that you worked with was Steve Howe…

Oh, Steve worked with me on when I opened up for Eric and Delaney and Bonnie… he was in my band along with Ashton, Gardner and Dyke. He’s a sweetheart. I did a track with him recently, an unreleased Bob Dylan tune. I’d like to get that track for my anthology. We did it for his last solo album, on which he used lots of different singers… Portraits Of Bob Dylan… and Steve was as lovely as ever. Some people never change and he’s one of them… lovely guy!


You did that performance with The Nice that people still talk about, at the Windsor festival in 1967…

That was when they released the doves for peace… yeah, that was a great day, I remember it well. The Cream were on and I remember that Ginger Baker was totally out of it (laughs.)

Eric Clapton actually produced some material for you, didn’t he.

He did and I am trying so hard to get my hands on that stuff! I saw Eric recently for the first time in many, many years because you try to get to people and everybody is protecting them from people who they think want something off them because of their celebrity. I mean, I haven’t seen Mick in years either. There’s no way that people can just forget me, though when I saw Eric at the Albert Hall I also saw Rod Stewart and he tried to pretend he didn’t know who I was! That’s a big joke… people who are so full of their own self that they can’t see what’s right in front of their face…


It’s said that when Jagger produced sessions of you singing with Rod Stewart, Rod just couldn’t keep up with you…

That’s the last time we actually saw each other, because that session… the whole thing with Rod and I should have been really great. I was actually going out with Rod at that time and Mick produced the session on my insistence, because I knew Rod… Mick had us doing the Wilson Pickett song, Come Home Baby and when a guy and a girl get together, you’ve gotta get the key right because otherwise one will be too too high, the other will be too low. Anyway, Rod kept changing the key to find one that he sounded good in, he could have cared less about whether I sounded good or not. But I was comfortable in all of them and that really annoyed him. The track came out OK but I’m just singing in this really high key and yeah, we just fell out after that. I was fed up with Rod by this time anyway, because he’d always been very arrogant and self-centred but he got me good, because the next thing I knew when I was in LA in 1977… this was the year that I lost my daughter… and I tried to contact Rod in LA and he just fobbed me right off and he got the bigger hit with First Cut Is The Deepest, so I guess he figured that he got me back for that night…

Yeah, but your version is way better…

Yeah, but he made the money and he never, ever mentioned me or gave me any kind of credit at all, I mean right now that song we did has been released on so many albums of his but it hasn’t been released on any albums of mine yet and on the albums of his, if I get a mention it’s like, “featuring” P.P. Arnold, it’s not mentioned as a duet. He could make that clear and help me out, y’know, but it’s like in the 70’s people became stars and now it’s all like a celebrity circus so if you’re not up there and you’re not out there on that financial level… I mean I’m still out there on an artistic level now, but like they say, money talks and bullshit walks…

You worked with Nick Drake, whose profile has risen so high since his death…

It has. I remember doing the session… or was it sessions? I didn’t really know him beyond that session. I did so many sessions in those days and you were doing your own thing but you were in demand because you had your own authentic sound… me and Madeline Bell, Doris Troy as well, Lesley Duncan and even Linda Lewis. I got that gig through Doris Troy. I mean, I’m a Libran, so I know what it’s like to be intimidated by people, but Doris Troy would have intimidated anybody.


What a talent…

What a talent and what a leader, Doris taught everybody how to get their money, you know, she was a New York girl and she knew how to do that. Not only that, she was like a mother figure, really encouraged everybody and helped them believe in themselves.

How do you feel about your work in the musical theatre compared to doing your own shows?

Well it’s all different stuff, as you know. I’ve never stayed in the musical theatre that long because I like doing a show where you can go in and do things that have never been done before. I like doing really innovative things so when I did Catch My Soul that was fun, I like the rehearsal period then after the second month I’m ready to move on because I’m getting bored. It’s just like too technical and I’m a soul singer. It’s fun, I love being part of the creative process of something that’s never been done, I love that. It was the same with Starlight Express… that was a big thing for me because that was when I moved back to England after doing some TV work in Hollywood and I came back in to the industry on roller skates… I skated back into the business! It was a great show and it was something that’s never been done before, a great cast of people and it was just fantastic but after the first year that was it. The theatre is really hard work, they want you to work real hard and it doesn’t pay that well so you’re doing 8 shows a week and it’s really really hard work plus you really have to fight for your money. Basically, after the first year of Starlight Express they didn’t really want to pay you anymore, it’s all the politics again and there I am with no manager. From that time on I’ve been out here with no management and nobody likes doing business with an artist, especially a woman and definitly not with a black woman…

You appeared with P. J. Proby in Catch My Soul…

Yep, I did…

Is he as much of a nut as people make out?


Yes he is, he’s a nutter. We didn’t get along at all, because P. J. is from The South, you know and he’s a real red-neck and I am like revolutionary about all that stuff so we didn’t get along at all. He was in his heavy, heavy drinking period. Working with him was hard… first thing in the morning you have to work with somebody and he’s already drunk on wine, and I was Bianca, they beefed up the role of Bianca for the show because in the play, she’s not a major part. We fell out over his idea of how he wanted to deal with my character, he was seeing me as a black wench and he had that whole heavy thing going on… at one of the rehearsals for the fight scene he hit me and said it was an accident, but I wasn’t so sure and it created a big scene with the whole company because there were a lot of black people in it. Anyway, enough said about P. J. … I hear he’s back on the retro ciruit as well.

Didn’t Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones both work on your records?

John Paul yes, he did the arrangement for Angel Of The Morning and of course I knew him from being out here but Jimmy Page… I didn’t really work with until recently. Who’s the other guy from Led Zeppelin that he reunited with?

Robert Plant.

Yeah, they did an album recently and I sang on that, the last album they did.

Walking Into Clarksdale?

Yeah, Walking Into Clarksdale… thanks for reminding me, now I can tell the PRS! (laughs)

You’re more than worthy of your own anthology or box set or whatever…

I wanna do it… I tell you, this is the year I’m gonna break these chains so, y’know, I’m definitely going to try to do it.

PP Arnold.jpg

Categories: Interviews | Leave a comment



CD /BD. DGM / Panegyric. B01IG74EUA

CD track-listing

CD 1: Mainly Metal
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part One (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir)

Radical Action (to Unseat The Hold of Monkey Mind) (Fripp)
Meltdown (Jakszyk, Fripp)
Radical Action II (Fripp)
Level Five (Belew, Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto)
The Light of Day (Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins)
The Hell Hounds of Krim (Harrison, Rieflin, Mastelotto)
The ConstruKction of Light (Belew, Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto)
The Talking Drum (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Muir)
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part Two (Fripp)

CD 2: Easy Money Shots
Peace (Fripp, Sinfield)
Pictures of a City (Fripp, Sinfield)
Banshee Legs Bell Hassle (Harrison, Rieflin, Mastelotto)
Easy Money (Fripp, Wetton, Palmer-James)
VROOOM (Belew, Fripp, Levin, Gunn, Bruford, Mastelotto)
Suitable Grounds for the Blues (Jakszyk, Fripp)
Interlude (Fripp)
The Letters (Fripp, Sinfield)
Sailors Tale (Fripp)
A Scarcity of Miracles (Jakszyk, Fripp, Collins)

CD 3: Crimson Classics
Red (Fripp) One More Red Nightmare (Fripp, Wetton)
Epitaph (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield)
Starless (Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James)
Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row (Harrison, Rieflin, Mastelotto)
The Court of The Crimson King (McDonald, Sinfield)
21st Century Schizoid Man (Fripp, McDonald, Lake, Giles, Sinfield)

… plus more of the same or similar on BD or 2xDVD.


He’s such a tease, that Fripp bloke… most recently there was that 2012-2013 retirement, which lasted as long as it took him to sort out monies owed and ended with the announcement, to an astonished world, of the seven headed (and three drummered) Great Beast Of Crim…from 2014 onwards they’ve been crossing the globe playing the old stuff (recoined as “The Elements Of King Crimson”) that he once assured us we’d never hear again, though he did advise fans that if they were turning up hoping for In The Court Of The Crimson King they were going to leave disappointed… so of course he did play that and indeed most of their monumental debut album when I caught them at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall on 15/09/15. Even there, Fripp remained elusive… as I moaned in my review of that gig elsewhere on this site, one of Gavin Harrison’s cymbals seemed to have been placed specifically to obscure my view of the great man from seat D7, a turn up I’m sure Fripp would have found very droll indeed.


Continuing to tease, DGM have been releasing the evidence of this latest, most unexpected phase of Crimsonising in tantalising dribs and drabs… first there was the seven track “beat the boots” CD / DVD-Audio mini album Live At The Orpheum… then we got a complete gig in the CD double album King Crimson Live in Toronto – November 20th 2015 (perhaps some of you are objecting that this stuff was also released on vinyl, as I imagine it was… frankly I haven’t got deep enough pockets, head or house room for the black stuff these days.) Set lists varied significantly from gig to gig on those tours so unless you had the financial resources to attend more than one concert (put it this way, while my ticket to see Crimson at the Liverpool Empire in 1973 cost 65 pence, Birmingham 2015 set me back 65 quid… so draw your own conclusions about how many concerts I felt able to attend) you would have ended up missing much-anticipated performances of some of your favourite Crimson golden oldies. That Birmingham gig, for example, heavily favoured ITCOTCK and Larks’ Tongues In Aspic to the detriment of Red and Islands…

… cue the maniacally metaphor mixing Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind, a 3 CD / 1 BD collection (a two DVD variant is / was available) that gives you both audio and video performances of every number tackled by the 7 piece during 2014-15. On the CDs, drawn from the whole of the 2015 tour, all audience response has been edited out to leave us with three “Virtual studio albums”, recalling the construction of  Starless And Bible Black during the halcyon days of 1973-4. Trevor Wilkins’ in-concert footage is culled (with the exception of two tracks) from Japanese dates on the 2015 tour (and suddenly the suits and ties dress code make more sense.) The BD offers 5.1 and “picture off” options, not to mention the opportunity for me to oggle Fripp to my heart’s content, even to the extent of Fripp-upon-Fripp in fabulous Frippovision… there are those who have found fault with the visual layering techniques employed here but I can’t say it overly bothers me.


“This one’s for the guy in seat D7…”

Of course this set is really going to stand or fall by the quality of the music herein and the continuing remaking / remodelling of the Crim canon. No problems there. Whether mounting a Mexican drum wave across Pictures Of A City, outBrufording Bill Bruford on One More Red Nightmare, channelling Phil Collins on the reimagined Red or bashing out a bit of Banshee Legs Bell Hassle, messrs Mastelotto, Rieflin and Harrison effortlessly justify their triple presence, stage front. Special mention for the Schizoid Man solo… Gavin Harrison, the fastest feet in Takamatsu! Tony Levin, on various basses and Chapman stick, plays John Wetton’s parts as faultlessly as his own (like you’re surprised!) The mighty Mel Collins’ honkin’ horn beefs up riffs that now sound like they were always intended for him, sprinkles soprano sax pixie dust all over Red and decorates Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part 1 and The ConstruKction Of Light with fluid flute interludes. Jakko Jakszyk is never going to sing magisterially as Wetton or as angelically as Greg Lake but if you’re looking for somebody to get his tonsils around approximately a half Century of the KC canon, here’s your man… and he does it while simultaneously locking into fiendish intermeshing guitar parts with Fripp. As for RF… Schizoid Man solo… Beelzebub’s banjo breakdown on The Sailor’s Tale… the whole “laser sustain set to stun” schtick… forget about it!

King Crimson en

RA(TUTHOMM) is nicely packaged and comes with a suitably swishy 20 page glossy booklet. Of course time and Fripp wait for no man and while this set has been getting us up to speed with the state of Crim at the end of 2015, the band itself (fetchingly lined up in profile, below, with Jeremy Stacey standing in for Rieflin) have been touring Europe with a show that regularly includes the likes of Fracture, Cirkus, The Battle Of Glass Tears from Lizard, Indiscipline and – touchingly in this, of all years – Heroes. Speaking of heroes, following this ever evolving band can sometimes make you feel like Achilles, always trying and failing to catch up with that tortoise. It’s an exciting time to be a Crim-fancier… then again, when has it ever been anything but?


Categories: Audio Visual Reviews | Leave a comment

Think I Need A Lear Jet… PINK FLOYD, THE EARLY YEARS 1965 – 1972 Previewed


To think that we bitched about King Crimson’s Starless – Live In Europe and The Road To Red box sets costing over a hundred quid (we bought them anyway)… the similarly sized  Pink Floyd, The Early Years 1965 – 1972 will leave you with little change out of £400, which is just… eye-watering!

Here at The Ozymandias Progject we’ll be waiting to pick and choose from the 2017 break-down editions, but to satisfy the curiosity of our readers, this is what you can expect from the full enchilada… read it and weep!

Disc 1
1965 Recordings
01. Lucy Leave
02. Double O Bo
03. Remember Me
04. Walk With Me Sydney
05. Butterfly
06. I’m A King Bee
07. Arnold Layne
08. See Emily Play
09. Apples and Oranges
10. Candy and a Currant Bun
11. Paintbox
12. Matilda Mother (2010 Mix)
13. Jugband Blues (2010 Mix)
14. In the Beechwoods (2010 Mix)
15. Vegetable Man (2010 Mix)
16. Scream Thy Last Scream (2010 Mix)

Disc 2
Live in Stockholm 1967
01. Introduction *
02. Reaction in G
03. Matilda Mother *
04. Pow R. Toc H. *
05. Scream Thy Last Scream *
06. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun *
07. See Emily Play *
08. Interstellar Overdrive *
John Latham studio recordings 1967
09. John Latham Version 1 *
10. John Latham Version 2 *
11. John Latham Version 3 *
12. John Latham Version 4 *
13. John Latham Version 5 *
14. John Latham Version 6 *
15. John Latham Version 7 *
16. John Latham Version 8 *
17. John Latham Version 9 *

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 3 – DVD/Blu-ray
01. Chapter 24 – Syd Barrett in the Gog Magog Hills, Cambridgeshire, UK 1966 / Pink Floyd at EMI Studios, London, April 1967
02. Nick’s Boogie: recording Interstellar Overdrive and Nick’s Boogie at Sound Techniques Studio, Chelsea, January 11, 1967 / Live at UFO, The Blarney Club, London, January 13, 1967 *
03. Interstellar Overdrive: ‘Scene – Underground’ UFO at The Blarney Club, London, January 27, 1967
04. Arnold Layne: promo video. Wittering Beach, UK, early 1967
05. Pow R. Toc H. / Astronomy Domine: plus Syd Barrett and Roger Waters interview: BBC ‘The Look Of The Week’ – BBC Studios, London, May 14, 1967
06. The Scarecrow: ‘Pathé Pictorial’, UK, July 1967
07. Jugband Blues: ‘London Line’ promo video, 1967, London
08. Apples And Oranges: plus Dick Clark interview: ‘American Bandstand’, Los Angeles, USA, November 7, 1967
09. Instrumental Improvisation: BBC ‘Tomorrow’s World’, London, December 12, 1967 *
10. Instrumental Improvisation: ‘Die Jungen Nachtwandler’, UFO, The Blarney Club, London, February 24, 1967 *
11. See Emily Play: BBC ‘Top Of The Pops’ – partially restored BBC Studios, London, July 6, 1967
12. The Scarecrow (outtakes): ‘Pathé Pictorial’, UK, July 1967
13. Interstellar Overdrive: ‘Science Fiction – Das Universum Des Ichs’, The Roundhouse, London, 1967

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 4
01. Point Me At the Sky
02. It Would Be So Nice
03. Julia Dream
04. Careful With That Axe, Eugene (single version)
05. Song 1 (Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, August 22 1968) *
06. Roger’s Boogie (Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, August 22 1968) *
BBC Radio Session, June 25 1968
07. Murderotic Woman (Careful With That Axe, Eugene) *
08. The Massed Gadgets Of Hercules (A Saucerful Of Secrets) *
09. Let There Be More Light *
10. Julia Dream *
BBC Radio Session, December 20 1968
11. Point Me At the Sky *
12. Embryo *
13. Interstellar Overdrive *

* = Previously Unreleased


Disc 5 – DVD/Blu-ray
‘Tienerklanken’, Brussels, Belgium, February 18-19 1968
01. Astronomy Domine
02. The Scarecrow
03. Corporal Clegg
04. Paintbox
05. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
06. See Emily Play
07. Bike
08. Apples And Oranges: ‘Vibrato’, Brussels, Belgium, February 1968
‘Bouton Rouge’, Paris, France, February 20 1968
09. Astronomy Domine
10. Flaming
11. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
12. Let There Be More Light
13. Paintbox: ‘Discorama’, Paris, France, February 21 1968
14. Instrumental Improvisation: ‘The Sound Of Change’, London, UK, March 1968 *
15. Set the Controls For the Heart Of The Sun: ‘All My Loving’, London, UK, March 28 1968
16. It Would Be So Nice (excerpt): ‘Release-Rome Goes Pop’, Rome, Italy, April 1968
17. Interstellar Overdrive: ‘Pop 68’, Rome, Italy, May 6 1968
‘Tienerklanken – Kastival’, Kasterlee, Belgiu, August 31 1968
18. Astronomy Domine
19. Roger Waters Interview
Samedi et Compagnie’, Paris, France, September 6 1968
20. Let There Be More Light
21. Remember A Day
22. Let There Be More Light: ‘A L’Affiche du Monde’, London, UK, 1968
‘Tous En Scene’, Paris, France, October 21 1968
23. Let There Be More Light
24. Flaming
25. Let There Be More Light: ‘Surprise Partie’, Paris, France, November 1 1968
26. Point Me At The Sky: Restored promo video, UK, 1968

* = Previously released

Disc 6
More non-album tracks
01. Hollywood (non-album track)
02. Theme (Beat version) (Alternative version) *
03. More Blues (Alternative version) *
04. Seabirds (non-album track) *
05. Embryo (from ‘Picnic’, Harvest Records sampler)
BBC Radio Session, May 12 1969
06. Grantchester Meadows *
07. Cymbaline *
08. The Narrow Way *
09. Green is the Colour *
10. Careful With That Axe, Eugene *
Live at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, August 9 1969
11. Interstellar Overdrive *
12. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun *
13. Careful With That Axe, Eugene *
14. A Saucerful of Secrets *

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 7
Part 1: ‘The Man’, Amsterdam, September 17 1969
01. Daybreak (Grantchester Meadows) *
02. Work *
03. Afternoon (Biding My Time) *
04. Doing It *
05. Sleeping *
06. Nightmare (Cymbaline) *
07. Labyrinth *
Part 2: ‘The Journey’, September 17 1969
08. The Beginning (Green is the Colour) *
09. Beset By Creatures of the Deep (Careful With That Axe, Eugene) *
10. The Narrow Way, Pt. 3 *
11. The Pink Jungle (Pow R. Toc H.) *
12. The Labyrinths of Auximines *
13. Footsteps / Doors *
14. Behold the Temple of Light *
15. The End of the Beginning (A Saucerful of Secrets) *

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 8 – DVD/Blu-ray
‘Forum Musiques’, Paris, France, January 22 1969
01. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
David Gilmour Interview
02. A Saucerful of Secrets
03. The Man’ and ‘The Journey’: Royal Festival Hall, London, rehearsal, April 14, 1969
Afternoon (Biding My Time)
The Beginning (Green is the Colour)
Beset By Creatures of the Deep *
The End of the Beginning (A Saucerful of Secrets)
Essencer Pop & Blues Festival, Essen, Germany, October 11 1969
04. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
05. A Saucerful of Secrets
Music Power & European Music Revolution, Festival Actuel, Amougies Mont de l’Enclus, Belgium, 25 October 1969
06. Green is the Colour
07. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
08. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
09. Interstellar Overdrive with Frank Zappa

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 9
01. Atom Heart Mother (Live in Montreux, Nov 21 1970) *
BBC Radio Session, July 16 1970
02. Embryo *
03. Fat Old Sun
04. Green is the Colour *
05. Careful With That Axe, Eugene *
05. If *
06. Atom Heart Mother with choir, cello, and brass ensemble *

* = Previously unreleased


Disc 10
Unreleased tracks from the Zabriskie Point soundtrack
01. On the Highway *
02. Auto Scene Version 2 *
03. Auto Scene Version 3 *
04. Aeroplane *
05. Explosion *
06. The Riot Scene *
07. Looking At Map *
08. Love Scene Version 7 *
09. Love Scene Version 1 *
10. Take Off *
11. Take Off Version 2 *
12. Love Scene Version 2 *
13. Love Scene (Take 1) *
14. Unknown Song (Take 1) *
15. Love Song (Take 2) *
16. Crumbing Land (Take 1) *
17. Atom Heart Mother (Early studio version, band only) *

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 11 – DVD
An Hour with Pink Floyd: KQED, San Francisco, April 30 1970
01. Atom Heart Mother
02. Cymabline
03. Grantchester Meadows
04. Green is the Colour
05. Careful With That Axe Eugene,
06. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Atom Heart Mother original 4.0 quad mix 1970 (audio only)
07. Atom Heart Mother
08. If
09. Summer ’68
10. Fat Old Sun
11. Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast

Disc 12 – DVD
‘Pop Deux – Festival de St. Tropez’ France, August 8 1970
01. Cymabline (Sound check)
02. Atom Heart Mother
03. Embryo
04. Green is the Colour
05. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
06. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Roland Petit Ballet, Paris France, December 5 1970
07. Instrumental Improvisations 1, 2, 3 *
08. Embryo
Blackhill’s Garden Party, Hyde Park, London, July 18 1970
09. Atom Heart Mother with th Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and John Alldis Choir

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 13
01. Nothing Part 14 (Echoes work in progress) *
BBC Radio Session, September 30 1971
02. Fat Old Sun *
03. One Of These Days *
04. Embryo *
05. Echoes *

* = Previously unreleased


Disc 14 – DVD/Blu-ray
‘Aspekte’ feature
01. Interview + Atom Heart Mother (extracts)
Hamburg, Germany, February 25 1971
Brass & Choir conducted by Jeffrey Mitchell
02. A Saucerful of Secrets (extract)
Offenbach, Germany, February 26 1971
‘Cinq Grands Sur La Deux’
Abbaye de Royaumont, Asnieres-sur-Oise, France, June 15 1971
03. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
04. Cymbaline
05. Atom Heart Mother (extract)
‘Musikforum Ossiachersee’, Ossiach, Austria, July 1 1971
Brass & Choir conducted by Jeffrey Mitchell
‘Get to Know’
Randwick Race Course, Sydney, Australia, August 15 1971
06. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Band Interview
’24 hours – Bootleg Records’, London, UK, 1971
07. Documentary including Pink Floyd and manager Steve O’Rourke
‘Review’, London, UK, 1971
08. Storm Thorgerson & Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell interviewed re: record cover design
09. One of These Days (‘French Windows’)
Ian Emes animation created July 1972, Birmingham, UK
10. Atom Heart Mother (extract, in colour)
‘Musikforum Ossiachersee’, Ossiach, Austria, July 1 1971
Brass & Choir conducted by Jeffrey Mitchell
11. Atom Heart Mother: ’71 Hakone Aphrodite
Open Air Festival, Hakone, Japan, August 6-7 1971
12. Echoes (original 4.0 Quad mix 1971) (Audio-only)

Disc 15
Obscured By Clouds 2016 Remix
01. Obscured By Clouds *
02. When You’re In *
03. Burning Bridges *
04. The Gold It’s In The… *
05. Wot’s…. Uh the Deal *
06. Mudmen *
07. Childhood’s End *
08. Free Four *
09. Stay *
10. Absolutely Curtains *

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 16 – DVD/Blu-ray
Recording Obscured by Clouds, Château d’Hérouville,France, February 23-29 1972
01. Wot’s…Uh The Deal: with recording session photos
02. Pop Deux: Documentary recording Obscured By Clouds
+ David Gilmour and Roger Waters interview
Brighton Dome, UK, June 29 1972
03. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
04. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Roland Petit Pink Floyd Ballet, France, news reports 1972-73
05. Actualités Méditerranée, Marseille, November 22 1972
06. JT Nuit – Les Pink Floyd, Marseille, November 26 1972
07. JT 20h – Pink Floyd, Paris, January 12 1973
08. Journal de Paris – Les Pink Floyd, Paris, January 12 1973
09. Poitiers – Autour Du Passage Des Pink Floyd
Concert set up news report – France, November 29 1972
Live At Pompeii (with 2016 5.1 Audio Remix)
10. Careful With That Axe, Eugene
11. A Saucerful of Secrets
12. One Of These Days
13. Set the Controls For the Heart of the SUn
14. Echoes

Disc 17
BBC Radio Session, September 25 1967
01. Flaming *
02. The Scarecrow *
03. The Gnome *
04. Matilda Mother *
05. Reaction in G
06. Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun *
BBC Radio Session, December 20 1967
07. Scream Thy Last Scream *
08. Vegetable Man *
09. Pow R. Toc H. *
10. Jugband Blues *
BBC Radio Session, December 2 1968
11. Baby Blue Shuffle in D Major *
12. Blues *
13. US Radio ad
14. Music From The Committee No. 1
15. Music From The Committee No. 2
16. Moonhead *
live from 1969 BBC TV moon landings broadcast
17. Echoes *
live at Wembley, 1974

* = Previously unreleased

Disc 18 – DVD/Blu-ray
01. Arnold Layne (Alternative version)
Hampstead Heath and St. Michael’s Church,
Highgate, London, UK, March 1967
02. P1 – P wie Petersilie’
Stuggart, Germany, July 22 1969
Corporal Clegg
Band interview
A Saucerful of Secrets
03. Atom Heart Mother
Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music’,
Shepton Mallet, UK, June 27 1970
04. ‘Kralingen Music Festival’
Rotterdam, The Netherlands, June 28 1970
Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun
A Saucerful of Secrets
05. ‘The Amsterdam Rock Circus’
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, May 22 1972
Atom Heart Mother
Careful With That Axe, Eugene
A Saucerful of Secrets
The Committee – (Feature Film)
Score by Pink Floyd

Disc 19 – DVD/Blu-ray
‘More’ feature film
‘La Vallée’ (Obscured By Clouds) feature film

7-inch vinyl singles in reproduction sleeves:
— Arnold Layne C/W Candy And A Currant Bun
— See Emily Play C/W The Scarecrow
— Apples And Oranges C/W Paintbox
— It Would Be So Nice C/W Julia Dream
— Point Me At The Sky C/W Careful With That Axe, Eugene


Categories: Previews | Leave a comment

Girl In Motion… HEARING IS BELIEVING Reviewed

img_2897_15387562603_o copy.jpgHIB POSTER print large 5.9.16.jpg

When Rachel Flowers was two, she could pick out “twinkle twinkle, little star” on a keyboard. Pretty good going, but that didn’t necessarily make her “a prodigy”… I mean, Mozart wrote that arrangement of TTLS when he was two. When she was four and a half, Rachel was playing Bach fugues by ear… OK… ok… you win. The girl’s a prodigy!

Fast forward 18 years and Ms Flowers is a Youtube phenomenon due to her spirited interpretations of a catholic collection of complex musical pieces, most notably for our purposes here, several classics from the Prog Rock canon. Lorenzo De Stefano was as impressed as anyone else (as he makes clear in the interview elsewhere on this site) and having gained the trust of the Flowers family, was well placed to capture the early trajectory of this shooting star…. and it’s to our considerable benefit that he has done so in this beautiful documentary.

As the author (among other admirable efforts) of a previous documentary about the abdicated king of bop guitar, Tal Farlow, DeStefano’s qualifications for painting a human portrait are impeccable. Wisely side-stepping such questions as the influence of heredity (it quickly becomes apparent that Rachel is the scion of a very musical family) and whether her extraordinary talent is despite or in some way because of her visual handicap, he concentrates on the effect that Genius exerts over those whom it chooses to inhabit and on the people with whom they share their lives. We get to know Rachel’s mom Jeanie, whose obvious pride in her daughter coincides with understandable anxieties and apprehensions… her brother Vaughan, whose individual identity DeStefano makes a point of honouring… and her father, whom we gather has become to some extent estranged from them and with whom reconciliation occurs (or is progressed) when he starts losing his own eyesight and his daughter becomes his mentor, which makes for tremendously touching stuff.


Mr Vaughan Flowers

We see family footage of Rachel as a baby in an incubator, where she spent three months when there seemed little likelihood that she would lead any sort of life, let alone a remarkable one. Thereafter home movies begin to alternate with news reports on her precocious musical exploits. With director DeStefano on the scene we see her going about her small town stuff at home in Oxnard, CA…  participating in family gatherings where she plays the shit out of whatever musical instrument is placed in front of her, taking the bus to a day at the braille institute in Santa Barbara, singing at church (where, range wise, she makes Minnie Ripperton sound like Ringo Starr), playing stuff for local school kids, wowing people at the supermarket with an impromptu performance of ELP’s Benny The Bouncer, collaborating with a local youth orchestra on one of her compositions… when several of her precious musical instruments are lost to burglary, scores of local people help out.


Half way through the film, as Rachel is idling on a swing,  there’s a pivotal dolly, zoom and dissolve to a train in the distance, en route to destinations unknown. Thereafter, the portents of a very different life begin to accumulate. David Pinto, music teacher for the blind, assesses Rachel’s talent as “not one in a thousand but one in ten thousand.” After a session with Arturo Sandoval, he tells her: “You are a flower.” Rachel plays with Taylor Eigsti’s band and he declares her “freakishly, unbelievably talented!”


We accompany Rachel and Jeanie to the Namm Convention at Anaheim, where she knocks everybody’s socks off on various state-of-the-art keyboard rigs and gets to hang out with Stevie Wonder, her idol (mine too, if you’ll indulge me in a sappy moment) Keith Emerson and Dweezil Zappa. The latter encounter sets up the documentary’s climax, as she joins Zappa Plays Zappa on stage in Las Vegas to contribute keys to Inca Roads then swap blistering guitar solos with Dweezil on Montana. Although the latter piece could easily be construed as quintessentially snotty FZ (a kind of dark reverse to ELO’s Wild West Hero), I’ve always felt its writer harboured a sneaky regard for the protagonist and compassion for the frailty of his goofy dreams of transcendence. Rachel Flowers’ aspirations are anything but goofy, though as she blazes her own trail (twinkling, twinkling… her “tweezers gleaming in the moonlighty night”) she will undoubtedly face setbacks and pitfalls. Whatever… this is a talent that will not be denied and to which, one imagines, Mr DeStefano (and many others) will be returning.

Hearing Is Believing? You ain’t heard nothing yet!


Categories: Film Reviews | 1 Comment


LORENZO DESTEFANO June 2015 photo 2MB.jpg

If you read my recent rave about Californian prodigy Rachel Flowers… or discovered her (as I did) through her astonishing clips on Youtube… however you discovered this musical phenomenon, I imagine you’ll have been anticipating Lorenzo DeStefano’s documentary about her, Hearing Is Believing, as keenly as I have. A review of the film follows shortly on this blog but in the meantime, I had the great pleasure of interviewing its director…

Lorenzo, thanks for talking to theozymandiasprogject. How did the recent premiere of Hearing Is Believing go?

The June 9, 2016 advance screening in Ventura went amazingly well. 2 screens. 400 people. Tremendous response. Much warmth, many tears, and a whole lotta love for the film and for the family that inspired it. The audience responses were just incredible… (* a sampling of them reproduced at the end of this interview – Oz.)

Those are some pretty impressive testimonials there… for anybody who isn’t yet aware of the phenomenon that is Rachel Flowers, what would you tell them about her?

Rachel’s given abilities and the music that is her inspiration make her a talent that cannot be ignored. She’s a survivor who is fast maturing into a consummate musical artist.

HIB POSTER print large 5.9.16.jpg

How did you first encounter Rachel’s music, then the lady herself and her family?

I was introduced to Rachel by Hans Ottsen, a prominent Ventura jazz  guitarist and friend. He said he had a new trio and that I should drop in and hear Adam Clark on drums and a young woman named Rachel Flowers on keyboards, flute and vocal. That was January 18, 2014 @ Squashed Grapes here in Ventura. Hans had told Rachel & Jeanie that I was a filmmaker whose work he admired. They weren’t actively looking for a film to be made, though I did learn that several people had approached them over the years but none had followed through, leading them to believe it would never happen or that film makers talk a good game but don’t deliver. For their own reasons they agreed, two months after we met, to discuss the possibility of a film. Before 3 months had elapsed we were filming, so I guess it was meant to happen when it did. 53 days and 21 months of filming later we’d completed production on the film, which had an editing schedule of 12+ months and over 300 hours of material to go through. At this point, some 30 months after we met, we consider each other very close friends as well as allies on a mission. “Team Rachel”, as it were. Everyone on that team believed she was fully deserving of the imaginative and insightful film that we have made about her. There’s a closeness that comes from having collaborated on something very special, a vehicle that will not only have its own life as a film but fuel Rachel’s rise to prominence on the international music scene.

RF + LDS NOODLE SHOP 1.15.15 IMG_8299.jpg

I imagine it was a no-brainer from the word go that you’d want to make a film about her?

It was a non-brainer that she was a very special musician. How special a person she is and the dynamics of her family life came later. This has been a very big effort for such a little person, a “neighbourhood girl”. But then Rachel always seems like a huge presence to me.

You’ll see from the new trailer ( ) that we’re trying to orient the audience by putting Rachel and her story in the context of this fucked-up world we live in, i.e. that there’s room for something else on our radar, not just the horrors, the noise out there. We’re counting on that, along with some inside politicking by us and our supporters, to get this on the radar of film distributors and music labels in the weeks and months ahead.

How did you go about funding it?

Over 150 contributors worldwide, from $10 to $40,000 at the high end, people who’ve known of Rachel for years via Youtube, new recruits to what we’re calling “Team Rachel”, and friends and longtime supporters of mine. $122,000 raised to date (in 2 years) out of a projected budget of $300,000. Never had a project click like this before. Probably never will again. Amazing support system based on love for Rachel and trust in me. It doesn’t get any better. It puts a lot of pressure on me to deliver, but that’s been a good thing. Now I feel we need to fulfil Rachel’s dreams and help her launch a major musical career. She and Jeanie will need professional and hopefully first rate representation & booking help to get there. Clearly the film and Rachel will proceed side by side for all time, which is a good thing.

Will Hearing Is Believing be playing at any festivals?

We just completed the film so it’s out now to domestic and international festivals for consideration.

Please tell us about the participation in it of people like Dweezil Zappa and Keith Emerson…

Both Dweezil & Keith knew about Rachel before I showed up, Keith especially. He let her play his rebuilt Moog before he even did, which was amazing. It’s sad he isn’t around to see her blossoming on film and in life. I was days away from sending him a cut of the film when March 10, 2016 came around and Keith was gone. The Emerson Tribute Concert in LA in May, as you know, put Rachel in front a whole new crowd, audience & musicians, and did she shine or what? Keith would’ve been smiling wide.


Dweezil had heard about her incredible covers of Inca Roads, Peaches en Regalia & Zoot Allures. He didn’t actually meet her until NAMM 2015, where we filmed their first encounter and where he invited her to play with Zappa Plays Zappa any time she liked. It was four months later, on April 25, 2015, when we shot the amazing sequence at the Brooklyn Bowl in Vegas, where she plays keyboard on Inca Roads and does a fierce guitar duel with Dweezil on “Montana”. Got the audience chanting “Rachel, Rachel, Rachel”. That was pretty incredible. She was stunned, as we all were.


What sort of a distribution is the film is going to get?

As first-rate as we can get, both theatrical, VOD, DVD, and all the related ancillary markets, domestic & foreign. It’s a long road to get a film like this to the public. There are lots of obstacles along the way. But, as Jeanie so wisely says in the film, “It’s marathon not a sprint”. People should stay in touch with our website & Facebook pages for updates on screenings, distribution, music gigs, etc.




Please tell us something about your previous music-themed films, Los Zafiros – Music From The Edge and Talmage Farlow..

Los Zafiros were “The Cuban Beatles” during the ’60s. My film reunited the two surviving band members, Manuel Galban and Miguel Cancio, and told their story to a backdrop of archive newsreel footage depicting life in Cuba at the height of The Cold War. The intention was to introduce them and their music to a whole new audience which I believe they deserve.

Tal Farlow was expected to follow his father into a dead end job in the textile industry in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he was born in 1921. Instead he taught himself guitar, listening to the jazz greats on the radio and worked his way up through dance bands till he was playing with the likes of Buddy DeFranco, Artie Shaw and in the Red Norvo trio with Charles Mingus. In 1958, at the top of his game, Tal retired from the music scene to become a sign painter in Sea Bright, New Jersey, a lovely East Coast beach town with a view of Manhattan. When asked why, the explanation he offered was: “It didn’t suit my temperament, I guess.”

Tal Film.jpg

This is the most fascinating thing about Farlow, isn’t it… that he just walked away from his glittering musical career?

I’m a failed jazz guitar player from Honolulu and Tal was one of my heroes along with Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Johnny Smith, Charlie Christian, Grant Green, et al.

God, I love Grant Green…

Tal always seemed to be the most unusual musically, the most daring, a guy who hung it all out over the edge without fear of failing (though I found out later, in the filming, that he did indeed have a high degree of anxiety, especially during the “comeback” after the film came out in ’81.) When I first asked him if I could make a film he politely turned me down, said he didn’t think there was anything there to film anyway. Typical genuine modesty on his part, but from my POV, inaccurate. Then I met him at the Concord Jazz Festival in ’78 and he agreed to let me try and raise some dollars, probably thinking I never would or could. While I was trying to put some funding together in ’79 I spent 3 weeks in Sea Bright with Tal and his then-wife, Tina, who was previously married to the very successful Austrian composer Frederick Lowe of Lerner & Lowe. I wrote the outline for the film during this time, did preliminary interviews with Tal, and got to know more about the man behind the myth, as it were. From there we regrouped in 1980 and started filming, on a budget that ended up in the region of $100,000. Making the film, my first long-form project, was really gratifying, the mission to let the public know about a guy whose legendary status was obscured by his early retirement in ’58 (he was only 37.) The 20 years of friendship with him was the real payoff. He asked me to be best man at his wedding to Michelle Hyk in ’98, just months before his death. That was a real honor. And he left me one of his Gibson Tal Farlow models, which I wish to hell I could play.

Could you envisage the situation in which Rachel, after being so intensely involved in her music for so long, could decide that she wanted do something else with her life?

I can’t even fathom what else she would do. As Jeanie says, “Music is her heart”. Check back with me in 20 years…

Thanks, Lorenzo.

Thank you, John.

… and further thanks to Lorenzo for the opportunity to catch a preview of Hearing Is Believing. It totally lived up to my expectations, a beautiful piece of work which I’ll be reviewing here soon.


* As promised, a selection of audience responses to the World Premiere of Hearing Is Believing in Ventura, 09/06/16…

“Just saw preview of a superb Oscar calibre documentary, ‘Hearing is Believing’. Look out for this unforgettable film.”

“Many congratulations on a superbly moving film. You knocked out the audience tonight. The blood sweat and tears you put into it shone dazzlingly through.”

“The movie was brilliant. Two sold out theatres, the back wall packed with people standing. Director Lorenzo DeStefano asked, ‘Do you think there’s a place in the world for this movie?’ Yes, I do.”

“Wonderful film. Amazing story.  Moving connection with Rachel and her music from the very beginning.”

“Great story, watching Rachel Flowers play is really amazing. She reaches out with music and all you have to do is listen and you’ll know the beauty of sound.”

“Lorenzo DeStefano has directed an extraordinarily sensitive and moving film. I’d see this film again and will recommend it. Not to be missed.”

“The film was really incredible.  It was so empowering.  I was tearing up one minute and then giggling right along with Rachel the next.”

“I enjoyed your film immensely. Thank you, Rachel Flowers, for the music that you make. Hard to put into words the impact of the purity of your composition, but you somehow channeled the soundtrack for life.”

FYI, Lorenzo recommends the following NY Times obit on Tal Farlow

and advises us that the entire archive for the his Farlow documentary is at Duke University in N. Carolina, preserved for researchers into the indefinite future –

Categories: Interviews | 2 Comments

Sevenfold Khatru From ’72… Yes’s PROGENY Box Set reviewed


If there’s a bustle in your woodshed, don’t be alarmed now…

Progeny: Seven Shows From Seventy-Two by Yes.

CD. Rhino. 081227950417

More than one P*nk partial, Prog averse rockumentary that I’ve suffered through has cited, as ultimate proof of how unbearable life before “Year Zero” was, the fact that Yes were actually allowed to release triple live albums in elaborate Roger Dean sleeves. Well, a lot of water has flown under the bridge in the last forty years or so and by 2015 the situation was so transformed that Rhino were able to release this 14 CD (!) box set, curating in their entirety 7 gigs from Yes’s autumn ’72 tour of North America. … and yes, those 14 CDs come in a rather nifty little box, designed by Mr Dean.

Devoted to sonic clarity in their concert performances, Yes struggled to capture anything like it in on any of their live albums. YesSongs, the 1973 artefact mentioned above, has stood as the go-to document of this band at their prime and in their pomp for decades now… but boy, does it sound murky! 1980’s Yesshows (culled from two different line-ups over the period 1976-8) fared scarcely better in this regard and the 2005 Rhino box The Word Is Live, a chronological trawl through the band’s by-then byzantine concert history, was a mixed bag soundwise… and of course all the earlier stuff, from arguably “the glory years”, was resolutely lo-fi.

For Progeny, Steve Woolard and Brian Kehew went back to the tapes of the gigs from which the bulk of YesSongs was compiled, found them in deplorable condition and collaborated on the sonic miracle under consideration here. If you want to know why these tapes took so long to unearth, what was wrong with them and how Woolard and Kehew weaved their magic on them, I’ll refer you to the 40 page booklet that comes with the box… what do you mean, you haven’t bought the box? Buy it! Give or take a bootleg or two, the “classic line-up” (give or take a Bruford or two) has never sounded livelier, crisper or fresher.


Over the eponymous seven shows (Toronto, 31.10.72… Ottawa, 01.11.72… Durham NC, 11.11.72… Greensboro NC, 12.11.72… Athens GA, 14.11.72… Knoxville TN, 15.11.72 and Uniondale NY, 20.11.72) Yes present their latest offering Close To The Edge in its entirety, punctuated with classic cuts from The Yes Album and Fragile. The set list – Siberian Khatru, I’ve Seen All Good People, Mood For A Day / Clap, Heart Of The Sunrise, Close To The Edge, Excerpts From The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Roundabout and Yours Is No Disgrace holds constant for each gig, the only slight variations being that Heart Of The Sunrise and Mood For A Day / Clap change places in the running order after Toronto and that the latter sometimes becomes Clap / Mood For A Day, depending on how the mood strikes Steve Howe at any given gig.

Each one kicks off with the band tuning up to and noodling along with the familiar strains of perennial opener, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, then we’re off. Howe’s guitar and Rick Wakeman’s keys square off against each other in your left and right ears respectively, Chris Squire and Alan White hold the centre and bottom while Jon Anderson’s ethereal Lancastrian tones soar high above them. Although this box might well have been conceived partly in tribute to Squire, who was entering the final few months of his life when it came out, the bass throughout is subdued by his sublime standards… not exactly the old Motown cliche of being most effective when you don’t hear it, but with nothing like its thunderous range and presence on other recordings (even Yesshows showcases him to better effect than this.) The booklet suggests that Squire is here still concentrating on locking with White and leading him through the complexities of parts devised by Bill Buford before he decamped to King Crimson on the eve of Yes’s summer ’72 tour.


This review posted a year after we lost him. R.I.P.

What it boils down to is that these gigs are all about the interplay and competition between maestros Howe and Wakeman, with Howe emerging a clear winner. While Wakeman’s keyboard workouts are undoubtedly virtuosic, he doesn’t vary the formula much from gig to gig while Howe rings the changes constantly, making it up as he goes in a joyous eruption of spontaneity. In a much mocked radio broadcast, Tommy Vance once observed that Steve Miller could “make his guitar recite Ohms Law if he wanted t0” but Howe genuinely gives the impression here that he can pluck whatever he wants from his fretboard, at the precise moment it occurs to him to do so. Is he inspiring the rest of the band onwards and upwards with these serene flights of musical fancy or taking advantage of the rock solid foundation they’re laying down for him? Whichever, it’s noticeable that the two nights when Howe’s improvisational inclinations are taking him down some dead ends are the ones (Greensboro and Knoxville) where the band as a whole aren’t quite hitting it.


Despite the ups and downs that would be inevitable for any band over seven nights, this is overwhelmingly excellent stuff and a week spent getting your head round it would be a very well spent week indeed. Who’d have thought that we’d ever get the chance to listen to such a run of classic Yes gigs in this pristine form… certainly not Jon Anderson, who otherwise might have varied his “ad libs” a bit (though in Athens a spot of anti-Burger King rhetoric joins the familiar rap about protest songs which prefaces each performance of And You And I.)  Anderson announces in Ottawa that he’s about to leave the stage and “change me trousers” to distract the audience during the regular awkward gap that accompanies Howe tuning up for his solo acoustic spot (easy to see why Peter Gabriel started improvising his macabre Jackanories during similar longueurs during Genesis gigs.)

b2b33ffdacb72cb622cca5d9f92e55fc.jpgOther things to listen out for and enjoy… the awed “Woah!” from each crowd as a mirror ball is deployed to shower them with light at the commencement of every Close To The Edge (a still recent addition to the set that has attained monumental proportions by Durham)… somebody in Toronto shouting “Not bad!” (“Not ‘alf, mate!”) and, later in that gig, Wakeman’s unplanned duet with Chuck Mangione as a radio broadcast invades the P.A. in a moment that was obviously inspirational to the makers of Spinal Tap… some refugee from The Boys Own Paper shouting “Hurrah” when Anderson announces CTTE in Ottawa… Wakeman getting higher and higher in the mix as the Knoxville show proceeds (sorry, progresses)… and the band defying microphone malfunctions that repeatedly threaten to derail Uniondale before a slowburn slide into a barnstorming YIND that closes the tour on an appropriately ecstatic high.

The best (sez who?) renditions of each track have been assembled on a 2 disc sampler, Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two but who among you would settle for that? Bloody lightweights…


Categories: Box Sets | 2 Comments

Hope Flowers Eternal… RACHEL FLOWERS Takes Up The Torch

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On March 11th I was preparing a tribute to Italian horror director extraordinaire Lucio Fulci to appear on my film blog 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.


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.


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.)


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 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.

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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…

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Rest In Peace… and thank you.

Categories: Features | 3 Comments

Return Of The Prog Prodigal… IAN McDONALD Interviewed In 2004


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?


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…


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.


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.


Signing Sid Smith’s In The Court Of King Crimson with J Wetton and M Giles (

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?


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…

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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?


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



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.

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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.


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.


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!


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.

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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!

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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! 



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


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.

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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.


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.


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.


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…

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.



Categories: Interviews | Leave a comment

Doctor Who Vs Prog Rock… THE ENTROPY COMPOSITION Reviewed


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

Turn On, Tune In… Drop Your Remote Control Down The Back Of The Sofa: PSYCHEDLIC BRITANNIA / TOTALLY ’60s PSYCHEDELIC ROCK AT THE BBC Reviewed


A word of preamble is appropriate here, if you’ll allow it (and how exactly are you proposing to disallow it, anyway?) Although The Prog Consultant and I invariably enjoy each other’s company under optimal conditions these days, i.e. over tea (me) and coffee (him) in The Boot Room, while listening to and watching Prog… ’twas not always so. Oh no. We first made each other’s acquaintance during a mutually unfortunate stint in a… choke… day j*b. While our male colleagues enthused about what ever dance “music” garbage was flavour of the day and the office harridans wet themselves over boy bands, TPC and I bonded over the discovery of our mutual love of Prog, Psyche and Fusion.

Is it elitist for those of us who revere King Crimson, Yes, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa to sneer at those whose preferences run to N-Dubz, Robbie Williams and The X Factor? Probably… so sue us!

Indeed, we got through the horrors (visual, aural and olfactory) of many a Friday afternoon on the public counter speculating about the prospective merits of that evening’s music documentaries on BBC 4. A recurrent strand among those was the “X” Britannia” series, in which the British contributions to and experience of various genres (“X” standing for jazz, folk, reggae, p*nk, whatever… and yes, they did a Prog one) were covered and assessed. Though long freed from the shackles of diurnal drudgery, we still look forward to such Friday night entertainments and Kalbir Dhillon’s Psychedelic Britannia (originally broadcast on BBC 4, 23.10.15) could have been made with precisely such snotty old gits as us in mind.

PB opened very promisingly with a nice trippy montage to the accompaniment of Traffic’s wonderful Paper Sun. When the penny dropped that the narrator was Nigel Planer (that’s right, the brain damaged hippy in The Young Ones) suspicions were roused that this was going to be one of those hatchet jobs which invariably conclude with the punch-line that Psyche and  / or Prog only existed as deplorable aberrations that retrospectively illustrate what a wonderful remedy p*nk was (puke!) But no, Planer played it mercifully straight and the doc panned out pretty fairly. Sidestepping the more obvious claims of The Fab Four (to whom due deference was later paid), the program took an oblique, albeit valid entry point to its subject in the shape of The Yardbirds gregorian chant / sitar phase.


No Floyds were interviewed (fear not, gentle viewer, David Gilmour would get 75 minutes of prime BBC 2 Saturday night to himself a couple of weeks later with the doc Wider Horizons) but Pete Jenner (former Floyd manager), Joe Boyd (early Floyd producer), David Gale (a member of Syd Barrett’s Cambridge set) and sculptor Emily Young (another of same and reputed inspiration for See Emily Play) all got to say their piece. Amid the rampant stock footage that you you always knew were going to get (weekend drop outs painting their faces and dancing in the park, hipsters buying military duds in Carnaby Street, etc) were plenty of other authoritative talking heads (or should that be talking Heads?), including ’60s survivors Ginger Baker, Gary Brooker, Edgar Broughton, Arthur Brown, Pete Brown, Justin Hayward, Steve Howe, Kenney Jones, Dick Taylor of The Pretty Things, Twink and Robert Wyatt (see how I alphabetised them… sober as a judge!) Other disinterred scenesters whose wrinkly features popped up were the ubiquitous Barry Miles, Nigel Waymouth (proprietor of psyche outfitters Granny Takes A Trip) and Simon Napier Bell (thankfully talking about The Yardbirds rather than Wham…)


Ozymandias was particularly chuffed to see Roy Wood (a Boot Room Hall-of-Famer on account of his heroic efforts over half a Century) demonstrating how he got his guitar to sound like a sitar on I Can Hear The Gross Grow. While acknowledging Roy’s brilliance, Joe Boyd argued that The Move’s psychedelic phase had more to do with booze than anything that made Albert Hoffman fall of his bike… well yes, but you could say pretty much the same about 3/4 of the original Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett being the obvious exception.) And speaking of booze, did you know that Roy Wood was nearly a founder member of Asia, but… oh, that’s another story. A further brace of Boot Room heroes were trotted out in the shapes of Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone… total Mensches, the pair of them. Until somebody conclusively demonstrates the contrary to me, The Zombies stand as The Boot Room’s hands-down pick for most underrated British band of all time… see interview elsewhere on this blog.

A section about “getting your shit together in the country” ambled around rather too long in its rustic rut… a bit too much Mike Heron (Incredible String Band) perhaps, but it’s always a treat to hear the beautiful voice of Vashti Bunyan. You could argue the toss back-and-forth forever about who should and shouldn’t have figured In this program. It would have been useful to hear what Pete Townshend had to say (given the shove that the Who’s I Can See For Miles gave to the scene posthumously dubbed “freakbeat”, tipping it irrevocably into full-blown psychedelia), ditto Keith Emerson, given my half-baked theory (with which I’ve bored The Prog Consultant on many occasions) that Psyche starts morphing into Prog about halfway through The Nice’s Second Album, Ars Longa Vita Brevis (1968.) The show’s outro doesn’t pursue the “Psyche into Prog” line particularly proactively but places Peter Gabriel’s lawn mowing routine alongside Ziggy Stardust, Led Zeppelin’s eclectic brew of electrified roots music and various others as possible scions of Psyche’s brief flowering.

As to why it ever flowered in the first place, Dhillon’s thesis seems to identify in it the ideal escape route from the world of drudgery cooked up in the white hot crucible of Harold Wilson’s Technological Revolution, a route that led simultaneously backwards and inwards… a retreat path that beckons even more brightly in today’s dreary world of aspiring strivers, budget responsibility, austerity… and when we’re not being bored titless by all that crap we’re being scared shitless by war and terrorism!


In the absence of any contemporary bands to illuminate the way for us, The Beeb helpfully segued straight from Dillon’s doc to Totally ’60s Psychedelic Rock At The BBC, a compilation of clips culled from their considerable archives. I think this one has been broadcast before (unless memory betrays me) but was no less welcome for that. Once again The Yardbirds kicked off the proceedings with a performance of Over Under Sideways Down from the program Whole Scene Going in 1966, setting the template for most of the subsequent clips (i.e. monochrome and mimed), if not without its its own directorial peculiarities in the shape of  orientalist opticals left over from a Fry’s Turkish Delight commercial in an ambitious but ineptly executed attempt to marry vaguely oriental visuals and music… guess it looked really far out in ’66! The following year’s excerpt from Look Of The Week, in which The Pink Floyd perform Astronomy Domine, probably needs little introduction to followers of this blog. Ditto the “sine-wave” performance of Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade Of Pale on TOTP in 1967… Gary Brooker is definitely singing live over pre-recorded music on this one.

Next up, speak of the devil, it’s Mr Townshend and his buddies miming to the aforementioned I Can See For Miles on Twice A Fortnight (1967) … oodles of vertigo-inducing zooms in this one and some puzzling shots of Charles De Gaulle (well, the lyrics do mention The Eiffel Tower.) Finally you get to dig some groovy colours as Donovan strums his way through Sunshine Superman on The Bobbie Gentry Show in 1968… a song he composed on a Tambura that George Harrison allegedly gave him in Rishikesh. The captions also remind us that 3/4 of Led Zeppelin and Clem Cattini played on the original track… Bonham and Cattini on the same track? Talk about an embarrassment of percussive riches! Here, at last, come The Nice, taking us back to black and white with an abridged reading of America on the show How It Is (1968)… Emerson’s knife chucking antics fail to distract us from the mimed nature of the performance… I mean, I can hear Davey O’List’s guitar at various points but the dude himself is nowhere to be seen, presumably because he’d just been sacked. Another iconic psyche moment follows, with Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger And The Trinity doing This Wheel’s On Fire on TOTP (1968). From the same year and the same show, step forward Status Quo with Pictures Of Matchstick Men… Franics Rossi is  clearly singing live, cracking up at one point and the band generally look less than comfortable in their freaky threads. A few years down the line they’d discover The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues and the rest is three chord shuffle history. Was there ever any doubt that The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown would complete a hat trick of 1968 TOTP clips with Fire? It’s often claimed that the masked drummer on this one is a young Carl Palmer but no, it’s actually his predecessor in TCWOAB, one Drake Theaker.


Joe Cocker goes OTT on With A Little Help From My Friends on How It Is (1968) then we’re back into another run of colour with The Small Faces, who all come out to groove about to a mimed version of Song For A Baker from Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (Late Night Lineup, 1968.) My God, these guys really knew how to work a stage. Paul Weller, eat yer heart out. The Moody Blues put in the first of two appearances with Ride My See Saw (Late Night Lineup, 1968) before The Bonzo Dog Band try their best to look as though they’re actually playing The Canyons Of Your Mind (on Colour Me Pop in 1968), with Neil Innes delivering mock acid rock guitar heroics that pre-Tufnel Nigel Tufnel. There’s more sitar twanging from The Incredible String Band on The Half-Remarkable Question (Once More With Felix, 1968) before a really exciting and most definitely live rendition of I Can Hear The Grass Grow (Colour Me Pop, 1969) which underlines just how much The Move pinched (and to what good effect they pinched it) from The Who and also what a power house Trevor Burton became in that band after he took over bass duties from the departed Ace Kefford (The Move’s Brian Jones figure.)

There’s a brief relapse into b/w for the celebrated Jimi Hendrix Experience performance of Hey Joe / Sunshine Of Your Love which proved a bit too much of a happening for the producers of Happening For Lulu (1969)… they should have been tipped off that they were in for trouble when they clocked Noel Redding’s Plaster Casters T-shirt. All of which follows logically into Cream’s White Room from their Royal Albert Hall swan song (as recorded by Omnibus in 1969.) Finally, it’s those Bloody Moos again, with Justin Hayward on (yes, yet another) sitar for Om (Late Night Lineup, 1968.)

An enjoyable and reasonably representative concoction, then. Even the allegedly witty and informative captions with which the Beeb retrospectively plaster these things weren’t too annoying but this was possibly because I wasn’t reading most of them. The captioners did manage to excel themselves though with their claim that the Matchstick Men of the Status Quo song title are a reference to L.S. Lowry… substitute “D” for “Lowry” and you’ve got that about right.

Pics Of MSM.jpg

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


Categories: Idiot Box | 2 Comments

Thrak For My Daddyo… The THRAK Box Set Reviewed

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King Crimson’s fifth touring incarnation, the “double trio” formation, coalesced in 1994 and gigged until 1996. After 1997 rehearsals in Nashville were derailed by recurrent friction between Robert Fripp and Bill Buford, the band “frakctalised” into four “Projekcts”, sub-groups charged with evolving repertoire for “The Greater Krim”… which, in the event, declined to reassemble itself.

From this brief period in Crimson history Fripp managed to conjure the mini-album Vrooom (which helped to finance…)… the fully fledged album Thrak… several live recordings and a couple of live DVDs, plus various recordings of The Projekcts (all of these released generally and / or via the Crimson Collectors’ Club.) Not a bad haul from a short-lived band that set itself ambitious aims and never really fulfilled them. But you ain’t heard nothing yet…

Epic Crimson box sets have become de rigour in recent pre-Xmas release slates. Ozymandias is still getting his head around the Larks’ Tongues, Road To Red and Starless – Live In Europe collections. Now the Thrak box has arrived with a resounding thwak on the Boot Room welcome mat, comprising 16 (CD, DVD and BD) Discs, a 40 page glossy booklet, posters and sundry bits of other memorabilia. The musical content presents a bewildering array of material in various mixes and formats, conflating new and previously available stuff, remade and remodelled according to the kaleidoscopic vision of Fripp and DGM eminence gris Dave Singleton. The live footage comprises a newly discovered gig from San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre (26.06.95) together with the band’s dates at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo  (05/06.10.95), the latter looking suspiciously like what has already been released on the Deja Vrooom DVD (though with less of the interactive features boasted by that disc, rather more vaseline on the lens and perhaps a more frenetic assemblage of shots… dunno, will have to find time to do a proper compare-and-contrast.)

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So far I’ve managed to leaf through the booklet and ephemera while listening to the 5.1 Blu-ray audio mix of Thrak, masterminded by current Crim Jakko Jakszyk. As is always the way with any surround sound mix worth its sonic salt, any amount of previously unnoticed subtleties were revealed to me. Sterling work, Mr Jakszyk! When the opportunity presents itself, I’ll commence the daunting task of consuming the rest of this box by listening to Jurassikc Thrak, a disc of the eponymous album as work-in-progress (which I doubt will top… could anything ever top?… the corresponding platter on the Larks’ Tongues box.) Then I’ll be checking out ATTAKcATHRAK, Singleton’s sequel to the improv montage THRaKaTTaK (1996), a record which I’ve only revisited when “in the mood” for it… i.e. hardly ever.

So that’s going to be a considerable investment of time (and has already been a not inconsiderable investment of money) in what has always been one of my least favourite King Crimson line-ups. Jeez, that Fripp guy could sell snow to frickin’ eskimos…

This review previously appeared on the now defunct Bootroom Of Ozymandias blog… and yes, I’m still working my way through the THRAK box!

Categories: Box Sets | 1 Comment

Wacks For My Daddyo… HOT WACKS (15th Edition) Reviewed

Hot Wacks

The Boot Room team’s relentless rooting through second hand stores has thrown up many items of interest, including most recently the one under consideration here – Kurt Glemser’s Hot Wacks Book XI, glommed from a local Oxfam shop. Mr Glemser was (and hopefully still is) an inhabitant of Kitchener, Ontario, from where he indulged his obsession with bootlegs via two samizdat publications, the self-explanatory Bootlegs (March 1973) and Underground Sounds (October ’74). From there it was a natural progression to the ‘zine Hot Wacks Quarterly, allegedly regarded by many collectors as “the bootleg bible.” Possibly in a dispute over such distinctions, Kurt subsequently became embroiled in a slanging match with rival ROIO authority Clinton Heylin, author of The Great White Wonders. As well as being packed with bootleg poop, HWQ enticed its readers with cover pictorials of the sexiest female rockers it could round up. That publication mutated into the less frequent Hot Wacks Book, this 15th edition of which (a Blue Flake production comprising upwards of 350 perfect bound A5, pages) saw the light of day in December 1985.

For those of us who’ve missed editions 1-10 and indeed the whole run of HWQ, it’s not immediately apparent whether the records in here are a bunch of addenda to stuff that Mr Glemser covered previously or the latest incarnation of an ongoing, consolidated list. Obviously it’s not exactly up to date in 2015.  “Remember this is a discography not a catalog…” warns KG from his vantage point somewhere in 1985: “Most of the records are long out of circulation and not available from the usual bootleg sources” No foolin’… much bootleg material has flown down the download lines since then… sheesh, there aren’t even any CDs in here! And some of these releases are certainly… er, “of their time”, including no less than five Adam And The Ants (!) efforts. Which is not to say that the usual suspects don’t hog most of HWBXI’s pages… 32 of them are devoted to The Rolling Stones, 28 to The Fab Four, while The Zim cops Bronze with 18… Elvis ties with The Boss at 12 pages, Led Zep manage a disappointing 9 and Zappa a surprisingly scant 8… The Floyd and The ‘Oo manage a meagre 6 each and Hendrix can only muster 5. The small section devoted to Genesis boots comes up surprisingly short on Lamb Lies Down shows and there are a lot of them around these days… believe me, I once listened to 25 of them in a very condensed time frame. If your OCD doesn’t stretch to that, see if you can pick up a copy (maybe from your local Oxfam shop?) of Paul Russell’s Play Me My Song: Genesis – A Live Guide 1969-75 to get some idea of just how many shows were recorded from that tour.


Information on each record is skimpy. Typically you get the album title, track listing, catalogue number (if applicable), performance venue / date and sound quality ratings. The names of the acts could have done with being printed in larger type face for ease of use. Each act’s entries are listed alphabetically by title when by gig date would have been more user-friendly (I know that the dating on these things is not necessarily super reliable, but the titling of them wasn’t exactly hard and fast, either.) Inevitably, certain typos leap out at you (Who are “Cheap Tricks” when they’re at home… or anywhere else for that matter?) Illustrations are scarcer then hen’s teeth with, regrettably, precisely none of the sexy minxes who used to adorn the covers of HWQ in evidence here. Speaking of which, West Midlands readers might well be having a ribald laugh over the title which Mr Gleamer awarded to his life’s work… or does the same venereal vernacular apply over in Kitchener, Ontario?

Glemser says that the best bootlegs were inseparable from official product but there’s probably very little likelihood that anyone will ever confuse Dead Fucking Bollocks (KC 1710), a Japanese bootleg of King Crimson’s September 1969 Chesterfield appearance (mis-dated into the bargain) with DGM’s legit release of the same material as part of the Epitaph box set. Actually, I wouldn’t take much persuading that Fuck Off (E.F. OX556) was an official Motorhead release… but it turns out to be another boot.

The Doors’ listing omits the well-known Jim / Jimi / Johnny / Buddy jam Woke Up This Morning And Found Myself Dead but includes the equally (dis)respectful title Get Fat And Die, not to mention the enticing Leather Pants In Denmark. Glemser says that the best bootlegs were inseparable from official product but there’s probably very little likelihood that anyone will ever confuse Dead Fucking Bollocks (KC 1710), a Japanese bootleg of King Crimson’s September 1969 Chesterfield appearance (mis-dated into the bargain) with DGM’s legit release of the same material as part of the Epitaph box set. Actually, I wouldn’t take much persuading that Fuck Off (E.F. OX556) was an official Motorhead release… but it turns out to be another boot.

Zappa oddities include Announcing To All Disc Jockeys – The All New Dynamic Duo (US LTD VC5236), Frank’s unexpected (to say the least) collaboration with Burt “Boy Wonder” Ward and How Much Rot Can You Handle (KB 1041), a good question for any reader of this book, even if they did leave off the question mark.  Twenty Years Of Frank Zappa (MUD SHARK MZ4801-4812) was apparently a 12 disc box set that came with a 16 page booklet. 1,000 copies were pressed, over 50% of them being seized when the Zappa family took exception. It was liberties such as these that led Frank into his much imitated “beat the boots” campaign of releasing officially endorsed bootlegs (though Robert Fripp was, as so often, first out of the traps with this tactic, see King Crimson’s Earthbound in 1972.)

Kurt tries to put the reader right where he can, caveat emptoring re cavalier branding such as Mott The Hoople Live With David Bowie (LTD1973): “Bowie does not appear on the LP, nor do the songs Midnight Lady, All The Young Dudes and Honky Tonk Women (though) listed on the cover…” (apart from that, very accurate!) and delivers a deadbeat alert about some delinquent ‘zine distributor in Edinburgh who never coughed up (Oz suffered from precisely such sharp practice shenanigans in his former incarnation as a horror fanzine publisher.)

One final random flick reveals such oddities as Groucho Marx’s I Never Kissed An Ugly Woman (TAKRL 1984) and David Cassidy & The Partridge Family – Rarities (SG-007/8). Right, I think I’ve finally sorted out The Prog Consultant’s Christmas present…

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

Categories: Book Reviews | 2 Comments

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