origins of a prog nerd

when i was young (a long time ago), i remember going to this store called BEST. not Best Buy. BEST. this was before Best Buy was even conceived. it was some kinda mail-order catalog company that had a chain of stores as well. they were getting rid of their albums (i was still buying vinyl at this point). all the albums were a dollar each. i bought three albums, i had no clue as to what was on them. i was just interested. the first one i chose was
king crimson's discipline. i picked it because i really liked the design on the cover. eventually, i'd get a tattoo of that design on my left shoulder.

after looking at it a bit, i rummaged through the other albums. i noticed two albums by this guy named adrian belew. never heard of him, but the name sounded familiar. then i realized his name was listed on the back of the
king crimson album i was holding. fascinating. the albums were lone rhino, and twang bar king.

so i bought them, and went home to listen to them. the
king crimson album was weird. at this point, i'd pretty much been an AM radio top 40 kid. king crimson was unlike anything i'd ever heard. some of it was really fucking out there. there's a song called elephant talk, where he goes through a few letters of the alphabet and shouts out words that are synonyms for talk.
the guitar fx were crazy. on that song, it actually sounded like elephants. really fucking cool.

talk! it's only talk! babble, burble, banter, bicker, Bicker, BICKER! BROUHAHA! BALDERDASH! BALLYHOO! it's only talk...

another song that was strange to me (at the time) is indiscipline. the bass starts off the song, low and sort of ominous. drums and guitar slowly kick in. there's no set rhythm to the drums, but the guitar parts are sort of like a heartbeat. then they just tear loose. after a minute, it abruptly shuts down and belew starts talking:

I do remember one thing.
It took hours and hours but..
by the time I was done with it,
I was so involved, I didn't know what to think.
I carried it around with me for days and days..
playing little games
like not looking at it for a whole day
and then.. looking at it.
to see if I still liked it.
I did.

what the fuck? i didn't get it at all, but i thought it was cool.

there's a song called thela hun ginjeet. it's fucking great, it's still one of my favorite kc songs. again, the lyrics are spoken. the music is magnificent and kinda angry, and i'd never heard anything like it.

Well, first of all,
I couldn't even see his face.
I couldn't see his face.
He was holding a gun in his hand.
Umm... I was thinking...
This is a dangerous place..
This is a dangerous place..

I said, "I'm nervous as hell from this stuff.
I thought those guys were going to kill me for sure.
They ganged up on me like that.
I couldn't believe it.
Look, I'm still shakin'.
There out in the streets like that.
It's a dangerous place.
It's a dangerous place."

So, suddenly, these two guys appear in front of me.
They stopped.
Real aggressive.
Start at me, you know.
"What's that?" "What's that on that tape?"
What do you got there?"
I said, "huh?"
They said, "What are you talking into that for?"
I said, "It's just a tape, you know"
"Well play it for me"
I said "oh, no"
I put it off as long as I could.
And finally they turned it on, you know
They grabbed it from me.
Took it away from me.
Turned it on.
And it said, "He held a gun in his hand. This is a dangerous place."
They said, "What dangerous place?" "What gun?" "You're a policeman!"
And the deeper I talked, the worse I got into it.
I talked, I told him... I said, "Look man, I'm not talkin'...."
It went on forever.
Anyway, I finally unbuttoned my shirt, and said,
"look, look... I'm in this band, you know, I'm in this band you know,
and we're makin' a recording, you know.
It's about New York City, it's about crime in the streets..."
The explanation was going nowhere, but,
Finally, they just kinda let me go, I don't know why.
So I walk around the corner,
and I'm like shakin' like a leaf,
and I thought, "This is a dangerous place"

Who should appear, but two policeman.

there's an instrumental song, called the sheltering sky. it's so strange, the effects that belew used. i would lie on my bed, listening to this. this song in particular would conjur up visions of some bizarre alien landscape.

belew's solo albums are quite different. not nearly as experimental. the lyrics on those albums are more personal, thoughtful, and humorous. there's a song about his father, who passed away (man in the moon). another song is about the (mis)treatment of animals (lone rhinoceros). there's a song called fishhead. i don't know what he could have been on when he wrote that, but it's pretty funny. he's very much influenced by the beatles and hendrix, but definitely has his own style. his playing is great, i think he can flat out rock with anyone.

i was thinking about this tonight, my friends never liked this shit. seriously, i was always being teased by those fuckers. even though i listened to what they liked, i would listen to stuff like this as well and occasionally subject them to it. it all started with that trip to BEST.

dgm live (label)
king crimson
adrian belew
elephant-talk.com (kc fansite)

listen to king crimson:
elephant talk
thela hun ginjeet

listen to adrian belew:
lone rhinoceros
the man in the moon


sharon said...

I'm really surprised, Elephant Talk sounds quite David Byrney!

I need to get some more KC, but it might take a while to work up to this album. :)

Stef said...

"some of it was really fucking out there"
That sounds about right, King Crimson are as mad as a box of frogs!

I wouldn't have had you down as a KC man, kinda interesting that you have a tattoo of a design used on one of their albums.

I'm really glad I didn't get any tattoos because I probably would have had something really naff like the Icarus from Led Zep's Swan Song label... My mum is very much into all that Celtic stuff so when I was the age to get tattoos I ruled them out because they reminded me of my mum!