Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Thursday 11 January 2001

The familiar meeping of tape...

The familiar meeping of tape test tones is meeping away: "Three Of A Perfect Pair" is being lined up for action. Now, the title track is werning.

Recording the TOAPP album was even more of an ordeal than recording "Beat", acknowledging that my view of this period is subjective. In a nutshell, the price for making "Discipline" was to make the next two albums, this the inevitable outcome of taking an idea into a world governed by the music industry. In that world of 1981, the contractual minimum was three albums.

"Discipline" had to be made, was waiting to made: there was a necessity about it. "Discipline" generated a new vocabulary for Crimson; forced the players to abandon clichés & adopt different ways of thinking; used new technology & instruments; and balanced front line & rhythm section with greater equity than the 1973-74 Crim. The band composition became equally Anglo-American, and the Americans were not managed, ie controlled, by EG. So, for the first time, the musicians were paid for touring. We moved to a new record label, Warner Brothers, along with Roxy Music & the EG Records catalogue.

The novel musical approaches of "Discipline", including the double-guitar interlock, Roland guitar synths, and Chapman stick & Simmons' drums without much cymbal and hi-hat, set up a series of challenges; like, it wasn't so easy to fall back on clichés. But, after a year, players who have exerted themselves and worked in unfamiliar ways begin to hanker for their more established modes of expression. So, rather than developing what we had achieved in 1981, we moved back to more conventional forms. That's my view.

We also compressed the making of 3 albums into 3 years, which was probably too short for the music to emerge organically. But, with different career interests and tensions in the band, had we waited longer maybe little more would have developed organically anyway. Regardless of what the albums achieved, "Absent Lovers" (recorded on the group's last two nights in Montreal, 1984) validates the group as a live unit, right up to the end. That particular end was a finish, a conclusion and a completion. No discussion followed the end of the tour, to address either working together or not working together.

We recorded the last shows on multi-track. Sensing that the end of the band might be nigh, this allowed for a possible live-album to commemorate the outfit (as with "USA"). Bill mixed the tapes for a Canadian radio broadcast, which became a bootleg (as with any radio broadcast) called "Absent Lovers". Any mix of any music is a presentation of a world-view: a sonic society of the imagination, how we see that world & our place in it. When I was given a copy of Bill's mix, it confirmed my sense of Bill's Crimson world-view, and gave deep offence. My own Crimson world-view of the same event can be found on the DGM "Absent Lovers" (with acknowledgement to David Singleton, my Ton Prob partner). Bill's is on the bootleg.

The 3 years' commitment discharged, world views divergent, we went different ways. For my part, I went to Claymont Court to allow the future to present itself, without any demand on what that future might be & require of me.

Part of the pressure of working with Crim is that it takes so long before what we do is heard & accepted. So, any current Crim works under the weight & burden of what earlier Crims were doing. As a recent Guestbook poster notes, it took him 2 years for the penny to drop on ProjeKct Two. So, any Crim / ProjeKct might well pack up - as a "failure" - in the critical 2 to 3 year period before the audience penny drops. Another Guestbook poster recently raved about "The Great Deceiver", played it to his young friends who loved it in the belief that it was a contemporary group, and then dissed current Crim blasting in comparison. What a pity we didn't have this level of support for our 1973-74 improvs in 1973-74.

Now, back to the classic of late-period Line-Up Four: "Three Of A Perfect Pair". We are (digitally) cutting small inserts, from the mastering tape copied from the F1 copy digital master, into our analogue extrapolation of that digital master. In the early days of digital, standards weren't formalised & digital masters were played analogue out.

The F1 digital master is breaking up as we go. Its life in the bush of numbers is dwindling gradually away.

Simon has opted to work from the mastering-tape copy of the F1 digital master.

"Model Man". In response to a recent Guestbook poster, is this the unmistakable voice of Crim? No, but it's the closest generation echo of the unmistakable voice available under those particular conditions of time, place & person. This is an example of the price that had to be paid for bringing "Discipline" into the world.

I had flown into Champaign to write with Adrian, just shortly out of the Apple Health Spa's sauna on Bleeker & Thompson where the New Standard Tuning had flown by one morning. Working on ideas for "Model Man", I couldn't see a use for the NST in Crim. That penny dropped a year later in West Virginia.

"Model Man" is now pumped flat.

The conceptual & practical difficulties of making the album are embedded & embodied in the tapes, and now arrive on Simon's console for us to settle years after the event. I'm not sure there is a resolution available, but we may be able to present the irresolution in a clean way. Simon is a Sonic Hero, and is wrestling with eq behind me. The truth is out there! and only the turn of a knob away. TOAPP is the first album to give us difficulties this week. No wonder, it was the hardest of that trilogy to record.

"Sleepless". A Crim classic of authentic voice, recorded at Bearsville, Woodstock in Autumn 1983. Adrian's room, on the Bearsville campus, was famously haunted. "Sleepless" is his account of The Haunting Of Brother Belew.

Simon looks over from behind the console, and asks whether I'm writing up the history of the tracks as we go. There are a number of alternative Crim histories that might be written.

Sidney Smith began his history innocently, approaching Crim "Track By Track" as an enthusiast for enthusiasts. Perhaps the Sidney intended his book to be "An Anorak's Guide To KC", a detailed history of Crimson music available on record. It might yet be. Who knows what Sid intends? A continual stream of interrogatory e-mails arrive from Newcastle, demanding answers to small & large details of the occurrences of years ago. If Sid planned a straightforward functional account of how particular Crim pieces came into the world, he now knows that little in the world of Crim is functionally straightforward.

Who wrote what? Whose suggestion was that? Did it matter that one particular member said nothing, but was sitting in the room when a decision was taken? Does support for an idea confer authorship of the idea? Does production qualify as joint authorship? When the Muse descends upon a number of people, is this a global broadcast or does the Muse have a favourite among the listening stations?

There remains significant resentment among some former Crims that their contribution has not yet been sufficiently acknowledged, not fairly recognised. I have a measure of sympathy: I recall a member of the first group tacitly accepting credit and congratulation for an idea (on ITCOTCK) that I had suggested to them. At the time, I was surprised and disappointed. Today, I am not surprised and disappointed that the person said nothing.

The question of how to apportion credit is impossible. A creative idea, by its very nature, cannot be contained. If it downloads into a group, everyone in the group feels that the idea spoke to them. This feeling is correct, its sense is true: the idea did speak to them. The idea moves outwards and speaks to the world through/by all the members, in the field of their particular speciality. The idea is common to all, but its capacity for being realised is a function of individual competence, presence, and commitment. No one person in a group owns the creative idea which gives rise to the group. More accurately, the idea owns the group it gave rise to.

Since individual talent & experience vary, one approach to assigning authorship is to address the degree of commitment to a common aim. Where there is total commitment in a creative group situation, there is no point in drawing up a list of specific contributions: a group is one, & the work of one is the work of all.

Issues of attribution arise when the group is not a group, where there is little or no commitment to a common aim, where one or more of the members are seeking their own ends within a group format. This is the world of musical politics & economics. This world it is not necessarily wretched: it can be transparent, clean & honourable (a business aim of DGM). But without trust, and with resentment & animosity, this world is very much like the continuing history of early Crimson. That is, one alternative history of early Crimson.

The Crimson idea spoke directly to several Crim members throughout the period, and we each honoured it to the degree that we were able. Hopefully, (although technically & practically impossible) Sid's book will give credit where credit is due. Perhaps anyone who feels short-changed & undervalued, their contribution underwritten in history, can then let go & move on in a good way.

A wonderful quote from Simon, whose concerns here are focused on Crimson track by track: "Most of what's on here is quite good, when you don't know any of the history".

"Man With An Open Heart" features Ade on fretless synth guitar. "Nuages" oozes an aching heart, far from home. The tabla is Belewbeloid guitar.

"No Warning". Also known at the time as "No Werning". This could also belong on "The Great Deceiver" or "Thrakattak".

Glueage of the album is underway.

Following a through-listen, Simon feels we can better the "TOAPP" title track.

Pumped & wernoed. The difficulties of this band have been handed to Simon the Sonic Necromancer to heal & redeem. This is inherently unfair, but then Simon is a Hero.

Public transport is a wonderful idea which I support wholeheartedly & loathe using. The tube home was sardinesville. Gently dribbling to Ralph the English, cyberspace awaits.

Caught up with Adrian & current news on the telephone. He's been working for the past three days with KC's fifth member, Tony Levin. Ade is pleased that we're revibrating the trilogy: he was disappointed with the cut of TOAPP back in 1984.