Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Tuesday 24 March 2020



Rising 06.45. Following the government’s new guideline yesterday at 20.30 - stay at home for three weeks! – early traffic was much less than usual, busying up a little at rush hour.

Morning Sitting, reading and writing…

News came in this morning: a good and generous friend to us, since we moved to Bredonborough, flew away yesterday afternoon (unrelated to the Corona virus). In a small town (8,500) the loss of a person of this quality is significant.

Lunch by the back door…

I Advance Masked – Day Four: the Moira Shearer mirror…

Quiet on the streets, “unnecessary” shops closed, also pubs, restaurants, coffee shops.

This was not so yesterday, when there was a measure of normality. Today, I am continuing the only person venturing out, that I have seen, with a face mask and gloves. Social distancing at six feet is impossible if shopping in a small supermarket; and neither shoppers nor serving persons were wearing protective gear.

Swiftly returning home to tea with Sweet Lips  Willcox. Toby Amies, director of the upcoming KC documentary, last week remarked that there seems to be a recurrent bee motif in my life. This is so…

When living at Fernhill House, Witchampton (1980-87), the Fripp family village, I kept beehives, beginning with two and eventually moving up to eight. Mr. Elford, the gardener, was also a bee-keeper. When Mr. Elford died (of a broken heart) in 1985, the bees left. As, of course, they would. Today, my sense of what it was in 1980 to be directly connected to the land and the currents just below the surface, in an area where my family went back until at least 1588, seems strangely distant. But perhaps more of that on another occasion.

Down the garden…

To the top library for writing and e-flurrying…

I like the Zappa story (paraphrase):  A lot of people put money in their nose. I put it in my ears. I have, and continue, to put mine into reading. No claim to be well read. Widely read – no brainer.

New work station…

This is free of the associations of the Home Study – stuff, e-fury, paper .

From Elephant Talk, Number 332, Saturday, 25 January 1997:
Date: 21 Jan 97 07:41:02 EST
Subject: from Robert Fripp

Thursday 16th. January, 1997.

Dear Team,

In ET 327 Matt Lincoln writes (8th. January):

"On August 25, 1996 I caught the KC show at Maryland with Vernon Reid opening. During Vernon's set I noticed RF sitting by the soundboard. Wow, I thought, I've really appreciated all this man has done for music (since I've been a fan from way back when I went with my brother when I was nine to buy "In The Court of ...") so I thought I would just say Thank You. I waited until the applause died down from the last Vernon song and said to RF, `Excuse me I would like to say..' but before I could start talking he ran away. And not just moving away but RAN. Like he was afraid. (Kind of like Sir Robin the Not So Brave RUNNING away from the Three Headed Beast in the Holy Grail). I'm left thinking I am a fan of a person who dislikes people, especially the ones who give him money for his music. He could've said "please don't bother me", or "do not talk to me". Maybe if you talk to RF you could express my apology as well as giving him the opportunity to behave like a human and apologize to me as well. I've worked in the music industry and met and dealt with people such as Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Bono, Sting and others but none have ever RUN away from me. What was it, my breath???".

Firstly, Matt feels some umbrage at my response to him, and has given me "the opportunity to behave like a human and apologize to" him. I apologise.

Secondly, Matt's letter raises several issues which I would be grateful if he (and other readers) would address in response to my own recent posting (ET 328, 13th. January, on King Crimson's 28th. birthday). My own letter refers to readers expressing "opinions and judgements, often with some heat, on the basis of a clearly developed sense of what they expect of the artists they patronise; umbrage when these expectations are not met; with clearly implied assumptions on the part of what the artist's position is / should / might / can only be, and certainly is despite anything, in any case, anyway, because I've bought my ticket with hard-earned pay and that gives me rights".

My letter touches on assumption, expectation, negative reaction to confounded expectation, and rights of the "consumer" in a commercial culture. I didn't read Matt's letter until this morning and, given that, my own lettter seems strangely prescient.

So, what does Matt assume, expect, how does he deal with his expectations not being met, and how is his implicit / explicit demand for a response from me, in a manner which he would find satisfactory, affected by him having given me "money for (my) music"?

Whenever we form judgements, or draw opinions, from events it seems reasonable, even necessary, that we take into account the circumstances surrounding any particular occurrence or event: "Consider always time, place and person". This gives us both the context and the specifics.


I remember the occasion Matt describes very well. The totally superb Vernon Reid sets standards as a guitarist, musician and human being to which I aspire. Robert the gigging musician gets very little opportunity to see the musicians I really wish to see. Often, it's down to hoping that the other band/s on the bill are players you'd travel to hear, let alone open veins to see in action. This was one of my lucky times. I had hoped Crimson would tour extensively with Vernon last summer, but he didn't have the tour support from his record company to make it possible. So, we only had two nights together, the last two of the Crim tour.

When the lights went down at the beginning of the show I walked round the side way to front-of-house and the soundboard, running away (well, walking in a very brisk manner in a direction contrary-to-that-of) two people shouting at me along the way, and even hid at one point until they had gone. During and throughout the radically wonderful Vernon set various people sat behind me and stared at me, stood in front of me and stared at me, kneeled down in front of me and stared at me, and walked around my seat and aisle staring at me; several of them presented me with tickets to sign, some while standing directly in front of me as the Reid band were playing; one autograph was presented between tunes from a kneeling gentleman who speedily disappeared when I waved my hand in an imperious and dismissive gesture. Clearly a rude and arrogant man, this Fripp.

My own strategies of behaviour are based on principles of conduct which are generally applicable in my life, modified by ongoing experience, and adapted / changed / abandoned in any particular moment in response to particular circumstance: "Act always in accordance with time, place and person". Little in my life is arbitrary, however unexpected or irrational it might appear to those not privy to my inner workings; that is, to anyone and everyone other than myself. And rarely now do I stop and explain, as once I tried to do.

Readers of ET who have been generous enough with their time to take an interest in what is referred to as "Fripp's 'tude" may have noticed that my responses, sometimes seemingly friendly, sometimes seemingly rude, differ in different places, at different times, to different people, under different conditions and circumstances. (This itself was also recently the subject of comment).

The phrases "please don't bother me" and "do not talk to me" from my lips would be rude. When I am listening to music being played in live performance, even very obviously sitting and listening to the music being played (which includes the moments in between when "nothing" seems to be happening) my response to an overture from someone I don't know is likely to be non-verbal: the language of gesture is immediate, direct and telling. So, I might shake my head, lean to the left to look past the person standing directly in front of me so I am able to continue seeing the band playing, or run away. All three of these non-verbal strategies were used on this particular occasion, all of them several times (and running away twice). As well as a dismissive and imperious gesture.

When I do give voice to a reply, in moments which are inconvenient or inappropriate for me to respond positively to any particular approach, request for autograph or question, my responses are usually these: at first, "No, thank you". If this first response is ignored, I repeat "No, thank you" a second time.  If this is ignored, my response is "Excuse me". If this is ignored, my response is "Kindly grant me my privacy". If this is ignored, I leave. The speed of my departure depends upon the situation and is usually not the process of long reflection and considered analysis. If my feet appear to be moving very quickly, I follow them. Sometimes this might be brisk walking, sometimes breaking into a trot, and sometimes even running.

This is one standard approach / response to a recurrent situation. There are other possible responses, some of which I have used and some which I have not yet tested.

However, I would rather not discuss in detail my own expectations and assumptions, rights and obligations as I see them, until there has been some interest shown in the topic by members of the ET team. Otherwise, fine.


What I would like to know from Matt, if he feels able to respond, is:

1. Why did Matt want to say "Thank you" to me? What response did he expect from me? What response did he want from me?

2. Matt compares me unfavourably with Gabriel, Collins, Bono and Sting. I have no complaint with this: in comparison with these people, by any standard of humanity or musicality, I come out unfavourably. But to make avalid comparison and value judgement between two situations, the circumstances have to be reasonably (actually, highly) comparable.

Were Peter, Phil, Gordon and Bono sitting, intently listening to and watching a performance, at the time Matt "met and dealt with" them? If not, why mention them? If yes, what were their responses? (This I would love to know!).

3. How are Matt's expectations / rights affected by the fact that he has given me money? How does he know that I got the money? If I hadn't, would that affect his opinion? Has there been any mention of my obligations towards him in the exchange of cash, in addition to his acquisition of a record / concert ticket? (If the exchange of cash gives him rights, why say "Thank you"? - the payment to an ungrateful artist is surely sufficient. If the payment isn't a sufficient "Thank you", then why mention the money? In any case, isn't it a sufficient "Thank you" that Matt was in the audience?).

4. "I'm left thinking I am a fan of a person who dislikes people, especially the ones who give him money for his music". Why? How does Matt get to the second conclusion?

5. "Maybe if you talk to RF you could express my apology" ... for what is Matt apologising? His position, as he describes it, seems blameless.


I ran away from Matt the Three Headed Beast not because of his breath, not because of his person, but because of his behaviour. My own view is that Matt's conduct was inappropriate at that particular time, in that place, between those specific people interracting under those particular conditions. Matt's view is very different from this. My interest is in Matt's expections, assumptions, his negative reaction, and the mention of money.

None of this implies that Matt is creepy, or has an unpleasant nature, or suffers from debilitating personal ailments which adversely affect his social life. I dislike some people, like some people, and don't give much of a hoot for a significant proportion not included in those two categories. I like some people whose behaviour disgusts me, and dislike other people whose conduct I set myself as an example to follow. (It is actually easier to behave honourably towards people we dislike, because we don't make the same demands of them, implicitly and explicitly). So, liking and disliking people doesn't bother me very much and has more to do with me than them.


If any of the ETers need further persuasion that not only is Fripp's offstage demeanour appalling, but that his onstage demeanour is arguably worse, they might like to consult the Prelude to Number 17 of "Progression - The Journal of Progressive Rock" (July - September 1995) where the editor John Collinge makes several critical comments regarding my onstage behaviour.

I don't wish to direct / redirect / affect forthcoming responses from interested readers by prematurely presenting my own views on John's particular piece of writing. Alright, just this once: very rarely have I seen an editorial at any level of circulation which displays this degree of ignorance and blindness, trumpeted so proudly, with deliberate rudeness and forced wit.

I am grateful to those who help me see what I do more clearly, by allowing me to see through their eyes; and to hear through their ears. The true audient is a rare friend to the performer. So it is a deep personal disappointment for me, as a player, that John has failed, so successfully, to see what is on offer. So, what is on offer?

At the moment, it seems a musician is reviewing the audience. I hope it has the friend it deserves.

16.42 A little e-flurrying and down the stairs to guitar practicing…