“Death is a great career opportunity for the musician with a catalogue. For a live player, it’s a strategy with inherent limitations. So for King Crimson, there goes the reunion tour” said Robert Fripp with typical gallows humour at Ian Wallace’s memorial service in London on March 22nd, 2007. Ian’s death was hard to bear and made all the more poignant coming as it did just a few short months after that of his former band mate, Boz Burrell.
The loss of a loved one is keenly felt by family and friends, and whilst it can never be to the same degree, for many King Crimson fans news of Boz and Ian’s passing also came as a blow.
When I was writing my biography of King Crimson back in 1999, I’d been pleasantly surprised by how many of the ex-members were keen to talk to me about their time with the band. The one person who declined to talk was Boz.
He was always polite when I rang him at his home. Sometimes his wife, Kath, would answer and she’d say “Oh hang on, he’s just out playing some golf. I’ll just go and get him” which never quite fitted with the image in my head of the hard-drinking, hard-rocking blues and jazz-loving singer who’d joined Crimson as a brief stopping point on his way to global success with Bad Company.
He’d politely enquire how the book was progressing and sometimes I’d tell a little of what someone had said, hoping it would spur him into a response, but Boz was too seasoned a pro to be caught like that. Instead he would offer neutral comments: “Well, it might have been like that but, you know I can’t really remember,” was about as far as he would be drawn.
Everyone from Crimson who had an association with Boz that I talked to – Dik Fraser, Robert Fripp, Peter Sinfield, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace – all had good things to say about him. Both Mel and Ian were particularly defensive about their ex-band mate, feeling he’d been unfairly maligned by certain sections of the Crimson fanbase.
“What saddens me” wrote Ian in his eulogy to Boz “is that I don't think he ever knew just how good he was in King Crimson. And why should he? Just about everything that has been written about him on the various sites has been about how awful he was, not just as a bassist, but as a singer too. To my mind he had a beautiful voice; pitch perfect, with a fine jazz sensibility to it. If he'd wanted to, he could have held his own with most of the great jazz vocalists.”
Ian ended his moving tribute for his fallen friend with this: “Boz, wherever you are I hope you don't rest in peace. I hope you're playing your balls off somewhere with people you love, to appreciative audiences. Save a place for me, my brother.”
Amen to that.
Whitley Bay, June 2007
(taken from the sleeve notes to KCCC35 Live in Denver)