This is another off the wall review from the same issue of VMag, December 1999. God bless Murphy, the editor for understanding these reviews in all their not so subtleties.
Chris Cornell-Euphoria Morning (A & M)
Last Boat Out of Seattle Founders:
Helm: Helm to Captain,are you sure we should steer through these waters again, sir? I mean, sir, that we ran aground the last time we went through these shoals.
Captain: Stay the course
Engineer: Captain, that last shudder, I think we may have hit something. I believe we have begun to take on water.
Captain: No problem, keep on course
Engineer: Sir, the engine room again, we’re taking on water here. I told you that the area outside Seattle harbor is treacherous. The Sea of Ennui is particularly dangerous, and chilly to boot. It’s a bit of a problem….
Captain: Ignore it and stay the course–no deviations.
2nd Officer: : Sir, we’ve slowed down quite a bit. Do you think this wise? We ran aground last journey by slowing down…
Chief Petty Officer: You can still see Seattle behind us, should we turn back?
Captain: Stay the course…
2nd Officer: Sir the passengers are abandoning ship left and right….
Captain: Stay the course. First Officer Thayil to the bridge!
Part One of a look at the Carwreck Archives. These pieces were written for VMag, a music and arts magazine from the late 1990’s until the early 2000’s. Home to some pretty amazing writers, all under the patient watch of editor Murphy, one of the best of the best. Some reviews were quick hits, some were downright strange. The following is one of the latter (in light of the Nuge’s later proclivities, this one now seems oddly prescient).
Ted Nugent-Great Gonzos (Best of) remastered Epic
Classification: Secret(declassified 11.9.99)
The following is an excerpt from a Michigan Federal Court House wiretap #11790. Extremist subgroup; Nugent cousins MF and ML discuss holidays.
(begin transmission) “…..ok kids, your uncle Ted is coming over for Thanksgiving dinner today. Now, he’s a little different. If he’s wearing a loin cloth today, remember it’s to honor our Indian brothers, not any dysfunctional behavior. And if he comes in with a freshly killed turkey, well he hunted it himself with a bow and arrow just like the Indians. Let’s try to forget the last Thanksgiving and the cat impalement incident. I know what your mother has said about this, and I’m sure she’s still mad about Uncle Ted and your cousin Lolita-you know the one who had to be sent away to boarding school for nine months? Anyway, we should familiarize ourselves a little bit before he gets here. Gather round the Close n’ Play while grampa Joe gets out his 45 collection. Not guns. Joe Jr.—records. Yup, records like your parents used to collect.
First, your uncle Ted like cats a lot. and I’m sure he’s very sorry he shot Mr Jingles last year. I’m not totally sorry he shot the neighbors two alley cats, but we had to pretend we were sorry. Anyway the sings about cats a lot, look here, one of his records is even called Cat Scratch Fever.! It has lines about pussy cats and stuff. You know, most of his songs are about pussy cats. He doesn’t actually say cat, after pussy, but he’s from Detroit and you know how those city folk like to abbreviate.
He likes the guitar a lot. * I think he’s been playing in those ‘rock n’ roll’ bands for about thirty five years now. Your aunt says he doesn’t ever even use those fancy guitar pedals, just an amp and a Gibson Birdland guitar. You know once he played in a stadium in Kansas City I think, and the got noise complaints from three miles away. Imagine! She said that Ted told her he saw a mouse run onstage during a show, during a guitar solo, got in front of his amplifier, and died. from the volume! He swore it was true! Lord knows he’s always liked loud music. Those Amboy Dukes friends of his used to scare me in the 60’s. “Journey to the Center of Your Mind”, and he swears he never did drugs? They used to rehearse in the garage over here, and I tell you, those cigarettes could have been laced with Mary Jane. He certainly acts like they were.
Oh, this song soundsl like that guy Meat Loaf is singing. It is? He was around before Bat Out of Hell? “Dog Eat Dog“? That’s not about cats Wow. this is cool! Slick instrumental interplay–not what people remember uncle Ted for. And this one–“Stranglehold“. Isn’t this on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack? Long and spacey–out there! ‘This is a lot different than I remembered. It’s really good. Oh, this song must be about starting old fashioned Model T cars, “Yank Me, Crank Me”. Your uncle just has so many interests. Oops, there he is, make yourselves look nice!. He’s getting out…no loincloth., good….what’s that in his hands?…..children, go to your rooms right now.!!!……….(end transmission)
Case closed 11.5.98–not considered a threat to family or friends.
-FBI Headquarters, Ann Arbor Michigan. (transcribed and edited by Carwreck deBangs)
Well it took fourteen months, but here we are with the final three Zep lps remastered: Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda. The project that began in June 2014-an overhauling of the whole Led Zeppelin catalog for CD and vinyl with extensive bonus tracks-has reached the end. The sound, according to Jimmy Page, is immaculate. Just how do these things hold up, and is it really worth it to grab the expensive double and triple lp versions?
The short answer is ‘no’. Sure, if you are loaded with extra dosh, grab everything. But for the discerning consumer, there are some that can have a miss. First up, how do these things actually sound on vinyl? The answer is: pretty damn good. The vinyl pressing in the first two batches was fairly uneven: skips and clicks were numerous, with Led Zeppelin IV showing to be the worst of the bunch. (I and many others had to return ours for a prodigious amount of skipping events.) Physical Graffiti needed a heavy cleaning before it would play without skipping. Brand new expensive vinyl should not require this much attention to get it to play correctly when you have just popped the seal on it. (the final batch of three from Presence on is noticeably better) On a quality control scale, the Beatles Mono lps these certainly ain’t. But one thing they are is a very accurate repressing of some of the most full on classic albums of rock n roll. (For many fans, this is….lets count–
1.original lp circa. 72-87
2.1987 original cd
3.1990 cd remaster
4. 2015 remaster– a minimum of four times they have purchased the same album). With the remix mania fueled by Steve Wilson’s wholesale pillaging of Jethro Tull, Yes, King Crimson and ELP in computer aided remixes, some were wary that Page would tweak some of the albums in an ill advised remix session. Fans can rest easy, for Page wisely said when asked about this: “I’m not into re-writing history, I’m just re-presenting,” So worry not, these are the original mixes, presented in the best possible form that any true audiophile would want-vinyl. Below follows a guide to the bonus tracks for each release, and whether you need them or not.(Side note-the ratings comments were written consecutively when these came out in June 2014, February 2015 and July 2015)
Led Zeppelin 1
The debut album itself rings with the youthful energy that created it in the 1968 to 1969 recording sessions. The bonus tracks for this album are unique to the whole set of reissues, a full on double lp live album. Recorded in Paris in October 1969, this large wallop of Zeppelin pushing the boundaries of volume in a Hendrix and Who era of LOUD is a very stripped down peek at Zep. A soundboard that is bit muddy for many folks, this recording has been circulating as a bootleg forever. Sound quality is not the greatest but the performance dictates this one is a must. C’mon, a double live album as the bonus track? Rating: Must have
Led Zeppelin 2
The album that really put them on the map. The hallucinogenic Whole Lotta Love sent many a fragile novice into the lands of madness single handed. The bonus tracks are early mixes of seven of the nine songs (The Lemon Song and Bring it On Home aren’t represented) Some are rough mixes, some are backing tracks lacking vocals. Some sound identical to the originals barring a rougher vocal. The one treasure is La La, a previously unheard track. For this alone, a true Zeppelin fan should pony up for this one. Rating: Grab it just for La La
Led Zeppelin III
Zep goes acoustic, sort of. Some love this album, some think it was a bit limp on the heavy. On remaster, these songs are crystalline in their delicate beauty, as Zep shows off their musical diversity. The bonus tracks are similar to the predecessor- a mash up of early mixes, backing tracks lacking vocals and takes that sound pretty much like the album cut. Seven songs have an antecedent on the bonus tracks, with Tangerine, That’s the Way and Hat’s Off to Roy Harper the three songs that are not represented. That’s The Way is noticeably different with a dulcimer and quirkly effects. Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind is an unheard track that is a blues rundown. Jennings Farm Blues is a proto version of Bron-Y-Aur Stomp guitar overdubs. Neither is quite as essential as La La. This is the first album where I wondered if I wouldn’t have been better off with just a single lp version. Two unreleased songs make this annoyingly enticing. Still-these bonus tracks are starting to feel like album versions minus vocals. Rating: Maybe to Sort of
Led Zeppelin IV
The doozy. Stairway to Heaven? For many, this is the ONLY song Zep recorded. The bonus tracks however? Uh oh. Eight duplicates of the eight album tracks. The biggy here is the legendary Sunset Sound mix of Stairway to Heaven. Much ink has been spilled discussing this mix. I had never heard it, and dropped the needle in anticipation of a revelatory event. And then…damn! Disappointment strikes. This thing is nearly identical to the original. A bit muddier, a bit more guitar heavy. The key word here is ‘mix’. All of the vocals, all of the instruments are identical to the more famous final version, just a wee bit higher or lower in the mix. An instrumental Battle of Evermore is nice, especially if you have a karaoke machine and a Sandy Denny soundalike kicking around. For many, this bonus disc will be a disappointment. Rating: Not sure this one is worth it
Houses of the Holy
Zep’s fifth album is many people’s favorite. It certainly has some good reasons to say that-Dancing Days, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same? The bulk of this 1973 album was recorded in ’72, and Zep was on a run. The album is a snapshot of a band completely in control of everything in their universe . The bonus tracks? Notsomuch. This one is nearly identical to the album tracks. Eight album tracks are duplicated with eight bonus tracks. Piano missing on one song. No vocals on another. A vaguely enticing instrumental No Quarter that illustrates how integral the vocals are to this trance inducing song. The pattern of rough mixes of tracks things they end up recording identically is now becoming troublesome. Nothing extra or unheard here. This is not what I would call bonus tracks. Rating: Leaning towards No
Zeppelin’s 1975 double lp showed the band not missing a beat. Eight new songs were padded out with leftovers from Zep III and Zep IV and Houses, and some pretty impressive stuff these leftovers were-Boogie With Stu, jamming with Ian Stewart on barrelhouse piano, the never credited sixth Rolling Stone member; Houses of the Holy-the title track they left off the album…It’s one of my personal favorites in the Zep canon. The bonus tracks here are well chosen. Brandy and Coke, an early Trampled Underfoot, A Sunset Sound mix here and there. But the treasure is an early version of In The Light known as Everybody Makes It Through. This song is completely different in approach, lyric and arrangement to the point of it actually being a different song. Brilliant insight of the process on this album. Rating: A solid yes
1976’s Presence found a humbled Zeppelin-car crash, death of Plant’s child, mayhem on the previous tour. Yet though Robert Plant was in a wheelchair recording this, some of their more obscure classics reside here, Nobody’s Fault But Mine and Achille’s Last Stand being the standouts. The bonus disc contains one side of nearly exact duplicates of the album track with very minimal differences. Some large exceptions are on side two: the oddly Monty Python-esque titled 10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod), an unheard piano piece that evolves into a nice full band blueprint for something they never finished. Almost Fleetwood Mac in inception, and that makes it easy to see why it was abandoned. Royal Orleans features a rough guide vocal-by John Bonham? Yep. For these reasons, this one is probably necessary. Rating: A qualified yes
In Through The Out Door
Zeppelin on the ropes. Mostly written by John Paul Jones, this album found the band bereft of ideas. Carouselembra is fairly epic, but some find it too synth heavy. More noted for its cutting edge innersleeve, one that changed color of the components of the artwork if exposed to water. I discovered this right when it came out when someone spilled water over the sleeve. Suddenly-peanuts were yellow, glasses blue, lighter red, ash tray green: micro capsules of water soluble ink were stored invisibly in the white cardboard. Genius! Unfortunately, the brilliance of the sleeve outshines the music as this one has some clunkers. So the bonus tracks? Identical to the album. In fact some are literally identical-but mono mixes.I actually got up to check to see if the real album had been switched with the bonus disc in the sleeves, it was that convincingly identical. I am now insulted by the bonus material and wonder what the fuck Jimmy was thinking on this one. Rating: No. Avoid at all costs
The swan song so to speak for Zeppelin. 1982’s Coda was a huge disappointment when it was released. Fans knew there was a ton of unreleased material in the vaults, and expected it. At 33:04, it was perilously close to Van Halen standards of ‘hey let’s put out a 30 minute lp’. “Coda been a good album” one of my friends said after finishing the first play. I had to agree, not much here was good. Bonzo’s Montreux? A drum solo? That brings it down to a friggin’ 27 minute lp. Ugh. But Jimmy Page had one more trick up his sleeve, and had saved all the goodies for last. Now a full 3 lp set, Coda is insanely good. Too many treasures to list here. St. Tristan’s Sword sports a riff that Page broke out at the 1988 Atlantic Records 40th anniversary party. They started Whole Lotta Love, but Page oddly could not stop this riff from taking the song over. John Paul Jones shrugged after watching Page play this inexplicable snippet and played along underneath as Whole Lotta Love turned into Whole Lotta confusion. Not until this month with the release of Tristan was this curious event to make sense. Fifteen songs, four unreleased ones. A gospel song that presages the Honeydrippers? The Bombay Orchestra recordings in India? Hey Hey What Can I Do? finally on lp. A 1968 recording of Sugar Mama that sounds closer to the Yardbirds than Zeppeliin? This is the holy grail of unreleased Zep, and shows a breadth of diversity this band was capable of. . Curiously, White Summer/Black Mountain Slide from the 1990 reissue is missing. If you only buy one deluxe edition, let it be this one. Rating: Holy Crap! Yes!
So, if you got the money, hell go get ’em all. But if you are on a budget, you can limit this to a few. Even if you are a completist, avoid the In Through the Out Door deluxe version, for even the most initiated afficiando will be hard pressed to point out any differences at all in the bonus tracks without a crib sheet. Sometimes the song does remain the same.
The curse of Led Zeppelin. People started to whisper about this in the late seventies. Nobody had any particular facts. But when Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died in September 1980, things started to pick up. So—is there anything to this so called Led Zeppelin “curse”? Nonsense, right? Let’s see…
Most of the curse talk is centered around the little understood late 19th century magician, Aleister Crowley. To say the word magician in the 21st century conjures up images of David Blaine or David Copperfield working illusions. In the late 1800’s, there existed a different kind of magician. These guys were serious-unlocking dimensions, communication with extra terrestial intelligences, communication with the dead, thought teleportation, spirit photography-spooky stuff, and grounded in science. The spiritualist movement was huge at this time, and though many charlatans inhabited the terrain, making the public think this was all some tomfoolery, others knew better. (Read up on the influence Helena Blavatsky in the spiritual movement and Theosophy). Much of this work was centered in England around the Golden Dawn Society. Founded by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers in the late 1880’s, it was a secret society based loosely on Freemasonry, and like the Masons, had access to ancient secret Egyptian knowledge…supposedly. Their intent wasn’t evil or underhanded, they knew that humans had unlimited potential, and had vast untapped reservoirs waiting to be discovered. In short, they wanted mankind to rise up to a higher level of consciousness and awareness, not bad aspirations. They attracted high society intellectuals (William Butler Yeats was an early member), but infighting for control of the group, and a new member, Aleister Crowley, caused rifts that tore the group apart. . By the early 1900’s, the group had splintered into several sects and Crowley was off on his own.
The salacious aspects of Crowley are the easiest to locate in books and internet articles: copious use of drugs and sex. Lots and lots of sex. And sex while on drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. You get the idea. His life is far too much to cover here, but suffice it to say, Crowley continued on an esoteric magical path that continued to confound and mystify-and push the boundaries of understanding of the unseen further than anyone in the last 200 years. (he is indirectly responsible for Scientology, but was long dead when L Ron Hubbard foisted that scam onto the public). He became known as the master magician of the early 20th century-part devil incarnate or part receptacle of interdimensional knowledge? It was easy to find both opinions.
Enter Rock n Roll. From Beatle-esque good times to the psychedelic movement was a scant three years. Fans and bands were looking for something further. LSD and a rainbow of other drugs gave the insight that there actually was something further out there. Bands started to get weird and fans got weirder as the sixties shifted into 1970. It was around this time that Jimmy Page began to have a large fixation with Aleister Crowley. His bookstore he financed, The Equinox, was named after a Crowley journal, and it stocked some seriously rare and pricey occult books. This is the time when supposedly Page asked the band to perform a magical ritual with him, a ritual that would bring the band power unimaginable and something akin to everlasting life. Now for anyone who has heard or talked to people “in the know”, this kind of magic is nothing to fool with. It supposedly involves forces with powers beyond any human imagination, and is not to be trifled with by anyone not steeped in mountains of experience, certainly not for novice stoned guitartists.(The oracle at Delphi giving mixed prophecies is a good ancient example). Blame hubris, blame drugs, but Page got the band, minus one, to join in this solemn and ancient ceremony. Jon Paul Jones was either skeptical enough or learned enough to stay far away.
The first evidence of this pact showed up on Led Zeppelin III. It was years before I discovered its exixtence. Between the end of the last song and the paper label is the outro groove. (this is where matrix numbers used by the pressing plant are usually located). Written into the vinyl (carved with a stylus into the test pressing acetate more correctly) was So Mote it Be on one side and Do What Thou Wilt on the other. These are basic stock phrases that are in the core of Crowley’s belief system, and are familiar to most who are aware of him. The magical significance of a Crowley power phrase spinnning simultaneously on thousands of turntables across the world could not have escaped Page’s notice.
It was on Led Zeppelin IV that the symbolism became more overt. No band name or title graced the cover or spine. Inside, a haunting painting of the hermit, a powerful tarot card symbol, was the sole image. On the innersleeve-more esoterica. Four symbols boldy across the sleeve. From left to right, these represent Page, Jones, Bonham and Plant. Page has said in interviews that most of these were taken Rudolf Koch’s 1955 Book of Signs, a collection of ancient and magical symbols from across the world. Plant’s is the easiest to decipher, the feather of truth from the Egyptian goddess Ma’at. Plant brought the truth and spoke it. Bonhams’s is the least esoteric-depending on who you believe it is either a symbol for a drumkit, the family unit, or the Ballantine Beer logo. Wise pundits refer to the latter as most likely. Jon Paul Jones’ logo, likely chosen by Page, is an ancient Celtic symbol with differing meanings and was co-opted by the early Christian church as a meaning for Trinity. The famed Zoso symbol is harder to pin down. Page famously has said he will never tell anyone what it means, but that it has obvious magical and occult significance. Robert Plant once said that in a quietly guarded moment, Page revealed the full meaning of all four signs, including a lengthy discussion of what Zoso meant. Unfortuntely for the rock world, Plant said “I was a bit wasted at the time, and by the next morning I had forgotten. I asked him the next day to tell me again and he said he couldn’t/wouldn’t”
Even Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention, the ethereal voice on Battle of Evermore got her own symbol (cue foreshadowing music here) in the credits. Her symbol is related to both godhead and the power of the female.
That is a lot of esoteric ballyhoo, but where is the curse? According to Pamela des Barres, groupie extraordinaire and main squeeze of Page during this era, Jimmy got very deep into the Crowley myth, tasking her to scour San Francisco and Los Angeles for Crowleyania. She managed to come up with some impressive artifacts, manuscripts and even the magical robes Crowley wore. Then Page dropped a large chunk of change to acquire Crowley’s mansion,Boleskin, located on Loch Ness. Page said that the house had a history of suicides. This was now a serious obsession, but he managed to keep it fairly quiet above boards. Visitors to Boleskin said that at dusk, the outdoor patio was awash with phantoms and ghostly shapes, residue of decades of conjuring and whatnot. Whatever you believe, maids and servants were a quick turnover in employment, as all agreed the place was haunted to the point of being uninhabitable and beyond creepy.
Enter Kenneth Anger, Crowley disciple and filmaker. He was a noted underground filmaker, drug taker and subversive. When Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin hatched a plan to exorcise and levitate the Pentagon in 1967, people took it as a Yippie lark, a stage show. However, Anger was ensconced under a truck, busily drawing magic circles, burning incense and chanting spells in Enochian-truly and seriously trying to do a real ritual exorcism. When plans for his film Lucifer Rising began to go astray-the lead actor was Bobby Beausoleil, later convicted of murder as a Manson family member, had to quit; Anton Lavey of the Church of Satan had a cameo; he had an off and on relation with the Rolling Stones for soundtrack work, (oddly right before the Altamont tragedy); rough cuts and cameras were stolen. In stepped Jimmy Page to do the soundtrack. This was the start of a love/hate relationship between Anger and Page. The music Page produced was genuinely creepy (some showed up on In Through the Out Door as the intro to In the Evening.) Anger moved into Boleskin and they shared their love of Crowley memorabila. Anger was eventually asked to leave Page’s house where he had been living as the relationship degenerated and Page pulled out in 1975. Anger did a major flame job in the media publicly, but privately said he had cursed Page and Zep with one monster of a spell, the hugest psychic whammy he could conjure, replete with the worst Crowleyisms he could muster. This is where shit really started to go south.
First Robert Plant was in a horrific car crash, plunging off a cliff in Greece in 1975, nearly killing himself, his wife and child Karac. This forced a cancelation of the remainder of the Physical Graffiti tour, and postponed the recording of Presence, which Plant was forced to record in a wheelchair. The make up tour was then plagued by a plethora of highly negative events. A sudden case of laryngitis for Plant after the band had shipped all of their equipment and instruments to the States meant zero rehearsing was possible. Ticketless fans in Cincinnati rioted and stormed the gates (oddly the site of the infamous trampling incident at the Who two years later that killed eleven), In San Francisco, manager Peter Grant and John Bonham roughed up Bill Graham and nearly beat a Bill Graham employee to death-Bonham and Grant narrowly escaped serious charges and incarceration. Then Karac got sick. Plant took him to the best physicians money and private jets could buy. All had the same answer-‘we have no idea what is wrong’. He passed away in 1977 right after the Graham incident, and as the band arrived in New Orleans, they got the news. The tour was immediately canceled. Plant quit the band and music in response to Page and Jones not showing up to his son’s funeral. Zeppelin truly seemed cursed.Things continued to implode. Page was nearly comatose on a daily basis from a crippling heroin addiction. Bonham’s alcoholism raged out of control, and he became increasingly violent and unpredictable. In 1978, Sandy Denny, the goddess of Battle of Evermore plunged drunkenly down a flight of stairs and broke her neck and died. Finally, in September 1980, John Bonham was sent home blisteringly drunk from a band rehearsal. Handlers tucked him in bed, he’d only drank 40 or so shots, he would be fine. Incorrect. He died in his sleep, and so did Zeppelin. The curse had cut a swath through the band in under five years. Only Jon Paul Jones, the only one not to sign the supposed pact, remained unscathed.
When all is said and done, it is pretty easy to chalk all of the above up to circumstance and chance. Eerie circumstances, but nevertheless, a round of odd coincidences. Clearly occult practices were genuinely involved on some level, and some creepy and frightening personages dance in the background of the story. Personally? I am not so sure. Things started to backfire just as the band became the worldwide legends they had tried to magically invoke. But this is the thing that gets me–when so called ‘black magicians’ mess with this stuff, they usually do a protective spell on themselves for extra safety. Because black-ish magic is notorious for either backfiring or not working in the way it was supposed to. Collateral damage around events associated with this behavior is well known. But Page’s extra level of spell could be simple, like “make sure nothing happens to me”. And looking back on Page’s career since 1980: his level of heroin addiction, lack of production musically (ignoring the Firm), failed Zeppelin reunions, and general dearth of accomplishments after nearly two decades of brilliance….it gives me pause. Nothing, literally nothing has happened to him. Good or bad. Just as it was phrased. And a fairly decent body count to go along with it is just enough to make you wonder. Really wonder.
Magma. Just the word itself is intimidating. Part rock, part liquid, thousands of degrees in temperature. It can be easily outrun but is able to eat whole roads and towns. It can light the ocean on fire. Not a bad band name for what that can conjure up. And honestly, some of that is not a bad reference point. The fact that this band is so unknown 45 years into their career is criminal, as they are as groundbreaking as any of the legendary rock bands of the sixties. In a continuing series of ‘the best bands you have never heard of’, the monumental French band Magma is next up for unraveling.
When I first encountered Magma in freshman year of college, I was thoroughly intimidated. I was beginning to be drawn to weird bands-Genesis, Yes and King Crimson first, then Gong, Van der Graaf Generator and Hawkwind later. My main source for these bands was the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, a late 70’s publication by Harmony (and highly recommended)
This book was my best friend and my bible when I was seventeen. I devoured it from cover to cover voraciously. It taught me the wonders of many strange things: Hawkwind, Gong, Gryphon, Can, Henry Cow, Kraftwerk, Mike Oldfield, Caravan, Soft Machine, Amon Duul II, Gentle Giant, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis-a whole world of European rock music that was decidedly strange and were offshoots into territory unlike anything I had ever heard of, some quite unlike rock at all. For a boy weaned on Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss, Boston, Yes, Rush and Derringer, this was mighty unfamiliar territory. One band stood out from the rest: Magma. According to the Encyclopedia, Magma was an early 70’s French progressive band that had essentially created their own form of music. They had planned a ten lp cycle describing colonists in space returning to earth and being viewed as alien conquerors that was to be called Theusz Hamtaahk. To further muddy the waters, the band (or more correctly founder Christian Vander) had created a brand new language to accompany this decidedly weird weltanschauung.The much maligned Rolling Stone Record Guide took Magma to task with one star reviews and described them as “Deep Purple undergoing a bout of colitis’. In retrospect, a more accurate smartass review would be closer to “Electric Flag and Coltrane attend a mid 1930’s Nuremburg rally”. The language the band speaks, (all of the songs are sung in it), and have given themselves new names in, is called Kobaian. It has a decidedly Germanic guttural feel to it, alien and threatening. Horns and chanting are predominant, and although there is guitar, it lives mostly in the background. Drums and bass (sometimes two bassists) are essentially the lead instruments.
I ventured into my college town to see if I could locate any Magma albums. I received either blank stares or astonished splutters- a wee 17 year old chap asking for Magma albums? I located Attahk (a good place to start) in a cutout bin of a tiny record shop and brought it home. The first thing I noticed was the names of the band members: Klötz Zaspïaahk, Stündëhr, Dë Wëlëss, Kahal Negümüraaht, Stöht Ürgon, Wurd Gorgo…decidedly strange. Then the band member photos: each one was a skull x-ray. This was definitely a band cut from different cloth. Even their logo was mystically strange and compelling. Magma Live on the Tomato label was the only thing left in print in America (and is another great starting point for newcomers) was put on special order at another store, and took about six months to materialize. This double album, recorded live in France, captures Magma at the height of their powers in mid 1975. Vocalist Klaus Blasquiz wails away in falsetto Kobaian, Janick Top (the only co-composer in the history of the band) frenetically erupts on bass, while from behind the kit, Christian Vander intones some pretty heavy bass chanting to keep the gravitas solid. Here is a snippet of mid 70s Magma, with Klaus as lead vocalist, from their masterpiece Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh:
I became the only Magma fiend in my circle of friends and slowly accumulated all of their LPs in a five year period. Then, the more difficult task of acquiring the CDs came next. Emissaries were sent to Paris to nail down some essential and elusive titles. (As an aside-my second trip to the UK, I spotted a Mini with a three foot Magma logo painted on the drivers door. I instantly set off in hot pursuit on foot chasing the car, but it eluded me at the second light. What I would have actually done had I caught the car was not really thought out. In the late 70’s, there was a rumor that an article in Playboy said that the headquarters of the US Magma fan club was located at UMass. In the early 80’s, I got off on the wrong floor in Sylvan, and as the elevator doors opened, I was greeted with a seven foot tall Magma logo. Holy shit! It was true!)
The years went on, and Magma remained mostly a European and French area gigging band. The band went through many lineup changes (over 50 by the late 90’s) and had some influential personages float through the band- Pierre Moerlen (Gong), Francis Moze (Gong), Patrick Gauthier (Heldon), Daniel Denis (Univers Zero), Brian Godding (UK sessions, Kevin Coyne), Sometimes there were horns, sometimes no horns. Sometimes a powerful guitarist (Claude Olmos) and sometimes no guitar at all (Attahk, Udu Wudu). But through it all, they still maintained a fairly consistent and iconoclastic sound, easily identifiable. Below is a segment from 2005 that shows that 35 years into their career, the band can still bend reality and dimensions:
The band returned to the States in 2003 for Nearfest prog festival, and some sporadic shows exposed them to a new audience. I trekked down to Brooklyn in 2007 to a small low ceilinged club. Three female vocalists chanted ancient Kobaian hymns in perfect harmony, crystalline voices supported by the superb drumming of Vander. Part Elvin Jones, part teutonic ritual rhythms-the low ceiling seemed to lift to cathedral heights. My friend said “I get it! This is like opera as rock n roll.” She was exactly right-Magma’s music is a fusion of opera, rock, jazz, classical and a touch of the unknown. No band can touch so many points in one evening. And like German opera, you don’t need to know what they’re saying to enjoy it (there is no Rosetta Stone for Kobaian). In addition, Magma can also conjure up some moments that are very hard to describe-drums and incantations are chanted creating some very large group hallucinatory experience. Rock? Jazz? It’s truly difficult to pin down.
I gathered up a small posse to see them on a short US tour this year (2015). The band delivered two hours of magic-Kohntakorsz, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh (all forty minutes of it) and Slag Tanz comprised the set. Zombies was the encore. It was a completely devastating and powerful performance, and the packed house was silently stunned at the end. After the show, I watched folks trek upstairs to the backstage room. I took a chance and followed a group of Parisian musicians who were friends with the band and latched on to them into the room. Waiting patiently until they were done, I spoke in halting French to Christian Vander. He was a genuine presence in the room, like Hendrix or Townshend, this guy had created works of music so singularly unique and powerful that I was a bit in awe. He was affable and friendly, signed a CD, graciously listened to my terrible French, and gave me a huge hug. I have never experienced anything in my life like a Magma show. It transcends just a concert into some weird uncharted territory.
In the long run, Magma is so much more than a band. It is closer to a pre Christian pagan ritual-flames reach to the stars, drums thunder polyrhythms that induce trance like states and reality melts away. What is revealed is some inner truth. Part dark, part light but the world is stripped bare for all to see: Zeuhl (which supposedly means celestial in Kobaian) is at the core and pervades all. Much like the Egyptian philosophical idea of “as above, so below”, Magma’s music mirrors the vastness of a universe little understood by humanity, and throws it into the blender of human frailty and the horrors of human cruelty. Somewhere in there lies the superman, ubermensch, that flows through Teutonic mythologies, an ability to synthesize the elements and rise above it all. For all its militaristic underpinnings, Magma is essentially a spiritual release for the human soul, pretty heady stuff for a prog rock band. Their success depends on how far you are willing to immerse yourself into this world and surrender. Let the Kobaian language flow over and through you, let the magical rhythmic pulses of days gone by produce an altered state of reality. Then? You might be able to see over the edge, and glimpse another plane of existence. That is something no band in the history of rock music has been capable of doing at such a level. And the fact that in 2015, they are still capable of doing this live in concert is a testament to an unrecognized musical genius. Christian Vander says he doesn’t really compose so much as go into trances and let the music flow through him. This statement I do believe, for the musical output of Magma is truly otherworldly. Do yourself a favor, and take a dip into another dimension. No rock band can do that anymore.
Not since Martin Luther nailed up some truths on an imposing church door has there been such a troubling schism in a monolithic religious organization. Pastoral and visionary, this highly bonded group have worshipped at the altar of the band Hawkwind for nigh on five distinct decades. But what could cause such a rift in this pacifist (minus the home made lager) and like minded group? Nik Turner. Just saying that name in certain circles is a call for public hangings, vitriol, character assassinations and general flame wars. Why does this septuagenarian gentleman get singled out so consistently and what is his publicly offensive crime? Only one thing-playing Hawkwind music. So why do some UK fans get such a bug in their butts about Nik? The Backstory
Nik was a founding member of the seminal space rock band Hawkwind in 1969. Co founder Dave Brock and Nik pretty much created space rock (Edgar Froese may disagree). To be truthful, several other key components rotated through Hawkwind from the key years of 1969-1976: Lemmy (Motorhead), Robert Calvert, Simon House, the dual electronic maelstroms of DikMik and Del Dettmar. But the foundation sound and vision came from these two twins of space rock-Dave Brock and Nik Turner. Dave was the sound and Nik was the voice, and both came from beyond the edge of the cosmos. Hawkwind came slowly through unending waves of music press criticism, shrugged their shoulders and set the controls for the unknown. One of the few bands to remain mostly relevant throughout their 46 year history, their iconoclast view ended up being correct. Pink Floyd? Gone. Tangerine Dream? Gone. They are name checked by hundreds of known and unknown bands across the planet. Hawkwind showed the early critics who was correct. The Trouble With Nik
Nik began to have some trouble in the band in the mid 70’s. Dave had sacked more than a few (although it is reported that Nik was tabbed to sack Lemmy on their 1975 tour for getting caught with speed crossing the Canadian border) and the band line up had become fluid. The last one on the chopping block was Nik. He was sent to the wilderness in 1976. This set off a film worthy love/hate relationship between these two stewards of spaceship Hawkwind that has lasted until this day. Like some lingering diseases, the disorder occasionally went dormant (Nik rejoined the band full time in 1983, saving them from their formulaic metal bent and getting them back towards a festival and space rock track) and reconciliations were offered. Nik was shown the door again in 1985, ostensibly for being a stage hog (partly true). Although some debated their likes and dislikes of 15 years of Hawkwind, everyone agreed that this was not only THE band, it was their band. Reunions in the millennium included many former members, and the Hawkwind family was one huge extended clan.
Enter the Hawknerdz
Something started to go wrong recently. In 2013, posts on Amazon and Yahoo groups indicated a new breed had arisen–the self appointed Hawkwind police. They trolled the internet looking for mentions of Nik Turner, gathered the troops, and attacked. Where this new strain had come from was a mystery for a while. Somewhere in 2014, something happened on the UK Hawkwind fan site. Known amongst themselves as Hawkwnerdz, the site began to show some troubling signs. ‘Wanted For Treason” and other nasty threats were posted over pictures of Nik Turner. Beheadings, Hangings, stonings were all mentioned. What the hell were these people talking about? Most of the folks on this site are straight shooting music fans, unwilling to be drawn into political discussions of the “schism”. But moderators either tacitly or actively approved of this misbehavior. Posts by members of the band fueled the fires and opinions got very heated. A strong cadre of members were increasingly vociferous about their opinions of Nik Turner. And in sharing these opinions, they were not shy. Like a child in a divorce, they were told to take sides, and poisoned by…..someone. They took to the web (mostly friend face) and screamed the mantra “Nik Turner is the devil!” They started a flame war that was single minded: destroy anyone who disagreed with the party line. You like Nik Turner? You are banned from the site. Did you have your own site? (Nik Turner’s main friend face site and the Hawkwind North America/Canada site are good examples) We show up and attack. When faced with logic or asked questions logically-they descended into name calling, attacks and bans. This happened on the UK site where many US fans questioning the double cancellation were just muted and sent away. They orchestrated a concerted effort to suppress and censor any information on the internet about the Hawkwind failed tour, and shifted all blame on Nik, by any means possible. “They had questioned the integrity of the band”. Why would they say this? Why would they intentionally divide a fan base that was such a global family? That some on the UK site were bothered by US fans complaining about losing two rounds of hotels and flights to go to unplayed shows-and offered a “who cares, they’re playing ten times this fall” attitude only added to an already forming rift. The Non Tour Saga and the Blaming of Nik
Although this is detailed here earlier, a quick recap: Hawkwind had a tour of America booked in fall 2013. Three days before the tour was to commence, they canceled the whole thing. The reason? Dave Brock had been stricken ill over stress by the fact that Nik was suing to use the Hawkwind name in America, and was unable to tour. Whether this was the idea of Nik or Cleopatra Records is to be determined. But given this excuse, people were sad and regrouped. Online,the complaints were solidified. It was stressed that a concurrent tour as Nik Turner’s Hawkwind would be confusing to prospective fans. Ignoring the fact that all US (and Canadian) fans know the difference, and would attend both bands no matter what, the claim of a single Hawkwind was a rallying cry to many UK fans. A larger problem developed in the spring. The rescheduled tour in 2014 was once again canceled two weeks before it began with the band citing some fairly implausible excuses-they had nowhere to sleep (tour buses are where bands sleep), they had no food plans (venues feed bands), promoters would not put up the cash (they had done enough in October to satisfy the band), renting a back line would be expensive (many US tours from 1990 to 1997 prove they know this isn’t a problem). When mentioning visas and airfare, the explanation gets into a twilight zone of logic. People started to doubt this story, and by proxy, the October story. (Hawkwind had gone on a short UK tour near the proposed US tour dates in October). Was there something else out there that kept them from coming? Nik? Certainly not a real excuse. (All of Nik Turner’s shows in cities that Hawkwind were scheduled to play were after Hawkwind had done a show, precluding any supposed confusion). Another troubling question was: Were Hawkwind legally prevented from coming to North America by the legal kerfuffle? This would go a loooong way to explaining the fairly unconvincing and contradictory claims regarding the spring 2014 tour. The fact that they couldn’t legally come would explain not touring and not telling anyone at the same time. ( a good article that chronicles this and quotes the reasons from Hawkwind’s main website can be read here ) What’s In A Name?
Now let’s set some history straight. Two Hawkwinds? Is that possible? A quick perusal of rock history can show us some things. Multiple Wishbone Ash, Queensryche, Foghat units populate a dwindling rock god gene pool. Steve Hackett’s Genesis just toured. Collins, Banks and Rutheford toured in 2007, are planning a tour now, and own the name-no problem. Hawkwind’s space rock contemporaries, Gong are an even better example. Gong, Paragong, New York Gong, Gnog, Gong Maison, Mother Gong, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong? For better or worse, this band of UK and French stoners managed to get along and share…after all, wasn’t that the vibe of the sixties? Free shows and Portobello Road communes were the order of the day. Money? That’s for fat cats, the man, the establishment. Although it is sure that the Gong family squabbled about many things PHP, they never took their family fights public, and gave the illusion of getting along. And so did their fans. Not the End But a Denouement
How this will play out isn’t easy to predict. As noted before, the band of Hawkwind fans was one of the strongest and longest lived underground and nearly religious cadres in rock behind Deadheads. But this divide in the following weakens a group that has never seen strife as fans. Nik Turner’s Hawkwind and Hawkwind? US fans don’t care. Bring ’em both. This US refusal to recognize any conflict drew vociferous attacks via the UK. The Hawknerdz are partially guilty of inciting this schism in a fan base that was solid for decades. Not reining in wayward factions and tolerating or encouraging childlike internet behavior has gone a long way to creating ill will that never existed before. This campaign seems to have the quiet backing of the official band as well. Airing of dirty laundry in public is not a smart way to solve problems. There is no evidence of squabbling between Hawkwind factions, hell there were no Hawkwind factions before this recent flame war started. They have advised to be patient and wait until the legal battle is settled, yet actively promote a squabble over a conflict, a conflict between two band members, not fans. This is irresponsible, and uses age old smear and censorship tactics, spreading the hate that they gleefully accuse folks who honestly voice any opposing opinions of, and silencing and deleting whenever possible. But this article is not intended to be an apology for Nik Turner, it is a plea for reconciliation, and to get everyone back together, fans (and band members). Some will disagree. I know that few of the hardened hatchet men will be moved by this message, but I feel sorry for them. “Cutting off one’s nose to spite their face” comes to mind as these people miss out on some amazing music to fight a battle, a battle that is not even theirs to fight. If a band splits, then either a limb dies off, or it roots and regrows. The obvious solution is to get the original band back together. But this is not always possible. So when a long lived band has two incarnations, it actually is double the fun for the crowd. Two Hawkwinds? Two Hawkwinds touring America at once? Hallelujah! Two space rock gods fighting-not something that has any winners. Two 70 year old guys fighting over a band name? It makes one shake a head and think…”why can’t stoner grandpas just get along?”
For verification of any of the above, the sources are the closed groups of Hawkwind UK fans, Hawkwind US/Canada, and the Nik Turner group, all friend face locations.
The fact that there is even a King Crimson in 2015 is beyond any doubt incredible. Hell, the reunion in 1981 was fairly improbable, as was the reformation in 1994. But the action around the band in the last six months-full US tour, box set of unreleased material going back to 1969, live album on Cd and vinyl of the 2014 tour? It beggars description that this is happening currently, and is astonishingly well planned and executed. Why such a level of surprise? The main reason is Robert Fripp. As noted in the title, he is batshit crazy. A genius? Certainly. One of the most influential rock musicians of the last fifty years? Absolutely. But behind the thin veil of normalcy, Fripp bubbles away like the crazy friend you had in middle school, who when you meet again at a class reunion decades later has gone from eccentric to just plain weird. Of course your friend from middle school didn’t tour the world several times over and play some of the most cutting edge music to thousands of fans each night. That is why Fripp has been able to glide through mostly unquestioned by the masses. Before we begin, a quick recap of some of the more notable ‘eccentricites’
Now don’t get me wrong, nobody is perfect. Everyone has their own little quirks. And to his credit, Fripp has been quite forthcoming on his own shortcomings. What can be annoying is when Fripp imposes his quirks upon you, and leaves you no choice except get on board or leave. Cracks in the facade could be traced back to the origins of the band, but the real damage appeared in the 1974 tour. Even his own tour diary leading up to the final show in Central Park June 1974, Fripp admits that he is alienated in his own band, and now eats his meals alone while the rest of the band eats at a table across the restaurant. The hints he drops in his diary indicates this is pretty much a result of his increasingly strange and borderline OCD behavior. Fracture on Starless and Bible Black is a nice sonic picture and strong hint of the paranoia and disintegrating hold on reality for a character that appears anonymous but is more likely autobiographical. King Crimson in 1974 was not a waning proposition but an increasingly powerful one. The album Red, the final one of this lineup, contained newly returned founding member Ian McDonald, composer and co-writer of all five songs on the landmark debut album, 1969’s In the Court of the Crimson King. Marc Charig, a cornet player from the albums Lizard and Islands had returned as well. It seemed as if all the eras of King Crimson were folding together, and the result was a stunning masterpiece of hypnotic heaviness, a proto metal progressive album, the first of its kind. But suddenly, the band was no more. Fripp had decided to break the band up. Not only was the rock world stunned and angered, the band members were even more upset. Drummer Bill Bruford was informed of the band’s just announced demise during an interview with a journalist and wept openly at the news. Extreme? Not really. This was a band that had scaled the heights of rock music, and pushed boundaries further and further, literally redefining genres with each song. Bruford wasn’t the only one in tears. No good reasons for breaking the band up were offered, and even those close to the band thought it was inexplicable. But then some information snuck out. Fripp had perhaps fled to Dorset on an extended spiritual retreat. Later, stories circulated that his then current girlfriend, a practicing witch, had convinced him that the world was going to end soon, and they retreated to an island to wait for the end and go out in style. This would seem to be something that would actually break the band up. Why tour and work when you could relax in luxury and meditate on the end of humanity? Luckily the witch was off by at least five decades in her prediction, but at least this one is understandable, if not easily explainable.
To come closer to the current times-Fripp on a solo tour hit my town in 1998. He was dreadfully put out by flash photography. He had been known to bail on shows on this tour if one flash went off in the crowd. At this show, a single flash in the balcony 30 minutes in caused him to slowly turn his gear off, and exit the stage without a word. He had to be coaxed back. (At a Projekct 2 show in town the same year, a friend saw him eating alone in a huge restaurant window. He took a large flash photo that lit up the window like a movie screen. Fripp may have lost five years of life in that moment). In 2012, Fripp threw a large online tantrum and said he was quitting the music business over the way labels have handled the Crimson catalogue. While some of his points are valid, he signed contracts in a music business that operated in a certain fashion. He was well aware of what he was getting into . But in the new millenium, large diatribes would appear online and even in the fanclub live cds booklets excorciating the major labels as devils. Some agreed, most were embarrassed for him. Fripp can certainly turn a phrase when he’s got his dander up, and these intractable tracts are highly recommended to read at least once.
Now back to current times. Apparently unconcerned he promised to quit the music business altogether forever, Fripp reformed King Crimson. This was pretty astounding, as the band had run its course by 2009, and was repeating themes created in 1981 with Adrian Belew for the past few decades. Whenever Crimson feels stale, it’s time for a change. Everyone expected that was it for the band when he folded up shop at the end of the 2008 tour. A revamped line up raised some eyebrows as it was noted that Belew wouldn’t be part of this incarnation.The tour was preceded by the Elements box, sold only at shows and the Crimson website. I was expecting it to be a primer for new fans, and was astounded to find two cds of previously unreleased material. Some of the stuff was insanely rare-Greg Lake singing Cadence and Cascade? Fripp assured us that this never happened, yet here it is in all its delicate beauty. Eight of the fifteen tracks on the first disc are songs proper, the remaining seven are snippets and snapshots of rejected guitar solos and such. The first disc contains only material from the 69-74 version of Crimson, barring the interspersed tracks of the 2014 rehearsals, five ‘songs’ totaling six minutes-a bit light on what they could have offered to preview this line up. Cirkus from 1971 is a genuine treasure. Disc 2 is the modern era Crimson-1981 to the current day. The prize on this disc is a recording of Manhattan (later known as Neurotica). It is a vivid picture of someone standing in NYC surrounded by the hustle and bustle of sirens, horns and cacophony that bring them to the edge of a nervous breakdown. I had witnessed this played live in 1982 and felt the original had been completely stripped of its power in the final lp version and lamented the loss of the original–but now overjoyed at its return. Another treasure is the band in rehearsals working on a particularly complex part of music and not quite getting it right. Belew exclaims “this shit is hard!” at the end. A nice insight to what the band goes through to get to their seamless endpoints. The set is only marred by the inclusion of two songs from the dreadfully soporific and mostly unlistenable Scarcity of Miracles, an album that preceded the reunion and brought Jakko Jakszyk into the Crim fold.
This brings us to the fall tour of 2014. Although I have been a die hard Crimson fan since the late 70’s, somehow I didn’t have many high hopes for this tour. The Scarcity of Miracles had a paucity of ideas, and if this was a preview of the new direction–then it was time to bury the carcass and be done with it. I went to the fourth show of the tour, and hadn’t looked at the set list. The band lineup was an augmented version of scarcity-Fripp, Mel Collins (from the Islands days) on sax, Jakko on guitar and vocals, Tony Levin returning once again on bass, and then….three drummers? Pat Mastelotto, Bill Rieflin and Gavin Harrison lined up front and center across the stage-band behind on risers. Mastelotto had been Crimson’s drummer since 1994 (he started in the MTV staple band Mr. Mister) and Harrison had been in Crimson for a cup of coffee in 2008. He has been Porcupine Tree’s drummer since 2002. Rieflin seemed an odd choice-Ministry, Pigface, Nine Inch Nails, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM were his staple gigs-but a long term stint in REM showed him to be versatile at least. In concert, Bill was a wise choice-professorly in demeanor, and subtle in execution.
The evening opened with a cringe-worthy nod to Robert’s obsession…bootleg recording and photography. In a recorded skit between him and the other members of the band, they danced around the concept of ‘being in the moment’ to discourage any picture taking or recording. Although this was meant to be clever, it had all the authenticity of your teachers in sixth grade putting on a skit to keep you from smoking. Eye rolling led to a vow to actually take pictures of the show against their will, much like the wide eyed sixth grader watching his teachers play and saying “dammit these assholes are actually going to drive me to trying a cigarette” It hadn’t been a thought until the awkwardness of the opening tape entered its third minute of preaching. When will this guy learn? (illegal show pix above)
I was very glad I had not glimpsed a set list before the show, because what we had in store was monstrously unexpected. Crimson was never a band to delve into back catalogue or do anything remotely close to a greatest hits show. A tinkling of kalimba and sundry percussion came up as the lights went down. All three drummers worked busily to make a very quiet tapestry of sound. I seemed to be the only one who noticed this was a song–“HOLY SHIT! They are opening with Lark’s Tongues in Aspic Part One!” I yelled out in the darkened theater. This song had not been played on stage in forty years, I was ecstatic. Next up was Pictures of a City from In the Wake of Poseidon, a tune not played since 1972. What was going on? Songs from Lark’s Tongues, Red, Islands, In the Court of the Crimson King? This was not what I expected at all. The band was flawless in execution, although those who were watching closely could see that Fripp sitting quietly on the side had off loaded many of his guitar parts to Jakko, but this was fairly indistinguishable in the long run. The only damper was a drum solo by Harrison in the middle of 21st Century Schizoid Man (aside: There has never been a drum solo proper in this song, why now? And….there are 3 drummers, he is the only one to get a solo? First Steve Wilson is allowed to remix Crimson’s albums and now the Porcupine Tree drummer gets a solo? Do these guys have dirt on Fripp? Ugh) The show was flawless, perhaps the best I had seen the band since my first show in 1981. I wished that I had gone to the previous shows, but was glad that I had seen this one, even more glad I hadn’t glanced at a set list. So where does that leave us in 2015? Lots of complaints, even more delights.
In the long run, all of Fripp’s perceived oddities and eccentricities, however annoying, are essentially coming from the right place. And that place is fueled by a passion for music that many of his contemporaries are sorely lacking. No band in the history of rock has remained relevant as long as King Crimson. That is a weighty statement there. Nobody has managed this. And the sole reason for Crimson’s being able to stay a light year or two ahead of the competition all comes back to Robert Fripp’s single minded devotion to principle and perfection. So batshit crazy or batshit genius? Grab a bunch of Crimson albums, hell grab all of them. Lock yourself into the soundroom and let it fly, and you decide.