It’s not often we get to see Robert Fripp laugh, is it? I forgot King Crimson played on the failed early challenger to Saturday Night Live, Fridays. Clearly, Fripp had a good time that night.
Collective critical wisdom probably considers Robert Fripp to be an “influential” musician, much like it does his old partner in crime, Brian Eno. However, unlike the body of work Eno produced, I’m not sure Fripp’s work as a guitarist, composer, producer, conceptualist, and iconoclast actually influenced many musicians. Who else plays in that weird scale that’s so distinctive of Fripp’s work? Who else uses Frippertronics? What other rock guitarists play seated on a stool? Eno inspired a generation of non-musicians to produce music, and he actually helped change the way we hear music. Fripp’s body of work suggests a musician needs to spend a lot of time practicing. Baby, that ain’t rock ‘n roll!
I’m not criticizing Fripp, mind you. I like his body of work. I like that one circular scale he plays repeatedly—and the other one, involving 2 notes that don’t quite go together yet move up the neck in some weird harmony. I love those soaring, melodic solos he occasionally plays on Eno records and The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” I consider Fripp to be an inspiring musician but not an influential one, if that makes sense. Along the same lines, I call bullshit on most folks who claim Captain Beefheart as an “influence.” His music is inspiring, but how can one be influenced by Beefheart without aping him? “Yeah, man, I like to stick daggers in the blues and sing ‘out there’ lyrics!” With rare exceptions (eg, Pere Ubu, early PJ Harvey), that is Beefheart more than it is influenced by Beefheart. I think he’s too idiosyncratic to be that useful an influence.
If you can get on board with this concept, are there other musicians you can think of who may be so idiosyncratic that they do not leave much room for influence, in terms of “building off” their work?
“Guess I’m a lone rhinoceros no more,” says Adrian.
The same goes for you!
If you’ve already got Back Office privileges and can initiate threads, by all means use your privileges! If you’d like to acquire such privileges, let us know. If you’ve got a comment that needs to be made, what are you waiting for? If you’re just dropping in and find yourself feeling the need to scat, don’t hesitate to register and post your thoughts. The world of intelligent rock discussion benefits from your participation. If nothing else, your own Mr. Moderator gets a day off from himself. It’s a good thing for you as well as me!
John Wetton: yet another good egg enters the Halls of Rock
Following a tosssed-off aside in a recent analysis/appreciation of a Lark’s Tongue in Aspic-era King Crimson performance an immediate groundswell of support gathered around the previously inconceivable notion that John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music, UK, Family, Uriah Heep, and much more) was the Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock.
To clarify, it’s not that Wetton’s good looks had previously been inconceivable but that good looks ever played a part in the brainy, challenging progressive rock scene. In the wake of this discussion Townspeople were polled, and between the results of nearly 1000 voters and a panel of rock experts, Wetton was officially deemed – once and for all – The Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock.
That’s the silly part of the story. We managed to contact Wetton for his thoughts on this distinction (“I’m delighted to be deemed a cute pig in the litter,” he replied). Better yet, he agreed to an interview with us. It’s the following interview, one focusing on his musical experiences rather than beauty tips, that’s the most appreciated thing to come from a silly notion and an unexpected encounter with Wetton and a broad swath of prog-rock fans.
As you probably know, if this is even your second day in the Halls of Rock, Rock Town Hall regulars tend to be deeply immersed in the music we’ve lived through. Musicians like Wetton, whose careers have woven through a broad swath of rock history, can be especially enticing as interview subject. We spend more time than the average person contemplating Rock’s Big Issues, and who better to hear from than musicians who’ve straddled eras, genres, and band responsibilities? In the following interview, John Wetton provides insight on these issues and displays an enthusiasm for and confidence in his musical ventures and colleagues that I found refreshing. I hope you do, too.
RTH: How is your health, John, and what are you working on these days? Did I read correctly that been at work on projects with both Asia and Eddie Jobson?
John Wetton: My health is good, thank you—having survived (with enormous help on both counts) two life-threatening conditions, I’m being a little more circumspect, but still have a lust for life and a desire to enjoy the journey, regardless of the destination. I’ve just completed 50 dates with Asia–in Europe, USA and Japan—we complete the world touring for 2010 with a 5-date UK tour before Christmas.
I played 3 dates in Poland with Eddie Jobson last November, “for old times’ sake.” It was generally regarded as a UK reunion and was great fun, but we have no plans to extend that run right now. It was a terrific band–myself, Eddie, Marco Minneman, Tony Levin, and Greg Howe.
[NOTE: Mogul Thrash would spawn not only Wetton but two the founding members of Average White Band, which Townspeople also know as the band that gave us RTH hero Hamish Stuart.]
RTH: Your career must be a dream for writer Pete Frame and his Rock Family Tree books. The earliest band I knew of that you were in was Family, but I learned that you were in an earlier band that recorded an album, Mogul Thrash. The music sounds in the jazz-rock vein of Soft Machine and Colosseum. Prior to Mogul Thrash, were you already rooted in jazz and improvisatory music?
JW: I guess my name would have cropped up on many of Pete’s Family trees, but I did most of my band-hopping in the ’70s—since then I’ve done side projects, but the bulk of my work has been either with Asia or as a solo artist.
Jazz was never really an influence until I was in my early 20s, when I started to listen to some fantastic players–John McLaughlin, Miroslav Vitous, Herbie Hancock. My huge early musical influence from around age 5, was my brother, a church organist and choirmaster. Piano is my first instrument.
RTH: At the same time, you’ve also displayed a strong pop sense through your career. As a boy, were you more a Beatles or Stones fan?
Believe us, we care what the groundbreaking popular vote said regarding a poll that resulted from an analysis and discussion to determine – once and for all – The Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock. We care what the humble subject at the root of this heretofore-unexamined topic ultimately may have felt about all the attention he received. We cherish the new friends we’ve made in the last couple of weeks, and we welcome you to our daily gatherings and passionate discussions of rock-related topics, both serious and inane. We’re not sure how the other finalists in our quest to determine – once and for all – The Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock may have felt, but among those we attempted to contact, only go-to bassist/vocalist of the Progressive and Art Rock scene (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music, UK, Family, and many more) John Wetton responded to the ardent support of his fan base, summing up the consideration for this honor as follows:
“I’m delighted to be deemed a cute pig in the litter.”
We should all feel delighted to have finally established for all the world’s rock snobs, who have long considered prog-rock the sole domain of stoners and Dungeons & Dragons dudes, that the ladies dig prog-rockers on their own terms, including reasons as earthy as the music may be cerebral or ethereal. Just as cool, a number of Townsmen, regardless of their sexual preferences, felt comfortable discussing the importance of prog-rock bands containing a couple of good-looking guys to pull off those 17/8 time signatures. That’s what I call progressive rock music discussion! Most of all, however, we should feel delighted at the announcement that John Wetton has graciously agreed to subject himself to a Rock Town Hall Interview!
John Wetton: The Rock Town Hall Interview, Coming Friday, October 1.
The interview will cover John’s unique career and, hopefully, stimulate thought and discussion about the inner workings of some of the most-distinctive bands of the 1970s, the difference between “Prog Rock” and “Art Rock,” and the possible threat posed by Punk and New Wave bands. John also gives us a few additional seconds to answer the hard-hitting, rapid-fire questions of Rock Town Hall’s patented Dugout Chatter.
Thanks, John, and congratulations to leading popular vote-getter Carl Palmer and other runners-up Greg Lake, Keith Emerson (yes, the band should have been named PLE!), Chris Squire, and David Gilmour! Finally, thanks to the loyal and enthusiastic followers of one of rock’s most ambitious music scenes for making this silly notion turn into something of lasting value!
Our ongoing poll to determine the Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock has garnered interest across the globe. Out of the gates it looked to be a showdown between the the Zelig of the Prog/Art Rock world, stylishly tressed bassist John Wetton, and former model and Pink Floyd hunk David Gilmour. Then, without warning, cape-wearing Yes bassist Chris Squire and ELP’s boyishly macho drummer Carl Palmer jumped ahead of Gilmour and put some heat on Wetton. With a record number of votes pouring in, Wetton and Squire are neck and neck! Before more votes are posted, let’s consider the leaders in this heretofore-inconceivable showdown.
I know this discussion will make some of you manly men uncomfortable, but these prog-rock legends aren’t as smooth as Ken dollsdown there, nor are their fans a collection of plastic Ken and Barbie dolls. For the rock ‘n roll record, I suggest you man up and give these gents the once-over they deserve. It’s clear that only Rock Town Hall is fit to determine, once and for all, the Sexiest Man in Prog-Rock. In-depth analyses of our leading vote-getters appear on page 2!