THE KING HAS ABDICATED (1)

It was always worth checking out Allans sales. Although determinedly mainstream and totally in thrall to the hits of the day, the music shop occasionally ordered—and got stuck with—oddities, outliers and obscurities. These ended up in the SALE bins, usually at excellent prices. I loved those sales; you could take a punt of three or four unknown artists, grab a pair of sought-after titles (that hadn’t sold) and still have change from twenty dollars. Excellent value for a penurious student.

Ringing guitar tones that don’t sound like guitar. Nor like any six-string solos you’ve ever heard before. Echoing like reflected sonic beams from a parallel universe, these are strange and slightly disturbing vibrations

One Allans sale I met a uni acquaintance trawling through the bins. She seemed very focussed in her browsing, but paused long enough to disclose her secret strategy. Order something you want, she said, but never pick it up. They dump uncollected orders into the discount bins. It seemed a risky strategy to me. Good luck, I said. I left her flipping feverishly.

Odd vibrato pulses, jumping around a darkened stave like fireflies. Notes like blocks piled higgledy piggledy, teetering on wayward harmonics

Not all the LPs were mark-downs. Some were record company deletions, identified by a bullet hole somewhere on the sleeve. 

When it was an unfamiliar album by a recognised artist, I was more likely to take the chance. Such as a Robert Fripp album with two front covers. How odd.

 

On listening to the record, not so weird, this split personality cover. 

An album of two sides. 

An album with a hole on the top left corner. 

An album with a postcard and a sheet of liner notes in small type.

Morse code pings and bleeps, gastrointestinal growlings, subdued flurries of repeated notes, beaming in from stars suspended over the Mariana Trench.

An album with a manifesto.

Frippertronics is defined as that musical experience resulting at the interstice of Robert Fripp and a small, mobile and appropriate level of technology viz, his guitar, Frippelboard and two Revoxes*

Having released Red—arguably the most satisfying and consistent King Crimson album—in 1974, Robert Fripp promptly disbanded the highly successful progressive rock outfit due to dissatisfaction with the ‘rock’ experience, and, one suspects, a deep aversion to mainstream success. In his own words…

In 1974 I left King Crimson for a number of reasons; on a professional level this was largely a result of the decreasing possibility for any real contact between audience and performers. This seemed to me to be caused by three main factors: firstly, the escalation in the size of rock events; secondly, the general acceptance of rock music as spectator sport; thirdly, the vampiric relationship between audience and performer*

So just to labour the point: Robert Fripp identified the plateau of progressive rock in 1974.

There are discrete pieces on the instrumental Frippertronics side, but they are like scenes from an epic movie, glimpses into the cosmic glacier, future memories of unborn cyborgs.

Creepy and lovely in equal measure.

The opening of the second side is a shock. Holy fuck! What’s this funk-reggae-drum machine groove with someone who sounds very much like David Byrne bleating about hearing trumpets?

Discotronics is defined as that musical experience resulting at the interstice of Frippertronics and disco*

“Under heavy manners” ends with Byrne’s enigmatic cry, “I am resplendent in divergence” and that sounds like a manifesto too.

“The zero of the signified” has a disco beat (proper drums this time), bubbling bass, and the hypnotic loops. It also has—and this is important, kids—fast-picked arpeggios pealing and repeating like silver wavelets on a purple beach. Echoes of Philip Glass, of Terry Riley; a kind of ambient progressive rock minimalism with a dance floor beat.

Such is Robert Fripp’s wonderful, confounding, 1980 break-away LP, God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners… building on his work with Brian Eno**, fracturing the legacy of King Crimson, challenging listeners to enter a new progressive realm.

Whatever would Mr Fripp do next?

* Fripp quotes from the liner notes for God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners [Polydor Records, 1980]

** In particular, No Pussyfooting (1973) and Evening Star (1975).

Section 1 of The Path to Discipline

32 comments

  1. Sonic beams, fireflies, Morse code, gastrointestinal growlings, stars suspended over the Mariana Trench – – These have to be some of the strangest music commentaries I’ve read, really enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is something about experimental music that seems to give licence to flights of descriptive fancy. That, or a few glasses of red.

      Either way, glad you enjoyed it, Robert.
      – Bruce

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope whatever Fripp did next was Disciplined.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Watch this space.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember enjoying the book Freakonomics – I think I’d enjoy Frippertronics even more!
    Fripponomics – the challenge of marketing the ever-evolving Robert to the masses?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reckon you’ve nailed it there, Geoff, particularly the challenge of working one’s way into this music.
      Though I’m not sure the masses were ever Mr F’s target. He believed rock (and particularly progressive rock) lost the plot when shows and stage presentations got too big. He recommended a preferred audience size of “10 – 250”!!

      Like

  4. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    And to think my hair stylist Donnie knows him. We are bound by the ring of the odd, thank god (save us). Nice piece, Bruce. Cool build-up…I know about those titles with the bullets in the spine, too. Dark trick, that woman you met shared.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I had hair, I’d visit Donnie. Even without, I reckon it might be worth it for the stories.
      Bit of a Fripp fest going down here this week.

      King Crimson, last week nostalgia for Pink Floyd. Am I becoming an oldies station?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        They’re oldies, but goodies.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Didn’t know about this one. Not heard any Fripp outside of KC or his Bowie bits. I did see him live once and it was boring as hell! I tried to be as vampiric as I could but there was no nourishment to be had.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonder when that was? Could well have been the Frippertronics tour, from which this album arose. Might not be your cup of blood, then. Unless as an antidote to wakefulness. [I think I love it because it was one of the more ‘out there’ albums I heard at the time.]

      Like

      1. It was more recent… mid-2000s. He was supporting Porcupine Tree. Just not my cuppa I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Now, you don’t need me to tell you that I really like the album cover, right?

    As for the music… I don’t know any Fripp. None whatsoever. Well, aside from a couple of King Crimson albums. Literally a couple. Two. Anyhoo, I’m intrigued enough to give it a listen, even if it may not be quite my thing.

    Also, I might order a few records I want out of my least liked record store in the hope of securing them cheap in a few months. I guess the key is to choose some of the more obscure releases. That said, in this day and age I bet they want payment upfront.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reckon you’re right about up front deposits – or full payment even. No-one trusts anyone any more. (sad face).
      As for this album, I always encourage a bit of the old streaming or other dipping of toes in unfamiliar waters. Though having said that, the album after next (in these pages) is probably the one to save your pennies for.

      Oh, the cover photos were taken by Chris Stein of Blondie who has a co-credit for the design!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved this Bruce, not an LP I have ever seen in the wild. I really liked your friend’s cheap LP strategy, that would just be great if you got there soon enough and nobody recognized you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some clear flaws in her strategy (and I never found out whether it was successful that time either). Still, always good to stick it to the man, eh?

      As for GSTQ/UHM, I really enjoyed getting into it again for this post (part one of ‘The Path to Discipline) and I’m chuffed it you enjoyed it too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe her strategy was how you found the occasional gem in there too.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Damn, 1537 beat me to the punch as I had come here intending to write “Loved this, VC” but now I’m afraid that would just come off as derivative.

    Maybe it is the ..tronics part of the Frippertronics name-branding that repels me, but I am afraid I may be resplendent in divergence from the group of folk that will give this one a try. I will rejoice in the rejoicing of others however. Hurrah for super-talented curmudgeons!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is certainly uneasy (ambient) listening, Vic. Do you know ‘No Pussyfooting’? They are kinfolk.
      And that is a neat summary of Mr Fripp, I reckon. Mind you, I think dealing with the music industry as a life journey would probably make anyone testy.

      Like

      1. I’d be willing to take that chance re dealing with the music industry (this after taking the magic virtuosity pill, of course). Only vaguely know No Pussyfooting. Have tried it and other Eno ambient more than once, but I’m not yet intellectually developed enough to maintain attention. Now, Here Come the Warm Jets is a wholly different matter…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes. Eno’s ‘rock’ albums, while certainly, er, idiosyncratic, are mostly very entertaining and full of good stuff.

          Like

  9. […] delay and decay guitar experiments Robert Fripp used as the foundation for God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners were recorded in 1979, with the album being released in January […]

    Like

  10. Very astute: “Robert Fripp identified the plateau of progressive rock in 1974”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an interesting thesis, isn’t it?

      Like

  11. Sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You are nudging me to listen to the “right after ‘Red’ stuff”. I seen RF in a small venue. Casting what’s left of my mind back it was the smallest venue I had ever seen anyone in. Robert served tea and conversed with the people in attendance..It was all lost on CB at the time. A bit of a regret.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Might that have been the tour around this album? Sounds like it from your description. Fascinating!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. !979. It wa like a lecture from professor Fripp.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Prof Fripp works. Nice (if you enrolled!)

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I had tea with the Prof but mine was spiked with whiskey. He was a very pleasant fellow.

          Liked by 1 person

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Please join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: