AN EDGY GENTLEMAN (2)

The 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 1980.

A couple of months later, Fripp started rehearsing a new band in—according to the back cover of the subsequent album—“a 14th century lodge just outside Winborne”. Now, I don’t know where Winborne is, nor what constitutes a lodge (other than a place where freemasons hang out with other masons), but I’ll hazard a guess this edgy New Wave garage jump-pop music would have scared the pants off your average 14th century squire. It makes me jittery seven centuries later.

Recruiting ex-XTC keyboard player Barry Andrews on organ, Fripp added Sara Lee on bass and Jonny Toobad on drums and put together a bunch of music to take on the road. Every gig The League of Gentlemen performed is listed on the back cover of the album, cataloging the entire life of the band.

Then, of course, there’s the record. 

The LP was released in February 1981.

Like God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners, The League of Gentlemen has never been released on CD.

The League of Gentlemen pivots around the duels between Andrews’ choppy organ and Fripp’s circulating guitar figures. Sheets of angular arpeggios, squalls of organ flurries. 

Imagine if a mid-60s West Coast garage psych band were thrashing out an instrumental bridge for “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet” and suddenly discovered they could actually play.

Imagine if a virtuoso baroque lute player was given acid and an electric guitar.

Although there is no singing as such, there are voices. These are recordings Fripp found—or made—of people opining on various subjects, including the english mystic/teacher JG Bennett who was influential in Fripp-world at the time. There’s also a generous dollop of orgiastic female moaning (uncredited).

It’s such an unusual album. One piece sounds like an off-kilter carousel soundtrack, the dancing guitar almost delicate; another churns with new wave attitude and almost begs for Andy Partridge to drop in an early XTC vocal. Still others have the Fripp & Eno experimental feel of a music box with mental health issues. A number of the pieces have—and this is important, kids—fast-picked arpeggios pealing and repeating like chromium wavelets on a concrete beach. Echoes of XTC, of Mod-revival; a kind of punky minimalism with a garage beat and prog chops.

The one-and-only League of Gentlemen album is not going to be everyone’s bunch of petunias. That’s because there’s nothing flowery about it at all. But interesting it certainly is, and an important step in the path that was emerging for Robert Fripp. The spoken word outro—JG Bennett again—provides the clue…

“The next step is discipline”

Section 2 of The Path to Discipline

21 comments

  1. Ooh, I can’t tell on the YouTube where tracks might begin and end, but I like the first offering after the opening spoken word mash-up; might it be ‘Inductive Reasoning’? That one and the subsequent (‘Minor Man’ maybe?) remind me (pleasantly) of Bill Nelson’s Red Noise Sound-on-Sound album, of which I am a fan. I could do without the spoken female voice on possibly ‘Minor Man’, but the music behind it moves me. Taking a pass on possibly ‘Heptaparaparshinokh’ but then ‘Dislocated’ puts us back on firm Sound-on-Sound territory and I approve. Oops, possibly ‘Pareto Optimum I’ goes all pingy boingy and loses me…. (and that’s as far as I’ve gotten before hitting send.)

    Of note however, I see that The League of Gentlemen never came west of Illinois, so maybe I was never actually in the target audience for Fripp at this stage…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great that you found a connection point, Vic. I don’t know Bill Nelson well, but the comparison sure makes me more interested. As for the track divisions, I gave up. As for the spoken word bits, didn’t add much to my enjoyment either.
      I’m not sure anyone knew who the target audience was for L of G!

      Like

      1. For what’s it is worth, the middle three on Side 2 continue the S-o-Sisms. So much so that I felt the need to check when S-o-S was released (1979) to see who influenced who. Bill Nelson’s solo stuff through the subsequent years might have some overlap with this stage of Fripp but it is a looser connection. I am kind of blown away, however, at how much his Red Noise one-off Sound-on-Sound is, at least to these ears, a slightly more song/melody-oriented older full sibling of LofG.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Enjoying Sound-on-Sound through headphones now. Interesting… really like the experimental guitar parts and the electronic squawks! Moments remind me of eccentric UK synth pop from the late 70s, others of Devo (in a good way).
          Must break out the Bill Nelson album I have. And a Be Bop Deluxe too, I guess.

          Like

  2. Interesting. Fripp is definitely on my list of people I really should be listening to to broaden my musical horizons…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He’s a grand explorer, for sure. The next (final) instalment in this mini-series would provide an excellent (if bracing) entry point, especially for anyone not a long-term fan of ‘progressive’ music.
      Thanks for commenting, Andrew.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Now this sounds pretty special, Bruce! I really like what I’m reading and hearing… I’m also liking the artwork (I know, I’m always talking about artwork).

    I shall be investigating this one a bit more…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The beauty of streaming/youtube is a capacity to pretty much hear anything you want!

      Absolutely with you on the artwork, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, surprisingly there is very little Fripp on the streaming service I’ve subscribed to, but I found the full thing on YouTube! Hurrah!

        Also had a look on Discogs and there are a few at a surprisingly reasonable price given the lack of availability on CD.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. And I will now replace ‘my cuppa’ with ‘my bunch of petunias’ in a sentence at the earliest possible convenience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please be my guest!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You really are nudging me in this direction. I will bracket some time and set my “Time Machine” to this date (I’m actually reading some H.G. right now).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you are enjoying HG and this more slow-motion time travel, CB!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Im enjoying both, thank you. I listened to this after I read your post this morning. Sort of a lost album for me. Enjoyed it.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I was at the Cleveland Agora for that July 7th performance. Also,earlier in the school year,Fripp was doing his Frippertronics thing. A stop was made at a warehouse sized record store called Peaches,on Cleveland’s south side. I just happened to be in the store at the time.

    I don’t care what he’s playing …it can be dancey punky like the LEAGUE;or the dinosaur prog of KC mark 1,or soloing on a Bowie song-I just love the sounds that Mr Fripp makes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s brilliant. In fact, both stories are — the gig and the good fortune.

      More Frippery on the way.

      Like

  7. […] by Discipline, noting that in addition to new material, the band performed pieces by the League of Gentlemen and King […]

    Like

  8. I think you’ll find a lodge is a small house in the grounds of a big, posh one, usually at the gate to the estate. And it’s Wimborne (with an ‘m’), which I believe is in the county of Dorset – a lovely part of the world. I can see Mr Fripp feeling right at home there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Phil. Your sub-editor’s cheque is in the mail.

      (Actually, I do know about lodges – from PG Wodehouse rather than personal experience – but couldn’t resist a little Masonic jibe).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Finally managed to listen to this (on YouTube) and I see what you mean. Fascinating! Shame it’s not available in a digital format; that has saved me a few shekels, though. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As there aren’t many things NOT on CD (and thus digital), it does seem odd. Maybe (and there is some evidence for this) Mr Fripp saw this and ‘God Save The Queen / Manners’ as steps towards something, and thus more footnotes than flourishes.

      Like

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: