Russ Stewart: London, November 2021
Fifty years ago, October 11th 1971, I attended my first proper gig, at Glasgow’s Green’s Playhouse.
Oddly, as I am not really a prog rock fan, it was in the court of prog royalty – King Crimson.
Half a century on, I still retain a soft spot for the band, though not soft enough to have paid 100 quid to see them play live in London a couple of years ago.
Featured below is the actual ticket for the gig courtesy of Roger Brown who found it attached to a King Crimson album he purchased from me many moons ago….
King Crimson’s support act that evening was a solo acoustic guitar/singer called Keith Christmas.
Due to alliteration, I was suspicious as to whether this was his real name.
Still gigging today Christmas played guitar on Bowie’s Space Oddity album.
My erstwhile near neighbour, Alan Doig was the one who introduced me to King Crimson and he was part of the group who attended this gig.
Alan’s father had been a provost of Bearsden and had a symbolic single blue provost street light outside his house indicating the holding of such past office. I believe that this entitled him to kill a swan with a crossbow on Kilmardinny Loch each eve of Michaelmas.
Alan had a great sound system which did help influence the appeal of the new Crimson album at that time, ‘Lizard’. In particular it projected the fantastic, bombastic synth riff in the middle of the track Cirkus
Aged 14 I was impressed with Peter Sinfield’s lyrics on the Lizard album, particularly as I strove to find the deeper meanings embedded in his ditties.
I now realise they are incoherent nonsense.
The gig: after Mr Christmas’ plaintive noodling the lights dimmed and a mellotron chord rang out. C sharp minor 7th flattened 5th, though I could be mistaken ( ……or bullshitting).
The band: Robert Fripp sitting down playing guitar and mellotron. Boz Burrelll on bass and vocals, Mel Collins on sax and a drummer dude.
Most of that line up later deserted the prog camp. Boz Burrell left to form Bad Company, Mel Collins played with the Average White Band and Kokomo whilst Lyricist Sinfield went on to write for the likes of Buck’s Fizz and Leo Sayer.
Fripp now makes YouTube videos of himself accompanying the terpsichorean insanity of his fruity little wife, Toyah.
I have continued to dabble in prog listening and I’m grateful for the school friends who dragged me along to selected prog gigs in those early days. The likes of Graeme Butler, Simon Brader and Ralph Jessop helped me to open my ears somewhat, to Genesis, Greenslade and Magma.
Glasgow City Halls usually accommodated the lesser known prog bands in those days and one could easily wander backstage to chat with the musicians post gig.
I recall a schoolboy French conversation with the blue chinned caveman, Christian Vander, who led Magma.
Magna’s bassist played a Fender bass covered in baby oil ( …. the bass that is). They talked about the philosophic works of Ouspensky, which meant as much to me as King Crimson’s lyrics.
As I write I notice that Van Der Graaf Generator are touring the UK soon… maybe worth a punt.
Talking about gigs, my own band is playing the Three Kings Pub in Twickenham on New Years Eve.
There will be no prog rock, or baby oil… though there will be some Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Michael McDonald and Doors covers in the set.