Beat

King Crimson – Beat (1982)

Robert Fripp: Guitar, Organ, Frippertronics
Adrian Belew: Guitar, Lead Vocal
Tony Levin: Stick, Bass Guitar, Support Vocal
Bill Bruford: Drumming

Sometime in the early 1980’s I would regularly browse music shops. It was a time before CDs, Vinyl LPS were the most popular medium for music. In a bargain bin of LPs I found an album with a blue cover. I was vaguely aware of the musicians but I had not heard of the band. This would be the first King Crimson album I would buy, and one to come back to as a touchstone of progressive music.

The first side is mainly songs written by Adrain Belew. These were almost pop songs, but with a harder edge.

“Neal and Jack and Me” (4:22)
The album’s catchy opener features Fripp on Hammond electric organ, and Belew’s quirky lyrics (which are full of references to the Beatnik writer duo, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy).
The ‘Jack’ of the title is Beat writer Jack Kerouac, while ‘Neal’ is Kerouac’s best friend Neal Cassady.

“Heartbeat” (3:54)
Undeniably cheesy, this is still a great song, and you may actually hear it on the radio from time to time (a rarity with King Crimson). Subtle time signature changes and a moody guitar melody underscore Bill Bruford’s textural drumming and the “backwards” guitar solo.

I need to feel your heartbeat heartbeat
so close, feels like mine
all mine
I need to feel your heartbeat heartbeat
so close it feels like mine
all mine…
I remember the feeling
my hands in your hair
hands in your hair
I remember the feeling
of the rhythm we made
the rhythm we made
I need to land sometime
right next to you
feel your heartbeat heartbeat
right next to me…..

“Sartori in Tangiers” (3:34)
The antithesis of pop, this Stick-based instrumental is very much Tony Levin’s creation. Opening with a pseudo-classical intro, it quickly moves though Hammond and guitar leads, ending only too soon. Note: The title is a clever twist on Kerouac’s classic, Satori in Paris. This remains a favourite track. For years I tried to find music like this.

“Waiting Man” (4:27)
Similar to “Discipline” (from the likewise titled album), this tune reflects KC’s fascination with world music. Bruford uses his Simmons electronic percussion pads to create a counterpoint to the bass line.
Unfortunately, the lyrics and vocals are not Belew’s finest moment.

I come back, come back
You see my return
My returning face is smiling
Smile of a waiting man

I, I’ll be home soon, soon, soon
Soon cry on your shoulder
Your shoulder against my burning tears
Tears of a waiting man

One two three four, one two three

I wait every moment
I wait, wait for my chance
I wait for my friend to say
Hello, you’re waiting man

Feel no fret, feel no fret, feel no fret
You can wait and feel no fret
And so I wait, so I wait, so I wait, so I wait

I return, face is smiling, be home soon cry on your shoulder
Tears of a waiting man, every moment wait for my chance
My friend say hello, feel no fret, feel no fret

The second side is more Fripp than Belew. It first I didn’t like this side as much, but after years of listening to music on the edge of sound, I like it more and more.

“Neurotica” (4:48)
One of the great crashing intros. With Bruford’s free-form drumming supporting Belew’s bizarre, paranoid lyrics this song comes off as full of demented imagery that describes the insanity of a big-city night.

“Two Hands” (3:23)
A nice little love song, or is it ?
Like The Police Song ‘Every Breath You Take’ it appears to be about a stalker or observer.
Always loved the shifting guitar textures that underpin the song.

Oh they’re touching
They’re touching each other
They’re feeling
They push and move
And love each other, love each other
They fit together like two hands…

I am a face
in the painting on the wall
I pose and shudder
And watch from the foot of the bed
Sometimes I think I can
Feel everything…

The wind is blowing
My hair in their direction
The wind is bending my hair
There are no windows in the painting
No open windows, no open windows, no…

“The Howler” (4:13)
This excellent tune name-checks Allan Ginsberg’s classic poem, “Howl”. Another catchy guitar figure and nice lyrics.

“Requiem” (6:38)
This instrumental track is the most avant-garde of the album. At this point I had not heard Fripp’s solo frippertronics albums so was surprised with the odd sounds.
Beginning with a distinctly Frippian guitar solo, Bruford’s jazzy drumming and Levin’s subtle additions flesh out the tune, making for one of the darker Crimson pieces.