My Top 1000 Songs #370: Elephant Talk
Another pair of songs that remain intrinsically linked in my mind--King Crimson's "Elephant Talk" first came to my attention when the band appeared as a musical guest on late-night Saturday Night Live imitator Fridays, much like my initial exposure to Devo (referenced yesterday). I had read a little bit about Crimson--I was just starting to get into Gabriel-era Genesis at that point and was gradually expanding my prog explorations--but don't think I'd actually heard any of their arty 70s work at that point.
Of course, the 1980s incarnation of the band was much different from the '70s prog band--guitarist Robert Fripp had contemplated renaming the new foursome before falling back on KC--owing a lot more to quirky post-punk experimentalism, weaving in everything from Talking Heads to Brian Eno. It was an electrifying musical mix, but what I most vividly remember is the jolt I got from that tv appearance.
You had stately, taciturn guitarist Fripp sitting on a stool, like a patient father, furiously noodling away with these incredibly complex guitar figures, looking like a bemused father... but the rest of the band was hugely dynamic in its contrast. Drummer Bill Bruford--the other holdover from a prior Crimson--gleefully pounding away on his electric drums with his boyish grin; bassist Tony Levin seemed both strange and magnetic, shiny bald head while plucking this melodic, funky bassline on an odd-looking instrument (called a Chapman Stick); and of course new frontman Adrian Belew (fresh off supporting roles with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Talking Heads), with his flamboyant pink suit and otherworldly guitar tones.
The song itself was a wonder, silly spoken-wordish dictionary walk-through delivered with enthusiasm by Belew, accompanied by his, well, elephant-like guitar squeals, with that intricate musical interplay that was impossible not to get absolutely lost in.
I ran out the next day and bought the LP, 1981's Discipline (the first of 3 studio LPs by this incarnation of the band), at the nearby mall, and played it to death.That Fridays appearance:Another live performance: