I've had a blast listening to these interviews again! I'm glad you guys seem to enjoy them, too. My interview with Boz just got better as we went along. He laughed so much that I couldn't help but join him.
This is Part Two of my 11-22-93 interview with Boz Burrell. This picks up exactly where Part One left off and continues for another 15 minutes or so.
NOTE: The intent of my interviews was to get to know <i>the person</i> behind the music. So I didn't spend a lot of time asking specific questions about songs, albums, etc. Fripp provides incredible details about facts in the superb Crimson box sets. What I wanted to discover was who these people are (or were at the time of their involvement with Crimso). I wanted to know <i>the personalities</i> behind the music, figuring that would provide insights into the creation of the music itself that a mere recitation of facts would shadow.
Consequently, I intentionally let my interviews ramble, covering as much ground as possible, asking lots of opinion questions to draw out individual personalities.
My interview with Boz was one of my favorites because he seemed to enjoy going with the flow and tone of my interview. He's an incredibly nice guy, laid-back and fun to talk to. Thank you, Boz!
You’re free to pass around this excerpt. All I ask is that you give credit when you do: <b>Copyright © 1993, 2005 Bill Murphy. (http://www.purplecrayondirect.com
BM: That type of music – bands such as Yes and King Crimson and early Genesis – most people call “progressive rock” Bu you prefer to call it “jazz-influenced rock”?
BB: Yes. Yeah. I mean, it just went away from the diatonic scale somewhat and had more freedom than just the straight 4/4 rock thing. It was all part and parcel of the time, really, where I think jazz musicians were beginning to think about rock tempos and rock musicians were starting to think in terms of jazz harmonies – especially the sort of free form type thing which was going on with, again, Coltrane and the Civil Rights movement in the Sixties. The militant side of jazz, you know. So, for me, it was a two-way thing. Jazz musicians picking up on rock and rock musicians picking bits out of jazz.
BM: What about the groups like ELP or Pink Floyd that didn’t really seem to have jazz influences? Weren’t they based more on classical influences?
BB: Well, again, that’s something I haven’t really listened to. ELP, to me, always seemed to be just doing popular versions of classics. Like a loud version of the Boston Pops orchestra.
BM: [laughs]. “A loud version.” [laughs].
BB: [laughs]. And Pink Floyd...I don’t know what that was about at all, really. [laughs]
BM: So you tend to prefer your music kind of straightforward and understandable, not going off in some of these –
BB: Oh no. I’m a great Eric Dolphy fan. I’m a great American music fan, basically. But, there again, I’ve always found in my travels that America has a much more serious approach to music. It has much more formal training at the early stages. In the Sixties there’s some pretty wild music going on to the extent that it’s still being copied. As I said Eric Dolphy is a horn player. Coltrane is a horn player. [Charles] Mingus, of course, you know, coming from Duke Ellington. It’s all pretty much a movement forwards and they were playing some pretty outside stuff in those days.
BM: Did you find you got along pretty well with everyone from the <i>Islands</i> line-up? Was there somebody you particularly enjoyed hanging out with? Was there somebody you particularly didn’t enjoy hanging out with? What was it like?
BB: Well, I suppose Mel [Collins], myself and Ian [Wallace] used to hang out quite a lot together. And we still speak to each other to say Hello. Robert was, obviously, trying to keep us all under control and wasn’t such a gregarious person as the rest of us. But, there again, we still see each other and talk to each other and are good friends. So, I mean, as far as that’s concerned it was never sort of horrible to get on the stage where everybody hated everybody else. There was none of that really going on.
BM: When I talked to Ian he said, basically, that he was a little frustrated with the <i>Islands</i> band because he wasn’t really able to stretch and play and go beyond the very rigid parameters that Robert set up for him –
BB: Yeah, but I think, there again, if I had had more experience and knew more what I was doing on bass I could have supplied him with a little bit more movement to work with. But, there again, that’s what Robert wanted in a bass player. Why he should pick somebody that never played the instrument before, I don’t know.
BB: But that was how it all worked at that particular time, you know. He was willing to go for it. On the track [from <i>Islands</i>] I heard last year, if I had been a little bit more aware as a bass player, and I could have supplied more movement, I think I probably could have made Ian move a little bit more. That was probably as much of his frustration as Robert’s hold on everything, if you know what I mean.
BM: If Robert called you up today and said, “Gosh, we’d like to get this thing back together again” would you want to play with that line-up of people?
BB: Oh yeah. I’m down for a blow, yeah. I mean I wouldn’t like to base my life around it, mind you. [laughs]
BB: But I’m always going for a laugh.
BM: After that Crimson line-up, the Bad Company thing was incredible. That took off immediately.
BB: [laughs]. Yeah. That was strange as well, wasn’t it? [laughs]
BM: [laughs]. That was great. I really enjoyed that, by the way. I thought the first few Bad Company albums were phenomenal.
BB: Oh, good.
BM: What was the difference between the two bands – the Crimson line-up you were in and the line-up that created the first Bad Company album? How do you contrast those bands?
BB: Well, one immediate thing is that I didn’t have to hide and listen to Bill Evans when I was with King Crimson as I did when I was with Bad Company.
BB: That’s the immediate thing I can think of. [laughs]. Bad Company was a lot noisier. [laughs].
BB: I mean, basically, it was a straight ahead rhythm and blues band, wasn’t it – Bad Company. So, obviously, there’s two different types of things. There’s no jazz in Bad Company at all.
BM: By the time you got into the Bad Company line-up, were you pretty well versed with the bass playing by that point?
BB: No, no. I’ve only just got to grips with it now. I feel happy now. But now all work’s stopped, you know. But that’s Sod’s Law. [laughs]
BB: No, I mean, there again, that was another thing. I just played along. If people gave me money then I was not going to say No. But I could never understand why, I must admit. But that’s pure luck, pure chance.
BM: Did you notice a difference in the audiences, whether you were playing with the Crimson line-up or the Bad Company line-up? Were the people different?
BB: Well, in as much as there are differences in people in Texas to people in New York. Crimson, at the time, only really played the East Coast. Whereas Bad Company used to play in Biloxi, Mississippi. What can I tell ya? And sell out down there, you know. I mean, it was a much broader audience. By that time, I mean, we were playing stadiums. What can you tell about a stadium audience? Who knows what goes through their minds? [laughs].
BM: [laughs]. Is there any particular gig you remember most with the <i>Islands</i> tour? Anything stand out?
BB: [laughs]. Oh, I can remember the last one. Where Mel, in his frustration, actually took apart two Mellotrons. He had a spanner. He didn’t kick them or nothing like that. He actually had the screwdriver and the spanner and just actually dismantled them throughout the gig. And I thought that was perfect. Those things were horrible instruments. [laughs]
BM: [laughs]. You never took to the Mellotron, huh?
BB: [laughs]. No. I could never get around the one note being totally out of tune to another. But, having said that, Peter was very ahead of his time with the synthesizers that he used on the drum kit and things like that. But the Mellotron, now that was a pig of an instrument. That was a horrid thing.
BM: [laughs]. And yet that’s what King Crimson’s always been known as, a very Mellotron-heavy band.
BB: [laugh]. Yeah. It had the same effect on me as the very loud guitars in Bad Company. [laughs]. No, don’t say this. No, I don’t really mean it, really.
BM: So your last gig was on April 1st in Birmingham, Alabama, for that <i>Islands</i> tour?
BB: Was it?
BM: I think so. It was somewhere around ’71 or ’72.
BB: Well, I remember going down there in an old Piemont plane. I think it was down that way. Yeah. I didn’t realize we’d got that far, that we’d gotten over to Alabama. I thought it was Virginia or somewhere.
BM: There’s an itinerary in <i>Frame By Frame</i> of all the gigs played and the last one is April 1st –
BB: Oh, oh, the last one? Sorry. I thought you said the first one. Yeah, the last one. That was right. Because then Mel and I drove straight down from there and spent some time in New Orleans and hung out just north of the lake there, Lake Pontchartrain. Hung out there for a month, six weeks, until Alexis Korner came through. And we all joined up with Alexis, who was an old blues player from England who was on the road with Humble Pie.
BM: Well, that last gig…were you guys really happy to see it be over? Or were you sad about it at all, or what?
BB: Well, I can’t remember any miserable faces.
BB: I think we were all quite pleased at the time, yeah. [laughs]
BM: [laughs]. How long was it between that last gig with Crimson and when Bad Company too off? It was only about a year and a half or two years, wasn't it?
BB: Hmmm. I'm just trying to think now. I worked with Alexis for about a year. And then I did some stuff with Esther Phillips over in New York for a while. So it must have been two years, yeah. Probably about eighteen months. Something like that. Two years probably.
BM: Were you guys prepared for that kind of immediate success in Bad Company?
BB: Well, it's always baffled me. But I just went with the flow and never really thought about it very much. Just got on with the job. And whatever happened, happened. I still don't understand it. I always just went along with whatever happened. If people turned up to be played to, I played to them, really. I never thought much about it. I noticed the rooms kept getting bigger. But I never really thought about it. [laughs]
BM: But that music still holds up. You can still hear Bad Company on the radio today.
BB: Sure. Yeah. We've got a lot to answer for, really, haven't we? [laughs]
To be continued...?