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Bill's Boz Burrell Interview -- Part One

This is where writer Bill Murphy posts his interviews with the Crims, and other prog luminaries. It's a book in serial form -- that you become part of!

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Bill's Boz Burrell Interview -- Part One

Postby LTinAspic on Tue Nov 29, 2005 10:59 pm

Hi Everyone,

As promised, here is an excerpt from my 11-22-93 interview with Boz Burrell. I had a great time talking to Boz. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He laughed often and made me laugh often, too. (I laughed just listening to the interview again!) I'll probably post this and more on my web site. But you guys get it first.

By the way, 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. (</b>.

This is the beginning 15 minutes or so of my interview:

BM: Ian McDonald wanted me to say Hi to you for him.

BB: Oh, is he living over there?

BM: Yeah, he’s in the states. Lives in New York.

BB: Oh that’s great. I hope to speak to him again. Say Hello back. Is Fripp involved with this book?

BM: Actually, he’s called me a couple of times, and he’s given me a couple of faxes. But he hasn’t agreed to do an interview. He tells me he has no time. But he’s the one that gave me all these other phone numbers.

BB: Oh, okay. So you’ve gone through him and everything. Right. Okay. Because I know he’s been in some sort of problems and I’ve been receiving letters from him. So I didn’t want to talk to anybody that hasn’t had his go-ahead, if you know what I mean.

BM: Oh yeah. My book originally started about progressive rock in general. But I thought I should focus on King Crimson. Robert was helpful in getting me going in that direction.

BB: Oh yeah. Okay.

BM: From what I understand, you probably don’t have a whole lot of great feelings or memories about your time with the band. Or do you feel differently now?

BB: Well, remember it was the Seventies. I mean I just joined is the thing of it, really. And took up the bass after Greg left. And I took it up, really, parrot fashion. [Fripp] couldn’t find a bass player that he wanted to – this is what I assume – that he wanted to work with. And I just said well – because it wasn’t really my style of singing in a way – and I used it as a bit of a crutch, really. Because it was a job. And I took up the bass, really, learned all the tunes parrot fashion. I did see Pete Sinfield a while ago and he played me a track on the <i>Islands</i> album and I wish I’d known more about the bass, really. Because it was, well, you call it progressive rock. I call it jazz-influenced rock, which I’ve always been interested in – jazz. And I thought, “Oh, shit.” I wish I’d known more about it because it did lead the way to quite a lot of fusion type artists. So, yeah, I’ve got feelings about it. I’m very grateful. I’m pleased I took up the bass. It’s a painful, bloody instrument but at the same time I’m still working on playing jazz. It started me off, you know.

BM: From what I understand, you’re very into jazz playing now.

BB: Yes.

BM: Do you have your own band? Do you play in clubs?

BB: I’m always working around rhythm and blues clubs. I have a nine-piece band called The Tam White Band which has some of the London jazz guys in it. We don’t get a great deal of work, but what we do is very good. The odd festival and things like that.

BM: Before you joined the band, before you were hired to do the <i>Islands</i> album, were you familiar with King Crimson? Had you heard that music and liked it?

BB: No. I hadn’t actually heard it, no. I met Fripp, you see, through Centipede. Keith Tippett’s Centipede. When I was one of the singers. It was a big 50-piece orchestra, which was one-third classical musicians, one-third rock musicians and one-third jazz musicians. And I happened to be one of the singers. That’s how I became aware of Fripp. Of course, Fripp offered me the job from that.

BM: That’s interesting. So you walked into King Crimson not really knowing too much of its previous music or history or reputation?

BB: That’s right. Yeah.

BM: That’s different from Ian, then. He said he really wanted to play with Fripp and he knew about Crimson before and he was looking forward to it.

BB: Yeah, well, I was always a jazz record buyer, you see. So these rock and roll things actually went by and I never noticed [laughs].

BM: [laughs].

BB: [laughs]. So that’s why I’ve never really been up on the rock and roll music scene, as it were. As a buyer. As a follower. So it was through Keith Tippett, really, that I became aware of it all.

BM: What was it like during that period of Crimson? What was it like working with the other players? A great time? Difficult?

BB: Well, I had a great time, I think. Basically, I mean, when I say that I mean it was jolly good fun. I don’t know whether Fripp would say that.

BM: [laughs].

BB: Probably had a hard time with us. We were a bit of an unruly bunch, I can remember. [laughs] And he was quite a disciplined character. Always has been, really. So it was probably fun for me, but not so much fun for Fripp. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]. That reminds me. Ian said something about that. He said that if you really wanted to piss Fripp off you guys would start playing just some straight blues, you know. And he couldn’t stand it.

BB: [laughs] Yeah. He was incredibly anti-straight twelve bars, which I could never understand. Listening to jazz, Coltrane was playing straight twelve bar blues. But, there again, I suppose [Fripp] was coming from more of a contemporary classical background, which was something there, again, that I’ve only just recently gotten into. So he was probably unaware of the deviousness that you can creep into just a straight blues format, you know. [laughs].

BM: [laughs]. I talked to Bill Bruford, from the latter Crimson in the Seventies. He said he remembers rehearsals being excruciating. They were just very difficult. They involved a lot of sitting around staring at one’s feet. They had no common musical language to talk to each other in. How do you recall rehearsals from the line-up you were in?

BB: Well, I think, I mean it was always quite intensive rehearsals. I mean, I can remember – I don’t know if Ian told you – the center bit of what was it "21st Century Schizoid Man", that little break down in the middle there. I can remember we used to have to rehearse it with the lights on, with lights off, blindfolded, and one handed, you know what I mean? [laughs]

BM: [laughs].

BB: [laughs]. All sorts of things until we had it down pat. I think that way of rehearsing was peculiar to English bands, anyway. I think English musicians – it’s different now – but we never had the formal training. I think that’s probably what was wrong with the musical language being missing. We’re all rock and rollers, really. Yeah, it was very highly rehearsed stuff. But, there again, I think Yes used to rehearse a lot more than King Crimson did. But it was all quite well rehearsed stuff.

BM: Do you listen to the Islands album very much any more?

BB: I haven’t actually got anything in the house that I’ve played on.

BM: Really?

BB: No, I’ve never been one to listen to my stuff. When it’s done it’s done and I tend to go, “Oh, Jesus Christ who is that on the bass” –

BM: [laughs]. –

BB: [laughs] – and then not listen to it, you know. The first time I heard it was about a year ago. I was over at Pete Sinfield’s and he just put it on. It took me a little while to realize what it was.

BM: Do you recall any particular songs from that album that you enjoyed playing in the studio or live?

BB: Well, I used to enjoy “Schizoid Man” because of that very fast six. It was a tempo that I could understand, that very fast jazz waltz. I can remember one track on <i>Islands</i> that was a bit excruciating for me – “Ladies of the Road,” which was sung in four but played in seven. That was a bit of a fucking handful. That’s about all I can remember enjoying – “21st Century Schizoid Man” because of that fast waltz.

BM: Did you get the <i>Frame By Frame</i> box set?

BB: No. I didn’t. I think it passed through here. I think we all signed it. But I never actually heard it or seen it.

BM: In one of the liner notes of <i>Frame By Frame</i>, it said John Wetton was originally considered for the bass and you were supposed to just sing for that line-up, but Wetton didn’t want to join at the time. Is that how you recall it happened?

BB: It’s possible. I mean, that’s politics that I wasn’t really aware of at the time. I mean, I was just going with the flow. Hoping I could hang in as the singer. I was on the verge, myself, of not being able to stand up and sing those particular sorts of songs without another crutch, which became the bass, really. So that was politics I wasn’t aware of.

BM: Another of the liner notes says that at times you had difficulty singing Sinfield’s lyrics. At times, you’d wonder, “What the heck is this I’m singing?”

BB: [laughs] Yeah, I must admit I was a little bit at a loss sometimes with the poetry. Yeah. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Yeah?

BB: There again, being brought up on American music and being a fan of such lyricists as, well, from Fats Waller through to Louie Jordan and on to King Pleasure and people of that nature it was all very un-American [in King Crimson] which was the whole scam of the band, I suppose. But it was something I couldn’t quite get my head ‘round at the time, having listened to American music all my life, really. So it was all very English and very prim and proper to me. And a lot of it, of course, didn’t always make a great deal of sense to me. I could never get it in my head, either. I used to read off cue boards constantly. Actually, the audience used to cue me a lot of the times. They knew the lyrics better than I did. [laughs]

BM: [laughs].

To be continued…?
Last edited by LTinAspic on Sun Apr 23, 2006 3:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby crimcinnaman on Tue Nov 29, 2005 11:44 pm

Wow! Thanks for the exclusive LT!

Waiting for more....
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Copyright © 1993 Bill Murphy

Postby MondayTuesday on Wed Nov 30, 2005 12:00 am

LTinAspic wrote:To be continued…?

Yes, please ! Great stuff !!!
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Postby vrooom on Wed Nov 30, 2005 12:15 am

This is the reason I continue...

Thank you Bill. Thank you. It's these brief moments of complete superbness that makes it all worthwhile. :D

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Postby Goweropolis on Wed Nov 30, 2005 1:06 am

Thanks for the interview snippet and thank to the forum-master for hosting it here. As much I love Sid Smith's book, from a Crimso fanatic perspective, I was disappointed at how much (it sounded like) was left out of the book.

As per Bill's blog comment, I think I would prefer the warts and all perspective because it would be an extremely interesting read. Not just because of the muck raking, but to help understand the differences (musical and otherwise) between Crimso's members and how that dynamic affected the musical output.

Boz doesn't know lyrics..................

Postby jtmack on Wed Nov 30, 2005 2:05 am

Bill bravo I really enjoyed that, must have more please......
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Re: Bill's Boz Burrell Interview

Postby starless on Wed Nov 30, 2005 2:24 am

LTinAspic wrote:
To be continued…?

Yes please, it was PRICELESS!

Thanks, Dario
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Postby MarkSullivan on Wed Nov 30, 2005 2:30 am

Great stuff, thanks. :D
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Re: Bill's Boz Burrell Interview

Postby suitandtieguy on Wed Nov 30, 2005 2:35 am

Boz Burrel via LTinAspic wrote:Yeah. He was incredibly anti-straight twelve bars, which I could never understand. Listening to jazz, Coltrane was playing straight twelve bar blues. But, there again, I suppose [Fripp] was coming from more of a contemporary classical background, which was something there, again, that I’ve only just recently gotten into. So he was probably unaware of the deviousness that you can creep into just a straight blues format, you know.

wow. that was really funny. like woah. "straight twelve bar blues". ha ...

the anecdote would have made more sense if he had said "Listening to blues, Eric Clapton was playing a significant amount of straight twelve bar blues." i don't think coltrane playing _anything_ "straight" after his 1955 gigs with Jimmy Smith.

thanks for posting this. it reminds me of my seething desire to see old Bob rip it the fuck up clean-style through an old tube amp with some dirty black organ trio.

Postby Indyrod on Wed Nov 30, 2005 2:39 am

Excellent excellent, and I've not even read all of it yet. Just wanted to extend my thanks for such a superb contribution. We Look forward to more of these jewels.
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