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Bill's Richard Palmer-James Interview PART TWO (Final)

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!

Moderator: LTinAspic

Bill's Richard Palmer-James Interview PART TWO (Final)

Postby LTinAspic on Thu Jan 01, 2009 1:30 am

This is PART TWO of my November 14, 1993, interview with Crimso lyricist Richard Palmer-James, one of the founders of Supertramp and, later, the lyricist for the trio of Crimson albums that many consider to represent their strongest (certainly their most rockin’) material: Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red.


BM: Let’s talk about particular lyrics. How did you write, let’s say “Exiles,” “Book of Saturday,” and “Easy Money.”? Where did they come from?

RP: “Easy Money” was an attempt to write something kind of feisty. And yeah, I got really, as I said, I wasn’t expecting it to be, I was expecting it to be taken a lot more seriously than it was. I don’t know about that. As I say, it was a surprise to see them rocking around with it.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: I thought it was, should have a sort of arch. [laughs] Just thinking about it, an arch, sort of literary cynism just turned out to be a laugh, you know.

BM: All the sound effects, yeah.

RP: Which is fine, but that was again talking with John at the time who had to sing it, he sort of encouraged me in that, because as I say, he was being very, he always had a very pragmatic attitude. The others, “Exile” is probably reflecting my situation at the time. I didn’t do it deliberately that way, but looking back, it could be. It’s probably a sort of diary. Yeah, “Book of Saturdays,” as I discovered today, looking through the bits of paper, was originally called “Daily Games,” but I did in fact fiddle around with that lyric a lot. And I thought it was too over-the-top. I thought it was too sort of obscurest, and I think that’s the one on the album when I was trying to kind of emulate the, what was going on musically, sort of analog to what was going on musically, I was trying to put in all sorts of virtuous bits of obscure symbolism and all that kind of nonsense.

BM: Kind of a Pete Sinfield approach to lyrics, huh?

RP: More of the Pete Sinfield approach there, that’s right.

BM: [laughs]

RP: [laughs]

BM: Yeah. Let’s say, I’ll get an overview question here a second, but of these three albums, which one can you look back at right now and have either the most pride in or the most good feelings for, or which one are you most happy with?

RP: From the point of view of my contribution, probably of those three albums, the second one, Starless and Bible Black. But from the point of view of listening to the albums, I like Larks’ Tongues best. Although, on your prompting, I put Red on again this afternoon. And that hit me between the eyes as well. That’s a pretty extraordinary album.

BM: Oh yeah, definitely.

RP: But I liked Larks’ Tongues probably because I’d, you know, when I finally got to see the band, it was, I was so impressed that Larks’ Tongues, that it was sort of colored that impact, and I loved Jamie Muir’s contribution.

BM: Oh yeah.

RP: I thought it was really wonderful, and it was a real, real shame that he, you know, opted out. That was really something extraordinary going on. It continued afterward, but the performances got more, I think, what, aggressive. There was something sort of playful about it when we started doing Larks’ Tongues. I think, I didn’t see the band very often, so I can’t speak with authority. I don’t know how often, but I saw them altogether about seven or eight times.

BM: Yeah. I had a chance to speak to Jamie Muir, and he’s a very interesting guy. And he said he really enjoyed doing that album. And he cleared up, actually, a myth that’s existed out there. It’s even written down in Frame by Frame [:The Essential King Crimson, 1991] where he was doing a series of concerts with the band and supposedly dropped a cymbal on his foot. And he said, no, it didn’t happen. He just opted out. He didn’t get injured and then didn’t return, he just went in and talked to the management, said I can’t do it, I gotta go, and that was it. So interesting, man.

RP: This is apocryphal, the thing with the cymbal. I yeah, he was, he sent everybody postcards, some of which he’d colored himself. They were like little diaries. I remember him saying, “Oh, it was really nice getting to know you. Have a nice day.”

BM: [laughs]

RP: “The sun is shining. I hope it is with you, too.” He said, yeah, there you are. That’s that rare animal, a genuine eccentric.

BM: Yeah, he seems quite a bit, actually Pete Sinfield seems like an eccentric now, very intelligent and philosophical. Energetic. But when I talked to Jamie Muir, he seems very calm and just peaceful. He’s doing his painting in London, and that’s about it. Different kind of life now.

RP: Yeah, I can well understand anybody sort of sniffing at the rock and roll existence and sort of throwing up their hands and saying no. I know one or two people that have done it, said it’s not for me.

BM: Starless and Bible Black. How did your involvement with the band start to change from just submitting lyrics to something more? How was your role changing?

RP: Well, we took a little bit, you know, there was more passing of material back and forth between John and myself. We didn’t do it, sometimes we got the opportunity to sit together at his place or mine, and try things out at the kitchen table, and sometimes we sent things backwards and forwards across the English Channel. Because he was, I think, getting more concerned with the singability of the words, you know. The, I wasn’t at that time, it was something that didn’t concern me particularly, how I thought I’d always, my very limited experience of writing words for people, I’d been lucky enough to have singers who could articulate. And when I started having to write words for people whose mother language isn’t English, actually quite often these people can hardly speak English at all, I had to be forced to concentrate on making it singable.

BM: [laughs]

RP: This was a very good exercise, incidentally. But for cutting out the nonsense.

BM: [laughs]

RP: But at that time, I wasn’t worried about that so much. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the ability to make that consideration, so that’s why John was more interested in having the, I think, he was also sort of a little bit concerned about the image of the band. And, or his image as the singer of the band. It seems to me he’s always been rather critically unfairly treated as a singer. Particularly at that time he was a known virtuoso on the bass, you know, and the way people are when they don’t necessarily like their musical, instrumental virtuosos singing people. They’re inclined to be a little bit narrow-minded about that. They were at that time, anyway.

BM: The lyrics are beautiful, in “Nightwatch,” especially. That’s a great song.

RP: You know, that’s my favorite. You know, I remember, yeah, when the album came out, I was really, I sort of, I didn’t take much notice of the critics for Larks’ Tongues. The thing was sort of developing then, and I was more concerned with the making of, actually. I saw them in the studio, you know, when they were recording parts of Starless and Bible Black [in London], part of the album in Concertgebouw [Amsterdam, for the live stuff] it was. And I was a little bit more involved with the whole shebang, you know. They were on tour, and I was seeing them more often. And so I was very keen on reading the critics. And it was a lesson for me that, and it has been one of the great lessons that I’ve learned, is the thing about, if you want to make a point, then make it as clearly and simply as possible. A musical point or a lyrical point. You should have the ability to, you should try and make it clear and simple. Because the “Nightwatch,” it’s a description of a Rembrandt painting, with a couple of comments about Rembrandt’s situation in Holland at the time. Now, whether it’s a legitimate thing to put that kind of thing onto a rock album, I don’t know about that.

BM: [laughs]

RP: But that was the content of the song. And I thought it was quite simple. If you were interested enough to sort of listen to the words at all, then you might be interested enough to realize that it’s about an internationally, well, one of the most famous paintings there is. And if you know anything about Rembrandt, if you know there’s a painter called Rembrandt, then you know that one of his famous things is the “Nightwatch.” It’s called the “Nightwatch” because the painting’s so dirty. You know, it’s cleaned up now, it doesn’t look so nocturnal.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: Anyway, this was the code, this was the subject matter of the song. Nobody tweaked it. Nobody tweaked it at all. I can’t even remember the title of the album, Starless and Bible Black, this is Dylan Thomas from An Old Wood, nobody tweaked that either. And I mean, it doesn’t make a difference to your appreciation of the music if you get this kind of thing or not. But it does make you ask, as an author, it does make you ask whether it’s a wise thing to, you know, that was a thing where I was trying to be as direct as I possibly could, [laughs] and nobody got it.

BM: How much did the lyric change with that? Did that one go back and forth between you guys, or did it come out almost the way you’d written it?

RP: “The Nightwatch” I’d written, that was one that I’d written previously. And if we changed it, it was only minimally. Maybe simplified a little bit.

BM: What made you decide to write a song about that Rembrandt painting anyway? Were you just so impressed with Rembrandt and his life and his art history, or what?

RP: Yeah.

BM: Yeah?

RP: It’s as simple as that.

BM: That’s good.

RP: You know, it was, I did a, I’d had to study Rembrandt a few years before anyway, and it was a labor of love. And I thought, if there’s ever going to be a chance to write a song about Rembrandt, it’s going to be in, it’s going to be with King Crimson. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

RP: It’s like that thing Paul Simon was saying about, oh shit, what’s the song called? “Rene and Georgette Magritte
with their dog after the war.” [From the album Hearts and Bones, 1983.]

BM: Oh yeah.

RP: He said, “I’m sure glad I was the first to come up with that one.” [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

RP: And I thought this was the vehicle for this kind of fact. I thought this was the vehicle where people were going to say, “Wow, this clever guy. Not only is the music amazing, the melody’s wonderful, it’s a beautiful recording, this extremely astute and clever guy has written a song about Rembrandt.”

BM: [laughs]

RP: But it didn’t happen at all. [laughs] The reviews in Melody Maker, the guy said, “Fritz is blabbering on about giving his wife guitar lessons.”

BM: [laughs]

RP: And I realized that this was probably a mistake, this kind of thing.

BM: Well, that remains one of my favorite songs on that album. It is a beautiful melody, and the lyrics are great.

RP: And it has, the recording, it has an atmosphere. The particular atmosphere of the recording is very strange because they edited the beginning, it’s from a concert, a live recording in Amsterdam. And they cut that intro into the studio recording song, which is very, very dry. It’s recorded with very little reverb, which gives it a rather, it’s like a desiccated sound.

BM: [laughs]

RP: The intro is such a big flourish, and it goes into this very low-key sort of rendition of the song, know what I mean?

BM: Oh yeah, definitely, yeah.

RP: That particular flavor.

BM: How about “Lament” and the “Great Deceiver”? What inspired those?

RP: “The Great Deceiver” is a song about the devil, and one having, or about this sort of, yeah, I don’t really want to get too, I remember “The Great Deceiver” we didn’t push backwards and forwards a lot. And John and I, “The Great Deceiver” is really about, yes, basically you, I suppose the idea behind it, which isn’t expressed in the song, again, this is with hindsight, the idea behind it is the fact that you can’t be, if you don’t, you can’t be religious, you can’t lead any kind of religious life without fear of the devil. At least not in terms of Christian. And there seems to be, nowadays, one of the great paradoxes. You have to stick your nose into the nasty bits to live out the good bits as it were. If you want to really, and that seems to be something that religion is based on, at the same time tries to, Christianity is based on at the same time trying to hide. I think that was probably, I mean, if I usually have to write a novel to get into that kind of thing. [laughs]

BM: [laughs] Oh yeah.

RP: Not a song on a King Crimson album. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

RP: So don’t put too much weight on it. I’ve also, we did some things, I think just because of the impact of the words, again, because of the nature of the music, which is inclined to sort of come at you and grab you, creep up on you unawares. I was in agreement with John, and to a certain extent with Robert, that the words should be sort of, you know, put some, one should put some things in that would put a little bit, not shocking, but sort of deliberately try to get people to wonder what it was all about.

BM: How about “Lament” then? What brought that about?

RP: A little country and western song, isn’t it?

BM: Yeah.

RP: I think that’s what this originally was. I seem to remember playing, strumming the guitar, playing sort of country western type things. John said, yes, he said, “Well, great, I think if we do a completely different musical, give it a completely different musical framework, and if you don’t mind it being sort of alienated from its original background.” I find it difficult to gauge how that one comes across, because—

BM: It’s kind of, I like the cadence of it. I like how John sings it, especially some of the live versions of it, in the Great Deceiver box set. I like it. I mean, it’s got a nice rhythm to it, and it’s, your lyrics are very good.

RP: I think he finds, I think John finds, there may be a couple of things in there that he could latch onto sort of autobiographically, sort of his personal experience.

BM: Yeah.

RP: I certainly didn’t write it for him in that sense, but he went for it, because it applied to him. Again, I think it was simplified a bit.

BM: What was going on then with the third album, here, with Red? I’ve got some background here from Bruford and from Wetton that that was kind of a tumultuous time, I guess, in the band. Robert kind of took himself out of things a bit, and John’s told me that he and Bruford virtually wrote the album.

RP: Well, as far as the two songs, “Falling Angels” and “Starless” are the two that he sings.

BM: Yeah.

RP: They were, if I remember rightly, they were sort of in preparation at the time that Starless and Bible Black was being, I mean, hence the song, “Starless.” You know, it should have been on the other album.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: But it didn’t fit on, or they didn’t, whatever. I don’t know about that. I can’t exactly remember what was said about it at the time, I think. But anyway, those two songs were being worked on along with some others as well, at the time we were doing the stuff for Starless and Bible Black. And the other material, I remember watching Robert conduct a cello section, I think in Olympic Studios in London, for, what’s the first track on the album?

BM: “Red.”

RP: It’s “Red,” it’s just called “Red” is it? Or is it—

BM: Yeah, first track’s called “Red.” Then “Fallen Angel.”

RP: That’s right. If I remember right, that’s right, it is the first track, isn’t it, with a sort of cello section sawing away on it. Is that “Red?”

BM: There’s a cello, yeah, it could be. Or “Providence” or “One More Red Nightmare.”

RP: It might have been “One More Red Nightmare.” I have to put it on again now. I listened to it this afternoon, but I didn’t put the songs on in the order they come on the album. I listened to the two songs first, because of your request for lyrics, which I, because the fragmentation, I haven’t seen a complete, final version of what he sang either.

BM: Yeah.

RP: But anyway, I remember watching Robert conducting this cello section, sort of very, he was very, he used to be quite sort of introverted at the time, probably you know, coming to the conclusion that he was, he didn’t necessarily want to carry on the way things had been going. John was very, very pissed when Robert called him up [to end the band].

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: For two reasons. First of all, John felt if they’d gone on tour with Red, they would have stepped over the line into sort of, the real big time. You know, they would have cast off the mantle of art rock, you know what I mean?

BM: Yeah, definitely.

RP: They would have gone into the really big business, which was something that John certainly didn’t share Robert’s views on, because he didn’t, John didn’t like being told by anybody to do anything. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

RP: And Robert, in his typical sort of schoolmasterly manner, calling and saying, “Well, that’s it this time, lads. Sorry.”

BM: [laughs]

RP: And I think this is the kind of thing John wasn’t too pleased about.

BM: [laughs] Yeah. Very cut and dried. Yeah.

RP: And the, I suppose, at the time it seemed to me to be too violent, too painful.

BM: Yeah, the Red album?

RP: You’ve got these two absolutely beautiful melodies on “Fallen Angel” and “Starless,” absolutely, yeah.

BM: What prompted those lyrics, by the way, “Fallen Angel” and “Starless?”

RP: You know, “Starless,” which is just a fragment, really, I’ve got several, three or four different versions, completely different from what appeared on the, because this kind of melody that you really, it’s the lyricist’s dream, this soaring melody. Also quite difficult to find something to fit. And I had a couple of attempts which were quite different from what John finally sang. And the final result is about 50/50 John and I. I mean, he took, I think he probably made up his mind quite, I don’t know, I can’t remember ever talking to him about it, but he probably made up his mind more or less in the studio, which lines he was going to sing, you know. This is a presumption on my part. I don’t know if that’s true. But I know we’d, for this fragment, sung fragment, we had lots of different versions flying around. And “Fallen Angel,” I was listening to it today, which is a completely irrelevant remark, but it may be, they lyric, the sort of content of the lyrics made me think of “Kid Charlemagne” from Steely Dan.

BM: Really?

RP: Of which it’s a precursor, isn’t it, to everything. For some reason, it made me think of that. And that’s just about, a sort of Scorsese-like, city life, you know, mean streets sort of thing. That’s what was behind that. If I remember rightly, John and I were sort of looking for atmospheric little bits of images connected with towns and gangsters and cars.

BM: Was there material? I think John alluded to this or may just came out and told me I guess, but was there stuff that was recorded and written that never did appear on any of these albums? Was there stuff, he kind of said he wishes they had done one more album, because they had the material to do it. Is that a fact? I mean, did you have more lyrics in mind? Was there any things beyond Red?

RP: Yeah, there were a couple of songs that were supposed to be, to appear on Starless or Red or a fourth album with that lineup. There were a couple of songs, yes, which we, I think later John might have used at least one of them for his solo record.

BM: Did one, I think he told me, maybe it was “Caesar’s Palace Blues” or something that appeared on a UK album that was a melody that was going to be used, or a lyric or something. Do you remember anything about that?

RP: It could be. I remember we, Bill, one called “Cane” which is very typical John kind of thing. You know, I, the problem is now I can’t attribute bits of melody, lyrics, to a particular kind of song. I can’t remember whether it came from Robert or John.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: You know, it’s difficult analyzing that kind of thing after 20 years. I know there were a couple songs hanging around. I’ve got a couple of lyrics more or less finished that were supposed to be recorded, whether the, and I would have had the demo versions as well, I guess. I must have got, yeah, there must be cassettes somewhere with unrecorded Crimson ideas, at least. You know, rough sketchy sort of things.

BM: Well, I’ll ask you one more thing, and then I’ll let you get back to life there in Germany. Crimson has always been known for having some kind of dark and brooding, ominous type of feel to it. An atmosphere. And you can pick up some of that stuff on the first album, especially the lyrics, which are kind of dark and different, I guess. But your lyrics don’t, how would you characterize your lyrics? Are they kind of dark and mysterious, or is it the music of Crimson that tends to give it that reputation?

RP: Well, I would subordinate myself and my attempts really, Bill, completely to the music. It was, I think I said, it’s not possible to write kind of poppy kind of rock lyrics that you try and write for deliberate top 40. You couldn’t write that for Crimson, and consequently, it wasn’t the kind of band that you wrote to, you really didn’t write sort of happy things.

BM: [laughs]

RP: “Book of Saturdays” quite sort of, in tone is quite sort of doomy.

BM: Yeah.

RP: It’s an interesting sort of point, but I don’t think you can, to tell you the truth, you can, it’s the music that sets the tenor. I don’t think they lyrics have too much of an influence. In the moments when it seems to fit, if it does for you sometimes, then great, it works. But it’s always the music that has first place, I think, in that place.

BM: Well, did you find yourself then, writing lyrics that tended to be more dark or you know, mysterious or gloomy or something? Or in other, did the music influence the tone of your lyric?

RP: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.

BM: Yeah.

RP: Probably inevitable. I wish that, it’s something that I’ve, I probably to a certain extent I probably lost. I don’t think that I could write so easily, I don’t think I could let myself be influenced by the music so easily now as I could then. Because now I’d be thinking about, “Oh god, this is too gloomy.”

BM: [laughs]

RP: “Oh, I’m going to get the guy on the phone, he’s gonna say this is not a Leonard Coen production.”

BM: [laughs]

RP: But then, it didn’t matter. Everybody was in it for what they could put into it. Which was the nice thing about it, wasn’t it?

BM: Wow.

RP: Which is, which I hope in the best moments, you feel that, that everybody’s doing what they, you know, giving their best sort of altruistically, really.

BM: Yeah. Yeah. You had a short-lived gig with John Wetton and the Jackknife lineup. That only lasted about a month or two?

RP: Well, it was just an album project, really.

BM: Yeah.

RP: Yeah, we had a great burst of nostalgia for our beginnings.

BM: [laughs]

RP: You know, when we had our first professional band together. And we wanted to try and recreate that. Keyboard, because the keyboard player, our friend from back in those days, had played a Hammond. And you know, it’s something that, well, it was fun to do, and we should have taken it with more care, really. It was something, it was already the time when you could do something like that, off the cuff, had already past. That was ’78.

BM: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And it was already too late for that kind of a thing, in a way. Because we weren’t sort of 18 anymore.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: We needed to have a little bit more sort of genuine spontaneity. We were already old men rock and rollers. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

RP: [laughs] And that’s why, I think there’s something hypocritical about it.

BM: Well, Fripp is reforming Crimson again, from what I understand [he did, for the ‘90s version with Belew, Bruford, et al]. Would you ever, if he called you up and said, “Hey, we need some lyrics for this,” would you ever do it again? Would you ever write lyrics for Crimson?

RP: Oh immediately, of course.

BM: Really?

RP: Of course. I, the, that would be a great, well, I would be very confident in the idea of it. By the light, in the light of all I’ve said to you or that we’ve said about that being a period that seems to have disappeared, it would be nice to be able to try and revive it to that kind of working relationship again, even if it’s a little bit optimistic to think we could do so. I don’t know, I think maybe it’s gone full circle now. We all know so much about the goddamn business now, that we could probably, you know, leave all the nonsense behind.

BM: [laughs]

RP: But you know, Robert isn’t, he doesn’t like, I get the feeling that he’s not too fond of reliving his past either.

BM: Oh no.

RP: A lot less than I am, or even John, and he’s, I mean, the Discipline lineup of Crimson was a deliberate break with the tradition.

BM: What did you think of that ‘80s version?

RP: Sorry?

BM: What did you think of that ‘80s version of Crimson with the Discipline lineup?

RP: Oh, I saw, I didn’t see them live, I saw them live on TV when they were playing here, and I really enjoyed it. I thought Discipline was a great album. The one after that I’m not so sure about, but I thought Discipline was a jazz album, really. And I’m a great admirer of, oh shit, I’m getting senile. What’s the guitar player’s name?

BM: Adrian Belew.

RP: Yes, right. I thought that was a very interesting pairing, if not a perfect pair. [laughs]

BM: [laughs]

RP: And what I, yeah, the album Discipline, and the show I saw on television was really good. A lot more intimate, you know?

BM: Well, supposedly that ‘80s lineup is coming back virtually intact, with maybe the addition of one other player. But well, except for Bruford, he’s not going to be there. But yeah, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Robert Fripp, Jerry Marotta, and Trey Gunn, supposedly. [Just goes to show you how off from reality rumors are. The line-up was nothing like that.]

RP: Ah, this sounds really good, good news.

BM: Yeah. It’s, Bruford was really upset that Fripp didn’t ask him to be back in the band again. But, in fact, he was very upset when I asked him that question. [laughs] But you know, I guess there’s a lot of friction between those two guys even to this day. But yeah, Jerry Marotta’s gonna be the drummer, supposedly, and Tony Levin, Adrien Belew, and a guitarist named Trey Gun will double on stick and guitar, I guess. And that’s supposedly going to be taking place sometime next year, next spring, summer, fall type thing.

RP: Well, I sincerely hope it does. Robert’s on tour right now with David Sylvian, is that right?

BM: Oh yeah, he just played New York midweek. He’s touring the States right now. Yeah. Did you hear that album, by the way? [The First Day, 1993]

RP: No, I haven’t heard it. I know I visited John in LA in May of this year, and I just missed Robert playing with a couple of his Crafty Guitars people. He’s doing a beyond tour, he played here in Europe as well, but I couldn’t get to see it. John went to see it, said it was very good.

BM: Yeah, I think I called John the very night he had to go see Fripp play that night.

RP: Oh really?

BM: Yeah.

RP: The acoustic.

BM: Yeah, it was the Robert Fripp String Quartet, or Quintet. I don’t remember what it is, I think it’s quintet, in fact.

RP: Quintet, that was, I’m sure it was. It’s absolutely fascinating.

BM: Yeah.

RP: If you, anyway, if you’re interested in guitar playing.

BM: It is.

RP: It’s always going to offer.

BM: I’ve got a, well, it’s a bootleg CD, actually, of that quintet lineup playing somewhere, I don’t know, but it’s very interesting music. And I’d asked Robert about that, I said, “This is soundboard stuff. How did it get released to a bootleg?” He didn’t really answer the question. I don’t know if he did it himself just to have it release, or if somebody ripped him off somehow, or what. But very high quality recording of the quintet.

RP: Yes, that’s the problem, that nowadays, it’s possible to make perfect, digital bootlegs. It’s a technical possibility now that people are, it’s quite a difficult thing to, I mean if you’ve just, depending on the nature of the PA setup, you can set up a little set.

BM: [laughs] Yeah.

RP: It’s terrible. You can even get a direct to digital thing out of the back of the board if the equipment is right.

BM: Yeah.

RP: That’s quite a sort of frightening prospect for people like Robert.

BM: Well, definitely, yeah.

RP: And I’m sure he, but he said that The Great Deceiver’s really an official bootleg.

BM: [laughs] Is it?

RP: He wanted to bring it out to defy, you know, put the bootleggers out I suppose.

BM: Well, it’s a good set. I’ve really been impressed with not only the artwork, but the attention to detail that’s gone into both those Crimson box sets.

RP: Absolutely. I was absolutely delighted. I thought, what a wonderful document to have of that period. You know, and I was so, so glad that that came out. It was really something to show your grandchildren.

BM: Oh yeah. The Great Deceiver box is wonderful, isn’t it?

RP: The packaging is absolutely incredible.

BM: Oh, I know. It’s great. I guess the next one that’s coming out is of the early Crimson period. Ian Wallace was writing some liner notes for that. It’s gonna do, capture the first few incarnations of the band, so I’m looking forward to that too.

RP: I saw him playing with, what’s the, Warren Z once.

BM: Ian Wallace?

RP: Yeah, three or four years ago. He came on a sort of very low profile European tour. That’s somebody I never thought I’d get to see in Europe, Warren Z, I mean. And lo and behold, Ian Wallace is playing drums.

BM: He’s a busy guy. I just talked to him a couple days ago. He’s just got back from England, touring. He toured with Procol Harem, Jethro Tull, all this year. Now he’s off next week to do Joe Walsh album in Georgia. So he’s keeping busy.

RP: Yeah, that’s good. He’s a good player.

BM: Yeah. Well, Richard, I really appreciate your time this evening, and it’s fascinating. It’s quite an honor for me to talk to you, because I do really enjoy your lyrics.

RP: That’s very kind of you, Bill, but as I say, you know, I really regard my contribution to that incarnation of Crimson as very, very modest. It was, as I say, it’s subordinate to the music, and also I, you know, I was never such a big part of the setup, in the way that Pete Sinfield was, for example. I was never sort of really a member of the gang.

BM: Yeah. It’s great music, though.

RP: Wasn’t it? That’s a period of music history we’re not likely to see again.

BM: No, we’re not. That’s why I think it’s so exciting.

RP: I agree.

BM: Thank you very much for your time, Richard. Have a great night.

RP: My pleasure. And you, too.

BM: Bye.

RP: Bye.

That concludes my interview with Richard Palmer-James, a gifted lyricist and guitar player. He eventually sent me a cassette tape of King Crimson [Larks’ and Starless-era] playing live in the early ‘70s, and a poster or two from that era.
"You make my life and times
A book of bluesy Saturdays
And I have to choose..."
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