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Fripp City

Robert Fripp

John Morrish goes shopping for a legend

ROBERT FRIPP, the famous small mobile unit and provider of guitaristic "irritant factors" to the rock gentry, moved a step nearer whatever he's currently marching towards with a strange performance at London's Virgin Megastore last month. Billed as Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists, the show marked the first British appearance of a team derived from the rustic sage's US "guitar craft" course. At least a dozen youthful American guitarists, all toting uniform Ovation electro-acoustics, were arranged in an elegant crescent around one of the Megastore's check-outs (appropriately enough, as it turned out) waiting for the Frippish command to start playing. They made a good sound, like the best of Fripp's instrumental pieces, with none of those embarrassing noises (old men making speeches, orgasmic women, weather) that disfigure some of his earlier masterpieces.

Everything was kept astoundingly tight, both rhythmically and harmonically. If there was any improvisation going on here, you could bet only one player was doing it: sometimes a bit Philip Glass, sometimes Rite of Spring-era Stravinsky, sometimes a group of people playing beat-the-metronome. The Ovations were all plugged into a (small) PA through a (vast) mixer and sounded exactly like a lot of elastic bands twanging away together.

At one point Fripp dropped his modest pose and got into a bit of ironic guitar herodom. Thankfully he justified the attitude with a quite remarkable burst of 16-note chromatic scale-work; the famous "burning guitar". He can play a bit, in between the homilies and the Wimborne-cum-LA psycho-babble jargon.

We got a bit of that too, of course, when it came to the questions. How do you join the course? "Take an aeroplane to West Virgina." What's the special tuning you teach? "Those who have ears will hear, the rest must attend the course." And then, "For those who wish to purchase albums, I will now make myself available for the purpose of signing. I do this to promote sales."

I went home. I do this to conserve money.

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Making Music - Copyright: Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.


Making Music - Nov 1986

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