MY ADRIAN BELEW STORY

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Submitted Date 10/08/2019
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One hundred years ago there were very few, if any, guitar heroes. Today it seems that there is countless number of guitar heroes along with an unlimited means of gauging what makes a guitar hero. When one starts to research something like this they will find there is a vast difference in opinion between what bona fide musicians think compared to average music listeners. Some of the best musicians are people the general music listeners are totally clueless about. There could be a good chance too that those listeners have listened to those unknown great musicians without realizing it.

As I started to listen to music as a kid the guitar was the instrument that usually stood out to me and I started to form my early guitar heroes. Stephen Stills and Pete Townshend were two of my first heroes that I was listening to in the 60s and they remain very high on that list. It wasn't until the 70s that I realized how special a guitar player Frank Zappa was. First, it was his lyrics that caught my attention and then it was his musicianship.

If you know Zappa's music, then you know that he always had an amazing line up of musicians playing with him and how FZ was like a strict conductor with his band. He had several guitarists that got their break by playing with him that went on to become guitar heroes themselves. Slide guitar great Lowell George left Zappa's band to go on to found Little Feat. Steve Vai is considered a guitar god by many guitarists today. Even Johnny "Guitar" Watson played on several Zappa albums.

It was the Sheik Yerbouti album that caught my attention to what was Zappa's best "discovery". In 1997 Zappa happened to be in Nashville and was advised by his driver that he should check out this guitar player at Fanny's Bar. The guitar player was Adrian Belew. It was almost a year later that Adrian got to audition for Zappa via invite and was flown out to LA. The first audition did not go as well as Adrian was hoping and asked Frank for a second chance. Adrian's second audition was in Frank's living room!

Frank Zappa Sheik Yerbouti

Frank Zappa and Adrian Belew

Adrian was hired for one year to play and tour with FZ and while in playing a gig with Zappa in Cologne, Germany Brian Eno sees Belew's performance on stage and then recommends to David Bowie that he hire Adrian. This was Adrian's first big chance to truly play it up and start introducing to the world his style of guitar effects. In 1978 Adrian went on the Isolar II World Tour with Bowie and played on the Stage and Lodger albums. Brian Eno produced the Lodger album.

After touring with Zappa and Bowie, Adrian started the band GaGa which was based in Illinois. He was the singer, guitarist, main songwriter and surprisingly the drummer as well via backing tapes. GaGa would regularly play NYC and that is where Adrian met the Talking Heads. One thing leads to another and when it was time to make another Eno produced Heads albums, Adrian was on it and touring with the Talking Heads. By that time Adrian was becoming known for is wild guitar effect playing.

Tina Weymouth and Adrian Belew Talking Heads

When Chris and Tina of the Talking Heads decided to make some of their own music as the Tom Tom Club, they had Adrian play with them on their first album. At one point while the Talking Heads were going through internal turmoil, Chris and Tina asked Adrian if he would be willing to take over David Byrne's spot in the band!

Tom Tom Club

In 1981 Mr. Belew landing a recording contract with Island Records and the following year he released his first solo album, Lone Rhino. On this album, you will hear his animal effects mimicking the sounds of a rhinoceros and a big cat, a Big Electric Cat, in fact.

Adrian Belew Lone Rhino

1981 was a very busy year for Adrian was working on his solo record, with the Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club and also he was asked by Robert Fripp to join in a new band that would first be called "Discipline". The line would be Bill Bruford on Drums, Tony Levin on bass and Chapman stick with Belew and Fripp on lead guitars. It wasn't long though that they decided to call the band the new King Crimson.

King Crimson Discipline

I'll never forget the first time I saw this line up on stage. It was a Friday night, December 10th, 1981 on the live comedy show Fridays and for some reason I was home watching. King Crimson was the guest band. The first song they played was "Elephant Talk" and I was blown away!

Later in the show they played "Thela hun Ginjeet" both songs co-written by Adrian. This was King Crimson's first album in more than a decade and it became one of my most influential albums ever. Live on stage, I don't think there have ever been four better musicians together than this lineup. They are perfect and the signatures and timing that they play off each other is nearly impossible to duplicate.

One of the biggest bummers of the 1980s for me was the fact that King Crimson and Roxy Music toured the USA together in 1984 and did not gig in Denver. The closest they played was Phoenix and I just couldn't get there. It was the "Three of a Perfect Pair" tour.

King Crimson Three of a Perfect Pair

Finally two years later I get to see Adrian for the first time in concert. This was when Adrian was in the band "The Bears", a four-piece band where the other three musicians are Rob, Bob, and Chris. All of those gents are from Cincinnati and were a three-piece band known as The Raisins and close friends of Adrian's. They played the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver and it was a show that was so amazing, I still remember it vividly.

The Bears

The following year I had moved from Denver to Baltimore after trying for a month or so living in Manhattan. One of the primary reasons for the move was live music. In Denver, if you wanted to catch more of a band's tour it meant you had to do some real traveling. On the East Coast, the travel time from one gig to the next is only an hour or two. Back then the best radio station in the B'more/DC area was WHFS, which stood for "High Fidelity Stereo", the first station in the USA to play in stereo! And in DC there was an infamous or famous pit of a nightclub/bar/concert venue known as the Nightclub 930 on 930 F Street NW. (Right around the corner from the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot.)

9:30 Nightclub at 930 F Street NW in DC

This was a five-story (I think) building that by the time I started going there and all the floors were condemned except the basement, which is where the music was. The Fire Marshall limit was only 199, yet this place was THE place to play on the East Coast and many bands would play their first gig of the tour there and then play large auditoriums and stadiums.

In 1987 I landed the perfect gig at the 930! I became their house electrician for the next two years. The deal was I would be paid $15.00 in cash, $30.00 an hour towards the bar tab and any and all shows! I could not only go to the shows for free but get inside before they opened the doors! I am not sure if I had the gig yet when The Bears played there for two nights in a row. I did get to meet with Adrian and the other guys after the show and gave them a cassette copy of their show at the Rainbow.

From that point in time on, I would try to catch Adrian in concert as many times as I could.

1990 David Bowie toured the World and it is was an unusual stage set up that tour. The stage was set so that only two people were on stage for the audience and the band was behind a curtain during the USA tour. It was only Bowie and Belew on stage and the single at the time was "Pretty Pink Rose" co-written by Bowie and Belew. I saw this tour in St. Pete, FLA.


 

In 1994 I was able to catch the Here album tour at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta July 7th.


Adrian Belew Here album

Finally!!! 1995 and King Crimson is touring with the 1981-1984 line up of Belew, Levin, Bruford, and Fripp!

During that two year tour, I drove around the USA catching seventeen shows! The shows were all just simply amazing. Watching Bruford play was perhaps the best part, the four most amazing musicians on stage ever, I think maybe that Bruford is the best musician of those four!

The Taft Theater show I was sitting beside Rob and Bob Bear and Chris was in the row just in front of us.

Father's Day 1995 King Crimson was scheduled to play at the Ogden Theater in Denver, quite the small venue for this band. I knew I had to get there early to be first in line at got there about 11 AM for a 7 PM show! After all, I drove out from Knoxville, TN to see this show!

The roadies got there about the same time that I did and I could see the confusion in their ways. One of them came up to me and told me the stage was too small and if I might know a larger venue close by that might be available. I told them to try the Paramount since it was much larger and very close by.

Within an hour they came back out and thanked me for the info and told me the show has been moved to the Paramount. The other problem with the Ogden is that it is not a seated venue and KC would rather the audience sit.

So, this not only meant that now I would be getting a front-row seat at the Paramount, if I arranged this quickly, I could scoop the six center seats in the first two rows for what was left of the old Denver Front Row Committee!

I drove over to the Paramount to an empty street and was able to get the parking space right in front of the doors of the theater. By the time the doors were opening all the gang was there and we captured the 12 prime seats! After this show, Bill Bruford gave me his drum sticks!

Bill Bruford's Drum Sticks from the Father's Day Show 1995 Paramount Theater Denver

If I remember correctly it was on May 1997 that The Bears toured and played the three Ville's, Asheville, NC, Knoxville and Nashville, TN and I caught all three shows!

In 2007 I was working at a medical facility in Savannah, GA and learned that Adrian's Power Trio was playing at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC and saw the Trio for the first time. Julie and Eric Slick were the duo of the trio, siblings with Eric on drums and Julie on bass. She is one of the most amazing bass players of all time! She could play Tony Levin's Chapman Stick part on a four-string bass and that is very impressive!

Adrian Belew at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC 2007

Adrian Belew and I

The following year I was driving back to Denver from working out East when I learned of the Power Trio Tour was taking them to the Fox Theater in Boulder on the second of March, BUT before that show, they were playing the Santa Fe Brewing Company two nights before then on February 29th. If I were to drive FAST I could stop in Denver, drop off some stuff, take a shower, eat and keep driving to Santa Fe, I could catch that show first.

I got there early and everyone in the band remembered me from the Carrboro show! So I got to hang out with them and have a couple of beers. The following night's show was in Aspen and there was a storm warning for that area of Colorado. To make it to Aspen from Santa Fe in a day's drive you can not take the highways, no you have to take the back mountain roads and I was warning the band that there might be the possibility of not making it to the Boulder show because of snow. That night's show was a blast!

The next day I met up with the band for an early lunch and decide to caravan up the mountains to Aspen with them, just in case. I had a feeling that something was up. On the way up to Aspen, sure enough, their van broke down and my van was empty enough to take on the equipment and one of the guys working the tour. So we kept driving, leaving the last person with the van and hoping that it would be towed and fixed before having to leave Aspen. We got to the Belly Up in Aspen in plenty of time and even the van that broke down made it there just before the show, ready for the next leg of the tour. Adrian, Julie, and Eric were in Adrian's car and so he was the first one there.

It started to snow lightly just before the Aspen show and I was worried about the next night's show. The Aspen Belly Up is a very small venue, so small that it is just amazing to see some of the bands that have played there. It was another excellent show, but when we looked out the venue after the show it was not a good situation. The snow was coming down at quite the pace and there was a good chance that we would not be able to get over the passes to Summit County and we had to leave that night or for sure get snowed in.

Adrian Power Trio Setlist from the Aspen Belly Up on March 1st, 2008

I've driven many a heavy snowstorm and a few blizzards, especially across I-80 in the winters, but this one was coming down. It was impossible to drive any further after a while and I had to pull over at the next exit and camp out there. Whenever I traveled in my very large extended E350 Powerstroke van, I would have bedding, frig and a cat with me, so I was able to camp out for the rest of the night, but I was very worried about the rest of the gang.

The Trio left before the rest of us loaded out the equipment so they could get a head start on the way to Boulder. The plan was to meet and sleep in Silverthorne. The band's van did not make it as far as I did that night. The next morning we all met at the Safeway and learned that Adrian's car was the only vehicle of the three that made it to their hotel in Silverthorne. It was clear skies and plenty of time to make it to Boulder.

I drove home to Denver to take a shower and pick up my friend Henry and take him to the show. Of course, I was on the guest list. We got to hang out backstage and I remember I was asked by Julie to run an errand for her, but I can no longer remember what it was. After the show, we said our goodbyes and it would be a couple of years before I would see the Trio again.

Adrian Belew's Power Trio at the Boulder Theater on March 2, 2008

Adrian Belew Power Trio

Adrian Belew, Julie Slick, Eric Slick and I

In 2011 the Power Trio and the Stick Men played together at the Boulder Theater.

The Power Trio and the Stick Men took a break and came back on stage for part two

In 2015 King Crimson rejoined for more music and tours, but this time for the first time in 31 years Adrian was not in the band! They became a 7 to 8 piece band with three drummers/ percussionists, which the center drummer also playing keyboards! I was able to catch the tour in 2017 and I saw that Adrian wouldn't have fit as well with this lineup and it was an incredible concert.

Also in 2017, I was on the guestlist for Adrian Belew's Power Trio at the Boulder Theater. Saul Zonana opened.

Adrian Belew Power Trio Boulder 2017

Last month, September 2019 both King Crimson and Adrian Belew performed in Denver again. The King Crimson show was the most expensive concert ticket I had ever bought, but OMG it was perfect and one of the very best KC shows I have witnessed. KC played the Paramount Theater and two weeks later played both the Boulder Theater and the Bluebird Theater the following night. Last month's show made the 19th time that I have seen King Crimson in concert and only the second without Adrian being in the band.

King Crimson Promo Poster Denver 2019

I was again on the Boulder Theater show's guest list! The Power Trio has become the Power Quartet! Saul Zonana who was opening for the Trio last tour became part of the band.

I got fourth-row center aisle seats but a friend couldn't make it to the show and I ended up in his seat front row! I was able to keep my camera steady on the stage! I was able to video record almost all of the show, only one part missing because of battery failure. After the show, Mark and I hung out and we were able to meet Adrian briefly and thank him for the hospitality and get a signature on the show's promo poster!

Adrian Belew's Power Quartet at the Boulder Theater on September 27th, 2019

Adrian has a new pair of shoes that he likes to show off.

Above is most of the first set and below the second set and encore.

Adrian and I at the Boulder Theater September 27, 2019

As time goes on, I think musician history will record Adrian Belew as one of the very best of the best guitarists.

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