King Crimson played their first American gig in Vermont, at Goddard college. My first band, Tin River Junction, played its first gig at Goddard also. Unlike Crimson, we didn’t know what we were doing yet. Considering that fact, it went well. But what made the show
memorable for me was a conversation guitarist Drew and I had with a musician from the dub band that was scheduled to go on after us.
We didn’t know what instrument he played yet, so, in this nervous youthful way of starting a conversation, we asked him.
“Guitar,” said Dub Dude.
“Oh,” said Drew, “so do—”
“And I play delay pedal, tremolo pedal, wah pedal, distortion pedal, overdrive pedal,
Dub Dude went on and on. He went on to list, like, twenty-two pedals that he considered
“instruments” that he “played.”
I remember, when we got out of earshot of this guy, laughing at him. “Man,” I said to Drew, “this guy’s burnt.” Dub Dude was stoned. He was very very high. “Listing his effects as instruments. He’s crazy.”
But that was twenty-five years ago and I’ve come to see things differently.
In 1973, King Crimson released Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, arguably their best work. One of the many reasons this album is so wonderful is Jamie Muir, the percussionist who is on this album only and stuck around for like maybe six shows. On the CD release of Larks’ Tongue I have, and I assume on the original LP release as well, Muir is credited with playing over 70 instruments. Each individual piece of percussion is listed. “Hollow Log” is one. “Whip,” I think, is another. “8 x 10 piece of sheet metal” is listed separately from “4 x 6 piece of sheet metal.”
When I first read these liner notes, I remember bursting out laughing. What a joker! It had to be that British sense of humor, a remnant of the colorful and psychedelic sixties, Monty Pythonesque even. Hollow Log! That’s the one that really got me.
Yet, from listening to the album, and watching Muir perform with Crimson on a video filmed on the set of Beat Club, it makes sense. Live, he moved around the stage fur-clad like a madman on the hunt, picking up individual percussion instruments, then dropping them to move on to the next while he blew a whistle that hung around his neck.
Whether it’s meant as a joke to list all those instruments, or it’s a musicological / philosophical statement – or both, which is the way I see it (the phrase “percussion and allsorts” is what Fripp uses to credit Muir when time and/or space is limited) – I think it’s great. And hilarious. And all those sounds are certainly an important part of the album.
My current band, Joy on Fire, just played Vermont for the first time. Radio Bean, in Burlington. It is now one of my favorite places to play, and I’d like to thank Brittany of Ivamae, who we met when she was on tour in Baltimore, for setting the show up. By the way, I’m John Paul
Carillo, and I play bass, guitar, distortion pedal, delay pedal, wah pedal, overdrive pedal, micro synth…
Chris plays drums, cymbals, congas, djembe, frame drum, temple bell, jingle bells, seed shell shakers, cowbell, claps, vibratone, …
Anna plays alto sax, baritone sax, tenor sax, soprano sax, glockenspiel, claps, piano, synth, tom drum….
—John Paul Carillo