NOW OFFICIAL: Fripp and Eno, Paris 1975

A legendary live Robert Fripp & Brian Eno bootleg recording known as “Air Structures” is now available as a legitimate release—Fripp & Eno, May 28, 1975, a three CD-length digital download, direct from Fripp’s DGM label.

Notes from the DGM site:

Notes
These show notes are written by long-standing Frippertronics expert and unofficial archivist, Allan Okada, whose help in the restoration of this concert has been invaluable.

This historic recording documents an extremely rare and classic performance of a mysterious collaborative tour from two of the most creative and fascinating figures in rock. It is one of the most rewarding live recordings this writer has ever heard. For any fan of ‘No Pussyfooting’ or ‘Evening Star’, this live recording is of epic significance and thanks to the efforts of Alex Mundy, is now also comparable in audio quality, by synchronizing the most complete and best (by a mile) available live bootleg recording with Eno’s stage tapes recently discovered. This tour also represents a turning point for both artists, about to enter new frontiers professionally and personally: Eno as an ambient music pioneer and Fripp’s re-emergence as a “small, mobile, intelligent unit”.

Here is the lead up to this 5th of a 7-show European mini-tour. Fripp just recently disbanded King Crimson at a point which many would describe as their artistic pinnacle. Eno also recently parted ways with Roxy Music at a similar juncture and then aborted his first and only extensive solo tour after only a handful of shows, due to a collapsed lung. Fripp & Eno live in concert? What would they do? All the shows in Spain and France were, not surprisingly, accompanied with unrealistic fan expectations, hoping for a presentation of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ combined with ‘Baby’s on Fire’ perhaps? What this audience got was something entirely different. The programme was largely improvised and totally instrumental. Adding to the event’s unorthodoxy was the absence of all conventional stage lighting. The sole illumination was provided by Malcolm LeGrice’s colour saturated and looped short film ‘Berlin Horse’ projected behind the two shadowy figures on stage, visually mimicking the music. The result was an unprecedented live performance format, years ahead of its time. It was also mind-boggling to most of the unsuspecting 1975 audience, yielding wildly different reactions. Reportedly about half the shows on this tour were also plagued with some sort of major technical hazard, stemming from the venue, the PA or the duo’s stage equipment. In Saint-Étienne, the audience went as far as booing the duo off the stage! Fortunately for us here, this Paris Olympia performance was technically flawless and from a musical standpoint, incredibly inspired.

Starting with the pre-recorded primordial drone ‘Water on Water’, the duo eventually walks on stage. Fripp begins playing through the “Enotronic system” (since Eno, not Fripp operated the tape machines on this tour). It’s important to note that at this time, the mechanics of the Revox tape delay system was a mystery to the guitarist. This must have surely added a heavy dose of Eno’s “idiot glee” to the entire proceedings. Fripp moves this piece into uncharted territories with short volume pedal sweeps of lunacy before detaching from the delay system and beautifully soloing over the familiar backing loop of ‘Swastika Girls’. Very astute listeners will detect the unrealized main theme from King Crimson’s ‘Blue’ off the top. An intermission has the audience treated to Eno’s seminal ‘Discreet Music’ before the duo return to the stage with another improvised loop morphing into the now familiar ‘Wind On Water’ landscape. The sublimely serene ‘A Near Find in Rip Pop’ follows with Fripp soloing over a beautiful, strummed guitar piece (from the ‘Evening Star’ sessions) enhanced with synthetic animal screeches utilized months later on Eno’s ‘Zawinul/Lava’ track. Then just as you feel relaxed, Eno’s loop changes to something akin to a gigantic, looming dark cloud as Fripp hits the distortion pedal and fires off some solos of truly monstrous intensity. Eno gently takes the proceedings back down to Earth again by introducing the now infamous ‘Evening Star’ backing loop over which Fripp treats us to yet another wonderful solo before leaving the stage again, while ‘An Iron Frappe’ continues to envelop the crowd. The duo reappears for the final ‘Softy Gun Poison’ complete with tapes of sinister laughter and mysterious chatter (foreshadowing moments of Fripp’s upcoming ‘Exposure’), before leaving the stage for the last time, while (the then unknown) ‘An Index of Metals’ terrorizes the bewildered audience as they exit the venue. All in all, this lucky Paris audience was treated with the entirety of both classic albums as well as enough new material to constitute a third. As a bonus, we are also presented with Eno’s stage tapes in pure format including Test Loops from the sound check. What more could you ask from a live recording? Absolutely essential listening.

"It basically comes from love": John McLaughlin in conversation with Robert Fripp, 1982

Recently came across this piece, originally published in Musician No. 45, July, 1982…


John McLaughlin


Coffee and Chocolates for Two Guitars
by Robert Fripp

Weather shut England and delayed the jammed flight to Paris by three hours, so I landed at 1:30 pm. A mad taxi driver helped to make up the lost time by driving like a mad taxi driver (the only madder ones than Paris’ are in Milan). This guy only hit one car but we nearly collected a second-a young Parisian jumped the light so we took it kinda personal, sped up and aimed. He backed down when he sized the opposition. Then we drove through the No Entry sign to John’s street; his number was inconveniently at the wrong end. I got out at the front door of the quintessentially French apartment building, in what looked suspiciously like a pedestrian zone, a small back lane of one of my two favorite cities in the world.

John McLaughlin should need no introduction, but I suppose editorial etiquette necessitates an exposition of the highlights of his extraordinary career. John probably would be equally admired had there been no Mahavishnu Orchestra—his turn-of-the-decade work with Tony Williams’ LifetimeTony Williams’ Lifetime and his contributions to Miles Davis’ epochal Bitches Brew (known forever as the first fusion album) and A Tribute to Jack Johnson would have ensured that—but it is unquestionably the Mahavishnu Orchestra, with its jagged explosions of cosmic fire and odd-metered funkiness that remains McLaughlin’s best loved and most celebrated band. The Orchestra’s cheerful acceptance of rock ‘n’ roll and other non-jazz idioms never diluted the pyrotechnical excellence of its musicians, Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird.

Both before and after Mahavishnu, McLaughlin quietly established his jazz credentials as a band leader in a more subdued but more personally expressive medium with such brilliant albums as Extrapolation, My Goals Beyond (recently rereleased), the underrated Johnny McLaughlin – Electric Guitarist, his collaboration-meditation with Carlos Santana Love Devotion Surrender and his latest, Belo Horizonte. McLaughlin is one of the very few guitarists who have consistently held my respect. Not all his music is my bag of bananas, but I’ve learned from all of it. And he’s still moving. The traditional arguments about technique—no feel, no music—don’t work with this man. My hunch is that the streams of notes don’t even come close to the tearing, ripping spray of what is trying to get out. Except sometimes.

I am warmly greeted by John and his attractive roommate (and the keyboard player in Belo Horizonte), Katia LeBeque. Katia and her sister are a classical music duo with a four-hands piano rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue selling modestly in Europe. John is a dapper dresser; today he’s in grey: flannels and pullover, shirt and tie not quite matching and just enough so that either you knew that he knew, or maybe he knew you didn’t. This subtlety of stressing the discontinuities, some exquisite Basque confectionery placed between us, the charm of the apartment—in mellowed pink, the ceiling veeing into the roof, spiral stairs—hinted at an intermezzo between the acts of flying. John is straightforward, friendly, and a gentleman. He speaks softly in a curious mix of Scottish, Indian, and French accents. We discussed the several occasions we had previously met for a time, and then I assumed a more journalistic role.

Fripp: Why do you think you became a musician?

McLaughlin: Happily, my mother was an amateur musician; she was a violinist and there was always music going on in the house. We got a gramophone one day, and someone had Beethoven’s Ninth, and on the last record, which is at the end of the symphony, there’s a vocal quartet in which the writing is extraordinary…the voices and the harmonies. I must have been about six or seven when I distinctly remember hearing it for the first time. I suppose that’s when I started to listen. Because when you’re young, you’re not paying attention. What do you know when you’re a kid? It was unbelievable, what it was doing to me was tremendous. I began to listen consciously to music and I started taking piano lessons when I was nine and went on to guitar at eleven…

Fripp: Did anything trigger the guitar in particular?

McLaughlin: Yeah, it was the D major chord. My brother showed it to me on the guitar, and I had this feeling of the guitar against my whole body…

Fripp: Did you have the F# on the bottom string?

McLaughlin: No, no. I was playing full-note chords. Eleven years old…what are you going to do? You have a small hand and, you know…What about you? Did you have a similar experience?

Fripp: I was ten. Definitely no sense of rhythm, and I spent a long time wonderting why it was that such an unlikely candidate would become a professional musician. But I knew right away that I was going to earn a living from it. Thinking about it over the years, I think music has a desire to be heard, such a kind of compulsion to be heard that it picks on unlikely candidates to give it voice.

McLaughlin: Yeah, I think that it basically comes from love. I mean, the kind of attraction that you have when you listen to it when you’re young. It’s inexplicable in a way.

Fripp: It’s a direct vocabulary…

McLaughlin: Exactly. Perhaps what you say is truth insofar as the music itself chooses, but it’s not a one-way street from music’s point of view. In a sense, you know, we fall in love with the muse and the muse falls in love with its prospective voices.

Fripp: The sentence I would add is that the music needed me to give it a voice, but in a feeble way. I needed music more, far more than music needed me.

McLaughlin: The most difficult thing, I think, in being a musician is to get out of the way.

Fripp: How do you get out of the way? Do you have specific techniques or regimens that you use? Can you just get yourself out of the way without thinking about it?
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