Cat Food - King Crimson
June 1971, I was fifteen, and had saved up my money to go to the coolest record shop in the world - or so I was informed. Each week my copies of Melody Maker and Sounds were full of adverts placed by a new mail order record company called Virgin Records selling top albums at discount prices that were unbelievable. On the way home from school, I took a tube to their Tottenham Court Road shop expecting to be able to to buy the stock at the same prices, only to find that these only applied to mail order, there was some kind of loophole in retail law (soon to be filled), and I had to pay full whack in person. But for a youth of my tender years just being there was quite a shock. The place really was a hippy hang-out: it was like the kind of set you see in films where they try to recreate the swinging sixties. Ravi Shankar music was playing as I walked in, there was the smell of joss sticks everywhere (banned at my school, I thought they were a cover for - dare to utter it - drugs!), customers were invited to sit, chat and sip jasmine tea on any of a number of water beds, or lie down while listening to records we were considering buying on headphones, which in 1971 were the latest thing. There was a woman behind the counter with long frizzy hair who smiled at me pityingly and when I emerged an hour later, I did so with some relief, pleased to have not been seduced or arrested in a police raid, something that I was sure was imminent. The four albums that I came out clutching to my chest were: the Who's "Tommy", "Deep Purple in Rock", "Relics" by Pink Floyd and "In the Wake of Poseidon" by King Crimson. When I returned to school I was commonly credited with being "far out" for a good few weeks, and definitely became an honorary "shade" for a term, especially as I actually seemed to like King Crimson and not be playing it just for affect.
The tenuous link between this and the last post is that Brian Eno often worked with King Crimson's leader and lead guitarist Robert Fripp, although Eno was never anything to do with Fripp's long term project, the band, which has kept going through
various personnel changes and guises from 1968 to the present.
What I love about King Crimson and Robert Fripp is that they've always been convinced that they are making the modern equivalent of classical music. Just listen to any of their albums and you will realise that they believe that what they are doing is as important as anything recorded by anyone. And who can blame them: melodic, inventive, exciting, influential but in turn itself suffused in musical genre influences of all kinds, always cutting edge and always great to listen to. One of the things that was good about Top of the Pops in those days is that they would often play the new singles of bands who had recently made it big in the album charts, forcing teenybopper style dancers to hilariously gyrate to complex jazz rock rhythms or heavy electric blues numbers.
The BBC criminally destroyed most of their sixties Top of the Pops recordings, the management deeming them not important enough for preservation, and this was only preserved as the programme was subbed out to a German tv network as the twatty German deejay intro testifies. The band are miming to the single recording, as was the practice in those days, but this does not take away from the absolutely brilliant, crazycat playing of Keith Tippett on keyboards and Fripp's exquisite wah-wah guitar not to mention the legendary Greg Lake on vocals. This is the only version of the original I could find on the internet so I have to apologise that it is shortened by a full two minutes, but this is sufficient to appreciate the agreeable dadaism of the tune and lyrics as well as get a sniff of the palpable sense of panic that pervades the studio dancers.
"No use to complain
if you're caught out in the rain
your mother's quite insane
cat food, cat food, cat food,