Adrian Belew

Adrian BelewThe great guitarist Adrian Belew is 65 today — so he won’t be performing anymore. He’s had a fairly successful solo career, but most people know him from his work with other acts — most notably King Crimson. I don’t think that much of him in terms of the music he plays, but he is a master of guitar in terms of sounds. He’s kind of like The Edge: more a synth player than a guitarist. But that is to take nothing away from his wizardry. He’s an amazing guy.

I first noticed Belew because of his work on one of the greatest rock albums ever: Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. So here is “Crosseyed and Painless” from the tour he did with the band in 1980:

Happy birthday (And retirement!) Adrian Belew!

4 thoughts on “Adrian Belew

  1. Wow, what a great clip. It’s even better than the version in the Demme movie.

    Dumb personal story. In our home, which was fundamentalist, rock was banned. (Oddly, not the Beatles, not even their later stuff, and not Bob Dylan; but before my parents were fundamentalists, they were young people in the ’60s, and so maybe had sentimental attachment to Dylan/The Beatles.) They participated in a Portland protest to get a KISS concert canceled, because Satan, you know.

    I was curious about new rock, naturally. I heard snippets of it at school. (I liked Prince songs, thought Michael Jackson was kinda creepy.) The first time I was old enough to sneak away to the library and look at records in the “rock” section, which the library let you listen to on headphones with a record player, I didn’t know what to choose. I didn’t know any of the band names. I didn’t know which ones would send me to Hell.

    I saw a record called “Speaking In Tongues” and some kind of youthful damn-it-all rebellion kicked in. If I was in danger of going to Hell by listening to the wrong rock record, I might as well choose the one with the most sacrilegious title. Of course that’s not a sacrilegious album in the slightest. I was immediately hooked. It was both funky and nerdy (a combination nobody’s bettered since.)

    To this day, one of my favorite bands. And I recognize the name Adrian Belew from the album credits but never knew how much he contributed to the sound of “Remain.” The Edge is a terrific comparison.

    Listening to evil sacrilegious rock worked out for me with the Heads. I was very disappointed to get to college and finally hear KISS. I was expecting, I dunno, incredibly scary weird music offering praises to Beelzebub, that would warp my mind so completely I’d fall into their dark orbit. Instead KISS was frat-boy party songs that weren’t anywhere near as good as the Talking Heads.

    All the Satan-seeming acts are a major disappointment to recovering fundamentalists, really. Zep is straight blues with skilled guitar noodling. “Sympathy For The Devil” is about America’s culture of violence, not The Prince Of Darkness. Judas Priest and Ozzy are over-produced punk, heavy on the reverb. And AC/DC (“anti-christian/devil’s chariots”) are just the Australian KISS.

    Very unsatisfying stuff if you’re trying hard to dare and listen to music you were once told might fry your eternal soul. I think I was more scared by “Graceland.”

    • It is great! And there are many more from the tour; just do a search on “talking heads adrian belew.”

      I would protest KISS coming to my town too. No children’s music allowed!

      I was deeply disappointed by Speaking in Tongues. It was good enough but over four albums they went: interesting, great, amazingly great, one of the greatest albums ever made. Disappointment was inevitable. But SiT was certainly better than some of what was to come. And it’s a fine album. But if Talking Heads is going to do funk, I’d rather listen to Tom Tom Club.

      “Graceland” is a deeply “religious” song. Simon writes well about such subjects. I wish religious people took such matters half as seriously. But you know why they don’t: taking religion seriously is the work of the devil. Religion should be limited to penalizing women for having sex and stopping the “gay agenda.”

  2. Is there a link you’d care to share about his retirement? He just played my fair city two days ago to a sellout crowd and didn’t say anything about it.
    BTW, on his facebook page, he gets philosophical about the big 6-5:

    “65 going on 24.
    seriously, there has never been a time in my life where I’ve felt even 30 years old and now I’m twice that age! though I’m a “grownup” responsible man, the child in me is still mostly in charge.
    when I was a kid, men wore suits and hats. all of them wore hats! my father had a keen sense of humor, but was always the strong silent Clint Eastwood type. a World War II veteran, you knew he could take care of whatever had to be done.
    my father died at 45, an age I passed long ago. he was my ideal of what an adult is supposed to be and I have never been able to think of myself as anything more than his boy.
    which is how I prefer to see life.”

    • I’m sorry! That’s an old joke I used to do on birthday posts to claim that everyone was retiring on 65. The idea is to make fun of the fact that people ought to retire at 65. When they have fulfilling jobs, they generally don’t do so. Cervantes was 58 when he wrote Don Quixote I and 68 when he wrote Don Quixote II. But I’ll think twice before I use the “joke” again. It is really only intended to amuse myself.

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