Obscure Exposures

Reminiscences regarding reissues by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.

It seems that every few years I look through my LPs for a 1975 album by Brian Eno called Discreet Music, issued as the third in his Obscure series that includes records by a dozen more kindred crafters and composers, all of them men. It makes no sense that I let that album go because 1) I kept two others from the series, and 2) its jacket contains an audio-delay diagram that I adapted for my second electroacoustic performance, in 1981.1 Perhaps I figured I could grab a CD of the same? Nevertheless, I continue to forget, figuring that surely I’ve misalphabetized it, only to flip through discs in vain. But grab a CD, I recently did. Because…

Brian Eno, Discreet Music, LP reverse image

…some months ago, an old friend, Tom Recchion, posted on Facebook a box set of all the Obscure discs, and that he had contributed an essay to its accompanying 130-page book(let) in which he describes how he came upon the Obscure LPs while working as the import buyer at Poo-Bah Records in Pasadena. “Everything about the series was an inspiration,” Tom writes, “and as the years passed many of its featured composers and musicians became collaborators.”2

Serendipitously (because I rarely read about music anymore), I stumbled upon the most recent reissue of Robert Fripp’s debut solo album, Exposure (Polydor PD-1- 6201), a promo of which I bought when it was released in 1979, and on which Fripp used a version of the delay technique illustrated by Eno. It became one of my favorite albums and so I picked up a cutout of the 1985 “remixed • remastered • rekindled” reissue LP (missing ’79’s inner sleeve) as well as 1989’s Definitive Edition on CD and the Third Edition issued on CD (with the First Edition) in 2006. The Fourth Edition was issued in 2022 as both a stand-alone CD/DVD (with extras) and as part of a massive box set—called Exposures— with too many CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays to count. Oh, and the latter includes the Fifth Edition, featuring alternate vocals.

All of this has my memories, well…, rekindled.

Eno’s Obscure Strategies

Having left Roxy Music in 1973 after the band’s sophomore album, Brian Eno worked with Robert Fripp, who was winding down his band King Crimson. The first Fripp & Eno collaboration, 1973’s (No Pussyfooting) (Island HELP 16), employed Fripp’s guitar delay technique, which he’d later call Frippertronics, as shown in the diagram above.3 One method is to use two reel-to-reel tape decks that record and play back and (re)record on a single tape loop, building layers of sound with each loop cycle, as I did in my 1981 performance. My decks were about ten feet apart and I recorded (live) the thunk of my open palm on the end of an empty standpipe that was at the wall of our Little Tokyo loft. It created a polyrhythm that I suppose I could have mastered on my own, but as it became more complex with each cycle, it also dissipated when I moved to another area of the performance space.

Frippertronics Setup image
In 1981 I used TEAC decks similar to these Revox. They are turned on their side for ease of threading the tape loop.4

I don’t know why I bought the three Obscure LPs. Disc No. 5 (Island Obscure 5, 1976), which includes two settings by John Cage of poems by e. e. cummings, may have been my introduction to the distinctive tenor of Robert Wyatt. Included also are settings of James Joyce by both Cage and his album mate on No. 5, Jan Steele. Anyone who has heard the B-side to Disc No. 1 (Island OBS 1, 1975), Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” will not forget it—a loop of a London tramp singing with devotion, set to a sumptuous score. (Bryars’s later embellishment of the original was inevitable, and included the participation of Tom Waits.5)

As I say, I don’t know why I bought these discs but it could have had something to do with the LP covers (discussed in detail by Tom Recchion et al. in the box set), each of which consists of an image obscured—get it?—but for a single quadrangle (plus the title display) revealing what could be a video still. (It isn’t.6) Such video—Manhattan urbscapes—can be seen in Eno’s 14 Video Paintings from the 1980s, released in 2005.7

In September 1979 I saw Eno’s prototype-ish Music for Airports installation at a New York gallery, the audio being paired with the sort of imagery (albeit video) pictured on the Obscure LP covers. Absent the grandeur of, say, an air terminal hall, the installation came off, well…, small—yet just the sort of thing that could distract a traveler who really wasn’t watching the coin-operated airport televisions of the time for their content but rather zoning out, as I recall Eno explaining.8

Eno’s contribution to his series, Disc No. 3 (Island Obscure 3, 1975), as noted above, obviously contains a Frippertronics-ish piece, “Discreet Music,” which I, obviously, found personally instructive. Just as intriguing was the B-side: his deconstruction of Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D (arranged by Bryars). Background: Eno had been confined to bed after an injury, when musician/artist Judy Nylon visited him, bringing an LP of 18th century harp music. Moving with difficulty he eventually played the record but the sound was low and one channel of the stereo failed. Listening with, say, John Cage’s ears, an aural arena illumined. Eno subsequently was inspired to deconstruct the Canon’s absurd rendition by conductor Jean-François Paillard, who in 1968 had culled it from the cobwebs, turning a Baroque (Eno writes Renaissance) fugue form into a Romantic morass clocking in at 7:09. Herbert von Karajan’s version five years later: 4:06. Eno allows the players to take fragments of Pachelbel’s original, merely two to four bars, and have their way with them. And this is what, a few months ago, sent me back to Fripp.


In February, YouTube pushed me “Pie Jesu,” a track from Robert Fripp’s The Wine of Silence (Discipline Global Mobile DGM1102), his 2012 album of layered “soundscapes” orchestrated by Andrew Keeling and “re-imagined” by David Singleton, who coproduced all of the original recordings, which used digital, rather than analog, delay. “Pie Jesu” sounds very much like Eno’s Canon variations, and I looked further at Fripp’s discography only to discover his latest iteration of Exposure, the box set.

Beats and Beat and Beat

I’m compelled to remark here that I never listened to Fripp’s band King Crimson, except that one couldn’t avoid hearing “21st Century Schizoid Man” on the radio in 1969 (at least in Boulder, which had a couple of freeform FM stations). I have one King Crimson 7″ single—post Exposure—called “Heartbeat” (EG EGO6, 1982), created after the band had reformed. The single’s flip side is curious in the present context because it contains an excerpt from “Requiem”—the “Pie Jesu” often being included in settings of the Catholic Requiem Mass.

”Heartbeat” comes from the King Crimson album Beat (EG 2311.156, 1982), which is to be fêted this fall by a tour of original players Adrian Belew and Tony Levin along with Steve Vai and Danny Carey under the name… Beat. In looking at the Wikipedia entry for Beat (the album) I found that it was inspired by… the Beats. And so was I, sorta.

When I worked for the United Farm Workers beginning in 1973 a fellow community organizer exposed me to the work of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, and after I left the UFW in 1976 I began collecting, especially text sound recordings as well as the work of musique concrète masters like Pierre Henry and İlhan Mimaroğlu. It was when I worked with Allen Ginsberg at Naropa in 1978 that I realized I could make my own electroacoustic collages, after Allen handed me an LP he’d received in the mail, Alvin Curran’s Cante e Vedute del Giardano Magnetico (Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden; Ananda and-1, reissue 1978).9 I got a TEAC A-3340S reel-to-reel deck and began experimenting with its Simul-Sync sound-on-sound overdubbing feature.

This Business of Music

Following are some of my impressions and recollections about Fripp’s debut solo album. A comprehensive overview this is not.

At the time of Exposure’s release I recall reading that Fripp enlisted Blondie’s Debbie Harry for the album’s vocals, but CD booklets claim otherwise. Harry herself partially validates my memory, however, recalling in her oral history Face It, tersely, that “Robert Fripp asked me to sing on a record with him; our record company wouldn’t allow it.”10 In his study of Fripp and his music, author Eric Tamm gives a single nod to Harry’s participation: “Plans to have Blondie’s Debbie Harry sing a version of Donna Summers’s ‘I Feel Love’ were nixed by Chrysalis Records.”11

Fripp writes that, after leaving King Crimson, “In 1977 I had no intention of returning to the music industry, having experienced at close hand the stupidity, vanity, jealousy and greed that accompany success and the attendant income flow; amongst artists, management, record companies and even innocent members of the audience.” Still, he states, “This is not the bad news.” The bad news is that “the meeting of music, musician and audience in our contemporary culture is mediated by commerce.”12

And yet in July of 1977 when called by Brian Eno to contribute guitar to “Heroes,” which he’d written with David Bowie, Fripp obliged.13 The next month, Daryl Hall, who knew Fripp, asked him to play on—and then to produce—his first solo album, Sacred Songs (RCA AFL1-3573, 1980). In the course of that Fripp asked Hall to contribute all the vocals to his own solo debut. As blogger Post-Punk Monk explains:

The fly in the ointment was that RCA, Hall’s label felt that the end result could potentially damage their cash cow Hall, who had a few respectable radio hits as half of Hall And Oates. So the “Sacred Songs” album was not released until 1980, at which time I swear it was released as a cutout! I never saw a copy without a clipped corner in any store of the time.

(FWIW, I have a non-cutout…) Fripp claimed his own “delay by dinosaurs” in Exposure’s 1979 liner notes:

Longer, wider, deeper experience suggests that I underestimated the dishonesty of artist management, record company cynicism and deceit, the capacity for self-deception among artists, and the sheer dopiness of those who nominally support the work of their favored artists.14

Debbie Harry also spends some time in Face It discussing the stranglehold record companies held on their artists. Fripp had become a friend and had guested on Blondie’s “Fade Away and Radiate” (Parallel Lines, Chrysalis CHR 1192, 1978) as well as sitting in on the band’s shows in May 1978 at CBGB’s,15 a couple of blocks away from Fripp’s Hell’s Kitchen flat.16 For a cool grand, Harry and Blondie guitarist Chris Stein had obtained the rights to produce a remake of Jean-Luc Goddard’s Alphaville (1965), for which they tapped Fripp to play the lead, secret agent Lemmy Caution. Harry writes that Chrysalis “didn’t want us doing it,”—nor Fripp’s album, nor Blade Runner for which she’d been sent the script. “I’m sure it would have helped us sell records,” she writes. “But it seemed that the higher we got on the totem pole the less they wanted us to do anything else except for Blondie. Especially me.” As for Stein, he photographed and designed the cover for Exposure and was allowed his own label—for instance: producing, playing, and designing for Iggy Pop’s Zombie Birdhouse (Animal Records APE6000, 1982).17

And so Fripp recorded his first solo album, what would become Exposure, with Hall’s vocals exclusively, but:

I was allowed to use two songs with Daryl singing and chose You Burn Me Up I’m A Cigarette and North Star. The remaining 5 songs (as might be said today but would not have been then) were re-voiced and, with more time for reflection and re-organizing and re-mixing, the released Exposure in 1979 a better album than otherwise.18

The Parts

If Exposure’s four re-voicers are dissimilar, they have in common a contention with conformity.

Daryl Hall

I never was a fan of Hall and Oates. I must have found their second LP, Abandoned Luncheonette (Atlantic SD 7269, 1973), in my brother Richard’s record collection on a visit back home, but I remember nothing. So Exposure was my introduction to the elastic beauty of Daryl Hall’s voice. As noted above, Fripp wasn’t allowed to take advantage of the fullness of that voice, writing in his Exposure Diaries from 2005:

An artist who follows the Muse is perceived by business as dangerous.19

As I noted in a 2019 blog post (about Gang of Four):

Joni Mitchell […] remarks in the current issue of MOJO, “My work is personal, too vulnerable,” in reference to her paintings and the ignorance with which they’re met. “That’s why I quit making records.” But this quintessential confessional-singer-songwriter cuts to the quick regarding the underlying star-making machinery. Upon hearing that A&R types “are no longer looking for talent, they just want people with a certain look and a willingness to cooperate,” she thought: “That’s interesting, because I believe a total unwillingness to cooperate is what is necessary to be an artist—not for perverse reasons, but to protect your vision.”20

Fripp, continuing:

In 1978 Daryl was open to the new musical influences that were emerging; his manager and record company less so. Daryl’s pipes were a wonder: I have never worked with a more able singer, and one with a far greater musical range and potential than his career advisers allowed him to explore and develop.21

Such were the ways of the purveyors of His Master’s Voice that, Fripp recalls, “it was suggested to me that Exposure was, in fact, not a Robert Fripp solo album but a Fripp & Hall album.”22

Hall didn’t sing about the tug of war with his label on his own solo debut Sacred Songs, but the LP’s photography by William Coupon suggests it: muzzling his mouth with his hand (on the cover) and gleefully standing at the door of a vault with a stack of 10″ reels (on the inner sleeve).

Peter Hammill

In the early ’70s, Fripp worked with Peter Hammill’s Van der Graff Generator, a band I never listened to. So it’s likely I was introduced to Hammill via Exposure, after which I bought his solo LPs The Future Now (Charisma CA-1-2202, 1978) and pH7 (Charisma CA-1-2205, 1979). Those two were like masterful, powerful extensions of his work on Exposure, and so with much anticipation some time later I saw him live at the Whisky or the Roxy, only to find him solo at the piano. An hour or more of the ilk of “Not for Keith,” as much as I like the song, was disappointing.

In “The Cut,” from 1978, Hammill speaks directly to the musical-industrial complex that vexed Fripp and Hall—as well as the Roches (below) and perhaps even Peter Gabriel.

Terre Roche

What I liked about Robert Fripp’s production on the Roches’ eponymous first album (Warner Bros. BSK 3298, 1979) was the almost imperceptible dissonance of—not their harmonies—but rather their unisons. Three sisters should, could be an Osterized blend, but no. Fripp called this “audio verité” but I’m not really buying it.

And yet on the second track, “Hammond Song,” that lyric, “Come on you’re ly—” marvelously melds their G5 with Fripp’s sustained guitar “—ing to me” gave me goosebumps.

It was at the Whisky that I saw The Roches in 1979. I don’t recall the performance but I do the local critical reaction. The Times’s Robert Hilburn was in heaven, writing about their “mismatched look” (evidently not having perused their LP cover), their facile swapping “back and forth” on lead vocal, and their choice to cover Bob Dylan’s obscure “Clothes Line Saga.” The LA Weekly’s Alexander Austin and Steve Erickson begged to differ, and their critique is worthy of its own blog post, but here’s a taste. After calling “Hammond Song” “wonderful, […] even majestic” they trash the Roches’ eccentricity as “more calculated than real, with an ingenuousness that is less than genuine.” The two then compare the Roches’ credulous fans with…, well…:

Among a Nico crowd at the Whisky a couple of weeks ago—an odd mix of New Wave fans, art school graduates, Hollywood scene-makers and self-proclaimed Nazis—the name of the Roches was one of two receiving the loudest applause when read over the public address system; the other was the punk band, 999. The Roches then, though musically as far from punk as John Coltrane or Erik Satie, are plugged into that same cultural restlessness that nurtured punk […].23

I saw many a show at the Whisky—Blondie, for instance, in 1977—and the Nico crowd’s “odd mix” (I was there) was what you’d see at, well, many a show at the Whisky. What was most disturbing about Nico’s set was her rendition of “Deutschlandlied” in its entirety, explaining that she was fond of the melody. While the anthem’s latter stanzas stand today as Germany’s national anthem, its original opening lines sear the ears: “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,/ Über alles in der Welt.” I didn’t notice any “self-proclaimed Nazis” standing straighter, taller, but perhaps Nico did two sets that night?

I should mention that the Roches’ odd mix of clothing, as noted by Hilburn, actually is a centerpiece of the trio’s debut album Wikipedia entry (Background section). Maggie and Terre Roche had sung backup on Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (Columbia KC 32280, 1973). In 1975 his label released the two sisters’ album Seductive Reasoning (Columbia KC 33232), but the duo hated the company’s career-building guidance to “wear hipper clothes.” Terre Roche:

We were humiliated […]. We wanted to get out of the whole situation. We had a friend in Hammond, Louisiana, who was running a kung fu school. We gave up our apartment and told the record company, “We’re not going to promote the record anymore; we’re going away for a while.” This was two weeks after the record came out. Maggie wrote the “Hammond Song” about the whole experience.24

Peter Gabriel

Again, my brother had Genesis’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (ATCO SD2-401, 1974) in his record collection, but I wasn’t attracted to it and never listened to any other Genesis album. (Not to dis my brother’s taste; he also had LPs by Jimmie Spheeris and Andy Pratt.) I’m sure I didn’t buy Peter Gabriel’s solo debut (Peter Gabriel, ATCO SD 36-147, 1977) until after Fripp’s Exposure. I know I was annoyed at the subtle doubling effect applied to all of Gabriel’s vocals, and which I think Phil Collins adopted after Gabriel’s departure from Genesis.25

Gabriel always had included social criticism in his solo work, but self-criticism wouldn’t come until his fifth album’s song “Big Time,” which biographer Daryl Easlea calls “a sardonic reflection on the music business,” which “could be read as humorously autobiographical.” Following that immediately with “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)”—a track he’d recorded for his third album and which references an obedience study conducted at Yale—is a convenient allusion to artist as automaton.26

The Sum: Exposure

Okay then…

If the SoundCloud player for Exposure fails, try this YouTube playlist.


From the get-go Fripp comments on the state of affairs in music, using Brian Eno as his stand-in.

You Burn Me Up I’m a Cigarette / Breathless / Disengage

This trio of songs is nearly a Young Person’s Guide to 20th Century (White) Rock, ending with the DIY “Disengage,” which begins with Fripp’s mother Edith discussing, of all things, toilet training.27 As the late great male actress Charles Pierce would say, “It’s going to be that kind of show….”28

“You Burn Me Up” is addressed to Joanna Walton (see below):

It must be real bad karma
For this to be my dharma
With you

Followed later by a snippet from Hindu swami Shivapuri Baba, born in Kerala, late of Nepal, a nod to the post-Crimson sabbatical Fripp had taken studying at Shivapuri biographer J. G. Bennett’s school in the Cotswolds:

Think of God alone. Dismiss every other thought from your mind and you will see God.

Then the lyric sheet diverges from the recording:

What did the sage mean?
What had the sage seen?

“Breathless,” which follows, was held in high regard by Fripp, who told Caroline Coon of Sounds:

[“Breathless” is a] terrifying and sophisticated instrumental in 7/4 time with middle section in 3/3 plus 3/8, with a guitar in 9/8 over the top of it. But the very interesting thing about this experiment is that it feels as if it’s in 4/4. It doesn’t strike the listener as being anything but direct—which is a remarkable achievement. In one sense it’s probably the most successful thing I’ve ever done. I score my things out of 10 and I don’t accept anything less than 8/10. “Breathless” is a 9….maybe 9½.29

Eric Tamm, who performs a meticulous vivisection of Fripp’s debut album, complains that “Disengage” has no real melody, and explains that

Fripp had made the backing tracks, then stuck a lyric sheet in front of [Peter] Hammill and said, “Sing.” This is not so much songwriting as collaborative layering […].30

At least Fripp credited Hammill with the tune. Let’s recall that, presumably, Fripp already had shoved the lyric sheet in front of Daryl Hall, and thus its melody already had been crafted. I’ve heard Hall’s version and it doesn’t have the raging range that Hammill brings to the lyrics. Speaking of which: an extended aside now follows, on Fripp’s lyricist and the origin of the F-word.

Joanna Walton

Daryl Hall cowrote four songs on Exposure: “You Burn Me Up…,” “North Star,” “Chicago,” and “Mary,” but his vocal appears only on the first two. The latter two had a third coauthor, Joanna Walton, with whom Fripp had a relationship and collaboration.

It was for Fripp and Walton’s February 5, 1978 matinee performance at The Kitchen (Center) in New York that Fripp—not Walton—devised the term Frippertronics.31 The title of the matinee event was Frippertronics and Mooncowisms.32

While Walton didn’t coin the F-word, Fripp’s contemporaneous profile of his collaborator is worth reprinting here.

Remarkable woman, remarkable woman. When I first met her, she was not prepared to put up with too much nonsense from Robert or as she used to say, “YOU SEXIST LITTLE PIG!” And yes, it was an experience which enabled me to grow emotionally and catch up on some seven years of emotional hibernation as a member of a touring band in which one is generally prevented from experiencing oneself since it makes oneself more liable to manipulation by parties not really interested in one’s personal development. So I had a short time to catch up quite a lot, and Joanna as I say in this particular fashion certainly helped me. [S]he spent five years at Harvard doing philosophy and theology under Galbraith and all the Harvard heavies of the early sixties. Then left to become an actress, working quite a lot with Harvey Keitel. But when Harvey became successful and Joanna could have been, she in fact went to England and became a therapist, and founded a body called the Women’s Free Arts Alliance. She moved to New York with me at the beginning of 1977, she’s in fact a native New Yorker, and [on] one level Exposure has to do with the kind of way a man and woman relate to each other in a contemporary situation, trying to be free of all the archetypes and so on. And how difficult that might be. So “You Burn Me Up I’m A Cigarette” is my love song to Joanna. “I May Not Have Had Enough Of Me But I’ve Had Enough Of You,” “Chicago” and “North Star” are her love songs to me. North Star, that point needed, that orientation needed in a relationship between man and woman.33

Fripp’s interviewer Dick Tooley expresses praise for Walton’s lyrics:

Before we get into listening to “North Star,” I have to make a comment on the words to the album. Joanna Walton contributed the words, getting into some conceptual things, making the differentiation between the doorway and the door, the hallway and the hall, the window and the wind. Marvelous words.34

Fripp’s biographer Eric Tamm heaps similar praise on the music Fripp created for that February 1978 performance at the Kitchen:

The Frippertronics improvisations from this concert are among the very finest I have heard, quite outstripping similar efforts on Let the Power Fall [1981] and other records. Particularly noteworthy are the almost constant changes of texture, from drone-based to melodic/motivic to harmonic, so that the overall mass of sound, though formed out of almost endless repetition of fragments, tends to develop significantly from one minute to the next. Fripp’s potential for seemingly unending flights of melodic imagination is nowhere more evident.35

Tamm then compares this performance with Bach’s The Art of the Fugue:

I have a vision that the baroque master was in effect thinking in several keys at once […] which magically cohere to form one unified super-key or super-mode through which Bach leads his lines with effortless grace. Something similar happens in Frippertronics from time to time.36

That Kitchen performance, available before only as a two-LP bootleg called Pleasures in Pieces, is included in the Exposures box set.

North Star

Of course, “North Star” is the song that wowed Fripp’s interviewer Dick Tooley, both vocally and lyrically. That perfect marriage—as if Hall were verbalizing and vocalizing extemporaneously—is its charm.37


Hammill’s baritone here is the flip side to Hall’s: Walton’s delicate lyric is manhandled mercilessly, marvelously.


I’m tempted to compare “NY3” with the work of the late Scott Johnson, who in New York in the early ’80s set loops of dialog to music, but with the inherent musicality of the discourse dictating his fretwork; see his “John Somebody” (Nonesuch/Icon 79133-2, 1986). In “NY3” there’s a bit of a mirroring between music and quarrel, but you’ll hear it mainly early on in Tony Levin and Barry Andrews’s bass and organ. The cartoonish clash documented on the lyric sheet belies the fact that we are voyeurs, reminded, via Donald Trump’s 2024 Manhattan trial, that covert recording in New York requires the consent of only one party.38


Side 1 of the LP finishes with “Mary,” pairing Walton and Hall’s tender collaboration with Terre Roche’s soprano. Hall sang the song in a register that comes a bit more naturally to Roche, with a richer result.


Ostensibly recorded between the Januarys of 1978 and ’79, at the time of Exposure’s release in June, one might have noticed that it contains work from as early as ’77. “Here Comes the Flood” appears on Peter Gabriel’s first solo album (Peter Gabriel, ATCO SD 36-147, 1977). The track “Exposure” was cowritten by Fripp with Gabriel for his second solo record, which Fripp also produced (Peter Gabriel, Charisma 9124025, 1978).

On Exposure’s title track, Fripp loops Terre Roche’s “-ure” so that this final syllable (and its vibrato) take on a wind player’s circular breathing, with Fripp explaining, as if we needed it, “N.B. Ms. Roche’s voice on ‘Exposure’ was Fritched.”

Häaden Two

I can’t find the meaning of “Häaden,” but I’m told by online translation resources that it’s Finnish for “getting married” or “wedding.” Among its sampled voices are those of J. G. Bennett (associated with Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and whom Fripp studied in 1975) addressing one’s misanthropic nature; Monty Python, backwards (“One thing is for sure: the sheep is not a creature of the air”); a news announcer, cut up; Brian Eno panning and praising and panning—“abandon it”—punctuated by Bennett remarking that “more good advice could hardly be packed into one sentence.”

Urban Landscape

Pure Frippertronics, the layering made plain.

I May Not Have Had Enough of Me But I’ve Had Enough of You

Another lyric sheet shoved in front of both Peter Hammill and Terre Roche? There’s no counterpart to compare on the Daryl Hall edition.

First Inaugural Address to the I.A.C.E. Sherborne House

This sounds like the runout groove of a well-played LP. I recall Fripp explaining at the time that this talk by J. G. Bennett (given at his International Academy for Continuing Education), electronically condensed as it is from its original 5000+ spoken words, still could impart meaning. In the interview with Caroline Coon of Sounds, Fripp said: “It was a forty minute talk which I’ve condensed into three and a half seconds by a process scientists believe extraterrestrial intelligences might use to send information across the universe.”39

Water Music I / Here Comes the Flood / Water Music II / Postscript

As mentioned above, “Here Comes the Flood” is Peter Gabriel’s less bombastic reading of a song from his first solo album. Gabriel realized the original version had been a mistake. I’m happy to have a corrected version, in German, as the flip side of his first “Biko” 12″ single (Charisma CB 370-12, 1980).

Later, Gabriel admitted to author Armando Gallo that the first iteration “was overproduced and the version I prefer is the German version or the one on Robert Fripp’s ‘Exposure’, both of which are much closer in spirit to my original demo of the song.”40

On his own debut, it made sense for Fripp to sandwich “Here Comes the Flood” between two Frippertronics pieces, “Water Music I and II,” because it allowed him to display his guitar-effect technique in an integrative manner, flowing between tone poem and song. Discussing the coming ice age and rising oceans is, again, J. G. Bennett, who died forty years ago on December 13. He was a military man who, in that capacity, had meetings with remarkable men, among them Ouspensky and Gurdjieff who relied on systems, schools. In “Postscript” when I hear Eno talking about “the whole story being completely untrue—a big hoax,” I think of Maya, illusion, and Coyote the trickster.

  1. David Hughes (with Andrea Carney and John Callahan), Sound and Vision performance series, Traction Gallery, Los Angeles, 17 May 1981.
  2. The Complete Obscure Records Collection 1975–1978, Dialogo DIALP926BOX, 2023, booklet, 106.
  3. Without attribution, Wikipedia’s Frippertronics entry credits Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros with having developed the loop/delay technique under discussion here. Composer Carl Stone has reminded me that Oliveros employed this technique for her piece “I of IV” (New Sounds in Electronic Music, Odyssey 32 16 0160, 1967). Her liner notes describe the setup in detail. (Stone, personal communication, 23 May 2024.) Eric Tamm cites Richard Williams’s 04 Nov 1972 Melody Maker interview with Eno, writing that when Eno and Fripp had employed the technique on (No Pussyfooting), “Eno was aware that Terry Riley had just gone public with a similar delay system.” Williams then quotes Eno: “Actually, soon afterwards I found out that John Cage had discovered the same things years ago.” See Tamm, Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound, Boston and London: Faber and Faber, 1989, 21, 178n20.
  4. I am grateful to John Strother of Penguin Recording for confirming the make of these decks.
  5. Gavin Bryars with Tom Waits, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Point Music 438 823-2, 1993.
  6. In an addendum essay accompanying the box set, Tom Recchion explains that the obscured image was what Eno gave designer John Bonis: a postcard blowup of city buildings, which Bonis used and collaged. See The Complete Obscure Records Collection 1975–1978 booklet, 110. See also my header image for this post, above, for No. 5 in the series.
  7. Brian Eno, 14 Video Paintings, All Saints Records HNDVD 1508, 2005.
  8. I have access to periodicals of the time, including L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Slash, and Village Voice, but cannot locate the interview in which Eno discussed the visual component of his airport scheme. I’m grateful to Carl Stone for pointing me to the archive of his 1988 Composer to Composer Talk with Eno at the Aratani Japan America Theatre, which I attended, where Eno said he got his idea for airport music while waiting at the Cologne Bonn airport, designed by the father of Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider, Paul Schneider-Esleben. He did not, however, discuss a video component.
  9. I seem to have misfiled that one as well. See my discussion of Curran, Frederic Rzewski, and the group Musica Elettronica Viva in Attica: Coming Together.
  10. Debbie Harry with Sylvie Simmons, Face It, New York: Dey St., 2019, 181.
  11. Eric Tamm, Robert Fripp: From King Crimson to Guitar Craft, Boston and London: Faber and Faber, 1990, 109. Fripp guested on Blondie’s live rendition of Summers’s song, in Jan 1980 at the Hammersmith Odeon. It was included as a bonus track on the two-disk reissue of Blondie’s single “Union City Blue” remixes (Chrysalis CDCHS 5027, 1995). Blondie’s cover of “Heroes,” with Fripp sitting in, was recorded 12 Jan 1980 at the same London venue, and appears on the B-side of the “Atomic” 12″ (Chrysalis CHS 12 2410, 1980).
  12. Robert Fripp, liner notes, Exposure reissue, DGM DGM0602, 2006, n.p.
  13. I have an Australian 7″ pressing of the song “Heroes” with vocal in English, French, and German, b/w “V-2 Schneider” (RCA 20629, 1977).
  14. Fripp 2006.
  15. Harry 2019, 181.
  16. Tamm 1990, 104.
  17. Harry 2019, 181–182.
  18. Fripp 2006. The album with Hall’s vocals, dubbed The Last of the Great New York Heartthrobs, was released as part of the Exposures box set in 2022.
  19. Fripp 2006; diary entry dated 31 Aug 2005.
  20. Robert Hilburn, “Joni: The Interview,” MOJO, Issue 304 (Mar 2019), 66.
  21. Fripp 2006.
  22. Fripp 2006.
  23. Austin and Erickson, “The Roches—Wackiness As Art,” LA Weekly, 22 Jun 1979, 25.
  24. Geoffrey Himes, “Maggie Roche: The Hidden Heart of The Roches,” Paste, 24 Jan 2017, archived here.
  25. Compare this comment of mine with my discussion of the double-tracked vocals of Jimmie Spheeris, Duncan Sheik, John Grant, and Midlake in Left the Nest: Jimmie and Penelope Spheeris.
  26. Daryl Easlea, Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel, New York: Omnibus Press, 2013, 252–253. See Peter Gabriel, So, Geffen 9 24088-2, 1986.
  27. Tamm 1990, 110, 111.
  28. From my recollection seeing Pierce perform at Studio One’s Backlot cabaret in West Hollywood years before his death in 1999.
  29. The interview, conducted in Sep 1978, is archived on Elephant Talk’s Exposure Pages.
  30. Tamm 1990, 111.
  31. Dick Tooley’s interview with Robert Fripp conducted 09 Aug 1979 “on a college radio station in Winnipeg prior to a Frippertronics performance at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.” Wikipedia’s Frippertronics entry credits Walton with coining the term, but via its second source—the aforementioned interview—Fripp clearly states that “in order to find an appropriate name for the event, and this was only a one-off on a Sunday brunch concert, I came up with the name Frippertronics. Mainly because it was silly.”
  32. “Free or Under $2.50: Village Vicinity,” Village Voice, 06 Feb 1978, 54.
  33. Fripp to Tooley 1979.
  34. Fripp to Tooley 1979.
  35. Tamm 1990, 107.
  36. Tamm 1990, 108.
  37. Hall shares music cowriting credit with Fripp on “North Star.”
  38. A recent listen to Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” (from Speaking in Tongues, Sire 92-3771-1, 1983) as well as Tom Jones & The Cardigans’ cover version (from Reload, Gut/Mushroom MUSH33251.2, 199) reminds me how verse 4 begins, “My house…,” with the same emphasis as in “NY3.” Jones actually repeats “My house” a second time. Of course, by the time of the Heads’ recording in 1982, David Byrne had contributed a vocal to Fripp’s second solo album God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners (Polydor PD-1-6266, 1980).
  39. The interview, conducted in Sep 1978, is archived on Elephant Talk’s Exposure Pages, which notes, “There have been various postings to ET on the (im)probability of the condensing” of the Bennett address.
  40. Armando Gallo, Peter Gabriel, London: Omnibus Press, 1986, 16. Gabriel released German language versions of his third and fourth solo albums.

3 Replies to “Obscure Exposures”

  1. I believe I once heard the German version of Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood.” I had long since forgotten about it.

    This was a deep musical exegesis of the Eno – Fripp – Hall – Hammill – Gabriel – Harry connection, a walk through their sentiments of the music business and technological experimentation collaborative between Eno, Fripp & Gabriel.

    Daryl Hall’s vocals have always impressed me and it wasn’t until much later after I bought the Exposure album that I became aware that Hall ever had anything to do with it. Later on, and recently, Hall’s versions came out, “NY3,” “North Star,” however I liked the earlier versions better. The same for Gabriel’s “Here Comes the Flood.” Only now, hearing it in German, from the guttural aspect of the language, its visceral cry is more prominent and so I am in agreement with Gabriel’s opinions about the song. As for NY3, I prefer the Fripp version of the argument, the voyeuristic aspect, and the artistry of the drumming which I must mention. The “First Inaugural Address…” condensation of existential political rhetoric is clever and reflects my sentiments perfectly.

    This was a rather meaty piece you wrote and I could linger here for an hour touching on aspects, but I cannot—maybe over a video conference?

    I rather enjoyed this exploration, a web of genius in the life of progressive and sophisticated music.

    1. Thanks, Del Mar. My late housemate, Jon Dearle, ditched the English versions of those Gabriel LPs for the German, preferring that sound, like you do.

  2. very interesting article, thank you. I had no idea that Debbie Harry had performed Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. that is fucking amazing. in the day I would have gone crazy for that. I remember finding a bootleg album of Blondie performing David Bowie”s Heroes and I was over the moon about it. I think that was around 1980

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