Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy birthday, Adrian Belew

Born on 23 December 1949, Belew is famous for the extraordinary range of animal noises he can produce on his guitar – in this Japanese TV ad he imitates a chicken, a cat and an elephant, in this one a monkey and a seagull, and in this an entire orchestra.

Which would be of interest only if he made music from it, and he does. He got his first break with Frank Zappa, whose band he recorded (Sheik Yerbouti) and toured with 1978-9. Then he worked live and in the studio with David Bowie (Stage, Lodger) Talking Heads (Remain in Light) and since then he has released 20 solo albums since 1982’s Lone Rhino, and has been a member of King Crimson continuously since 1981. He seems always to have other side projects on the go as well.

In October I posted a happy 40th birthday to King Crimson with a clip of them doing “Elephant Talk” in which Belew performs extraordinary Strat abuse. Here he is with them in 1982 performing “Matte Kudasai”, one of the band’s rare ballads:

But to really see what he can do, take a look (embedding is disabled) at him live in Rome in 1980 with Talking Heads, soloing twice on the ecstatic, apocalyptic funk of “The Great Curve” (at 2.00 and again at 5:20). Talk about abstract.

YouTube has another nine videos from the same concert, filmed (not very well) for TV. Belew is amazing on “Cross-eyed and Painless” – which, Tina Weymouth fans, features her a lot. And in “Psycho Killer” she even smiles. Despite the occasional out-of-tune singing, it’s a hell of a show.

Isn’t YouTube Downloader great.

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