1981 album by King Crimson
, bringing the band back to life after a seven-year absence and completing Robert Fripp
's self-proclaimed "Drive to 1981
." It's also a perfect album
in my book.
Discipline introduced a new brand of King Crimson, led by Adrian Belew"s monstrously playful vocals and anchored by stalwart Bill Bruford on drums, who would soon begin experimenting with a new bag of electronic tricks. Bass duties were handled by studio veteran Tony Levin on the Chapman Stick, a 10-stringed bass-plus-guitar combo that let him bring intricate new sounds to Crimson; the intros of both "Elephant Talk" and "Frame by Frame" are played on Stick.
Discipline had some historical significance, too. It was the culmination of Fripp's "Drive to 1981," a flurry of activity that followed a mini-retirement in 1974 when King Crimson broke up. The drive itself consisted of a series of albums incorporating new technological ideas such as "Frippertronics," an atmospheric exercise which allowed Fripp to build layers of his own guitar sounds played back on tape. A stiff kind of drum-machine dance music crept into his repertoire as well, as featured on Under Heavy Manners (half of a two-named album with God Save the Queen). "Discotronics," Fripp loosely called it.
Fripp began plotting a new band, which would be called Discipline. He enlisted Bill Bruford first, having played with him in the previous King Crimson incarnation. Next came a call to the colorful Adrian Belew, whose band Gaga had opened for the League of Gentlemen a few times. Belew's guitar prowess had also been shown off on tours with David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Frank Zappa. On Bowie's album Stage, I think that's Belew playing Fripp's guitar part on "Heroes."
Bruford suggested Jeff Berlin for bass, but Berlin's glossy guitar-hero style didn't wash well with Fripp. Luckily, Tony Levin showed up for auditions -- Fripp says Levin would have been his first choice, but that he'd assumed Levin wouldn"t want to tour at the expense of his high-profile session work.
With the quartet formed, rehearsals began, and the results delighted Fripp. With the two-guitar attack and the overall quieter sound, the band began sounding like a "rock gamelan," he said. Fripp began considering a name change, from Discipline to King Crimson, and the band members agreed -- Bruford loved the idea, and Belew and Levin found "Discipline" to be too strict negative a name.
To promote Discipline, King Crimson actually appeared on TV! They got a spot as the musical guest on Fridays, ABC's short-lived Saturday Night Live ripoff that tried to feature hip, new wave musical acts. I actually saw their appearance. It was my first exposure to Crimson, and I was horrified -- the loud, wild-eyed singer, the accountant-looking guy who sat down the whole time, the goofball curly-haired drummer. Plus, they were doing "Elephant Talk," which to my ears was screechingly alien. I don"t remember their second song, but it was "Thela Hun Ginjeet," which couldn't have helped my opinion much.
Anyway, I remembered the band well enough that I got curious about them while in college, three years later. A roommate had a tape of Discipline, so I listened ... and I loved it! Just a few years of prog-rock listening had tilted my horizons that much. That's how I got started down the Crimson path (not that you asked, but what the heck).
The most significant album from (IMHO) the most significant shade of King Crimson.
Plenty more details available at http://www.elephant-talk.com ... I'm also indebted to Eric Tamm's exquisite, detailed biography of Robert Fripp: http://www.progressiveears.com/frippbook/ch09.htm.