Tuesday, February 27, 2007

National Rhinoceros Week

I can just hear Helen Mirren now,
"I hyahby declare this National Rhinoceros Week",
smash goes the champagne on the side of a large rhino
who blinks twice and runs the other way.

used to be people would ask, "are you really in the picture with the rhino?"
it always seemed an obvious airbrushing to me.
but I love the idea of really being there.
I love everything about the rhinoceros,
dinosaur beast from another planet.

this is one of my favorite photographs, (before they put me in it).
the original picture was shot in africa by a well-known japanese
wildlife photographer mr. tanaka.
the majestic mountian backdrop, the field of flowers,
the perfectly perched oxpecker. wow.

the shot of me airbrushed in was done in a studio in tokyo
by mr. sukita, the well-known japanese fashion photographer
who shot the portrait of david bowie for the heroes cover.

japan in the early 1980's was such fabulous culture shock. it still is, but back then you didn't even have the dubious comfort of a golden arches. it was really a foreign place. and I loved it. my first year 1979 was with david bowie. we played a huge venue. nearly all the big venues are rigged with their own tv cameras for broadcasting/taping. I was told later our bowie show was seen by one third of the population of japan. next year (seemed like the next week) I went back to tokyo with talking heads who were at their hottest. the following year 1981 it was with the newly formed king crimson and later that same year with japan's own ryuichi sakamoto. on the flight over to japan I opened a magazine to find a full spread about ryuichi's band yellow magic orchestra which said they were bigger than the beatles in japan and could not walk down the streets. I had no idea. king crimson (who had never been to japan) became an over-night sensation there that year as well. we've been back many times. like the turtle said when molested by the snail, "I don't know, it all happened so fast".

I liked mr. sukita very much.
he looked like a japanese male laurie anderson.
dark suit, spiky cropped hair, severe shoes
with the toothy grin of a 1953 DeSoto.

in one of those vast tokyo lobbys
with the customary round of little coffees
mr. sukita sat surrounded by a bevy of nervy young assistants,
the ever-polite interpreter was at his side.
when I explained the concept of me with my guitar
standing in a field next to a rhinoceros,
he made wild comical motions with his hands.
"mr. sukita would like to know,
are you shooting the guitar at the rhino?"
the interpreter asked.
"oh no no," I said, "I love the rhino".
out came that big grin, everybody laughed,
"good!" said mr. sukita.


  1. Well I guess this explains all those Japanese commercials of you and the animals posted on youtube!

  2. Mr. Belew – Thanks for this window into your world, it is fascinating. Since spotting you at Frankfurt airport last year I have enjoyed expanding upon my collection of your music and even procured a Parker P-42 for my own amusement here at home. (Nice guitar, especially for a guy who can’t plunk down the cash for a Belew!) Your show at BB Kings in August was one of the most entertaining events I have attended in recent memory. It was exhilarating.

    So, your radio interview with the guy in Cincy got me thinking about how different our world views must be, but how similar we would like to see the end result. Yes, it is a moral issue. I just admire the way you go about furthering your opinion as opposed to the high profile, oft-hyperbolic (or worse) rhetoric of the media darlings of the American environmentalist movement. I just think more folks are more likely to emulate a guy like you who leads through example and walks the talk.

    Anyway, in following your public persona over the past few months I have empathized with some of your challenges and losses, as well as your amazing attitude, drive and personal power that fuels your hyper-talent. As different as we may be, we are all in the same boat. I just wanted to let you know you have a supportive fan over here that you have greatly influenced over these past seven months. Thanks. I hope we see you in New York again soon.

  3. Dang, I was posting as Joe! :) Time to disambiguate myself.

    Nothing insightful to add today -- just wanted to say how great it is to hear your stories. They exude this sense of eyes wide open (no pun intended) in appreciation and wonder, and a certain peaceful grace. Thank you for sharing.

  4. it's a great picture - looks like you are gently leaning in towards a friend.

  5. thank you all for your comments which make it so much more worthwhile. though I don't always feel the need to reply (or the clock runs dry) I look forward to our duologue more than any other part of my blogness.

    "Just done reading your blog,
    without the blog,
    we are non-existent to the world.."

    robert fripp to adrian belew
    via e-mail february 20, 2007

  6. The bird on the rhino's back is a Cattle Egret, not an oxpecker...
    Sorry to have to be so pedantic!