Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Anecdote #646 part 1

Uneasy Meetings with Gods
part one.

place: a Frank Zappa concert in
Cologne, Germany 2/14/1978
my first tour of europe ever and
as a member the frank zappa band.
although I wasn't aware, this night
brian eno is in the audience.
next day eno calls david bowie
knowing david
is looking for a new guitarist.

Berlin, Germany 2/15/1978
the following night david comes
to the show ostensibly to see me play.
there is a break in the show where I
normally leave the stage while frank
plays an extended guitar solo.
as I'm leaving I glance over
to the monitor board. I'm shocked to see david bowie and iggy pop!
I walk over, shaking david's hand I say, "I've always loved your music".
"great", he says, "how'd you like to join my band?!"
"well, I'm playing with this guy right now..." I stammer, pointing to frank.
"yes, I know, but your tour ends in two weeks and mine begins two weeks later."
we agree to meet back at the hotel after the show.

what followed was like something out of a spy film. david and his assistant coco tried to rendezvous with me without letting anyone in on our little "secret". I suppose the idea was to avoid letting frank know I was being wooed away from his band. I was too dumb to notice. at one point, david, coco, and I stepped into the hotel elevator when no one was around. whispering, coco said, "we have a car out front. we'll meet you there in ten minutes."
david wanted to take me to one of his favorite restaurants to discuss my future. he had lived in berlin for several years. so his driver set off with the three of us in the back madly chatting about songs we'd play and places we'd go. we pulled up to a nice looking restaurant and walked in.
at the table right in front of us sat frank and some of the band!
the jig was up as they say.
can you imagine? how many restaurants are there in berlin?
so we invited ourselves to join them at their table.
feeling slightly uncomfortable david tried to engage frank in friendly discourse.
david said, "really enjoyed the show".
frank shot back, "fuck you captain tom".
"c'mon frank, we can be adults about this, can't we?" david replied.
"fuck you captain tom."
"no, really I'd like to talk."
no matter what david tried, frank kept saying, "fuck you captain tom."
so we left the restaurant.
outside david said,
"that went down rather well, didn't it?"
david, coco, and I spent the rest of the evening at an authentic 1920's private cabaret. david knew the owner and we had a wonderful time. some kind of girls gave us a show. the marlena dietrich owner of the club awarded me a lifetime membership card.

a few days later as frank sat at the back of a bus we were riding I approached him. I knew frank was planning on editing his movie baby snakes after the tour which would take perhaps 3 or 4 months. I explained it might make more sense for me to tour with david during that time rather than languish on frank's payroll. in his customarily frank fashion he reached out, shook my hand, and wished me luck.


  1. Time you sat down and wrote your autobiography for this period, perhaps? With these anecdotes, it would be a bestseller!

  2. Another classic story! Adrian, thanks for spinning these yarns in an uncensored way. They wouldn't be nearly as revealing, amusing and convincing without the profanity or the willingness to portray these legendary figures warts-and-all. There's a lot of pressure to be politically correct these days, but one thing that shouldn't be watered down is rock and roll.

  3. Boy, that must have been awkward. Thanks for sharing these anecdotes.

  4. I will refer to Bowie as Captain Tom from here on out.
    : )

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Such a great story, Adrian. I had read about this encounter in interviews through the years, but not with these details. It must have felt strange and flattering to be caught between these music gods.
    This must have been such an exciting and intersting time of your life... Zappa, Bowie, Talking Heads and Crimson... all within a few years. Those years were the most exciting musical discovery years of my life, that is for sure. There was so much interesting music happening then.
    I hope you tell us about the Lodger sessions sometime. I am a huge fan of Eno and Bowie. And I absolutely love your playing on that album.


  7. Adrian, were you and Frank on good terms after that? I've always assumed you remained friends after your departure. But your description of his response at your leaving his band seems more professional and boss-to-employee, while sincerely wishing you well.

    Thanks for these great slices of your life. Truly fun to read.

  8. Great anecdote! It's becomming increasingly clear that this needs to be a book.

    I wanted to comment also on your "mission statement." I never bothered to look at the NYT article but, the other day, just browsing the web, I ran across a reference to JC on somebody's page with an MP3, "Code Monkey." It is a pretty good song, even if it did sound like the chord change was borrowed from The Cars. Funny lyrics. My hope is that people will find out about your music in the same way: e.g. "Dude, there are some great (Bowie, Zappa, Eno, Talking Heads - insert one) anecdotes on Adrian Belew's web page ... etc." Hopefully it won't take a NYT feature to sell a few downloads and concert tickets and spread the word.

    BTW, the live version of Beat box guitar has some great bass playing (and the guitar work is good too).

    I asked madame Mecca about guitar players ... She mentioned, among others, David Holt. Well, I have tickets to see him tomorrow. I'll report!

  9. Yeah, did you stay in touch afterwards with Zappa?
    Thanks for sharing Adrian. :)

  10. what happened further with frank is the subject of a future installment I have planned.

    the guitar player mentioned was david torn. I've never heard david holt.

  11. oops, my bad. David Holt is a finger picker, doc watson style.

  12. Strange how The Gods of Time & Space play games like that on us, mere mortals.


  13. Thanks Adrian, now I know how that particular {hand|kiss}-off happened! Fantastic...

  14. this isn't really the appropriate place for this, i guess, but i figured i'd leave a little comment.
    i discovered your name when i became obsessed with crimson a little over a year ago (i heard les claypool's frog brigade cover thela hun ginjeet and hunted down every album i could find by you guys no less than a month afterwards), and after looking you up discovered i'd been listening to your guitar for years!
    i'm young (19), but my parents raised me on the talking heads, and my favorite stuff of theirs is still the live tracks on "the name of this band is..." on which you play. i love your work with bowie, and i am a huge zappa fan, too.
    i really enjoy this blog, and, as has been mentioned, the uncensored perspective it gives on the music industry.
    thank you for being so open. it's great reading, and gives me the hope that one day i'll be able to make music that i really love.

  15. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that you are somehow blessed! You have truly been living every musicians dream. My envy is only trumped by my amazement.A book is certainly in order. May your good fortune continue for many years to come. Rock on Adrian!

  16. Coincidently, I've been listening to a lot of Brian Eno this week and was wondering if there is/was a connection between you two. I'm picking up on an experimentation vibe that you both posses. The way you both take sounds and change their context to create a "new" environment. I can only wonder what Eno would have done with today's spectrum of sound influencing devices in his No Pussyfooting days. The two of you may make interesting collaborators...or it may sound like crap but, the thought and experimentation process would be a hoot to eaves drop in on.


  17. Thanks for the great anecdotes. I saw Crimson play the pier in NYC in 1984. One of the best shows I've ever seen.

  18. And so the bridge from the U.S. to Europe is crossed and the connection to England and eventually Robert begins to take shape. If Frank gave you your first big break, this surely must have been your second, and probably even bigger and more important to your career.

  19. I'm eagerly waiting for part two. :-)

    I'll jump on the bandwagon and agree that these great stories really are book material. Maybe if you are too busy making music to put it all together in book format, The Sid Smith could be convinced to collaborate with you on an authorized biography?

  20. Wow. I can't wait for the next installments! That whole scene should be in the movie, after the book.

  21. I am not that familiar with Frank the person, so why was he like that with David?

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