Monday, July 23, 2007

Fly (demo)

fly (demo)
volume 4 no. 15
the sound assembly,
the Holiday Inn band of the early seventies ended up in Leominster, Massachusetts
for a two-month stay.
one night at the lounge
a man introduced himself as Father Flathers
even though he wasn't a priest.
he was the manager of the local airfield
and a flight instructor.
as such he had access to planes for free and was in the habit of spontaneously deciding to have lunch in say, Cape Cod, borrowing a plane and flying there for lunch. though 30 years my senior, he and I became friends. my days were free so he began calling me to join him on his spontaneous lunch jaunts.
father, as everyone called him, had a gregarious personality and a sense of humor to match. like a slim John Goodman with white hair. soon he had me talked into flying lessons. we would go up in a small single engine plane, start flying around, and his monologue would begin.
"over here on the left is the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed. now, that whole plot of land you see out to the east is owned by my dear friend the governor." he'd light up a cigarette, lean back, take his hands off the wheel, and sure enough I'd be flying the airplane. I actually logged 3 hours of flying time. it was great fun and I wanted to continue, but one day our agent don sheik* called to say our holiday inn engagement in leominster was over. and so were my days as a pilot.

little did I know within a few years I'd spend hundreds of hours flying around the globe.
at first I loved all the flying. all the bustling international airports, they were exciting to me. but after the first three or fours years of near constant travel an unexpected thing happened. I developed a very serious fear of flying. I was petrified.
seated on a plane with the krimson quartet, robert would tell onlookers, "watch his hands". as the plane would take off my hands would become drenched in sweat like some kind of stigmata. every slight move the plane would make would throw me into panic. it was a horrible thing to endure.
my doctor prescribed a medicine they call "xanax", a type of beta blocker.
I called them "stupid pills" because they made me dull as a shovel. more than once I left things on a plane or forgot to get my luggage or missed a connecting flight because of the stupor those pills created. traveling alone became an issue.
it lasted all through the 80's and 90's. finally in 2003 while touring europe with krimson I couldn't stand it anymore. on a short flight I decided not to take the xanax. I braced myself for the sweaty oncoming panic attack, but it never happened. after 20 years of travel my fear of flying had disappeared.

I wrote the song fly on a metal guitar called a dobro which I have always tuned to an open tuning spelled DADDAD. (it's another palindrome.) as I started writing I wanted to record my melodic ideas quickly, before I forgot them. fortunately my engineer noah evens lived right next door. we went straight into my downstairs studio to capture what I had so far. that's the first part of this version. the second part takes up after I had written the words.

I know I should feel welcome here,
way up in the atmosphere, but I am afraid
and If I land on earth again
I'll be happy just to cut my face while I shave.
now the sky is floating by but I am not a cloud
and I've decided I was not designed to fly.

after all I'm only sand to irate the oyster
and to wait for a pearl
and even though I must concede
greatness has eluded me,
I'd still miss the world.
and I would have regrets were I to pirouette
inside a metal jet
and I am not prepared to sprout a pair of wings and fly...

*see "I'm not really a booking agent, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night..."

dobro and vocals: adrian
engineer: noah evens
recorded at home in Williams Bay, Wis. on september 9, 1993


  1. That is such a great song. I brought it with me to cross the country. Never as nervous as you describe but not comfortable to say the least. But I'm home now, you must be too to post such fly thoughts.
    So, I brought the Here cd along for my journey to listen to Fly and I did but the song I couldn't stop litening to was Survival in the wild – um, that is one ball of energy. I was on the West coast to dj a party for a friend of a friend, not a dj by trade. But I do collect music. So on the plane ride I decided to do a Beatles mix. I never do due to the commercial associations. But after reading your posts on them a while back I decided to give them another chance. I have always collected Beatles covers/mixes/samples and had brought some with me, purchsed some more there. {found lone rhino $6 on wax} So I dropped Sitw(sans intro) after Numark's rework of Imagine and I knew it had energy but I've never seen a crowd react to a tune that way. Not a foot on the floor, for a while, it seemed. It was a fifties crowd, an 'older' wedding. There we so many cougars at this party it was like being in a zoo.
    There was a guy convinced Sitw was a lost Beatles tune. I told him it was Adrian Belew. He asked, "who are they". He couldn't understand that one person could make/perform a song like that. Belew his mind.

  2. Gorgeous! Sweet. Lover-ly. That voice! I've always loved your voice. Not Alone Anymore and Crying are great, too. I literally can't think of another rock vocalist I like more. Natural, pleasant, upbeat, sweet. It's all you.

  3. Fly is one of my favorite AB songs from one of my favorite AB albums (Here) --Young Lions is my #1.

  4. "Fly" is fabulous. Though it's about a fear of flying, I always superimposed a bit of that 'lost in space' vibe to the tune. I would put it on a mix tape with 'Space Oddity' and 'Rocket Man'.

    Incidentally, my favorite version of the tune is the live performance on the Salad Days album. It is just perfect and ethereal. Keep it up, Ade!!

  5. hi Adrian, i meet you on june the 25 on the bb king s club lobby at new york city ... i was there with my wife and i am from costa rica, i just want to say thank you very very much for the inspiration your music is very important for some ones here in costa rica. that day was a miracle for me ... thank you very much again. good luck

  6. when you opened with FLY at the vic (?) on june 25th 1994 the intro virtually floored me . my personal favorite opener memory from any show ever . you just came out , trick after trick , creating those sounds . i immediatly knew what was comming next . it was basically a magic show , pulling pitch shifted delayed swells and textures rarely comprehended by angels and demons alike . the only thing missing was the mirrors , cause there was some smoke .

    i know the healing powers of music . especially if you write it yourself , it has a tendency to fix things that usually cant be fixed , the upside is , it also, sometimes , can be more affordable than an exorcism .

  7. Wow, what a small world. i actually LIVE in Leominster, and did back around the time of your story as well! that's just too funny that you were "living" a mere 5 miles from me for a couple of months there. sorry i didn't make any of the shows, i was only 5 or 6 years old at the time of the story. was funny to hear you make local references. BTW- the local air field you spoke of is Fitchburg Municipal Airport in the next city over. Anyway, i don't know if you ever read these Adrian, but if you do- i'm the guy that comes to all your shows when you come to New England and i'm also the same guy that showed you that Roland GK pickups could be installed into a Parker Fly. i also put you in touch w/Pat DiBurro who does this modification. ringing any bells? so you see, it IS a small world! hope you can get back to the boston area soon. you've been absent for too long. thanks for the music! steve.