May 2003
by Ian C Stewart

In The Court Of King Crimson
by Sid Smith
(Helter Skelter Publishing)
Sid Smith was given unprecedented access to the band members and their stories for this, the only book-length account of King Crimson approved by Robert Fripp. The story tracks the childhoods of the key figures up through the formation of Giles, Giles And Fripp, a band formed not because its players were such great friends but because they all wanted to become professional rock musicians and recognized in each other the possibility - even the likeliness - that they could go somewhere together. GG&F begat King Crimson and this book tells it all. Far from being a pro-Fripp bit of propaganda, you hear most of the band members' takes on how and why things went down the way they did. The numerous lineup changes of the first era of King Crimson (1969-1974) brought with them sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic shifts in the sound of the band. From the glorious to the downright embarrassing, Sid Smith delineates the motivations and their consequences. Tracking the transformation of Fripp's new band in 1980 from Discipline into King Crimson, explaining why Tony Levin wasn't initially considered for the band ("ecause TL is so busy it never occurred to me that he would be interested in a band, otherwise he would have been my first call") and charting the arc of 1980-1984 Crimson. Fripp was by this time able to predict the inevitable demise of the band and the future was again thusly embraced. King Crimson reconvened in 1994 for the famously disappointing "dual trio" lineup which included Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto for an EP, an album and some tours ending in 1996. The book even charts the future as King Crimson follows up The Construkction Of Light reinvented as a postmillennial quartet, alone with its virtuosity. Or something.

KISS: Alive Forever
by Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs
(Billboard Books)
Comprehensive isn't even the word for this book. Encyclopedic. Gooch and Suhs started writing this book in 1996 and in the process they interviewed seemingly everybody in the world about every KISS concert. Ever. Beginning with their very first club appearances as Wicked Lester, the story is told by members of other bands who played on bill with KISS, including the New York Dolls. The book lists where and when every gig happened - plus every time Gene Simmons set his hair on fire onstage. There are many never-before-seen photos. Minor revelations abound in this 300 page monster, from scale models of proposed stage designs to road crew stories about the first time Ace Frehley did cocaine. I just wonder why they don't have a photo of Ed Kanon, the drum roadie who in 1997 famously replaced Peter Criss onstage in full makeup and costume. At least they didn't gloss over it completely like KISS did in their Second Coming home video. With so much information packed into this book, it's not for casual KISS fans. Which is to say it's not a picture book.

Praying To The Aliens
by Gary Numan with Steve Malins
(Andre Deutsch)
Gary Webb's autobiography is the firsthand account of his rapid ascent and slow, career-length plateau, leading to his current electro-goth phase. Having a UK #1 album and single while still in his teens could've fucked him up for good but he seems to have worked his way through most of the associated negativity, settling into a basically well-adjusted life. Adopting the Numan persona could've been catastrophic for someone so young and eager to believe his own press, but he never became the alcoholic or drug-addict that one might assume to be par for the course. Even his craziest groupie escapades seem pretty tame. Numan's career went from biggest-in-the-world to cottage industry with many reinventions along the way, the severity of which perhaps only Madonna could rival. Gary Numan is the first to admit and to explain the various dips in quality in his musical output over the years. And his rationale isn't always that it's somebody else's fault. Commendably forthright, this book is a great companion to the seemingly endless supply of Numan music, though anyone eager for Motley Crue-style tales of cocaine and sodomy might find the story slow-going. But I somehow doubt that anyone who's interested enough in Gary Numan to buy this book would expect that from him anyway. If anything, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was going to be a chapter about sex with machines. And, fortunately, there isn't.

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