King Crimson, Samuel Barber’s Essay No 1, Op 12 and Conductor John Wilson at the Royal Festival Hall on 27 February, 2020

Listen carefully to this 1938 piece by American composer Samuel Barber and you’ll hear the stirrings and inspiration for English progressive rock group King Crimson‘s classic “In the Court of the Crimson King”.

King Crimson.jpgAs part of the 50th anniversary of their founding (in October 1969) King Crimson will be touring the States with members of Frank Zappa’s band through summer 2020. Above: Leonard Slatkin and the St Louis Symphony perform Barber’s Essay No 1 Op 12.

John Wilson will be conducting the Barber piece, along with Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major and Elgar’s Sketches for Symphony No 3 at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday, 27 February. And in January 2021 he’ll be conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Copland, Weill and Samuel Barber’s The School for Scandal Overture.

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The Police Perform Ghost In the Machine at the International Stadium, Gateshead, 31 July 1982

If I hadn’t fallen so fierce hard for Geordie-born-and-bred John Wilson, Conductor I’d never have been delving into All Things Gateshead and I never would have stumbled onto a bootleg recording of this show by English progressive rock group The Police, which was the very show Mister Grumble and I missed in New York when we were just setting up household and I was heavily pregnant. Great music, great energy, and it was touching to catch a (private?) glance at Sting—another Geordie, by the way—crossing himself before taking the stage. The sound is impeccable.

The Police, Gateshead, England, 31 July 1982

For more on The Police’s drummer, go to my posting below, “The Equalizer Theme by Stewart Copeland“.

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Sir Malcolm Arnold Conducts Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic in Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, 1969

Mister Grumble, who’s of an age and knows everything about English Progressive Rock, had no idea this piece existed. (He attributes it to having been distracted at the time of the 1969 concert, getting out of the US Army as he did, after spending 13 months overseas.) So when I played the live recording for him for the first time on Sunday he went to the moon.

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The Concerto for Group and Orchestra was composed Jon Lord, lyrics by Ian Gillan. It was first performed by Deep Purple and the RPO conducted by Malcolm Arnold on 24 September; the record came out that December. The performance at the Royal Albert Hall was the first ever combination of rock music and a complete orchestra and paved the way for other rock/orchestra performances.

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Pete Townshend’s Dad Cliff and The Squadronaires Perform “Rock’n’Roll Boogie”, 1956

From Who I Am: A Memoir by English progressive rock band The Who’s Pete Townshend (Harper, 2012):

The Squadronaires.jpgThe Squadronaires, “Rock’n’Roll Boogie”, 1956.

“In 1945 popular music had a serious purpose: to defy postwar depression and revitalize the romantic and hopeful aspirations of an exhausted people. My infancy was steeped in awareness of the mystery and romance of my father’s music, which was so important to him and Mum that it seemed the centre of the universe. There was laughter and optimism: the war was over. The music Dad played was called Swing. It was what people wanted to hear. I was there. …”

“As the son of a clarinettist and saxophonist in the Squadronaires, the prototypical British Swing band, I had been nourished by my love for that music, a love I would betray for a new passion: rock‘n’roll, the music that came to destroy it.”

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The Equalizer Theme by Stewart Copeland

With the coolest theme on American TV, The Equalizer introduced Copeland’s stunningly unique sound to the mainstream audience. In keeping with the series’ mash-up concept of “tradition merged with New Age high tech,” Copeland’s musical accompaniment would, one: with the exception of hero Robert McCall himself, forego the Wagnerian structure of identifiable leitmotifs, and instead choose to score the city of New York itself as a primary character; and, two: fuse classical structure with the combo of  “percussion carrying melody and synthesized strings” attached to world rhythms. Copeland’s would be a coldly ethereal yet dense “urban ballet” sound inexorably linked to the modern cityscape. This sound would influence composers such as Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman.

The Equalizer.jpgThey used to shoot episodes in my old neighborhood the East Village, at great risk to star Woodward (two heart attacks and once he fell through a roof).

Copeland was born in 1952. The son of CIA officer Miles Copeland, Jr (who was portrayed in Norman Mailer’s lengthy novel Harlot’s Ghost), he took up the drums at 12, was raised internationally in Cairo, Beirut, the US and England; and throughout the 1970s alternately worked as road manager and backup drummer for various groups until founding in 1977, along with Sting and Henry Padovani (later replaced by Andy Summers), the English progressive rock band The Police. After The Police went on extended hiatus in 1986, the drummer with a composer’s sensibilities dove headlong into scoring—to this day, one of his most notable works is as musical voice of The Equalizer, on which he composed 51 of 88 total episodes of the series.

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