[Feel Your Heartbeat, Heartbeat] -- I've previously written about discovering music through the time-honored tradition of fishing deals out of cut-out bins. If you don't recall, these bins were so-named because they featured records and cassette tapes (and, later, compact discs) that had been deleted, or "cut-out," from the catalog. The cut-outs were non-returnable, and non-refundable, so they were significantly discounted to quickly move them out of stock. I could purchase a handful of cut-out records for the same amount of money as one popular record or tape.
And that's how a cassette copy of King Crimson's ninth studio album, Beat, entered my collection: The cut-out bin at my local G.C. Murphy's.
I knew nothing about Beat at the time of purchase, but I had heard of King Crimson. (I was, at least, somehow familiar with "21st Century Schizoid Man" from their 1969 debut album). When I got home with my purchase, slapped it into my cassette player, and heard the opening strains of "Neal and Jack and Me," I was transported. In fact, revisiting that track for this Flashback brought back a strange flood of road trip tensions, but in a good way. Thinking back to my very first listening session of Beat from beginning to end, that sense of being transported remained with me for the duration of the album. I was especially enamored with the two ballads – "Heartbeat" and "Two Hands" – as well as the instrumental, "Sartori in Tangier," the very precise "Waiting Man," and the raucous "Neurotica."
Now, I might not find many others who appreciate this album as I do, particularly not among King Crimson fans. I have read, and heard, people complain that Beat is perhaps a little too new wave, perhaps not prog enough, for their tastes. Maybe such fans prefer Discipline, King Crimson's 1981 outing. They definitely prefer some of the earlier records in the Crimson catalog.
Anyway, 40 years ago this week, on June 18, 1982, King Crimson released Beat. Interestingly, it was King Crimson’s first release to feature the same lineup as the previous studio album (they apparently shifted their lineup frequently). This record was inspired by the Beat literature of the 1950s, especially the twenty-fifth anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. And, although this record's critical reception might have been rather mixed, Beat still reached #39 on the UK albums chart and #52 on the US Billboard 200. The lone single, "Heartbeat," peaked at #57 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
Whatever Beat might lack commercially, it more than makes up for in the band's technical prowess and songwriting. Also, having both Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew play guitar (among other instrumentations) on one record is pretty much a masterclass in fretboard alchemy. Of course, the rest of the quartet was filled out by Tony Levin (on bass guitar and Chapman stick) and Bill Bruford (on drums and percussion), and they weren't exactly slouches either. Whatever one might think of the songs, there is just no denying the virtuosity that was captured on this record.
This week's embedded YouTube playlist follows the track order of the eight songs that appear on the 1982 release of Beat. I have, however, taken the liberty of including a live version of "Neal and Jack and Me," an actual music video of "Heartbeat," and an extended live performance of "Waiting Man." All other items in this playlist come from King Crimson's own YouTube playlist for Beat, which includes two bonus tracks, "Neurotica / The Howler (Live In Philadelphia)" and "Absent Lovers."
Flashback: Beat (King Crimson, 1982)
Well, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.
I'll see you in seven!