- chapter index -
pg. 1 - Introduction | pg. 2 - Eight | pg. 3 - Eight | pg. 4 - Eight | pg. 5 - Eight | pg. 6 - Eight
pg. 7 - The Dharma Wheel | pg. 8 - Still | pg. 9 - Envelopes of Yesterday | pg. 10 - A Tumbling Kite
pg. 11 - An Empty Town | pg. 12 - The Piper | pg. 13 - A House of Hopes and Dreams
pg. 14 - The Night People | pg. 15 - River of Life | pg. 16 - Photos of Ghosts
pg. 17 - Promenade the Puzzle

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The Black Pick | Crimson Speiss | A Host of Dreams

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Verse four continues to express Peter’s pain in Crim. Here the anger (which pointed inwards for most of the song) bursts out.

"I'm upside down I'm an empty town my eyes are full of
Of dusty windowed certainty and spider-webbed almost."

Jon Green:

An anger mixed with (if not fueled by) disorientation, grief and regret.

"I love, I hate this rock and roll the ladies and the lights
Ate all my flowers long ago but the roots came through
all right."

So he "ate" (internalized) the outward trappings of hippiedom but maintained the "hippie" ideal, the stance of the outsider ("I'm on the outside looking inside") who does not buy into consumer culture, proclamations of governmental authority and rightness, social customs, etc.

Neil Ingram:

Interesting how we interpret 'Ate' differently. You have Peter eating/internalizing the experiences. I see lots of maggoty creatures nibbling away at his extrovert 'public' parts. What are his 'roots'? His love of books and intellectual games? His sense of self-belief? His need to be a dreamer, yellow jester, social critic? Or just his sense of survival that made him get out in the nick of time? Roots are (of course) hidden from view; a new plant (with flowers) can grow from healthy roots.

"Whilst now my toast is the crossroads post,"

(a chance to move in a new direction)

Jon Green:

The crossroads described in The Song of the Sea Goat :

"Between the sunset's crimson veil
On smooth grey streets where the drunkard spins his

Interesting to compare the above with this passage from Exiles :

"But Lord I had to go
My trail was laid to slow behind me
To face the call of fame
Or make a drunkard's name for me"


"I hear just out of sight,"

Neil Ingram:

An interesting oxymoron.

Jon Green:

As I understand it, Still and Larks Tongues in Aspic were mixed simultaneously in adjoining studios. Apparently, Robert Fripp was "out of sight" but Peter could "hear" his music. But, then again, the album would have been mixed long after the lyrics were written so what Peter refers to here is probably what he "heard" about Robert Fripp's activities through mutual friends and acquaintances.

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"That the Black Pick's"

Neil Ingram:

Surely Robert Fripp?

Jon Green:


"found his Chaldean lamp"

"We find “Chaldæans” used in Daniel, as a name for a caste of wise men. As Chaldæan meant Babylonian in the wider sense of a member of the dominant race in the times of the new Babylonian Empire, so after the Persian conquest it seems to have connoted the Babylonian literati and became a synonym of soothsayer and astrologer. In this sense it passed into classical writers."

- The Chaldæan Oracles

Neil Ingram:

Interesting one this.

Lamps light up the darkness and provide a way forward. They also (as for Peter) provide a means of earning income. The image of the Chaldean lamp combines resonances of fortune telling with those of taking the next step into the unkown with the need to make a living. It (presumably) refers to the new Crimson and their attempts to record Larks Tongues in Aspic .

Jon Green:

I am unsure of the time frames here but I think this line may also refer to an actual spiritual quest on Robert Fripp's part and perhaps his discovery of Gurdjieff.

"After years in a concentration camp."

Neil Ingram:

Images of a Nazi concentration camp used as a metaphor for life in Crim. Also it may possibly be a reference to Robert’s renowned attitude to discipline and concentration. I only saw this possibility after about eighteen months of reading Robert’s diary!

Jon Green:

Methinks it may also refer to the tendency of thinking types to try and Think their way into and out of every situation.

"But many a drunk got drunker
and mostly a thinker, thunker."

- Peter Sinfield
Hallowed Be Thy Name

On the other hand . . .

"Fripp rejects the notion that he is primarily a rational thinking type: "I'm instinctive [intuitive, in Jungian terms] by nature ... I analyze and rationalize after the event in order to persuade people of something I think to be right." Nevertheless he presents the image of a man to whom self-control is a cardinal virtue, who is aware of his lower nature but struggles to keep it in check. Fripp will instantly retract a remark that in the next moment he considers "flippant" or "inconsidered."

- Robert Fripp - From King Crimson to Crafty Master
by Eric Tamm

"But I fear he's still out on the ice"

Neil Ingram:

In a barren inhospitable place

Jon Green:

The rocky crag in the Caucasus where Prometheus is chained. The no man's land where "no one sets the rules".

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"With his bagpipe mouth and his cup of crimson speiss."

Neil Ingram:

A possible reference to Robert Fripp’s opinionated vocal pronouncements (‘shooting his mouth off’). The word speiss is an interesting play on words. Spoken as ‘Crimson spice’ it sounds like something exotic and valuable. Speiss is a term for an amalgam of metals produced as a waste product in the smelting of iron ores. It comes from the same German root word as 'food'.

Jon Green:

According to the American Heritage Dictionary speiss is "an arsenic compound or a mixture of arsenic compounds resulting from the smelting of iron, cobalt, nickel, and copper ores."

Neil Ingram:

The bagpipe mouth looks set to drink the metallic waste.

Jon Green:

Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe the bagpipe mouth (Robert Fripp) is spewing crimson speiss. Maybe the cup of crimson speiss, like the sanguine flask, is what he is offering to others for their consumption.

Neil Ingram:

The 'cup of crimson speiss' is certainly an interesting contrast with the 'sanguine flask'. The sanguine flask was shared convivially. The cup of crimson speiss was the possession of the Black Pick. A neat reference to the shifts in the power base of Crimson from In the Court of the Crimson King to Islands ?

I have long felt that this contrast between the valuable ‘spice’ and the worthless ‘speiss’ was a deliberate attempt to question the value of Robert’s new project.

Jon Green:

I agree. Speiss is metallic waste and, as Robert Fripp's music was increasingly metallic, perhaps this line expresses the fundamental musical difference between Fripp and Sinfield.

"I'd been annoyed about this falling out with RF - it was basically him or me - and since Robert was going off and making more aggressive, black iron noises I wanted to do something more wood and sweety, so I did."

- Peter Sinfield
Voiceprint Newsletter

Neil Ingram:

Now, perhaps I am less sure, since I read that speiss is actually valuable to the glass industry. Perhaps this ambiguity is, too, part of the illusion.

This is the point in the song where the mask slips, revealing the angry face behind it. This is the only occasion where I think this ever happens.

Jon Green:

Can't get past the speiss passage without mentioning the obvious Fripp/Crimson parody (horns and guitar) which follows.

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Neil Ingram:

The song is an action song, renouncing the past and pledging to move forward. It reaches a triumphant conclusion with the rediscovery of Peter’s achievements:

"Still, I've fulfilled a host of dreams for that I'll cry hurray"

. . . and a reaffirmation of what he intends to do to move forwards:

Jon Green:

And yet what Peter actually sings on the album (as discussed earlier) is . . .

"Still, I've explored a plague of dreams and I've led the masquerade
But it won't be long till I cast this song In the ash-filled envelopes......"

However, the written lyrics state . . .

"But it won't be long till I cast this song In the jet-edged envelopes......"

Neil Ingram:

In Victorian days, jet-(black) edged envelopes were used to announce a significant death. The death of a King. The various images are concerned with death::

a plague of dreams/jet-edged envelopes/ash-filled envelopes

The fatal illness, heralding a funeral and the cremation of ...what?

Perhaps the death of dreams; the death of idealism; the death of the band. The song is a remarkable piece of pop music. Equivalent (in my view) to anything that Dylan wrote.
Interestingly I think there are lots of parallels between Still and Street Legal that Dylan released in 1975. Both writers are using their songs to document fundamental changes in their lives and both employ similar lyrical techniques. Envelopes of Yesterday is a song of rediscovery and transformation in the same way that Where are you tonight is on Street Legal . However, whereas Where Are You Tonight closes Street Legal , Envelopes of Yesterday opens side two of Still . It would be worth paying someone to find out if Still is in Dylan’s record collection!

Jon Green:

It is a remarkably brave and moving performance and it reminds me of the celebrated feud played out in song between Lennon and McCartney. But Envelopes of Yesterday surpasses all of those efforts. In fact, it surpasses many Lennon and McCartney efforts.

Still II ~ A Tumbling Kite return to
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Still II ~  The Piper

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Chapter One The Metaphysical Record In The Court Of the Crimson King In The Wake Of Poseidon Lizard The King In Yellow The Sun King Eight
The Lake Which Mirrors the Sky In the Beginning Was the Word In the Beginning was the Word...side two Eros and Strife Dark Night of the Soul...Cirkus Dark Night of the Soul...Wilderness Big Top Islands
Islands Two Footnotes in the Sand Still Still 2
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