~ Peter Sinfield ~
On Songwriting




- chapter index -
Songwriting - Passion is a blue pencil | King Crimson - Enclosures of the word kind
Peter Sinfield - Marginalia maketh the man

- page index -
The Big Friend | Blue Still | The Song of the Sea Goat | Envelopes of Yesterday |
Cadence and Cascade | Solo Album #2 | Clear Colours Bio | Walk Upon Dreams | Call the Man | Influences

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The Big Friend

Peter Sinfield:
"I first saw "The Big Friend" in a calendar I puchased in Sausalito (where else) towards the end of KC's first US tour.
Some years later when I needed a cover picture for "Still" I wrote to Sulamith Wufing And enquired if I might , for some required fee, use the picture on my album cover.

The answer was a resounding NO! She did not wish to have her work 'associated ' with ...
(I forget exactly, the handwritten letter is, with much other 1968-1978 archive material, in a maroon filing cabinet in Barcelona in the possession of my second wife......
maybe!)

Undeterred I wrote back and said that I understood. However I included, on the off chance that I might change her mind, as one does :-) , most of the lyrics to the album.
(This is perhaps a classic mix of Sinfieldesque arrogance and naivety...you if anyone would know?)

To my very great delight she replied saying; that she had read, enjoyed my work and its 'spiritual qualities' and that I could afterall, for a fee of 60 pounds, use her picture. Wonderful!

So in the UK the pink, textured gatefold was released diplaying "The Big Friend" and Every picture, to retain the colour separation and quality was printed and then much to the annoyance of the printers HO HO, had to be centred and stuck on by hand. I did not get away with this anywhere else. In the USA it is, as you may have noticed, 'printed' as part of the cover. Towards the end of somewhere or other I decided to change the pink background to blue- and why not? I remember seeing it ... I don't have one ... a rare item if you ever find one!!

Anyway to finish the story . . . Some time later I asked her if I might possibly buy the original.

She agreed. And for a further sum of 6 hundred pounds I aquired it and it hangs at this moment in my hallway here at SongSoupOnSea."

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The Blue Still

"There is ahem, ahem, no difference at all between the content of the pink and the blue [sorry ;-)..] - It was just a whim you see. Swept along by the the exuberance of the time, you may mulitiply that by a factor of 3 in the offices of Manticore/ELP, not disimilar perhaps to the game of we can get more ridiculous demands on our 'rider' than you can... ya de yah de ha ha, I/we revelled, oblivious to the expense, in dreaming up novel and peculiar concepts for our LP sleeves. The manufacturers loved it! This resulted in the classic sleeves for Brain Salad Surgery & the 'cut out' mountain on PFM's The World Became The World. Anyway to get back to where I started thi ramble. One day I skipped into the office after 'Still' had been out for a month or so and requested that the 'pink' be changed to 'blue'. And it was. I would also point out that each picture of the Big Friend is stuck on the cover by hand which cost a fortune! (A feat recently replicated, upon its mini reissue, by the Japanese who do that sort of thing everyday as a matter of course with paper and cardboard; as you know...Hai!) Ah..and one other thing this hand application of the 'glossy' BF only happened in the UK. The Americans, and as far as I know the rest of the world, just 'printed' the cover. So there you go Sid - You have a rare `artifact' almost like a stamp printed upside down. I haven't got one... and I don't know anyone else who has. (Worth a few quid on Ebay?)"

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The Song of the Sea Goat

Andrew Keeling:
I have just finished listening to Still. The Song of the Seagoat is marvellous: I always liked the way you 'developed' Vivaldi. Very strangely (not really, as this synchronicity thing is now the norm) I've just picked up the Vivaldi D major Lute Concerto played by Bream on a double CD from my mate David Wilkinson, graphic-designer.photographer extraordinaire! Have listened. I prefer the Sinfield to the Vivaldi. How much input did Phil Jump have in the compositional process, Peter?

Peter Sinfield:
"Lute... yes...lute but played by N. Ypres on guitar (in passing I'll mention that I much prefer his version of the Concerto de Aranjuez over Williams, Bream and even the angel that was/is Segovia - Its a feel thing? (JJ?) The Orchestra was if I recall The Radio Orquestra d'Espana or some such which was a tad scrawny and thin places; but far preferable to H von K and THE Berlin P who render it enormously, vastly, exactly - - mummified.

Phil? - Nice man though a bit senior at the time in the TM org; he patiently removed the unsingable 'twiddly bits' and glued the bones back together as I went wild-eared yes yes wonderful no no without that and then the da ...da..dee da de da de. . . .yes yes...He is not the first bemused musician to semi-comprehend my naive manic semaphore of...hills and vales, pause at the stile and look around... and on and tension tension...Yes... The erm, suspended thing and release (Ok! the 7th is too cheap: augment the bugger! Yes the fattened (hah good typo!) flattened well you're the bloody muso! Yes that's it.. (Eyes closed, sways & dances around the room knocking over the wine and doubtless, had it been irresistibly placed, the priceless ming vase.)"

Under the Sky

Andrew Keeling:
Under the Sky sounds as good as ever. Mel Collins's is a great player. I am a flautist, and learnt many of M.C's lines as a student, also all Ian McDonald's solos on 'Court'. Still is a great piece. Why did you you use the Freeman Symphoniser rather than mellotrons, or a small string ensemble?

Peter Sinfield:
"When U R writing singing and producing ,,,There is a limit to how much per day you can encompass. Especially when you have made the mistake of employing (a false security) your friends and neighbours to play upon said work. Real strings... I now wish...

The Freeman gives the music a feeling of stasis, but that's probably more to do with the production.

1] Because it was there 2] its slinkier sound was more in keeping with my sleepy hollows.3] It was not a Mellotron...."

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Envelopes of Yesterday

Peter Sinfield:
Envelopes of Yesterday - it is not as such 'mainly' about Robert Fripp. Though of course he does feature. Bear in mind (bare..?), if you will, the many reviews that accused me of being pretentious. (MOI!) Ah ha so then: journalists of the music biz ... who "could never wash away a printer's stain"; my ongoing knowing horror regarding (whorerer?) the advertising industry "suave pirates words of apricot.." and 'Chaldean' - its simply a reference to a 'convenient' movement of the whole basis of astrology by one month. Most amusing.. We're all a month out. Perhaps some more than others? I have a theory about conception but later, later. I could go on. But 'tis no fun to mess more with the mystic/mystique. Suffice to say that, given my over developed sense of injustice, the song waves a finger at just about every thing that had recently offended me. Not the least 'me' patheticaly waving said finger. Fripp? A minor mozzie!

Most of the bile I unloaded was towards - Yes EG, Yes The Music Biz ... and Yes; Well you name it, and if it had a whiff of injustice, you can be sure that I would be an early turret swiveller. (This has not changed much after 30 years. Though I admit I do it now from a somewhat more padded pavillion. Ah, the problems of the 'champagne socialist'. "Oh yeah Mr.. why don't you just give all your money away then? Indeed. Thing is I understand why Rimbaud gave up writing wild poetry and went off to Africa to be a slave trader. I understand why Dylan keeps on touring. I understand how, by sitting on a commitee for hour after tedious hour you can sometimes precipitate a small change in the 'rules' that mayhap initiate other small changes increasingly beneficial – mayhap. I do. Yes I also understand that the man who said "The pen is mightier than the sword" had never tried to keep a bear at bay with his biro.

Now where was I ...? Ah Yes. (Is this a more sober evening... some is some isn't. Hah!)

To call Robert a control freak is far, far too simplistic. As t'would be to call him a 'ruthless determined brat'. Not the least because he and I are equally, subtley, marbled and riven with similar swirls of artistically essential, though often if you are afraid to play the fool which as you know I am not, spat upon character traits. As he recently wrote to me... "Fundamentally, I believe we have more in common than the history that appears to separate us. It doesn't matter very much that we don't like each other. I'd rather use the common ground as a basis for future communication than the history."

And apart from all that more slight corrections and footnotes to add to Night People as I have a moment... The Blue Neon Clock fingures were on the clock of the hmm, Esso...er no the Shell building on the Embankment. The Tea Stall was really there ... maybe gone now... etc..... And The red white and blue -Jon - was ahem, the Union Jack. Did the Sioux use woad?"

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Cadence and Cascade

Peter Sinfield:
"I, ahem, sung it live when on tour with PFM and it has been said that I should have sung it originally... You will be able to judge for yourself when my album of live detritus, experiments and faux pearls is released sometime later this year. Oh and the guitarist from "Cutting Crew' named his daughter Cadence.... after hearing it....
which is nice."

Sid Smith:
Was there any discussion at the time of recording of you doing the vocals for this at the time ?

Peter Sinfield:
"Well... I would love to say that I mumbled .... " Hey! What about If I sing it Robert?"
"Sorry Peter what was that..."
"Er. Nothing Robert ... where were we...?"

Given my strange situation as member without portfolio plus my terror of performing I regret to say....cluck cluck... Who knows what if i had. . . Do what you do do well; was my rationale . .How would RF had reacted to me as singer real performer?"

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The Second Peter Sinfield Album

Sid Smith:
"Very interested in this album you talked about. Have you any firm details (track listings, etc) yet that you're willing to go public on yet or would you prefer me not to mention this on my diary site?

Peter Sinfield:
"Firm? An interesting word. Firm.....

Tracks available to engage the perverse collector apart from C&C live with PFM in Turin would be the livish "Maybe So" and "Rope Burns" from my 'Amigos' TVE show in 1982 and "Night People" from Saddlers Wells and ... A track with Giles and Wetton called "Breakfast at Lukes" which is another from the uncompleted MUTTIOD project then there are some oddities with Poli Palmer like "Flute Song" from a bunch of 'scifi' stuff I started with him and . . .then there is..."

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In A Land of Clear Colours

Jon Green:
Your notes to In A Land of Clear Colours state that you appeared in a Ken Russell film. Just which Ken Russell film was that?

Peter Sinfield:
"His movie for the BBC, starring Oliver Reed, about the composer Delius. The brother of the female lead was a friend of mine... we were unpaid extras at a decadent party .... I drank a beer ... I threw a feather boa."

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Walk Upon Dreams

Peter Sinfield:
This lyric was written over one sleepless (obviously!) night. I was visiting Andy Hill at Comfort's Place for one of our then regular writing sessions. Our friend Mike Batt was in the studio producing the talented Dutch band 'Flairck' . Over dinner he casually mentioned that they needed an English lyric for a traditional song they had recorded. Would I care to have a go at writing it... Having listened to the tune which was gently haunting - I said sure, OK, when do you need it by? Mike said,"Well actually Maggie (Ryder, one of the great unowned British voices) is coming to sing it tomorrow." Oh. Now that is what I call a deadline ... I'll have a go you never know... Bereft of a starting point ... or any point in fact. I had 'the mood' of the song in my head so to relax and sneak up on it, as you do ;-) I picked up and skipped through The Collected Poems of Lawrence Durrell 1931-1974 (pub Faber &Faber). This book has been close by me since 1980 and often accompanies me on my travels whether I am writing or not. You will have to read it to perhaps understand why I find solace and inspiration in the richness of his vowely-bowley shadowy sun baked mediteranean stanzas. Whatever! The title "Walk Upon Dreams" was stolen from his 'A Soliloquy Of Hamlet' verse VII."

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Call the Man

Jon Green:
Now that I have had a chance to review the lyrics to such songs as The Dance Hall Years I can see that, while the music may be rock or pop, your lyrics can be just as "crimsony" as ever.

Peter Sinfield:
"Well I am not going to stop being Me NOW am I; as if I ever I did?

There is a huge wry grin in hearing Celine Dion sing to 30 million (as in mid8 of Call The Man) .."Needed...In the chaos and confusion from the plains to city hall, needed where the proud who walk the wire are set to fall".... let alone the er, Menippean FACTOR???? Ie... The ironic misinterpretation of the title...you have to go to the section of her website where her fans post messages re "How they were much affected by HER songs.... etc... Or not, please yerselves!"

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Influences

What do you listen to ?

OH dear OK . . .its more a case of what I don't....However ignoring for a moment that I am not averse to GB Shaws ...Music is the Brandy of the ...... etc Let's see how many I can do in say five minutes --- Joni Mitchell, Bach (Goldberg Variations?), Miles Davis, MOSE ALLISON (essential!), Arthur Lee and Love, Faure, Eric Satie, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, The Del Vikings, Tom Lehrer, Little Feet, Nick Drake, Tod Dockstader, Oscar Peterson, Dr John, Paco de Lucia, Ottmar Liebert, Hosan Yamamato, Ravi Shankar, The Beatles, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Poulenc (The Concerto for strings and Organ!), Most Motzart (piano concertos R good start), Fiona Apple, Ravel, Waylon Jennings, Tony Joe White, Thelonius Monk, The MJQ, Deodato, Third World, Gregory Issacs, Sony Terry and Brownie MacGee, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Rollins, Cock Robin, Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, The Eagles, ANYTHING on the CTI label, Victor Borge, Julie London, Sarah Vaughn, Early Elvis. . . . .

Some of MY inspirations... Blake, Shakespeare, Tom Lehrer, Basho, K. Gibran, Lawence Durrell, Tom Robbins, Vance Packard, Aldous Huxley, John Clare, Buffet, Edith Sitwell ("A Poet's Notebook!"), Tennyson, Picasso, Alan Watts, Lawrence Hills, Georges Ohsawa (Very important!), Lenny Bruce, Julia Child, Dylan Thomas and phew...umm, Gore Vidal!




King Crimson ~ Enclosures of the word kind
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