Today, Robert Fripp—the intellectual and creative powerhouse behind King Crimson—turns 72. Hearing of his birthday led me down one of those YouTube rabbit holes that starts with one video, and ends almost an hour later, with you forgetting why you were on YouTube in the first place (just don't tell my boss.) Anywho, one of the videos I found was this endlessly fascinating clip of King Crimson playing "Elephant Talk" on the short-lived ABC late-night comedy show, Fridays, in 1981.
Between bassist Tony Levin's monster riffs on the Chapman Stick, plus Adrian Belew's (very) David Byrne-influenced vocals and his use of pedals to mimic elephant sounds, there's a lot to unpack here. However, it's Fripp's quiet presence that stands out the most.
Seated at stage left, he barely breaks a sweat (and even cracks a smile!) while showcasing his astonishing chops, which were on full display in that period of the band's history.
"Elephant Talk" was the opening cut on 1981's Discipline, a comeback LP that showed the prog-rock icons moving in a dramatically different direction, toward a dazzling, dizzyingly technical variation of the new wave sounds that were then in vogue.