- chapter index -
pg. 1 - Introduction | pg. 2 - The Song of the Sea Goat | pg. 3 - Aquarian Runes
pg. 4 - Shaking in the Dome | pg. 5 - The Smoke-Filled Road | pg. 6 - The Fallen Sun
pg. 7 - Under the Sky | pg. 8 - Still

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Introduction II | The Big Friend

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aving just completed the pop music equivalent of the Sistine Ceiling, or Wagner's Ring Cycle, Peter Sinfield understandably allowed himself the opportunity to relax a little after Islands . So, rather than initiate another far-reaching song-cycle, he chose, instead, to concentrate on simply crafting some wonderful songs. During this period, he worked on PFM's Photos of Ghosts , his beautiful lyrics and re-mastering helping to make the album a classic of the genre, and his superlative solo effort, Still .
One of the remarkable things about Still is how expressive it is compared to the King Crimson albums. Evocatively played and sung and full of beautifully rendered textures, colors and feelings, Still forgoes some of the musical rigor ("discipline") and formalism found in the earlier King Crimson albums. It possesses, instead, a much looser "pop" feel. Also notably absent is the sturm und drang found in the earlier King Crimson albums (displayed in such songs as Sailors' Tale and The Devil's Triangle ). By virtue of its several accessible pop songs and the absence of an overarching concept, Still marks the beginning of Peter Sinfield's career as a writer of pop songs. Yet alongside the "pop" feel of Still , there are several "Crimson" flourishes and many magical moments. Some of the musical highlights include: Keith Tippet's spellbinding piano solo on The Song of the Sea Goat , just about everything about Under the Sky , Mel Collins' enchanting flute work on The Piper , and the wild horn section of The Night People . Given that Still possesses strong elements of both Art Rock and "pop", the album is actually a transitional effort for Peter Sinfield. It points towards his future in the pop music industry and also to his past. And while there does not appear to be a grand unifying theme behind the album, Still also represents Peter Sinfield at the height of his artistic abilities. Displaying an amazing facility with the language, Peter gives us his most beautiful writing to date and the artistry and grandeur of such songs as Under the Sky , The Night People , Envelopes of Yesterday and, especially, The Song of the Sea Goat are undeniable. Still is a greatly under appreciated album, in some respects, surpassing the earlier work with King Crimson.

I was being confronted with The Song of the Sea Goat as the next challenge for Promenade the Puzzle when, perhaps synchronistically, I received a lengthy e-mail message from one Neil Ingram. I was quite at a loss as to where to go, but Neil's essay which brings out many of the themes in this piece, has provided many insights and, most importantly, direction. Subsequently, Neil Ingram's essays on Envelopes of Yesterday and Still have transformed this chapter into a collaborative effort. Following is Neil's introduction to Still .

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Neil Ingram:

Alchemists bring together separate entities and blend them together in a new synthesis. Concentrating the essences, removing the un-needful. Often the process is repeated many times before the desired preparation is synthesized. If, and only if, the ingredients are carefully chosen and treated well, will the synthesis be transformed into something priceless. For alchemists, this was the true gold.

Still , the album, can be seen as a distillation of many of the essentials of Peter's earlier writing, as well as establishing a new, more personal, style. As we shall see, Still (the song) can be seen as a further distillation (or refluxing) of these essences.

Stillusion , the extended format CD released in 1993, gave Peter Sinfield an opportunity to review his work twenty years after the original record was released.

Still - the illusion

A masquerade is a ‘masked ball’, where the partygoers hide their identities behind masks. It is intended to create illusions.

To Sinfield, King Crimson was a masquerade:

‘I fulfilled a plague of dreams, and I have led the masquerade’

- Envelopes of Yesterday

The lyrics develop into a succession of emotionally charged illusions, each creating a special emotional resonance. This is the:

'peculiar intellectual fire that occurs when the right word sits on the right note'

- Peter Sinfield (2000)

Stillusion - a contraction of Still and illusion - is the affirmation that the ingredients that were transformed in the intellectual fire are just as potent twenty years later.

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Still - the Big Friend

The Big Friend by Sulamith Wulfing

The transformation begins the moment we see the album cover. It is different from Crimson: shocking pink or little boy blue:

The very rare blue Still . A few copies of this version were released in the UK only.

'dressed in pink and blue, just like a child'

- Joe Jackson, Stepping Out

'The Big Friend, a Sulamith Wulfing painting is glued on top of the cover. There is attention to detail everywhere, even down to the Bembo typeface.

At first, 'The Big Friend' looks hostile - a fairy-tale princess being devoured by a carnivorous lizard. But wait, that is not the drooling saliva of the archetypal predator, it is the little girl's hair, dangling in tresses. The girl rests in safety, in the midst of danger. This is the stillness that forms from the union of opposites. Here is calm and poise, which is in marked contrast to the screaming face of the 21st Century Schizoid Man .

The back cover photo develops the theme:

Here it is Peter transposed onto those jaws, dreaming. Dreaming is at the heart of the album. Dreaming is where the transformation begins.

Inside the album there is a list of players that reads like a who's who of Crimson past. Musicians who either would not or could not contribute to the fifth King Crimson album were joining forces for this one record. Still - the big friend.

The stillness at the end of the process is the end of a long and tortuous journey. Those buying the album for an easy ride were disappointed. There are deep forces at work: treachery, deceit, betrayal, guilt, social awareness, political ineptitude. How can magic transform all of this into Stillness?.

Still – a personal album of change and rediscovery

Peter Sinfield left King Crimson in February 1972, ostensibly because of 'musical differences' with Robert Fripp. The separation would have a significant effect on Peter's personal and professional life. These form a significant ingredient in the alchemical mixture that was to produce Still.

Almost immediately after the split, during March and April, Peter produced the first Roxy Music album, returning to the studio in July 1972 to produce the legendary Virginia Plain single.

The first Roxy Music album appears to be a bridge between Islands and Still , and is certainly another active ingredient in the crucible that produced Still.

On the liner notes of Stillusion Peter states:

'[I] thought if these guys can do it maybe I can... moved to Somerset and started to write Still with friends and neighbours.'

Still was largely written in the autumn and winter of 1972 in West Cranmore , about ten miles from Glastonbury. On the surface, Somerset is a quiet English county, but beneath the stillness there are a number of vivid legends associated with both the arrival of Christianity in Britain and with King Arthur. Glastonbury, in particular, has managed to create a folk-lore associated with the story of the infant Jesus arriving in Britain with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. William Blake's poem Jerusalem commemorates the legend.

The image of the infant Christ sailing towards Glastonbury Tor is taken from a banner in the local church at Pilton, about five miles south of West Cranmore. Pilton, incidentally, is the nearest village to the site of the Glastonbury music festival.

The rural isolation of Somerset, far away from the musical capital cities, inspired the writing process both directly and indirectly::

"I'm hanging fire I've left the choir
Too many voices out of tune.
Yes I forget in Somerset
But now I've lost my silver spoon"

- Hanging Fire

"Who'll give me comfort when the moon rides in the pines
Who'll be my pillow when the bitter north wind whines
Who'll lie beside me as the evening fire declines
Will it be you, will you stay by me?"

- Will it be you (Will you stay by me)

But probably the biggest single factor influencing the lyrics of Still was Peter's desire to reinforce his legacy of the first four Crimson album, whilst establishing himself as a 'writer-for-hire' for future projects. This balancing act is the distillation of Still .

Footnotes in the Sand
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Still ~ The Song of the Sea Goat

Sign the Dreambook Dreambook Read the Dreambook

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
Works Lyrics
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Peter Sinfield
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