‘The Purple Piper Plays His Tune . . .’

Originally posted September 18, 2007

I wrote here once before about the old Grand Central Hotel in St. Cloud, a once truly grand edifice that spent its last years – in the late 1960s and early 1970s – as a home of last resort for those with few resources. On the ground floor, it was a home as well for various small shops that offered posters, used records and implements for pharmaceutical recreation.

It was in one of those shops that I found Joe Cocker!, an LP I still have. And it was in another of those emporiums that I first was introduced to Arthur Lee’s groundbreaking group, Love, and to King Crimson. Whether the two shops were in business simultaneously, I do not remember. They were in different spaces, but businesses opened and closed so rapidly in the old hotel that one never knew what would be available on any visit.

In any case, it was likely sometime during my first year of college when I was sifting through the used record offerings at the second shop, looking for something new to me but yet somehow familiar. The shop’s stereo played music I did not recognize, and the shop’s proprietor kept brushing his shoulder-length hair from his eyes as he pored over business papers of some sort at the counter. I pulled an album from the rack, a double album with a murky dark green cover emblazoned with the word “Love.”

“Oh, man, you’re gonna love that one,” the fellow at the counter said. “That’s a great psychedelic album.”

The record was Out Here by the west coast band Love, the brainchild – as I know now – of Arthur Lee. I shrugged and took the album to the counter. As I did, I saw an odd record jacket, one that showed the reddish and purplish face of an angst-ridden cartoon character, his mouth open wide enough for all of us to see his fillings and tonsils, if he had either.

“You oughta grab that, too,” the owner said. “It’s sealed, and it just came in. Someone’s gonna get a good deal, and it might as well be you.”

So I pulled from the rack the sealed copy of King Crimson’s In The Court of the Crimson King, added it to the Love album, paid my three or four dollars and headed home to do some listening.

The Love album was okay. Recorded a little later than the group’s prime years, the album was a swirl of odd melody and instrumentation, as I recall it. In one of my first judgments as a critic, I thought it went on too long, though, and I got bored with it. The King Crimson held my attention better, especially the soft “I Talk To The Wind” and the epic title track. But somehow, as the last chords played, I didn’t feel as if the music I’d heard belonged in the same place as the stuff I usually listened to. I wasn’t quite ready for it. I was listening to the Beatles and Joe Cocker, to Clapton and the Rolling Stones, to the Moody Blues and to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in all their combinations. The most adventurous I’d been so far was to get Mountain’s live album; I loved the long version of “Nantucket Sleighride.”

But Love and King Crimson? No, I thought. Not for me. A week later, I took the records back and sold them back to the fellow. I lost some money, but not much. He looked at me from his somewhat older perspective and told me, “Someday you’ll want those records back.”

Well, he was right about the King Crimson. During my sojourn on the Dakota prairie in the late 1980s, when I became serious about the collection, I bought another new copy of In the Court of the Crimson King, but this time, I paid about nine bucks for it instead of the two or so I shelled out at the old Grand Central. I never have picked up another copy of Out Here, although I do have copies of some of Love’s earlier works.

That purchase in the old hotel came to mind this weekend because, as I wandered around one of the forums where I spend some time, I came across one of the more interesting cover versions of a song I’ve ever heard.

I wrote a while back about meeting trumpeter Doc Severinsen while I was in college. I knew at the time that as well as leading the Tonight Show band and touring with his jazz-rock crew, he did some recording. Late in my college years, I got a free copy of Brass On Ivory, Severinsen’s mellow collaboration with Henry Mancini. But I missed the album entitled Doc Severinsen’s Closet, a 1970 release on the Command label. All-Music Guide doesn’t have a lot of information, but from what I can tell, the album includes a few original tracks along with an “Abbey Road Medley” and versions of “Surfer Girl,” “Give Me Just A Little More Time” and a track entitled “Power to the People.” (The John Lennon song? AMG doesn’t say.)

And tying this rambling post together, Doc Severinsen’s Closet opens with a fascinating cover of “The Court of the Crimson King.” I actually like it a lot. I hope you do, too.

(Thanks to Davey at Déjà Vu.)

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2 Responses to “‘The Purple Piper Plays His Tune . . .’”

  1. ‘You’ll Do Just What You Choose To Do . . .’ « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] once about my first exposure to Love after finding the group’s Out Here sometime around 1971 in a record store/head shop located in a rundown St. Cloud hotel. I didn’t get Love’s music then, and even though I picked […]

  2. Sometimes It’s Not So Easy « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] of the time took some chances by covering a number of intriguing titles (including a cover I once shared here of “Court of the Crimson King”). The one that caught my ear this morning was his cover of the […]

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