Adrian Belew

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1982)

- Adrian Belew (aka Robert Steven Belew) - vocals, guitar, drums,

  percussion, electronics


  supporting musicians: (1982)

- Audie Belew - keyboard
- Chris Bley -- keyboards, backing vocals

- William Janssen -- sax, clarinet, backing vocals

- Larrie London -- drums, percussion

- J. Cliff Mayhugh --  bass, backing vocals


  line up 2 (1983)

- Adrian Belew (aka Robert Steven Belew) - vocals, guitar, drums,

  percussion, electronics
- Chris Bley - vocals, keyboards

- William Janssen - vocals, sax, clarinet

- Larrie London - drums, percussion

- J. Cliff Mayhugh - vocals, bass




- The Bears

- Gizmodrome

- The Human Exprimente

- King Crimson

- ProjeKct Two

- ProjeKct Six

- ProjeKct X

- Sweetheart

- The Tom Tom Club

- The Ultimate Zero



Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Twang Bar King

Company: Island

Catalog: 90108-1

Year: 1983

Country/State: Covington, Kentucky

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4504

Price: $10.00

Cost: $66.00


I guess I've always found guitarist Adrian Belew intriguing due to the fact the guy's such a musical dichotomy.  On one hand he's made a name for himself working with some of rock's bigger innovators and cutting edge names - David Bowie, David Byrne and the Talking Heads, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, etc.  At the same time he's created a large and impressive solo career that's notable for it's surprisingly commercial and accessible leanings.


Belew's self-produced sophomore solo effort "Twang Bar King" showcases another unique blend of commercial pop and outright quirky experimentation.  The album certainly starts out unexpectedly - a surprisingly rote cover of The Beatles' 'I'm Down'.  From there the collection returns to more typical Belew material.  Asides Belew's instantly recognizable MIDI aided guitar, a couple of things strike me as interesting on this set.  The first is how much of influence David Byrne and company seem to have had on Belew (or more likely, how much of an influence Belew had on them).  Anyone doubting that comment need only check out tracks such as ' I Wonder', 'Sexy Rhino' and 'Fish Head'.  All three would have easily fit onto one of The Heads mid-1980s albums.  Mind you, there's nothing here as instantly impressive as on "Lone Rhino" and at times some of songs actually have a warmed over feel.  Still, the positives outweigh the negatives and on the whole it makes for another album worth checking out ('specially if you can find a nice copy cheap - hint, hint).  Besides, how often will you hear an album that includes an elegy to trains ('The Rail Song')? 


Amazingly the album actually charted in the States, eventually peaking at # 146.


"Twang Bar King" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) I'm Down  (John Lenon - Paul McCartney) - 2:56

2.) I Wonder   (Adrian Belew) - 4:40

3.) Life without a Cage   (Adrian Belew) - 3:20

4.) Sexy Rhino   (Adrian Belew) - 0:37

5.) Twang Bar King   (Adrian Belew) - 1:26

6.) Another Time   (Adrian Belew) - 3:05

7.) The Rail Song   (Adrian Belew) - 5:41


(side 2)

1.) Paint the Road (instrumental)   (Adrian Belew) - 3:20 

2.) She Is Not Dead   (Adrian Belew) - 4:42

3.) Fish Head   (Adrian Belew) - 4:31

4.) The Ideal Woman   (Adrian Belew) - 4:12

5.) Ballet for a Blue Whale (instrumental)    (Adrian Belew) - 4:44





Genre: progressive

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Lone Rhino

Company: Island

Catalog: IL 9751

Year: 1982

Country/State: Covington, Kentucky

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: timing strip on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $20.00


By the early 1980s guitarist Adrian Belew had become a critics' favorite as a result of his work with the likes of Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Robert Fripp, King Crimson, Talking Heads,  their spin-off The Tom Tom Club and his own band The Bears.  Any way you look at it, Belew had one impressive musical resume.


Belew's King Crimson exposure helped him sign with Island Records, making his solo debut with 1982's "Lone Rhino".  Self-produced, the album has always reminded me of Belew's work with Robert Fripp and King Crimson.  In addition to producing, Belew sang (he wasn't great), played guitar and handled drums (he started out as a drummer).  Yeah, exemplified by material like the single 'Big Electric Cat', 'The Man In the Moon' and 'Animal Grace' there were recognizable melodies here, but they were frequently wrapped up in the jittery and skitterish sound Robert Fripp expounded.   Throughout the album Belew also got a big helping hand from his former GaGa band mates  - keyboardist Chris Bley, sax player William Janssen, drummer Larrie London and bassist J. Cliff Mayhugh. In fact, several of the tunes apparently started life as GaGa efforts.  I clearly remember buying this as a result of Belew's King Crimson connection and thinking these songs were interesting if exemplified by the brief instrumental 'Hot Sun' sometimes challenging. Tracks like the instrumental 'Naive Guitar' and 'Hot Sun' clearly placed the spotlight on Belew's unorthodox guitar work.  The thing is that if you were unaware of Belew's unique style of playing, the album might have proven somewhat of a shock.  With the possible exception of Fripp, its hard to come up with anyone capable of come up with as many unusual sounds and effects as Belew managed to squeeze out of his guitars.  It was a fascinating experience, but if you were looking for Eddie Van Halen, or Angus Young moves you were out of luck.  I'd love to hear either of those gentlemen come up with the Rhino guitar sounds Belew coaxed out of his instrument on the title track, or the seagulls on 'Animal Grace'.  Take my word, it's an album that pays off the more you listen to it.


"Lone Rhino" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Big Electric Cat   (Adrian Belew) - 4:51   rating: **** stars

I always felt 'Big Electric Cat' demonstrated that it was possible to take Robert Fripp's experimental inclinations and slap a semblance of commerciality on the results.  Admittedly you weren't going to confuse this track with a Journey ballad, but the tune did have a groove; Belew's guitar moves were fascinating and the sound effects were cool to listen to on a good set of headphones.  Besides it was fun to just randomly shout out "big electric cat". The fact Island tapped it as a 10" British 45 was also kind of cool:

- 1982's 'Big Electric Cat' b/w 'The Lone Rhinoceros' (Island catalog number 10 WIP 6791)  Island also financed a video to go along with the song: 

2.) The Momur   (Adrian Belew) - 3:45   rating: *** stars

No idea what it was about, but 'The Momur' may be the most jittery pop song ever recorded.  

3.) Stop It   (Adrian Belew) - 2:45   rating: *** stars

'Stop It' seemed to reflect Belew's idea of what a boogie tune would sound like.  I always loved the start of the song where his wife (?)  screams "stop it".   Elsewhere the song had some hysterical lyrics and William Janssen provided some discordant sax that would make James White smile.

4.) The Man In the Moon   (Adrian Belew) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

I read somewhere that 'The Man In the Moon' was written in homage to Belew's late father. Early in his career when he was a starving artist, one night on a beach Belew saw his father in the moon tell him things would be alright.  I'm using the term in a broad sense, but the song was quite attractive and thought provoking.  It's a stretch to call the jittery melody beautiful, but it was certainly captivating.  I've never known what to make of the raga snake-charmer sound effects.   There's also an acoustic version that is slower and truly beautiful.

5.) Naive Guitar (instrumental)   (Adrian Belew) - 3:58   rating: *** stars

The instrumental 'Naive Guitar' will explain why David Byrne, Bowie, Eno, Robert Fripp, Zappa, etc. all wanted to work with Belew.  Technically fascinating, it's an interesting listen, but probably a tune that will appeal to guitar aficionados more than anyone.  


(side 2)

1.) Hot Sun (instrumental)   (Adrian Belew) - 1:29   rating: ** stars

Basically a short atmospheric piece, I guess the point of 'Hot Sun' was to show off some of the cool sounds Belew could coax out of his guitar.  It was impressive, if not something that was going to stick in your head for a long time.

2.) The Lone Rhinoceros   (Adrian Belew) - 3:57   rating: **** stars

The first time I heard it I thought 'The Lone Rhinoceros' was a throwaway tune. Belew trying to be funny.   It wasn't.  In addition to Belew's usual arsenal of guitar effects, the lyrics were apparently quite heartfelt, inspired by the plight of the last northern white rhino.  My wife will tell you I have the sensitivity of a brick, but wrapped in the album's prettiest melody, the forlorn lyrics were simultaneously entertaining and though provoking.  One of the album's highlights.

3.) Swingline   (Adrian Belew) - 3:25   rating: ** stars

Belew taking a train while reinterpreting a '40s bop song with a detour through Frank Zappa-land.  Beats me what's going on here.

4.) Adidas In Heat   (Adrian Belew) - 2:44  rating: **** stars

The title always makes me smile.  Musically 'Addidas In Heat' has always reminded me of a car crash between The Andrews Sisters and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.  It's like watching a Monty Python flick in that every time you hear the song you pick up a new catch.  There are just so many things going on in this two and a half minutes. 

5.) Animal Grace   (Adrian Belew) - 3:58  rating: **** stars

'Animal Grace' made it clear Belew was capable of writing and performing perfectly commercial pop tunes.  Showcasing a bouncy melody, just remember that commercial for Belew is not the same as commercial for The Back Street Boys.  

6.) The Final Rhino (instrumental)   (Adrian Belew - Audie Belew - 1:24   rating: * star

Admittedly it wasn't very tuneful, but kudos to Belew for including a track featuring four year old daughter Audie playing around on piano.  Parental pride.