Billy Sheehan on King Crimson: "I’d love to play with Robert Fripp"

“Back in high school I had a network of friends who were all music heads – someone would discover a band and the word would spread. One of the early prog bands I brought into the group was Jethro Tull, then one of the others turned us on to Genesis – I must’ve listened to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway a thousand times. But even before that I was into King Crimson. One of my very early horn bands did stuff like Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and we also did I Talk To The Wind.

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

A few years ago, I went on a trip far away from all media for two weeks. I brought just one CD, Red, and listened to it every night. It really is just one of the greatest records ever made, an absolute masterpiece. Arrangement-wise it’s the same quality as a Mozart or Beethoven symphonic piece. John Wetton’s vocals are as good as it gets, perfectly emotionally matched to what the songs are saying. And Robert Fripp’s
guitar playing and compositional skills are like nothing else. I think it’s a benchmark for modern music, period.

The first time I met Robert was in Japan, when I was with Mr Big. He was there on business and came backstage to meet up, and he watched the show from the wings of the stage, on my side. As I was playing I was thinking, ‘Oh I stole this line from Robert… that’s a riff from him too!’ Later we hung out in the hotel bar, and he told me Crimson stories, it was great.

Then we were both on the G3 tour in 2004 with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, Robert was the third G. I like that he’s not a musical snob. He loves rock, and I like guys who, in some people’s minds, are above rock’n’roll but who look back to it with some fondness. I’m so taken with his removal of himself from the rock star celebrity nonsense. He just wants to be a player, which is what he is, and so good at it too. He’s really inspirational. I’d love to play with Robert in some capacity someday, and hanging with him’s been nothing but a joy.” 

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.