Get Lit: Bill Bruford: The Autobiography by Bill Bruford

As the "godfather of progressive rock drumming," Bill Bruford has done stints on the road and in the studio with many of the genre's biggest bands. He was a founding member of Yes, spent years with King Crimson, and also thumped skins for Genesis, Gong, and U.K. before forming his own groups and then a jazz ensemble, Earthworks.

In this erudite and opinionated autobiography, Bruford eschews a straight narrative in favor of "chapters" answering a series of questions including "Why Did You Leave Yes?" (which Bruford did, just as they were breaking big with Fragile and Close to the Edge, to pursue the more challenging Crimson); "What's It Like Working with Robert Fripp?" (not surprisingly, difficult); "Is it Different Being in Jazz?" and "What Do You Call a Guy Who Hangs Around with Musicians?" (the drummer, according to the hoary joke).

Throughout, he tells stories of his career and the players he's encountered, and it's written well enough to hold interest even for the casual prog rock fan. He pulls few punches, but doesn't spill many secrets. Interestingly, the now-retired drummer proclaims his preference for jazz to rock. Bruford does come off as a bit haughty when detailing his distaste for music journalists - regardless of their level of knowledge or appreciation of his music; and fans - whom he'll only grudgingly meet or have any interaction with. And while he has some points, it just comes off as less than gracious. He does have one humorous anecdote about playing Houston, during the mini-Yes reunion tour of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Bassist Tony Levin, who'd contracted hepatitis, spent much of the show vomiting in hidden buckets strategically placed by Bruford's drum riser. According to Bruford, the "stetsoned [sic] beauty smiling, waving, and gyrating" nearby apparently didn't notice a thing. She must have been too involved in chord changes of "Roundabout." Jawbone Press, 352 pp., $19.95

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero