David Bowie surprisingly ended his 10-year hiatus from music-making last week with the debut of new track “Where Are We Now?” and the announcement he’d be releasing a “classic-sounding” new album, The Next Day, this March. Somehow, the Thin White Duke kept this project under wraps for two years and managed to force a double-take from the whole Internet. But guitar legend and sometimes Bowie-collaborator Robert Fripp claims that he knew about The Next Day more than a year before the rest of the world, explaining to the Guardian that the news came to him in a dream.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti recently accused Fripp of nearly spoiling the Next Day surprise. “[Fripp] was asked to play on it, he didn’t want to do it and then he wrote on his blog that he was asked,” Visconti said. “And nobody kinda believed him. It was a little flurry for a few days, but everyone said, ‘How could that be true? We haven’t heard it from anyone else?'”
Fripp denies that he was ever asked to contribute to the upcoming LP, writing in a post on his blog, “I haven’t spoken to David for quite a while, and I wasn’t approached for the new album. Not sure whether Tony thought I had been, but nothing ever came to me.” The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time star also provided a link to an older blog post, dated October 15, 2011, that seems to predict the Next Day, describing a dream Fripp had the previous night. “[It] gradually appeared that David had some remarkable new ideas in process, not yet public. These he presented indirectly, to allow the penny to drop without prompting. Eno also got involved, and what a flowering of ideas!”
The Guardian notes that “without Fripp’s knowledge — and indeed without any contribution from Brian Eno — the sessions for the Next Day had been underway for several months.” The King Crimson guitarist maintains that it was all some sort cosmic coincidence, and not an act of malice. “In the creative world, when someone begins thinking, other people sometimes ‘hear’ what’s going on,” he wrote on his blog. “Who knows, on the subconscious – Unconscious levels, what gets ‘overheard?’” Fripp further clarified to the Guardian: “Both Bowie and Eno are exceptionally sharp creative minds that read the zeitgeist… Things happen around them that defeat rationality.”
Still, the “Heroes” and Scary Monsters contributor insists that he was not asked to play on The Next Day, writing on his blog, “If I was asked to take part in this totally excellent project, who asked? Had I had been invited, in my current non-performance mode, it would have been a very hard choice.” Fripp also told the Guardian that if an offer to re-team with his former colleagues had been made, he “would have had to seriously reconsider [his] non-public status.”
Last year, Fripp announced that he was no longer recording new music because of a dispute with Universal Music Group over “20 years of unpaid royalties.” One of the points of contention, the Englishman alleges, is Kanye West’s sample of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Power.” According to Fripp, the Crimson-cribbing single racked up one million hits on YouTube before he was ever approached about the use of “Schizoid Man.”
But Fripp isn’t harboring any hurt feelings against Bowie or Visconti. “My association with David and Tony has provided highlights of my life, not only my musical life. Lots of laughs and great music,” he wrote on his blog. “I would regret if anything negative, completely invented, were to query the reality.” He elaborated further to the Guardian, saying, “I’m not angry at all… No one is hurt, I’m not upset, just keen for clarity. My respect for Messers Bowie and Visconti continues undiminished, untarnished. The album is out there. Fab!”