With his recent announcement that he will no longer be performing live, it almost seems fitting that drum legend Bill Bruford also unveils The Autobiography, a very personal, humorous, and insightful look into this musicians life, views, and opinions on his career, the music industry, and human values. Those expecting a gossip rag with all the scoop on Yes, King Crimson, and every other band or musician that Bruford played and recorded with over the years had better look elsewhere. Sure, Bill does dip into a bit of went on behind the scenes over the years, but this book is more about letting the reader experience his travels through the author's eyes and a journal on how he is reflecting on his career now that it is coming to a close, at least from a live performance perspective. Bruford's writing style is witty, even at times a bit pompous, but you get the feeling that this is just his nature and he's just being Bill Bruford here, not trying to impress the reader one bit. It's also pretty evident that the author really cherishes his many years with King Crimson, with all the baggage that comes with that, more so than his more well known time with the early incarnation of Yes. The 'Yes years' are treated with a more cursory glance back, as Bill recalls those years as 'a bunch of young guns who really didn't know what they were doing' sort of slant, diving more into the pains with management, lack of money, difficulty with recordings, and the growing desire to move on and try something different, rather than going in-depth on the material, or the relationships within the band. As far as King Crimson goes, Bruford has many more years to work with (and many different line-ups) and thus talk about. Interestingly enough, if you've heard how 'different' a human being one Robert Fripp is, you'll surely be convinced of such after reading what Bill has to say about him in this book. Bruford's not going to trash Mr. Fripp, but he definitely let's you know what an oddball he is, and even goes as far to say that after the many years alongside him, he never really was close to Fripp or really came to understand the man. The stories of the musical & emotional battles that went on behind the scenes is his different tours of duty with Crimson is really what makes up the bulk of this book, and is fascinating reading if you have any interest in the band.
To a lesser degree Bruford talks about UK, Genesis, National Health, Gong, or Bruford, but what info is including is intriguing, especially to hear about the inner workings of each band and what made them so different. In the opinion of Bruford, it's all about musical styles, desires, and personalities, so after reading his sequence about the rise and fall of UK, you begin to understand why in the end, Holdsworth and Bruford just couldn't make it work with Jobson and Wetton, or why Bruford was never going to be anything more than a brief hired gun with Genesis. The Earthworks chapters are extremely telling, as Bruford finally gave in after many years to his desires to front his own band, and a pure jazz band at that. That time also seemed to coincide with his growing older and maturing not only as a husband and father, but as a sophisticated musician who was looking to step out of the 'rock music' box so to speak, although his did go back for one round with King Crimson in the 90's before calling it a day for good with that band.
Despite all the tours, albums, and everything that goes along with being a professional musician, you get a sense as this book winds down, that Bruford is most proud of the fact that he did it 'his way', and through it all kept his strong family values and never let that aspect waver or falter, which is something all of us can certainly relate to.
A good read, and a must for any fan of Bill Bruford or progressive rock/jazz music.