Saturday, October 25, 2014

in the court of the crimson king

King Crimson developed a majestic progressive rock from psychedelic avant-garde heavy metal orchestral jazz into this seminal scarlet schizoid surge.  

Robert Fripp reveals the scene in which the band formed:  "I was a young man without work signed to Decca. I arrived in London in 67 with Sgt. Pepper's bubbling inside of me. Hendrix, Bartok string quartets, an experience of passionate music...That was the power of rock in those days, without money, without the support of record companies. We were punky, like each new generation. It was the time of the student demonstrations in Paris, of Vietnam...Rock music spoke directly to youth. There was a sense of community, not yet of distance between the public and the artist...It didn't survive 1970." 

Brothers Michael Giles and Peter Giles joined with Robert Fripp to record 'The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp'.  The group transformed when  multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald joined with Peter Sinfield; and Fripp suggested that Greg Lake come in to replace the whimsical Peter Giles.  Lake looks back:  "Robert and I went to the same guitar teacher when we were very young boys. We used to practice our lessons together. When I joined a band, Robert wasn’t in a band at all, and he used to come around and follow me as a guitar player. He’d travel in the van, along with my band. He just used to hang around the stage while we played. Sometimes, he’d do a duet with me. So, Robert and I knew each other’s playing intimately. We had the same guitar teacher; we learned the same guitar lessons – and we were dragged up the same way, basically. So I knew what he could play; he knew what I could play. That’s one of the things that was underpinning King Crimson – that Robert and I are almost one person, in a sense. I really know exactly what he’s going to play. Not so much nowadays, because we’ve grown up all those years apart, but certainly then, when the early King Crimson was formed."

Sinfield says:  "The name King Crimson was mine - I wanted something like Led Zeppelin, something with a bit of power to it. Anything better than Giles, Giles, and Fripp.  King Crimson had arrogance to it." 

According to Fripp:  "The name King Crimson is a synonym for Beelzebub, which is an anglicized form of the Arabic phrase B'il Sabab. This means literally the man with an aim and is the recognizable quality of King Crimson." 

McDonald muses:  "I started on guitar, that's my first instrument. Then I picked up piano, and then later clarinet, flute and saxophone. So I don't see myself mainly as a saxophone player. That's just one of the instruments I play. I was always a so-called multi-instrumentalist, that's always what I've done...I spent my teenage years, unfortunately, in the army, as a bandsman, yes. A junior bandsman, and then a bandsman. So I learned to read music. I learned harmony orchestration things like that. I was taught clarinet, and from there I taught myself flute and saxophone. During that time I did have experience in lots of different musical styles, whether it be doing show tunes or classical wind quintets, little jazz groups, dance band things... as well as of course the marches and all that sort of things. I guess the good thing about that was that I was exposed to a number of different musical styles there, which I guess was a purpose to that as well...I've always produced. It was just an extension of what I'd always done. In anything that I've been involved in, I've always produced. 'In The Court...', I had a large hand in the production of that album, it was a self-produced album and I had a lot to do with that." 

'In the Court of the Crimson King' was produced by King Crimson at Wessex Sound Studios in London and featured Robert Fripp on guitars;  Michael Giles on drums, percussion, and backing vocals;  Greg Lake on lead vocals and bass guitar;  Ian McDonald on woodwinds (saxophone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet), keyboards (mellotron, harpsichord, piano, organ), vibraphone, and backing vocals;  and Peter Sinfield on lyrics and illumination.

The iconic album illustrations were done by Barry Godber.  Fripp reveals:  "Barry Godber was not a painter but a computer programmer. That painting was the only one he ever did. He was a friend of Peter Sinfield, and died in 1970 of a heart attack at age 24. Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from EG's offices because they kept it exposed to bright light, at the risk of ruining it, so I ended up removing it. The face on the outside is the Schizoid Man, and on the inside it's the Crimson King. If you cover the smiling face, the eyes reveal an incredible sadness. What can one add? It reflects the music. I was never impressed by heavy metal. Nobody at the time sounded like us in concert. For me "Schizoid" was the first heavy metal track, that sound of an electric saxophone going through a Marshall amp...As for Michael Giles, he was a phenomenal drummer. No rock drummer could touch him in 69." 

Lake: "What most people identify what is Prog rock is essentially rock music with European roots. As opposed to rock music with American blues, and country, and gospel blues. And that’s the difference essentially I think. And the best of progressive music, I would say for example is Sgt. Pepper. I would call that a progressive album. It involves the imagination and there is a kind of a universal truth about a lot of things that are said in there, and almost anyone can identify with. And there just not literal they can also be impressionistic, it is an art form I think. It’s not just an attempt to sell a commercial record. There is sort of an artistic contingent in there which I rather personally like."

Sinfield:  "We had an Ethos in Crimson...we just refused to play anything that sounded anything like a Tin Pan Alley record. If it sounded at all popular, it was out. So it had to be complicated, it had to be more expansive chords, it had to have strange influences. If it sounded, like, too simple, we'd make it more complicated, we'd play it in 7/8 or 5/8, just to show off"

Giles remembers:  "I did quite a lot of the arranging, fitting different sections together, tempo changes, all sorts of things like that. I actually acted as a bridge between Robert and Ian... Not so much composing, rather presenting musical ideas at each rehearsal...We weren't involved in the hippie movement, or the flower power, or drugs, or 'Swinging London'... We were somehow outside that, just concentrating on the music. But of course, we played, and we had access to all sorts of situations that 'Swinging London' was doing. But we didn't come from this environment...there was a sort of... underground cult following, which came from nowhere, and grew, and grew... It was quite surprising to us all, because all of us had spent probably the previous five to ten years without it. So it was quite overwhelming... Overwhelming and humbling." 

'In the Court of the Crimson King' made it to number twenty-eight in the US and five in the UK, becoming a major sensation in the music world and spearheading the progressive rock movement.

"21st Century Schizoid Man"

"I Talk to the Wind"


part two

live in Hyde Park - 1969

01- 21st Century Schizoid Man
02- In The Court of the Crimson King
03- Get Thy Bearings
04- Epitaph
05- Mantra
06- Travel Weary Capricorn 
07- Mars

'In the Court of the Crimson King'
full album:

All songs written by King Crimson, except "I Talk to the Wind" and "The Court of the Crimson King", written by Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield.

Side one
1. "21st Century Schizoid Man"  7:24
2. "I Talk to the Wind"   6:04
3. "Epitaph"   8:49
"March for No Reason"
"Tomorrow and Tomorrow"  

Side two   
1. "Moonchild"   12:13
"The Dream"
"The Illusion"  

2. "The Court of the Crimson King"  9:26
"The Return of the Fire Witch"
"The Dance of the Puppets"  

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