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King Crimson

If there is one group that embodies progressive rock, it is King Crimson. Led by guitar/Mellotron virtuoso Robert Fripp, during its first five years of existence the band stretched both the language and structure of rock into realms of jazz and classical music, all the while avoiding pop and psychedelic sensibilities. The absence of mainstream compromises and the lack of an overt sense of humor ultimately doomed the group to nothing more than a large cult following, but made their albums among the most enduring and respectable of the prog rock era.

King Crimson originally grew out of the remnants of an unsuccessful trio called Giles, Giles & Fripp. Michael Giles (drums, vocals), Peter Giles (bass, vocals), and Robert Fripp (guitar) had begun working together in late 1967 after playing in a variety of bands: Fripp's resume included tenures with the League of Gentlemen and the Majestic Dance Orchestra, while the Giles brothers had played with Trendsetters, Ltd. After signing to Deram, the trio recorded their debut single, "One in a Million," and began cutting a follow-up album, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp, during the summer of 1968.

Even as the album was in the works, however, the group's lineup was changing: ex-Infinity singers/guitarists Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield joined late in 1968, and Julie Dyble, who had passed through the first Fairport Convention lineup, signed on briefly as a singer. This lineup recorded demos of "I Talk to the Wind" and "Under the Sky, " but soon dissolved: Peter Giles exited the scene in November of 1968, and Fripp's childhood friend, vocalist/bassist Greg Lake, joined two days later. The new roster of Fripp, Lake, McDonald, and Michael Giles -- with satellite member Sinfield writing their lyrics and later running their light show, among other functions -- officially became King Crimson on January 13, 1969, deriving the name from Sinfield's lyrics for the song "Court of the Crimson King."

In July of 1969, the group debuted in front of 650,000 people at a free concert in London's Hyde Park on a bill with the Rolling Stones; later that month King Crimson ultimately recorded and produced their first album. In the Court of the Crimson King was one of the most challenging albums of the entire fledgling progressive rock movement, but somehow it caught the public's collective ear at the right moment and hit number five in England in November of 1969 -- four months later, the album climbed to number 28 on the American charts. Ironically, at the peak of the LP's success the original band broke up: McDonald and Giles were becoming increasingly unhappy with the music's direction, as well as the strain of touring. By November they decided to leave -- Fripp was so shaken that he even offered to exit if they would stay. The original group played their last show in December 1969; Greg Lake, having joined the group last, was uncomfortable with the idea of staying on with two replacement members, and had also been approached by Keith Emerson of the Nice about the possibility of forming a new group. He soon decided to leave Crimson as well, but agreed to stay long enough to record vocals for the next album.

Whether there would even be a next album was debatable for a time after Fripp was offered the chance to replace Peter Banks in Yes. Finally, a new single ("Catfood") and album (In the Wake of Poseidon) were recorded early in 1970: essentially a Fripp-dominated retake of In the Court of the Crimson King, Lake sang on all but one of the songs, Fripp played the Mellotron as well as all of the guitars, and a new singer, Fripp's boyhood friend Gordon Haskell, debuted on "Cadence and Cascade." Fripp spent the month of August rehearsing a new King Crimson lineup, consisting of himself, Haskell (bass, vocals), saxman/flautist Mel Collins (who had played on Poseidon), and Andy McCullough (drums). This group, augmented by pianist Keith Tippett, guest vocalist Jon Anderson of Yes, and oboist/English horn virtuoso Marc Charig, recorded the next Crimson album, Lizard, in the fall of 1970, but Haskell and McCullough both walked out soon after it was finished; with Fripp busy putting a new band together, Peter Sinfield took over the final production chores.

In December of 1970, Ian Wallace joined on drums, and after auditioning several aspiring singers including Bryan Ferry, Fripp chose Boz Burrell as the group's new vocalist. The latest Crimson lineup of Fripp, Burrell, Collins, and Wallace emerged on-stage in April of 1971, and for the next year, King Crimson was a going concern, playing gigs across the globe. The only casualty during the remainder of the year was Sinfield, who split in December after Fripp asked him to leave. Their new album, Islands, got to number 30 in England, and number 76 in America; the band might've succeeded had it lasted for another album to make its case, but in April of 1972, this latest lineup broke up after Wallace, Collins, and Burrell moved as a trio to join Alexis Korner in a band called Snape. (Burrell later became the bassist with Bad Company.)

It seemed as though King Crimson had finally come to an end. Then, in July of 1972, Fripp put together a new band consisting of ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, ex-Family member John Wetton on bass and vocals, David Cross on violin and Mellotron, and Jamie Muir on percussion. Sinfield's successor as lyricist was Richard Palmer-James, who was otherwise invisible in the lineup. This group recorded their debut album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, and made their debut in Frankfurt in October of 1972. Muir was out of the lineup by early 1973, but as a quartet the band toured England, Europe and America while Larks' Tongues made it all the way to the Top 20 in England. In January of 1974, King Crimson cut a new album, Starless and Bible Black, thus becoming the first lineup to remain intact for more than one American tour and more than one album (discounting the departed Muir).

Alas, by July of 1974 even this long-lasting King Crimson lineup had begun to splinter. This time Cross was the one to exit, following a performance in New York. With King Crimson reduced to a trio of Fripp, Wetton, and Bruford, one more album, Red, was completed that summer with help from Cross and former members Mel Collins and Ian McDonald (who was soon to go on to fame and fortune as the co-founder of the arena rock band Foreigner). Fripp disbanded the group on September 25, 1974, seemingly for the last time. Wetton later passed through the lineup of Uriah Heep before going on to international success as the lead singer of Asia, while Cross later turned up on the Mellotron multi-artist showcase album The Rime of the Ancient Sampler.

In June of 1975, 11 months after their last public concert, a live album called USA was issued, followed four years later by Fripp's first solo album, Exposure. Finally, in April of 1981, Fripp formed a new group called Discipline with Bruford, bassist Tony Levin, and guitarist/singer Adrian Belew. By the time their album was released in October of that year, the group's name had been changed to King Crimson (the album was still titled Discipline, however). This band, with a herky-jerky sound completely different from any of the other lineups to use that name, toured and recorded regularly over the years, which included full-length video productions; they splintered after two more albums, 1982's Beat and 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair.

King Crimson remained silent for about a decade, as compilations and vintage live performances continued to trickle out (including the box sets Frame by Frame, which mostly covered classic studio material, and The Great Deceiver, which featured live performances from 1973-74). Finally, in 1994, Fripp reunited with the Discipline-era lineup, augmenting the group with drummer/percussionist Pat Mastelotto and bassist/guitarist/Chapman Stick player Trey Gunn. The EP VROOOM appeared late that year, setting the stage for a full-fledged comeback with 1995's Thrak. The album earned generally good reviews and re-established Crimson as a viable touring concern, although it took until 2000 for the band to come up with a new studio album (ConstruKction of Light) amidst a continuing stream of archive-clearing collections. In the five years between Thrak and ConstruKction of Light, the members of Crimson often fragmented the band into experimental subgroups dubbed ProjeKcts. The idea was to mix things up a bit and generate fresh musical ideas prior to the forthcoming album; in the meantime, drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Tony Levin left the band. Culled from the supporting European tour, the live box Heavy ConstruKction was released later in 2000. For the band's 30th anniversary, Fripp commissioned the remastering of the first 15 years' catalog, featuring remastered sound and original album art. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The 21st Century Guide To King Crimson, Vol. 2: 1981-2003


Nice bio Bruce. :-}
great in concert - structed improvisatio n - ,Fripp is stylish guitarist. Impressive array of musicians went thru that band>
Any recent additional new albums?
Great Deceiver = Satan . Great song and "wicked" guitar by Mr. Fripp!
Pandora got to play a early KC classic. Mars, Bringer Of War! Scary as Hell!
Soothing, ageless and powerful! How could anyone not enjoy listening to this track? Thank you KC
Music to have a hit by
OutStanding Guitar-Riffs
I saw them one week ago on Sept.23 2014. The best KC show in decades! Must see!
I am often distressed by these Pandora reviews. While historically - a c c u r a t e and well-researc h e d and written, they tend to focus more on the economics of a band, and thus come across as dismayingly- d e p r e s s i n g , and do not attempt to quantify the cultural effect of an artist or band. Such is the case here. I have rarely met anyone in my age group (or a generation before or after) who have not heard King Crimson. Whether these people like King Crimson or not, all agree the band was polarizing.
Gothic ever since......t h i s album
I thought it said Mormons , not moments
Silly me.
They were great. Not ahead of their time. They just made music to their tastes. Artists for sure. Talent can't be suppressed. Debuted in front of 650,000 people in Hyde park ? awesome First heard of them in 1970 as a freshman at MTU. Court of the Crimson King. A lot of us liked that album. I discovered KC in 69 when I was 16. I was a fan of progressive rock and did not realize it. Saw Yes, ELP, Genesis, Pink Floyd and the like many times in the early 70's. Still today I think the music is so fresh. Such a classic/jazz / r o c k / f u s i o n feel. Hard to explain because I thought it was the BEST music at the time...funny still feel that way. BTW I saw Hendrix 2x, Zep 3x, Tull 3x and Black Sabbath in 1970 too..WOW
Oct 6 moore theatre seattle xD
canibeofserv i c e
Music way ahead of its time with a genius Fripp 50 years ahead of the planet's musical thinking and appreciation . It took guts to play one 's own music and KC you did it. Much appreciated guys. Much appreciated.
songofthebam b o o
I've been listening to KC for about 25 years now. As my musical sensibilitie s have evolved so has my appreciation . I am eternally grateful! This music feels timeless to me. I think KC has had more of an influence in our world than many realize. They may have never reached the popularity of other bands but their music has shaped musicians. I can't give enough praise and these words are terribly inadequate when compared to how much this music has shaped my life.
Thank you Robert for your endurance and integrity, and most of all, for your incredible talent and creativity, I will always Love your Music. You have helped me with my own creative musical ideas and a wonderful revolutionar y spirit that will never stop in my life. Without your existence, my musical life would of suffered. Thanks so much my friend. Keep it up please. Good fortune to you. Bill
'Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.' ----Robert Fripp
I don't know why this Is on transformers radio but it has a nice sound similar to 70's easy listening, not at all like autobots fighting decepticons
Thank God for a real bio finally. Greatest progressive band ever. Love what Fripp is doing with the anniversary releases.
What do u think about King Crimson
The old bio was quite the hatchet job, delivered by an ignoramus. Thanks for eventually giving the band their due.
The Dick Panthers are better.
Greg Lake (and Progressive music) at its finest hour! ...
Wow, I guess our b**ching about the bio worked. Much better bio here now.
I didn't know one could be a Mellotron virtuoso. Fripp said, tuning a Mellotron doesn't.
Greg Lake singing on Get Thy Bearings...c a n hear the music that becomes Pictures of a City...singi n g about f**king and getting stoned...gre a t sax..think this is the live at Filmore in 69
When you are a child you are drawn to Yes...when you mature you find out that Yes is like Birthday Cake...good for a bite or two but no more then you relish King e King is dead...Long Live the King.
My previous comment (which contains some spelling and grammar errors- my apologies) was given when the tune Three of a Perfect Pair was playing. Now listening to the title track off the first KC album. This album, along with my previously stated favorites, is truly splendid. I think I will have my loved ones play Court of the Crimson King at my funeral.
This song, from the album of the same name (TPP), reflects a significant departure from their original and considerably darker, prog style seen in their early years. The three albums- TPP, Discipline, and Beat, released in the early 1980s are unified and reflects an amazing reformulatio n of their sound. Though I myself strongly prefer the early albums (especially Islands, Larks Tongue in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, and Red), I have always had a deep appreciation for this era of King Crimson
Trio cool been waiting for this to favor..when I was 15 I made a tape with one side just Trio over and over could NEVER EVER hear this song enough times
Fracture off Starless and Bible black...very nice , thumbs up !
Asbury Park off U.S.A. AWESOME . My fav is KC But Yes is ofcourse right there Jon Anderson singing on Lizard my ALLTIME favorite !!!!
Love King Crimson, love ELP and Floyd but when it comes to progressive. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Y e s is the band that does it for me.
Deprive diminish condense shorten that's what abridge means ! Just give me Larks tongue off Larks tongue
ABRIDGED , WTF I dont like the sound of that. I LOVE KING CRIMSON and have no want or need for extra money
jeffreymqs64 1
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If I could have only one bands music it would be King Crimson
Hotfootmusic while I disagree with Bobonnit's opinion I also disagree with yours. Looks like the main station Bobonnit plays is Rory Gallagher and he's one badass motherf**ker !
I second the comments on Islands and Lizard. If they don't play them than I recommend just purchasing them so that they can be listened to on demand.
I clicked LIKE on Starless before I realized it was an abridged version and I can't take back my like. If I wanted an abridged version, I'd turn off my cd player halfway though the song. Jeez, play the whole song, it's great the way it was meant to be. Only speaking of the version on the Red album.
Pandoraaaa.. . I keep waiting to here "ISLANDS" but nothing...In my opinion A MASTERSPIECE
I'm still new to king crimson but they put out some pretty damn good music. I like the new bio. These guys are underrated!
Thank you Pandora for updating that idiotic Rovi bio and replacing it with one that is much more reflective of what Crimson was, and is.
terribly underated album
Lizard is my favorite KC lp
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