King Crimson 1969-1974

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of their debut, the album and band that launched Progressive Rock. #progrock #kingcrimson

Seems that this year I am reminded of the half century mark in many ways: not simply because I was born in late 1968, but Woodstock, Altamont, the Beatles recording their last studio album, the last single by Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Moon landing, etc. Oddly, when I first re-launched this series back in late May of this year, there was one show I have been waiting until this week to broadcast: the 50th anniversary of the debut of In The Court of the Crimson King, arguably the very first-ever true progressive rock album, by King Crimson.

Progressive Rock is tag that founder and currently sole original member Robert Fripp has hated for years, upon my discovery. I can understand why: other Prog Rock bands of the era, such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, ended up filling their mid-to-late 1970’s LP’s with such dross, after equally impressive early runs, it’s no wonder that the Punk rockers despised Prog Rock so much.

The cover of In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969, illustration by Barry Godber, courtesy of Discipline Global Mobile.

However, Fripp, originally part of a trio called Giles, Giles and Fripp that released only one album that was a major commercial disappointment, decided early on to follow no one’s muse but his own. Often changing members (or many left of their own accord due to truly creative differences), he felt that the only way forward wasn’t to write big hits and maintain a level of comfort by sticking to the same formula. He found a way to make every single line-up of the band, and there have been 21 so far total, to work.

“King Crimson is pretty much who we ripped off over the years. Don’t tell anyone, especially them.”

Maynard James Keenan, Tool

Upon its release, the first Crimson album was a shock to many: it wasn’t hit laden or commercial; it mixed rock, free form jazz, some classical, psychedelia, the avant garde and, at times, a volume and intensity that would make any heavy metal band blush. King Crimson also brought to prominence the Mellotron, an early type of sampler, to the musical landscape that signalled the end of the 1960’s and the introduction of what possibilities the 1970’s could hold for truly adventurous musicians.

The band would disband later after a 1974 tour, only to re-emerge in 1981, not sounding like the old King Crimson in terms of sonic landscape, but then again, yes, sounding like the old King Crimson in terms of musicality and a truly “let’s try-something-different” attitude. Fripp would even ask people to play instruments they had never previously performed with, hoping for, and often getting, true spontaneity with them.

Greg Lake (l) and Robert Fripp of the original King Crimson line-up. Photographer unknown, courtesy of Discipline Global Mobile.

Even during this period, as evidenced here, the band could go from whispering quiet to a thunderous roar, sometimes even in the same track. Often, their albums and set lists would follow suit, which is slightly replicated here to illustrate their absolute true diversity.

I would also like to give a shout out to John O’Sullivan of Dublin, Ireland. It seems that the first King Crimson album and Mr. O’Sullivan share a birthday on 10 October. Your daughter Janet told me once some time ago what a huge fan of the band you were, and Sir, I hope this program brings you the happiest of days.

King Crimson 69-74 Setlist

  • In The Court of the Crimson King (live), December 1969, The Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA
  • Ladies of the Road, 1971, Islands
  • Happy Family, 1970, Lizard
  • Red, 1974, Red
  • The Great Deceiver, 1974, Starless and Bible Black
  • The Devil’s Triangle, 1970, In The Wake of Poseidon
    I. “Merday Morn”
    II. “Hand of Sceiron”
    III. “Garden of Worm”
  • Groon, 1970, “Cat Food” single B-Side
  • Easy Money, 1973, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic
  • 21st Century Schizoid Man, 1969, In The Court of the Crimson King

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Host, Producer, Audio Engineer and Writer

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