King Crimson

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King Crimson
King Crimson, 2003
King Crimson, 2003
General information
Genre (s) Progressive rock
founding 1968, 1981, 1994, 2013
resolution 1974, 1984, 2010
Founding members
Robert Fripp
Greg Lake(until 1970)
Michael Giles (until 1969)
Ian McDonald (until 1969)
Synthesizer , lyrics, stage lighting
Peter Sinfield (until 1972)
Current occupation
Robert Fripp
Tony Levin (1981-1998, since 2003)
Mel Collins (1970–1972, since 2013)
Pat Mastelotto (since 1994)
Gavin Harrison (since 2008)
Vocals, guitar
Jakko Jakszyk (since 2013)
Drums, keyboard
Jeremy Stacey (since 2016)
former members
Vocals and bass
Gordon Haskell (1970)
Andy McCulloch (1970)
Bass, vocals
Boz Burrell (1971–1972)
Ian Wallace (1971–1972)
Drums, percussion
Bill Bruford (1972-1998)
Bass, vocals
John Wetton(1972–1974)
Violin , viola , keyboards
David Cross (1972-1974)
Percussion, "Allsorts"
Jamie Muir (1972-1973)
Vocals, guitar
Adrian Belew (1981-2010)
Trey Gunn (1994-2003)
Drums, keyboard
Bill Rieflin † (2013-2020)
Live members
Chris Gibson (2017)
Theo Travis (2019)

King Crimson is a British progressive rock group that was founded by Robert Fripp and Michael Giles in 1968 for a performance on January 13, 1969 in the Fulham Palace Cafe and - with Fripp as a thought leader - has existed in changing formations to this day.

The album In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) is considered a milestone in progressive rock. In the course of its 50-year existence, the band has repeatedly incorporated and changed different, also emerging music styles into their music concept. Her music is characterized by a wide dynamic range and diverse rhythmic models.

King Crimson members have worked with well-known artists and bands ( Frank Zappa , Peter Gabriel , Yes , David Bowie and others) before or after joining King Crimson . A good part of King Crimson's history has been shaped by the constant exchange of members.

Band biography

The history of the band can be divided into six phases, some of which are stylistically quite different, interrupted by more or less long pauses:

  1. the period of the first four albums from 1969 to 1971, on which the music of the band is quite varied, sometimes calm and richly orchestrated, with suggestions from classical , jazz and psychedelic rock ;
  2. the period from 1972 to 1974, in which, after a complete reorganization of the staff, influences from Stravinsky , free jazz , hard rock and the tendency towards extensive improvisation stand out;
  3. the three albums of the 1980s (1981–1984), on which, in addition to a more modern sound, the influence of minimal music and new wave is particularly noticeable;
  4. the somewhat harder sound of the double trio of the 1990s (1995–1997) as well as the various side projects ProjeKct One, ProjeKct Two, ProjeKct Three and ProjeKct Four ;
  5. the recordings of the band, reduced to the “double duo” Belew, Fripp, Gunn and Mastelotto, starting in 2000;
  6. the 7 to 8-person line-up with three percussionists since 2013.

The beginning

In 1967, after playing in the League of Gentlemen and the Majestic Dance Orchestra, Robert Fripp teamed up with brothers Michael and Peter Giles of Trendsetters Ltd. together. The trio recorded the single One in a Million in 1968 and the LP The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp . In the same year, the lyricist Peter Sinfield , who later also played synthesizer and was responsible for the light show, the multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald from the band Infinity and the singer Judy Dyble from Fairport Convention joined them. In this line-up, demos of I Talk to the Wind and the title Under the Sky were recorded. Peter Giles and Dyble left the band immediately afterwards. The remaining three musicians recruited singer and bassist Greg Lake and officially founded King Crimson on January 13, 1969.

The name King Crimson comes from Peter Sinfield as a synonym for Beelzebub , the prince of demons. According to Robert Fripp, Beelzebub is a borrowed word from the Arabic phrase B'il Sabab , which roughly means "the man with a goal". Crimson King is also the name of a cultivar of the blood maple . The leaf of this tree was therefore repeatedly integrated into the design of the cover.

The band's appearance on April 9, 1969 at the Speakeasy club in London made a great impression on fellow musicians such as Steve Hackett , Bill Bruford and Pete Townshend . In July, the band performed in London's Hyde Park together with the Rolling Stones in front of 650,000 spectators. The first record, In the Court of the Crimson King , was released in October. It reached number 5 in the English charts and got very good reviews. Some of the press have already celebrated the band as "the next Beatles" . During the subsequent tour through England and the USA, among others with the Rolling Stones, Iron Butterfly , Fleetwood Mac and Janis Joplin , the musical differences within the group reached their first climax. As a result, Ian McDonald and Michael Giles left the band because they were unsatisfied with the musical direction. Fripp offered his colleagues to leave the band, especially since he also had an offer from Yes and the later Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar for the group Blue Whale , but then decided to continue.

From 1969 to 1972

The personnel changes remained the only constant during this time. The remaining trio released a single Cat Food / Groon in March 1970 and at the same time developed the material for the second LP In the Wake of Poseidon , stylistically based on the debut album . Mel Collins came on board and bassist Peter Giles was there for the record. Greg Lake left in April to co-found the group Emerson, Lake and Palmer . Gordon Haskell replaced bass , and with him came the third album Lizard , on which Andy McCullough played drums and Jon Anderson from the group Yes can be heard in the almost full-page title track. The band was strengthened by jazz pianist Keith Tippett , Mark Charig ( cornet ), Nick Evans ( trombone ) and Robin Miller ( oboe and cor anglais ). The album appears more colorful due to the participation of guest musicians and is more clearly influenced by jazz than its two predecessors. The title track of the album Lizard is twenty minutes long. Before the record was released, however, Haskell and McCullough left the band. Haskell then began a solo career, while McCullough joined the band Greenslade .

Fripp started looking for new members again. Drummer Ian Wallace and singer Boz Burrell were soon found, but when no bassist could be found, Fripp decided to teach Burrell how to play the bass himself. During the long tour that followed, the album Islands was recorded in 1971 . It seems very calm and is dominated by acoustic instruments for a long time. It was the last album that Tippett played on. At the end of the year Peter Sinfield also left the band - he was the last founding member next to Robert Fripp. In 1972 the band went on one last tour after which the band members wanted to part. Fripp turned the recordings of this tour into the album Earthbound , the band's first live album, as a farewell, so to speak. Wallace, Burrell and Collins left the band to play with Alexis Korner . Wallace founded the Crimson Jazz Trio in 2004 .

From 1972 to 1975

Fripp was now faced with the task of putting together a completely new band. He won from free jazz coming percussionist Jamie Muir and the former Family vocalist and bassist John Wetton , knew the Fripp from college here. Drummer Bill Bruford came from Yes , and most recently the violinist David Cross found himself . Richard Palmer-James was hired to draft the texts . In 1973 Larks' Tongues appeared in Aspic and the band toured the UK, Europe and the US.

The music of the band had clearly gained rhythmic impact through the new line-up. It was partly based on hard rock and heavy metal , a style of music that was very successful in the USA and Great Britain. Fripp played the guitar louder and more aggressively than before, and Bruford's drums mixed with the energetic bass of Wetton.

Muir left the group in the spring of 1973. On the lengthy tour that followed, material for the 1974 album Starless and Bible Black was recorded. The majority of this album consists of live recordings. The band had become a "live band" whose true character was only revealed at concerts. For this reason, the next record USA was composed of live recordings. When the band performed live, at least one title was completely improvised.

Now David Cross, who was of the opinion that his violin was drowning in the sound, left the group. The remaining trio picked up Red . Ian McDonald, Mel Collins, Marc Charig and Robin Miller as studio musicians as well as Cross at the live improvisation of the concert in Providence were also part of the party. In the opinion of the musicians, the record was the strongest since "In The Court ..." and seemed to promise the band a successful future. McDonald's re-entry was already under discussion, but then Fripp decided to break up the band and announced: "King Crimson is completely over for ever and ever" ( With "King Crimson" it is over once and for all ). This initially seemed to seal the group's fate.


Tony Levin (1993)

At the beginning of 1981 Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford considered forming a new group called Discipline . After Tony Levin , who had worked with John Lennon , Yoko Ono and Peter Gabriel, among others , was on board, Fripp contacted the guitarist Adrian Belew , who was on tour with the Talking Heads . The fact that Fripp wanted a second guitarist next to him shows that this time he wanted to get away from the King Crimson sound. It failed insofar as Fripp noticed during rehearsals that this new band was basically King Crimson again. It was agreed (not least for marketing reasons) to call the band King Crimson again and the result was the trilogy Discipline , Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair .

The music on these three albums is more focused and less sprawling than on the albums of the 1970s. The modern sound with electronic drums and undistorted guitars is partly based on the Talking Heads and Police . Some titles, such as Neurotica , Dig Me or No Warning , which draw a sound image from metallic noises, sirens and other stimulating sounds, are based on industrial rock . Belew commented on the titles Industry A and B as follows: “It's supposed to give you a feeling of walking through a factory.” (It should make you believe you are walking through a factory). The closely interlinked, complementary parts of the two guitarists are new to the band's music. Adrian Belew said:

“On top of that I had to learn to play like Robert Fripp in order to accommodate the interlocking Guitar Craft style of playing that he so favored in the '80s. That was all very new to me. It required a picking technique I was unaccustomed to. "

“Most of all, I had to learn to play like Robert Fripp to get close to the interlocking guitar-craft style he preferred in the 1980s. All of this was new to me. It required a plucking technique that was unfamiliar to me. "

The albums were also commercially successful. Discipline achieved gold status in Japan and Three of a Perfect Pair reached # 30 in the UK charts. The band went on extensive tours until 1984. After the third album it broke up. In addition, Fripp got into legal disputes with his management that lasted for several years. In the late 1980s there were also differences between Fripp and Bruford, which were also expressed in interviews.

The 1990s

In the early 1990s, Fripp parted ways with his previous record and management company "EG" in a lengthy, meticulously documented process. At the same time he started with Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) an attempt to establish a record company based on ethical principles and not for profit. An archive series made possible by DGM and continued to this day with live recordings from all King Crimson phases was started. Although it also comprised CDs and box sets that were available on a regular basis, the attempt was made to provide rare recordings (live, rehearsal material) for the “hard core of fans” in a kind of CD subscription. This CD series, originally called "DGM Collectors 'Club", was later renamed "King Crimson Collectors' Club".

In 1991, Fripp tried to win the singer of the group Japan , David Sylvian , for a new King Crimson formation, which he refused. Nevertheless, the two went on a tour together with bassist Trey Gunn in 1992. Then the three recorded the 1993 CD The First Day with ex-Peter Gabriel drummer Jerry Marotta . Fripp now developed the idea of ​​two opposing trio units. Fripp, Gunn and Mr. Mister drummer Pat Mastelotto were scheduled for one trio, and Belew, Levin and Marotta for the other. Instead of the planned Marotta, however, Bill Bruford was hired again. This sextet recorded the CDs VROOOM (1994) and THRAK (1995) as well as the freely improvised THRaKaTTaK (1996). Musically, these recordings combined the hard rock of the formation from 1972 to 1975 and elements of noise music with the more song-oriented music of the 1980s. Since the maintenance costs for the six-piece band were relatively high, the group disintegrated after the third CD. Fripp suggested splitting the band into sub-units (in his words "fractalization") that could work spontaneously and unencumbered. This is how existing projects named ProjeKct One , ProjeKct Two , ProjeKct Three and ProjeKct Four emerged from splinter groups from King Crimson .

From 2000

After the end of the project , Bruford left the band and Levin announced that he would leave his engagement until further notice. Fripp, who is considered to be “very English” and is considered a quirky intellectual, who was already called “ Mr. Spock of Rock” in the music press in the 1970s , had very precise ideas about the musical direction to be taken with King Crimson, which led to conflicts with the Fellow musicians led. Fripp in an interview with the Dutch newspaper Het Parool in 1999:

“One of the suggestions to Bill was that he should play a completely electronic kit against Pat's and Ade's (Adrian Belew, JH) so we would have three electronic drums. And Bill was not interested, because as he told me, he has been working with electronics since 1981 and for now he would like to concentrate on the acoustic sets. ”

“One of the suggestions to Bill was to use an all-electronic drum kit versus Pat and Ade (Adrian Belew) so we would have three electronic drums. Bill wasn't interested because, as he told me, he had been playing with electric sets since 1981 and wanted to concentrate on acoustic sets for now. "

In addition, Fripp saw personnel changes as part of maintaining musical creativity:

"Each occupation is the basis, drive, evolution and mutation for the next."

The remaining four members (Belew, Fripp, Gunn and Mastelotto) produced the construkction of light (2000) and Heaven and Earth , under the name ProjeKct X was released. This was followed by the extended the construction of light tour and a tour as the opening act for the progressive metal band Tool , which was intended to open up a new audience for the band. The bonus track “The King Crimson Barber Shop” on the 2001 remastered album Three of a Perfect Pair (1984) uses a stylistic break to draw a humorous summary of the band's history. The song does not include the guitar playing associated with the band and instead refers to other characteristic instruments ( Chapman Stick ) and the elite pages of founder Robert Fripp (no photos and encores) in the clear acapella text . Their song "21st Century Schizoid Man", with which the band took a critical stance on the Vietnam War in 1969, also comes up ironically. In 2003 the band released the album The Power to Believe , which was created from material from the previous tour and reached number 65 in the German charts. At the end of the year Trey Gunn left the band and Tony Levin returned to bass. On August 2, 2008, they returned to the stage with a concert in Nashville , The Belcourt Theater. Another member of King Crimson has since been the drummer Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree . With a blog entry from December 5, 2010, Robert Fripp declared the band to be de facto dissolved.

On May 30, 2011 the album A Scarcity of Miracles - A King Crimson ProjeKct was released . The musicians involved are Robert Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk (including Level 42 and The Tangent ) and Mel Collins, Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison. From this project, the eighth “incarnation” of King Crimson grew up in 2013, for the first time since 1981 without Adrian Belew. Pat Mastelotto and, for the first time, Bill Rieflin ( REM ) joined the existing cast of the project . Live recordings of concerts in 2014 and 2015 were released. Bill Rieflin has since been replaced by Jeremy Stacey, but returned to King Crimson as keyboardist and was replaced as such by Chris Gibson for some concerts at the end of 2017 and by Theo Travis for concerts in 2019 . King Crimson's extensive range of live releases continued in 2017 and 2018. While concerts of the latest band incarnation do play pieces of which no studio recordings exist, it remains unclear whether a new studio album is being planned.

Musical elements

Different styles of music

Elements of rock music, jazz, classical music and music from non-European cultures flow into the music of the band. In terms of modern harmony and rhythm, the music is more daring than some other progressive rock bands. Even within the individual albums, it is often characterized by extreme contrasts. This willingness to experiment and the less bombastic sound sets King Crimson apart from other progressive rock bands such as Genesis , Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer .

Rock music

Influences of acid rock and psychedelic rock can be seen on the albums of the early 1970s . Titles like In the Court of the Crimson King , In the Wake of Poseidon , Red and parts of Lizard are reminiscent of the bombast sound of Procol Harum , Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. In Starless ( audio sample ? / I ), for example, a mellotron carpet of clear major and minor chords (G minor - B major - E flat major - C minor - D minor) has a guitar theme reminiscent of Pink Floyd placed. With songs like I Talk to The Wind or Cadence and Cascades from the first two albums, acoustic ballads are also represented in the repertoire. Audio file / audio sample

Guitar riff from 21st Century Schizoid Man

21st Century Schizoid Man from the debut album (especially the live versions, such as on Earthbound ), Easy Money , Red and the various parts of Larks' tongues in Aspic (sheet music and audio sample) are more in hard rock garb . E-guitar riffs , distorted guitar solos and aggressive vocals dominate here over heavy drums and bass playing. So 21st Century Schizoid Man begins with a memorable riff ( audio sample ? / I ). Later the song goes into rapid unison runs ( audio sample ? / I ), which are reminiscent of the fast part of Deep Purple's title Child in Time . Direct influences from blues music are very rare. The music of the albums of the 80s, which is sometimes reminiscent of the talking heads , is more influenced by New Wave . Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample


The influence of jazz music is already given by the fact that some of the musicians who have played for King Crimson over the years come from the jazz environment. That's how the percussionist Jamie Muir comes from free jazz . Before working with Fripp, Adrian Belew was guitarist for Frank Zappa. The jazz influence can be heard most clearly in the extensive collective improvisations of the band's line-up from 1972 onwards, particularly on the album Starless and Bible Black, which was mainly recorded live . The jazz styles that flow into the music are, in contrast to the influences of older jazz forms such as ragtime and swing with colleagues from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, more modern. Hectic bebop lines meet jazz rock , as in One More Red Nightmare from the album Red , and collide with free jazz elements.

Jazz piano part from Lizard

Keith Tippett's piano playing from the middle section of Lizard ( audio sample ? / I ) is an example of this . The piano and bass are joined by fast jazz runs that toss saxophone and trombone to each other ( audio sample ? / I ). In the rhythmically free, free-jazzy title We'll Let You Know from the album Starless, there are sometimes heavy “sprinkles” of electric piano , guitar and percussion instruments over a funky bass foundation. The influence of jazz is also reflected in interviews with Fripp: The musicians and bands he mentions most often, such as Ornette Coleman , Charlie Parker , Miles Davis , Tony Williams , Frank Zappa , Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra , come from the Area of ​​jazz or jazz rock. Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample


The influence of classical music is hardly evident in King Crimson's arrangements of classical works as they are otherwise common in progressive rock . An exception is the beginning of The Devil's Triangle on the second album In the Wake of Poseidon , a barely veiled version of Gustav Holst's Mars from his suite The Planets . The reference to the classical music is given through the use of instruments rarely used in rock, such as oboe , clarinet , flute , cello and viola . The title song for the Gulls - A Prelude from the album Islands , for example, only by a string quartet performed. The typical rock instruments are also missing in the trio from the album Starless . Another parallel to classical music can be seen in the efforts of the band to build up long tension arcs, dynamic differentiation and the elaboration of musical ideas in multi-part cycles ( Larks' tongues in Aspic 1 to 4 ). Direct stylistic influences come more from the music of the 20th century . Igor Stravinsky with his assembly principle and his rhythmic energy, Béla Bartók with the musical exploration of certain intervals, the minimalism of Steve Reich and the sound experiments of John Cage and other composers seem to have provided inspiration. Robert Fripp said:

“From that point to this very day 1984, my interest is in how to take the energy and spirit of rock music and extend it to the music drawing on my background as part of the European tonal harmonic tradition. In other words, what would Hendrix sound like playing Bartok? "

“From then until 1984 I was interested in the question of how to use and expand the energy and mood of rock in relation to the music that I know from my experience of European tonal-harmonic tradition. In other words: how would Hendrix sound if he played Bartók? "

Other musical cultures

The music of the East Asian region and especially the Indonesian gamelan music (see the chapter on rhythmic expeditions ) should be mentioned here.

Pentatonic in the title trio

But also in the melodic area you can hear influences from these areas. The use of the pentatonic series C - D - E - G - A together with a rather arrhythmic design in the title Trio on the album Starless ( audio sample ? / I ) creates a Chinese-looking atmosphere. An Asiatic melody can also be heard in solo violin parts on Larks' tongues in Aspic I from the album of the same name. African polyrhythmics and oriental scales , for example in the title The Power to Believe II , are also used. In Lizard , a melody inspired by Spanish music is played by the piano to a bolero rhythm. On the track The Sheltering Sky from the album Discipline , Bruford plays with clappers that are otherwise used for the vibraphone on a slotted drum and gives the piece a sound that goes in the direction of world music . Audio file / audio sample

Between consonance and dissonance

The band's music gains special moments of tension through the juxtaposition and occasionally sharp clashes of consonant , harmonic and rather dissonant songs or song parts. Some titles such as Exiles , In the Court of the Crimson King , Moonchild and parts of Lizard and Starless are based on simple, pure triads and common chord progressions and cadences .

Melody and chords from Lizard

The opening part of Lizard ( audio sample ? / I ) is based on a simple sequence of dominant , subdominant and tonic . Exiles on Larks' Tongues in Aspic ( audio sample ? / I ) brings broken triads of the piano over the chord progression C major - B minor - A minor - D major - C major - D major. The ballad Moonchild puts the minor seventh chord in the foreground. The introduction to the title Vrooom on the album Thrak ( audio sample ? / I ), on the other hand, shows a more complicated harmony with layering of thirds based on Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel .Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

Beginning of the title Vrooom

Fripp and his colleagues pay special attention to working with rather dissonant intervals, such as large seconds or even diminished fifths and small seconds.

Diminished fifths in Pictures Of A City including 42nd At Treadmill

The title Pictures of a City including 42nd At Treadmill from the second album features a fast guitar riff in diminished fifths or excessive fourths ( audio sample ? / I ) (G - C sharp, F sharp - C, G - C sharp, B - E, C - F sharp , the sixth B - G, G - C sharp). In another part of the song, guitars and saxophones play a dotted figure in minor thirds ( audio sample ? / I ). In the following section ( audio sample ? / I ) the dissonant effect with small secondary frictions is extremely pronounced.Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

Little Seconds in Pictures Of A City including 42nd At Treadmill

In the first bar, the D of the guitar meets the C sharp on the saxophone, in the second the B meets the C, and finally in the fourth bar F, F sharp and G sharp sound simultaneously. In these and other tracks, such as the live version of Groon , the band's music is already entering the realm of free atonality . In interviews, Fripp emphasizes the importance of knowledge and mastery in rock music of rather unusual scales, which is also implemented in the music of the band. Fripp: “The possibilities for extending musical vocabulary are quite immense. Since it takes three or four years to be able to work within any one scale fluently and utterly, there is more than enough work for a lifetime. ” (The possibilities to expand the musical vocabulary are huge. Since it takes three or four years Until one is able to work fluently and flawlessly with a scale, there is more than enough work to last a lifetime.) For example, the title Fracture ( audio sample ? / i ) on the LP Starless and Bible Black is based on the whole- tone scale erected above the C sharp note . Audio file / audio sample

Dynamic spectrum

The band has a wide dynamic range of expression that is otherwise rather rare in rock music. In extremely quiet and sparingly orchestrated songs and song parts, such as Islands , Trio , Book of Saturday and parts of Lizard , an almost chamber music-like intimate effect is achieved. The title Lady of the Dancing Water from the album Lizard ( audio sample ? / I ) is limited to acoustic guitar, e-piano and vocals, over which impressionistic flute figures are placed. Audio file / audio sample

Flute melody and chords from Lady of the dancing water

In Iceland , subtle piano chords as well as cello and soft cornet tones are used. The title Trio ( audio sample ? / I ) is limited to long sustained notes of mellotron , violin and bass. In contrast to this are titles like 21st Century Schizoid Man , Fracture and the second part of Starless . They are characterized by hard guitar riffs, distorted guitar solos, powerful drum sounds and sometimes exuberant vocals. Sometimes the songs go in the direction of the “sound eruptions” of the Mahavishnu Orchestra or the feedback-influenced tracks of The Velvet Underground . These two dynamic extremes can merge into one another in the sense of a crescendo and decrescendo or face each other abruptly.Audio file / audio sample

Guitar riff and vocals from King Crimson's Easy Money

In the title Starless ( audio sample ? / I ), a calm and melodic part is replaced by a more dissonant part. A note is repeated again and again, almost monotonously. Drums and bass as well as a guitar riff reminiscent of Black Sabbath increase the volume level, until finally a hectic saxophone solo leads to a more calm recapitulation of the beginning. In the title Easy Money from the LP Larks' Tongues in Aspic ( audio sample ? / I ), on the other hand, the change in dynamics is abrupt. After hard electric guitar riffs, there is a sudden cut, a few soft cymbal beats lead to vocals, which are only accompanied by a few notes plucked on an undistorted jazz guitar. Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

Rhythmic expeditions

In the 1980s and 1990s in particular, Fripp and his colleagues dealt intensively in their titles with the superposition of different meters and rhythms ( polymetrics and polyrhythmics). This is often achieved by Fripp and Belew putting different patterns against each other , sometimes reminiscent of minimal music and gamelan music. For example, in the title Neal and Jack and Me from the album Beat ( audio sample ? / I ), one guitar plays alternating eighth- note figures in groups of five and eight, while the second guitar sets groups of three against it, which leads to a continuous shift in the notes that come together .Audio file / audio sample

Guitar pattern from King Crimson's Frame by Frame

According to the same principle, in the title frame by frame on the LP Discipline ( audio sample ? / I ), six and seven eighth notes in one guitar change to seven eighth notes in the other, which leads to imperceptible, almost "wrongly played" shifts in the listening result. Changing time signatures during the song are, as with other bands of progressive rock, also common. The title Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part 2 ( audio sample ? / I ) often changes between four-quarter and five-quarter time . Bill Bruford's complex playing, often enriched by electronic drums and non-European percussion instruments, reinforces the impression of rhythmic complexity.Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

pattern from King Crimson's Larks tongues in aspic part 2

Sound experiments and electronics

From the beginning, Fripp and his colleagues have been concerned with sound experiments and the research and expansion of the tonal possibilities of their respective instruments. Thus, already on the first album In the Court of the Crimson King sound collages as for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the Beatles were often used to hear. In the final part of In the Court of the Crimson King even a chest organ sounds . After two and a half minutes, the title Moonchild turns into an improvised psychedelic sound painting. Something similar can be found in the title The Devil's Triangle . Sinfield worked in the early 1970s with a VCS3 - Synthesizer . In Lizard , a guitar is played backwards. Together with Brian Eno , Fripp then developed a method known as Frippertronics for generating sound in 1972 , by means of which Steve Reich's tape experiments were modified. Two tape recorders ( Revox A77) are used to generate Frippertronics : The first device records the input signal from the guitar. The tape then passes through the second device, from where the signal is played back and mixed with the input signal in the first tape device. The originally generated tone is repeated ("looped") and supplemented by the new tone of the instrument. A good example of the Frippertronics is the beginning of the title Requiem from the album Beat .

From 1981, Fripp replaced the mechanical loop technology of Frippertronics with the use of guitar synthesizers and named the sounds generated in this way based on Murray Schafer Soundscapes . Bill Bruford expanded his drums early to include various sound generators from all over the world as well as electronic drums. Tony Levin and Trey Gunn use the so-called Chapman Stick . Gunn also plays Warr Guitar . Levin also occasionally plays his bass with the help of drumsticks ( funky fingers ).


Peter Sinfield wrote the lyrics for the first four albums . In colorful, imagery, sometimes overloaded language, a mystical, dream-like and melancholy image of bygone times with kings , bishops , knights , court jesters and prophets is conjured up. Nature ( moon , sun , wind , trees and maritime motifs such as waves, islands and seagulls ) is used in the romantic style of the 19th century to represent one's own soul life. In the title Islands, an island becomes an image of human isolation. Figures from Greek mythology such as Poseidon , Odysseus and Circe , and literary figures (Polonius from Shakespeare's Hamlet ) as well as historically real people ( Plato ) appear. Other texts deal with the present, such as 21st Century Schizoid Man , which speaks to society's destructiveness and longing for death. In Pictures of a City the cold and anonymity of the city is in Cat Food and Circus focuses on the sensationalism and consumer mentality. Some titles like Happy Family (with reference to the Beatles) and Ladies of the Road are characterized by sarcastic humor. The title Starless and Bible Black is a quote from Dylan Thomas ' radio play Under Milk Wood (mentioned on the back of the album with "Acknowledgment to DT").

Richard Palmer-James was responsible for the lyrics of the next three albums . His lyrics are less mystical and fantastic than Sinfields. It is more influenced by European existentialism . The lyrics are about personal relationships, like in Book of Saturday or Starless . Palmer-James on Book of Saturday : “It's a kind of a love song. There's something in it like looking over the book, in which you insert pictures, fragments of your writings, shopping lists, memories, tickets. “ Fallen Angel paints a picture of the violence of the big city, while Lament describes the different sides of life as a rock star . Palmer-James to Lament : "Lament is a rather melancholy reflection on everything connected with the things happening when you appear on the stage and entertain the audience with your music." Palmer interprets Easy Money with the following words: "It's a more general thing, about all these people who are guided by the lowest motives in their lives. ” The title The Night Watch , which is about Rembrandt and his painting Die Nachtwache , transports the listener back into the past. The atmosphere of the title Exiles , in Palmer's own words, is influenced by the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by the Irish writer James Joyce .

After the band reunited in the early 80s, singer and band guitarist Adrian Belew wrote the lyrics for King Crimson. The uncertainty and danger of modern life is now an essential element. Titles like ProZaKc Blues , Neurotica or Cage describe the neuroses and depressions of today's mass society. Communication and relationships that are disturbed or have become pointless are the subject of Three of a perfect pair or Elephant talk ( "Talk, talk, talk, it's only talk. Comments, cliches, commentary, controversy ... it's only talk, cheap talk" from Elephant talk ) . Violence is the theme of Thela Hun Ginjeet (an anagram for "Heat in the jungle") and Cage . In the title the construkction of light sounds nihilism of ( "And if god is dead what am I, a speck of dirt on the wing of a fly ...") . The album Beat is influenced by the writings of the Beat Generation : the song Neal and Jack and Me refers to the writer Jack Kerouac and his friend Neal Cassady . Sartori in Tangier refers to Kerouac's story Satori in Paris . The Howler probably alludes to Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl . The title The Sheltering Sky of the previous album Discipline is motivated by Paul Bowles ' novel of the same name.

Cover art

The covers of the first three studio albums and of the compilation The Young Persons' Guide to King Crimson are extremely colorful and imaginative. The expressionistic -looking cover of the first album comes from the artist and computer programmer Barry Godber, who died in 1970. The cover of Lizard is by Gini Barris. Individual song titles are inserted into the letters, decorated in the style of medieval book illumination . The back of the cover illustrates the text of the title song and the front that of the remaining titles. The cover of The Young Persons' Guide To King Crimson , reminiscent of the Beatles film Yellow Submarine , consists of the two images The Landscape Player and Earth by the Scottish artist Fergus Hall.

The covers of the studio albums from the 80s are monochrome and contain the band name and the album title and a symbol. On the album Discipline, two knotted lines by Steve Ball are shown as a symbol (this symbol is also used as a modified symbol on the DGM start page), on the album Beat a pixelated note is shown as a symbol, on the album Three of a Perfect Pair Utilizes an abstract symbol by Peter Willis depicting a male sun deity on top and a female moon deity on the bottom - a convergence of opposition and reconciliation, of male and female principles - and a continuation of Larks' Tongues in Aspic.

More recently, the covers have been adorned with striking paintings by the English painter PJ Crook.


The band's music has generally been well received by buyers and even more so by critics. The record sales were quite substantial given the band's willingness to experiment. Her debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, reached number 5 in the UK LP charts and number 28 in the USA. Islands ranked 30th in the UK and 76th in the US. The 1974 album Larks' Tongues in Aspic peaked at number 20 in the UK.

King Crimson's music of the 1970s received mostly good reviews because of its innovative nature and musical diversity. Melody Maker classified them as a pioneering band in 1969: “This eagerly-awaited first album is no disappointment, and confirms their reputation as one of the most important new groups for some time.” They resemble “… because of their fragile group- The consistency of a wheel of fire: bright and flaming, but short-lived and held together only by centrifugal force. " The Rolling Stone said, King Crimson " ... combined various musical forms of expression into surrealistic works full of power and originality. " The rock lexicon by Schmidt-Joos / Graves praised: “The Fripp-Combo's profound understanding of music was evident in the flawless realization of complicated game templates with bold leaps in style, sophisticated sound ramifications, effectively dosed sound tricks that went far beyond the experimental framework in which the Moody Blues or Pink Floyd moved . " However, the tendency of the band to " ... artistic complacency, which is idle too ethereal instrumental passages exhausted or brilliant ideas devalued by frequent repetition ” , criticized. The All Music Guide emphasized that the band did not conform to the mainstream: “… 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. " The Crawdaddy praised the amalgamation of different musical styles, which " ... refined in the course of the LP productions from Wagnerian abundance to Haydnian delicacy. "

The group's works from the 1980s onwards were received differently. The Melody Maker described the reform of the group as "painless rebirth, which has several moments of greatness". Village Voice magazine saw it as the “comeback of a guitar freak's dream band” . The New York Times was looking forward to "... a band that could make the art rock genre interesting" . Other voices saw the repetition of old patterns and hyper-intellectual gimmicks. The New Musical Express criticized the occasionally eccentric collages of minimal music, African polyrhythms and typical King Crimson swell sounds as "... uninspired and annoying licks".

The albums of the 90s were again mainly - but not unanimously - positive reception. Rolling Stone said of the 1994 album Thrak : "The sheer physicality of its sound is impressive" , and Mojo magazine wrote: "Thrak is a powerful and inspired comeback." THRaKaTTak was rated by Q magazine as "... barely audible" , while Ulrich Bassenge saw it as “extremely exciting research on the topics of loops , samples , Chapman sticks, guitarists playing drums and midi guitars” . About the construction of light in 2000, the Musikexpress said : “Weird stuff? Only apparently. All of this is beyond understanding, but this side of feeling ”. On the occasion of a concert in May 2000, the Berliner Morgenpost applauded the band's innovative spirit with the following words: “Nostalgia kills, is the motto, and that's why there are hardly any older compositions, and if so, then they are chopped up and torn up and torn apart beyond recognition. This is heavy metal art rock with a wink and artistic dimensions. "


This listing only contains the studio albums. For a detailed discography and chart positions see


  • Eric Tamm: Robert Fripp. From King Crimson to Guitar Craft . Faber and Faber, Winchester 1990.
  • Sid Smith: In the Court of King Crimson . Helter Skelter Publishing, London 2001, ISBN 1-900924-26-9 .
  • Bill Bruford: When In Doubt, Roll! Modern Drummer Publications, Cedar Grove 1988, ISBN 0-7935-3529-8 .
  • Tony Levin: Crimson Chronicles. Vol. 1. The '80's. Levin, Woodstock 2004, ISBN 0-9668137-1-5 .
  • Allan F. Moore: Rock. The Primary Text. Developing a musicology of rock. Buckingham Phil 1993, ISBN 0-335-09787-1 .
  • Edward L. Macan: Rocking the Classics, English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. Oxford University Press, New York / Oxford 1997, ISBN 0-19-509888-9 (Analyzes progressive rock according to classical music theory and sociology).
  • Frank Samagaio: The Mellotron Book. ProMusic, Vallejo 2002. ISBN 1-931140-14-6 .
  • Carlos Romeo: King Crimson . Catedra, Madrid 1999. ISBN 84-376-1714-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "King Crimson's first album, In the Court of the Crimson King (released 1969), had an especially powerful impact on the nascent progressive rock movement, and just may be the most influential progressive rock album ever released. Unlike the first releases of Yes, Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, and Jethro Tull, which do not represent a fully matured musical vision, this album display every major element of the mature progressive rock genre. " ; from Edward Macan: Rocking the Classics - English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture , page 23
  2. ^ King Crimson and Frederick II: The Metaphysical Record .
  4. Information about the concert ( Memento of the original from February 17, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on DGM Live! @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ Robert Fripp: Robert Fripp's Diary for Sunday, December 5th, 2010. (No longer available online.) December 5, 2010, archived from the original on September 27, 2013 ; Retrieved September 24, 2013 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. ^ Sid Smith, New King Crimson Line-Up Confirmed. September 24, 2013, accessed September 24, 2013 .
  7. Examples of drum use
  8. Meaning of the symbol Three of a Perfect Pair . Elephant Talk website. Retrieved December 22, 2012.

Web links

Commons : King Crimson  - collection of images, videos and audio files
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on March 7, 2006 in this version .