In the late 1960’s brothers Michael and Peter Giles, the former a drummer, the latter a bass player, were looking to form a band the two put an advertisement out for a "singing organist" to which they would get a reply from a someone named Robert Fripp who was also a musician from Dorset like the brothers, however Fripp had never played the organ he was also not a singer but despite that the three formed a group and went by Giles, Giles and Fripp.
Giles, Giles and Fripp would release a solitary album in 1968 titled “The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles and Fripp” while the album was somewhat successful and the band even making a television appearance the trio wanted to expand their sound so they went about finding new members to join, they first recruited Ian McDonald as keyboard player as well as woodwinds and reeds, soon after McDonald’s then girlfriend Judy Dyble would join the band but she was not in the group for long leaving after herself and McDonald split and lastly joining the group as a lyricist. As the pieces were beginning to fall in place Fripp was wanting to change the bands sound growing sick of the more quaint pop songs Peter Giles was writing istead wanting to use classically inspired melodies and improvisation for ideas, fripp would recommend his friend Greg Lake who was a guitarist to join the band a replace himself or Peter Giles and according to Micheal Giles before his brother was officially replaced he had become disenchanted with the band and had left just before the suggestion of him being replaced came about.
Now the lineup was set; Robert Fripp on guitars, Greg Lake on bass and lead vocals, Ian Mcdonalds on woodwinds and keys, Micheal Giles on drums and percussion with Peter Sinfeild providing lyrics, King Crimson was officially born and after their first rehearsal on the 13th of January 1969 the band went about writing and recording their debut album.
On the 10th of October 1969 King Crimson would release “In The Court Of The Crimson King”, The album upon initial release was a huge commercial success reaching number five in The UK Album Charts and to number twenty eight on The US Billboard 200 Charts and became certified gold. Nowadays the album is considered one if not the most influential progressive rock albums of all time with jazz and blues influences paired with the long and winding mature style of songwriting and instrumentation used throughout its fair to say “In The Court Of The Crimson King” has become a timeless album as synonymous with the band as it is the progressive rock genre even finding its way into modern popular culture in a completely different genre when the classic track “21st Century Schizoid Man” was sampled by American rapper Kanye West in his song “Power”.
While “In The Court Of The Crimson King” was a success for the band, for some members the rising success became a huge problem, with Giles and McDonald worried that the musical direction of the band wouldn’t provide continued success and wanting to go down a more nuanced and lighter romantic sound whereas Fripp was pushing the abdn to a darker and more musically intense sound, so as the US tour came to a close Ian McDonald and Micheal Giles would leave King Crimson and the first line up would play their last show on the 16th of December 1969 in San Francisco just over a year after the band has formed.
Upon returning to the UK, singer and bass player Greg Lake also decided to leave the band forming the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) after this it left Fripp the only active musician in the band and a huge uncertainty for the future of King Crimson giving which is why this period of the bands history gets the ‘Interregnum’ name. Despite setbacks Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfeild would continue on and start writing the band's second album, Sinfeild would take on the role of operating synthesisers as well as lyricist for the recording of the album Fripp would hire Michael Giles as a session musician drummer as well as Mel Collins as a session musician to play saxophone and Greg Lake agreed to record vocals for the album.
With a makeshift band of sorts put together, recording for King Crimson's second album “In The Wake Of Poseidon” would start in the January of 1970, after four months of recording the album would be released on the 15th of May 1970 and got to number four in The UK Album Charts becoming the bands highest ever in the UK to date but once the dust had settled on the albums release and generally favourable reception Fripp and Sinfeild were still left without a band to take any of their new material on tour so the pair began looking for new members to permanently join King Crimson.
After asking around friends and featured musicians from “In The Wake Of Poseidon” they had a full band again comprised of; Robert Fripp on guitar, Peter Sinfeild providing lyrics, Mel Collins on saxophone, Gordon Haskell on bass and providing vocals and Andy McCulloch on drums, so it was time for the band to start writing their third album but that wasn’t quite the case. When writing for King Crimson's third studio album “Lizard” took place only Fripp and Sinfeild did any of the writing while the other three members had zero say in the process.
“Lizard” would release on the 10th of December 1970 the album had far heavier and prominent jazz influence than the bands previous two albums something that did not resonate well with members of the band especially Haskell and McCulloch who were rhythm and blues players by trade so very much struggled to relate to the musical material on top of this Fripp and Haskell hated the lyrics that Sinfeild was writing, all these extensions rising once again led to Haskal calling it a day with the band first with McCulloch following suit shortly after, this left Fripp in a state of giving up on King Crimson and with Sinfield not being a musician it left Collins to pick up the pieces and search for new members.
In 1971 the third line-up of King Crimson was formed. Fripp, Sinfeild and Collins had the same roles as before with the addition of Ian Wallace on drums and percussion and Raymond ‘Boz’ Burrell on bass and providing vocals and with another line up put together King Crimson went on tour for the first since 1969 the shows and concerts were well received among fans but band tension reared its ulgy head again with Fripp having different outlook musically and personally with his bandmates, with Collins, Wallace and Barrel all living rather eccentric and wild lifes while Fripp was drug free leading him to become socially distant from all of them.
But despite the somewhat fractured relationship between the band they would go on to record King Crimson’s fourth studio album “Islands”. The album did moderately well commercially in the UK but had a mixed reception from critics who sighted the songs to be the weakest that the band had ever produced with the band members feeling the same sentiment, Fripp still hating Sinfield’s lighter lyrics as well as other band members not liking some of the tracks that were more delicate, “Lizard” would get to number thirty in the UK and number seventy six in the US becoming the lowest overall performing King Crimson record which led to Fripp telling Sinfield he could no longer work with him and asked him to leave the band after a US tour in December 1971, following closely on from this incident the band would bitterly split up during a rehearsal in January 1972 due to Fripp having huge musical riffs with the rest of the band but they had to fulfil touring duties in the United States so they begrudgingly stayed together to complete the tour and once the tour had concluded Fripp split from the three other members still holding the opinion they wouldn't want to be of the musical direction he envisaged.
The next three years for Fripp and subsequently King Crimson were far more stable and fruitful as far as musical direction was considered as he recruited two musicians who specialised in a more free flowing jazz fusion sound, bassist and vocalist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford who, while Yes were at a career high commercially, left the band favouring the darker sound of King Crimson as well as percussionist Jamie Muir and keyboard player and violinist David Cross.
Now a set band all on the same page musically they went about recording a fifth studio album to be titled “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic” that would be released on the 23rd of March 1973 the album was a mix of jazz fusion with European free improvisation throughout with a lot of instrumental textures provided by percussion as well as the use of a single violin with other harder hitting portions of tracks being reminiscent of heavy metal. The album was well received critically and commercially and is considered one of King Crimson's best pieces of work.
King Crimson would tour with “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic” until late 1973 which upon completion Jamie Muir would depart from the band and quit the music industry all together, not to be thrown off by the departure, the four remaining members began work on their sixth studio album “Starless And Bible Black”, for this album the band would use majority live recordings from improvisational passages they would try out during shows and blending them with studio recordings, the album was another hit with each members role in the sound praised and the albums long instrumental improvisations very impressive with the variety of tones they provide.
After the release of “Starless And Bible Black” King Crimson’s sound had somewhat been perfected with Fripp perfectly placed Brudford and Wetton’s immensely loud and powerful sound but this left one problem Cross’s amplified acoustic violin was getting progressively more and more drowned out which led to his frustrations rising and becoming distant from the rest of the band and with the situation never getting any better a vote was cast for if Cross should stay in the band and he was voted out.
Now all that was left of King Crimson were the trio that began the new era in the first place they quickly got to work on the seventh studio album “Red” following many of the same recording tropes from their previous effort in using live improvisations from shows as tracks and adding studio parts where necessary, “Red” was also the heaviest outing for King Crimson the three band members making a dense prog rock wall of sound thanks to layering of instruments and with an incredibly tight chemistry when playing. “Red” was released on the 6th of October 1974 and is considered another of King Crimson’s greats like the other two records the trio of Fripp, Wetton and Bruford record together but it would be their third and final release together.
Around August time in 1974 two months before the release of “Red” Fripp was becoming progressively more disillusioned with the band and the music industry as a whole, the album was still released on time and they did tour it but on the 25th of September 1974 the band officially disbanded with Fripp stating King Crimson “ceased to exist” and was “completely over for ever and ever”.
From the end of King Crimson in 1974 till early 1980 Fripp was completely separated from music but in late 1980 he begun working with artists such as David Bowie, Daryl Hall and Peter Gabriel and had an urge to make a new project not under the King Crimson banner, Fripp was re acquainted with former drummer Bill Brudford and acquired singer and guitarist Adrian Belew and bassist Tony Levin they originally went by Discipline but by mid 1981 they King Crimson was back.
For the next twenty two years this line up would stay the same and record six albums with editions of members Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto by the late 1990’s, the albums would vary in sound and style as King Crimson always did, their output in the 80’s featuring a new wave sound with elements of post punk amidst the classic progressive rock flavour, the band had another breakup and hiatus but came back in 1995 with “THRAK” that was again praised for its innovation of two guitarists, two bass players and two drummers playing on the album and the double trio mixing they used for recording.
To put it simply King Crimson although having one of the rockiest histories in music history as far as a consistent line up is concerned have never failed but to create music that leaves jaws dropped, with continuous reinvention and pushing the boundaries of the progressive rock genre it is clear to see why still today everything they have done from their first release “In The Court Of The Crimson King” back in 1969 to their last release “The Power To Believe” in 2003, is considered some of the best of all time.
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