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Never Found in the '80s: King Crimson

Published Aug. 29, 2014

At last, we come to the final installment of King Crimson connections week by connecting to the band itself.

The more I look into this band, with Douglas Arthur's tutelage, the more flabbergasted I get by the sheer number and the quality of musicians involved over the years and the musical acts that have, in some way, been connected to King Crimson.

This band was formed in London by Robert Fripp, Michael Giles, Greg Lake, Ian McDonald, and Peter Sinfield in late 1968. At that time, King Crimson was one of the originators of what came to be known as prog rock. Eschewing the blues, the most common root of rock music, King Crimson grounded their sound with classical music elements. Pete Townshend of The Who was so impressed he proclaimed the first album, "an uncanny masterpiece."

But that was just the beginning. Over the next five decades, as their line-up changed, so did the kinds of music they made. They explored jazz, classical, folk, new wave, heavy metal, electronica, and more. That's why it's a so difficult to pin these guys down as to what kind of band they are. Eclectic is probably the most fitting word.

In 1981, after a 7-year hiatus, Robert decided to form a new band he was going to call Discipline. He brought back drummer Bill Bruford, who had famously left the more commercially successful band Yes to join King Crimson in 1973; bassist and Chapman Stick player Tony Levin, who'd worked with Fripp on Peter Gabriel's second album; and guitarist Adrian Belew, who was touring with Talking Heads and in the middle of being offered up as a replacement for David Byrne. After playing together for a few weeks it was decided that this band was really a new King Crimson and their first album was called Discipline as a nod to its origins.

This lineup was the first in the band's history to stay intact for more than one album. Adrian was also the first singer for the band to write his own lyrics, and he brought a bit of his odd pop sensibilities to the proceedings. Critics at the time complained their sound too closely resembled that of David Byrne and Talking Heads, but failed to make the connection to the contributions Fripp and Belew had made to Fear Of Music and Remain In Light.

Despite the quality of their music and their influence on other, more popular acts, King Crimson was never found by the public at large in the 80s (or any of the other five decades, for that matter.) And I must confess, they were barely found by a young Dr. Dim.

I only found one song during our favorite decade and it is today's featured song. It's called Sleepless and it's from their 1984 release Three of a Perfect Pair. I dig this song so much; I'm baffled as to why I never got to know more by these guys.

As I've pointed out throughout this week, we could have profiled so many more acts. Here's a partial list that will hammer home how deep their influence went: Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Talking Heads; Roxy Music; U2; Gang of Four; Robyn Hitchcock and Venus 3; REM; Asia; Peter Gabriel; Mr. Mister; Daryl Hall; David Bowie; John Lennon; Nine Inch Nails; Yes; Bad Company; Foreigner; Paul Simon...

King Crimson is still plugging away. In fact, they will be kicking off a 17-date tour on September 9 in Albany, NY with a 7-member lineup that includes Fripp and Levin (from the '80s lineup), Pat Mastellotto (from Mr. Mister and the '90s-00s lineups), Bill Rieflin (from Ministry and REM), Gavin Harrison (from Porcupine Tree), Mel Collins (from the 1971 lineup), and Jakko Jakszyk (from Level 42).

And your bonus concert footage is their live performance of Three of a Perfect Pair from 1984.

- Jim "Dr. Dim" Fitzsimons and Douglas Arthur


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