This March 1970 Top of the Pops performance by King Crimson circa their In the Wake of Poseidon album was long thought to have been wiped by the BBC, but now some 45 years later, it’s turned up in black & white, taken from a Swiss-German TV series that often used TOTP clips called Hits a Go-Go.
Doing a lip-sync to their “Cat Food” single, this is the sole known footage of Greg Lake, Keith Tippett, Michael Giles, Robert Fripp and (a sharply dressed) Peter Giles together onstage.
To say that this is a King Crimson fan’s “holy grail” is a bit of an understatement, I should think!
Lordy lord, do I love footage from the old Beat Club program from Germany in the early 1970s. (The show later turned into Musikladen). Last week we brought you some smokin’ hard rock jams including MC5, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls that originally appeared on Beat Club. This week we move onto prog—and the results are nearly as sublime.
This compilation is known as Frontiers of Progressive Rock (and was originally released on a Laserdisc), features five excellent prog bands in their prime, just fucking shit up. Yes, Soft Machine, the Nice, King Crimson, and the biggest seller of them all, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are each represented with an early gem, and all of them just go to town. My favorite moment comes when Keith Emerson, dressed in glittery blue and green, hurls himself over his second organ and then rocks it back and forth from behind before playing a few notes from the “wrong” side.
I also really love how much of a premium Beat Club placed on ridiculous video effects. The ELP number has oscilloscope readings projected onto the back wall, whereas the entire Soft Machine number is enring’d in an orange halo on the screen. Meanwhile, during the Yes song a kaleidoscope effect is used wherein the center of the image is “reflected” around itself—you have to see it to get it. For some reason the Yes track incorporates a large revolving head suspended over an old-fashioned chair of some sort…. anyway, I love the intensity with which the bands play their songs, I love the varied instrumentation (violin, saxophone, etc.), and I love the acid-freakout visuals. If you’ve got nothing else going on, I recommend turning this on and finding a pharmaceutical or two to help you enjoy the day.
As there is precious little live footage of the pre-80s incarnations of King Crimson—Beat Club, the poor quality fragment from Hyde Park in 1969 and the Central Park 1974 clip, not much—this extended 29-minute set from France’s Melody television show is a treasure (even with all of those goofy video effects, in fact, I think they enhance it nicely).
The line-up is Bill Bruford, John Wetton, David Cross and Robert Fripp.
1 - Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part II
2 - The Night Watch
3 - Lament
4 - Starless
Larks’ Tongues here is frighteningly good.
The quality is great, but it’s even better on the deluxe 40th Anniversary Series edition of Red that came out in 2009. That release, with Steve Wilson’s insane 5.1 surround mix of the album (done with Robert Fripp’s participation), sounds like a jet plane lifting off inside your living room skull. Red happens to be one of the heaviest rock albums of all time. Crank it up loud enough and the sonic power of that album can blow you away like a feather in the wind. Most King Crimson albums I find to be a bit spotty (some of them are really spotty, in fact) but when they lock into a serious groove, like on Red’s unfuckingbelievable title cut, well it’s awe-inspiring.
If you haven’t heard the Steve Wilson 5.1 surround treatment of the classic King Crimson albums and you’ve got a 5.1 set up for TV and gaming, they are simply superb. I recommend starting with the first King Crimson album, In the Court of the Crimson King, because it’s a great—indeed the perfect—place to start anyway, plus Wilson did such a crazy good job with it. Ditto with Lizard. Hell, I never even liked that album, but in Wilson’s mix the “rock band as symphony” aspect of the work is teased out nicely and envelops you like you’re standing inside of a large (and especially complex) audio equivalent of an Alexander Calder mobile.
Contemplative 1985 BBC doc about Robert Fripp, who gives the cameras a real glimpse into his life in Wimborne—we even get to meet his mother—his career as a constantly traveling musician and his reasons for leaving King Crimson (and his worldly possessions) behind in the mid-1970s to study the work of philosopher JG Bennett.
Fripp also discusses working with David Bowie, living in NYC and having brunch with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. Musically, he’s seen playing with Andy Summers and doing a solo Frippertronics piece.
Wonders never cease. Here’s longtime Tonight Show (Johnny Carson era, natch) bandleader and frequent co-host Doc Severinsen stretching out on a fine rendition of the timeless prog classic In The Court of the Crimson King from his long-lost and never reissued 1970 LP Doc Severinsen’s Closet.
Felted portrait of King Crimson circa 1972 by Wasawasawa
There’s not really all that much by way of film or video footage of the pre-80s incarnations of King Crimson. As in nearly none. Thankfully what does exist tends to be fantastic. Here’s an intense run-through of “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” on Germany’s Beat Club TV show in 1972, with Robert Fripp, David Cross, John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Jamie Muir.
And speaking of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, at the end of October, the album will be re-released as a “40th Anniversary Box Set,” a mammoth package with 13 CDs (including studio sessions and the first take of each song as it was laid down in the studio and 8 CDs of live audio, restored bootlegs and soundboard recordings), 1 DVD-A of Steve Wilson’s new 5.1 multichannel mix of the album, 1 Blu-Ray disc and more than 30 minutes of footage of the band in the studio, all contained in 12” box with booklet and other memorabilia and with a limited production run of just 7,000 units worldwide.
The album will also come out as a CD/DVD-A combo package with a new stereo mix and the 5.1 new surround mix, alt mixes by WIlson and the video footage; and as a more modest- priced two CD set.
In 1977, King Crimson founder Robert Fripp—who left the world of music in 1974 when he dissolved the group—moved to NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen (later the Bowery) and immersed himself in the city’s punk and “new wave” music scene. Inspired by New York’s frantic energy and wanting to combine the new sounds he was hearing with “Frippertronics,” the droning tape loop system he had developed with Eno, the final product was his solo record, Exposure.
The ambitious Exposure is one of the ultimate art-rock documents of late 70s New York, a classic album that sadly seems to have fallen through the cracks for many music fans. It’s a brilliant and underrated missing link between what was to become King Crimson’s next incarnation, the “Berlin trilogy” of David Bowie and Brian Eno (and indeed Fripp and Eno’s own collaborations), Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and believe it or not, Hall and Oates!
That’s right Exposure was meant to be seen as the third part of a loose trilogy that included Daryl Hall’s Sacred Songs and Peter Gabriel’s second album (both produced by Fripp). Daryl Hall’s management threw a wrench in the works, concerned that Hall’s decidedly more esoteric solo material might confuse his fan-base expecting catchy, “blue-eyed soul” AM radio-friendly pop tunes and that this would harm his commercial appeal. Additionally, they insisted that Fripp’s own Exposure album be credited as a Fripp/Hall collaboration. As a result, Fripp used just two of Hall’s performances on the album, recording new vocals by Terre Roche and Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill.
Sacred Songs didn’t come out until 1980 and sold respectably well. Both albums include the snarling buzz-saw rave-up, “You Burn Me Up I’m a Cigarette.”:
The first voice you hear in the “Preface” is Eno’s and the voice before the phone starts ringing is Peter Gabriel’s. The vocal however, is obviously Daryl Hall, but not as we’re used to hearing him. Fripp later described Hall as the best singer he’d ever worked with and compared his musical creativity to David Bowie’s. High praise indeed.
Another highlight on Exposure is Peter Gabriel’s amazing performance of his “Here Comes the Flood,” perhaps the best version of the many he has recorded: Gabriel disliked the orchestral arrangements for the song on his first album, considering it over-produced. He did a different version on Kate Bush’s Christmas TV special in 1979 and still another on on his Shaking the Tree greatest hits collection. The rendition heard on Exposure is sparse, haunting and moving. I think it’s one of his single greatest vocal performances. Eno, Fripp and Gabriel are the only musicians on this track:
In 1985, a remixed “definitive edition” of Exposure was released and finally, in 2006, a remastered 2 CD set came out on Fripp’s own label with the original 1979 album and a second disc containing yet a third version of Exposure with bonus tracks including the Daryl Hall vocals as originally intended.
Below, a promotional video for Exposure. Not a lot happens here, but in the context of 1979, this would have seemed absolutely futuristic. I’m assuming that this was shot by Amos Poe (director of Glenn O’Brien’s cable access show TV Party) or else Blondie’s Chris Stein:
After the jump, Robert Fripp being interviewed Wayne’s World-style on NY cable access in 1979.
Courtesy of Dangerous Minds reader “Tiny Penguins” who left this in the comments, some utterly fucking phenomenal footage of King Crimson from 1974 (and in stunning quality, too).
The line up here is Robert Fripp, John Wetton, David Cross, and Bill Brufford. Setlist: “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Pt II,” “The Night Watch,” “Lament” and “Starless.” If you’re a Crimson fan, and you’ve not seen this before, then Christmas just came early this year.
There is precious little film and video footage of the various incarnations of King Crimson prior to the 1980s, so we have to take what we can get… in this case an interview with a French translator all over it from the Pop Deux television program from May 1973.
Over the weekend, I picked up a copy of the 5:1 surround mix of King Crimson’s classic 1974 album, Red, but I didn’t have a chance to listen to it properly until this afternoon. And when I say properly, I mean loudly, as Red happens to be one of the heaviest rock albums of all time. Crank it up loud enough—as I did today—and it feels like a jumbo jet is taking off inside your skull. The sonic power of that album can blow you away like a feather in the wind at top volume. Most King Crimson albums I find to be a bit spotty (some of them are really spotty, in fact) but when they lock into a serious groove, like on Red’s title cut, it’s an awe inspiring thing to listen to.
This new surround version, mixed from the original multi-source mixdown tapes by Porcupine Tree’s Steve WIlson (with Robert Fripp’s participation) tends to put the listener in the middle of the mix, that is to say, it sounds like you are standing in the room as they are playing. I find that this approach worked great on Wilson’s redo of In the Court of the Crimson King in 5:1, but with Red, the violent onslaught of Fripp’s buzzsaw guitar riffs sounds emasculated somewhat (when compared to the familiar stereo version) unless the album is played at an almost ear-splitting volume. Me, I’m happy to oblige. Listen to it as loud as fuck and it sounds wonderful. I suppose that was the point. Who’s going slap on Red to listen at a background volume anyway?
There’s not much by way of film footage of pre-80s incarnation of King Crimson. As in nearly none. I did find two amazing clips, though. First an intense run-through of Lark’s Tongue in Aspic on what appears to be Germany’s Beat Club show.
Below, a 1973 performance in New York’s Central Park of Easy Money: