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: