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King Crimson Biography




King Crimson

  • King Crimson - Schizoid Man Posters - Part of Sale Clearance (Sept.11)

  • King Crimson - 1968 - 1973

  • King Crimson: Vocal and instrumental group.

  • Original personnel (1969): Greg Lake, born Bournemouth, England, 1948; Michael Giles, born Bournemouth, England, 1942; Ian MacDonald, born England, 1946; Robert Fripp, born England, circa 1946; Peter Sinfield, born England. Band make-up in 1973: Fripp; David Cross, born Plymouth, England, late 1940s; John Wetton, born Derby, England, circa 1950; Bill Bruford, born England, May 17, circa 1950.

  • The sound of King Crimson has mainly been one of hard rock or, as one critic called the style, "organized anarchy."

    Robert Fripp

  • Most of the original members of King Crimson grew up in Bournemouth and started playing professionally in their teens. By the time lead guitarist Robert Fripp and drummer Michael Giles got together in 1968 to begin assembling what was to be King Crimson , they had more than 18 years’ total experience to their credit. Michael Giles, the oldest of the group, started playing drums in 1954 and began performing with local groups soon after. He started with jazz and skiffle bands, shifting to rock in the '60s. Among the people he performed with were Zoot Money, Roy Phillips and John Rostill.

    King Crimson - Heavy ConstruKction

  • During the ‘60s Michael Giles played with a great many groups in England and on the Continent. He earned much of his income by also working as a studio musician. In the fall of 1967 he settled in London, where he backed some of the top artists in English pop music during recording sessions. His close associate in London was Robert Fripp, who had started playing guitar at 14. It remained a side line as Fripp first left school to work in real estate at 16, then picked up his education again as an economics major in college. To defray college costs, he worked with a resident hotel band in Bournemouth when he was 18 and remained with the band for three years. At the end of that period he decided to leave Bournemouth for London and a full-time career in music. Soon after reaching London, he became involved in several projects with Giles, including an LP that flopped and a TV show called Color Me Pop. An important influence on Fripp’s approach to music was his long-time interest in recordings of such composers as Debussy, Ravel and Bartok.

  • One of the first things Robert Fripp did when he and Giles decided to form their new band in late 1968 was to go to Bournemouth to seek the cooperation of Greg Lake. Greg Lake was a promising lead vocalist and a skilled guitarist, having started playing when he was 12. He began working with local groups soon after. His first engagement found him performing in a bingo haIl between sessions. The band was "paid" by the receipts from a collection plate passed among the audience. He left school at 15 to become a draftsman, continuing his music in his spare time. At 17, he gave up office work in favor of music and played with such groups as the Shame and the Gods. With the latter band, he switched to playing bass guitar.

  • After Greg Lake agreed to join, Fripp and Giles sought a songwriting team and came up with Peter Sinfield, lyricist, and Ian MacDonald, composer. Ian MacDonald also had the advantage of considerable musical skill, including ability in singing and in playing various wind instruments, vibraphone, guitar, piano and mellotron. MacDonald had begun taking an active interest in music at seven, when he was attracted to recordings of Louis Belson, Les Paul and Earl Bostic. Later he also was influenced by such classical figures as Stravinsky and Richard Strauss. He started playing guitar at 11 and joined his first group at 13. At 16, after being asked to leave school, he enlisted in the Army as a bandsman. He served a five-year hitch, during which time he studied music theory, harmony and orchestration and learned to play many new instruments. His band experience ranged from classical orchestra to dance bands to leading a rock group in Gibraltar.

  • In 1967 he received his discharge and moved to London to try to break into the pop field. He met Peter Sinfield there, and the two agreed to collaborate on songs. Peter Sinfield had been doing well as a computer chief operator after finishing school, but found the business routine too tame. He left to found a group called Infinity, a band he later recalled as "the worst group in the world." The guitarist for Infinity was Ian MacDonald, and when the group broke up, Sinfield and MacDonald remained a writing team. After they became members of King Crimson, Sinfield not only provided all the lyrics to the group's early songs, but also worked up a dazzling light show for the stage performances.

  • The group won relatively quick acceptance after it started club engagements in 1969. It was signed by Island Records and its debut LP, In the Court of the Crimson King, An Observation by King Crimson, was one of the best sellers of the year in England. Introduced into the U.S. late in 1969 by Atlantic Records, it was on the charts well into 1970. The group’s second LP, < i>In the Wake of Poseidon, was issued in the fall of 1970 and was a chart hit at home and in the U.S. The third King Crimson album, Lizard, came out at the start of 1971 and also was on the charts, but did not meet with nearly as much consumer enthusiasm as the earlier efforts. In 1972 King Crimson made the charts with the album Islands.

  • Many observers forecast great things for the band, if it remained together. The band was well received in tours in England and Europe and was featured on a number of top TV shows at home and abroad. However, by the start of the ‘70s, internal strains among the members were starting to surface, which led to many changes in band members in those years. Greg Lake, for instance, left in 1970 to become part of Emerson, Lake And Palmer. By the end of 1972 only Robert Fripp of the original group remained. The band's lineup in 1973 consisted of Fripp (guitar and mellotron), David Cross (violin, flute, mellotron), John Wetton (bass guitar, viola, vocals), and Bill Bruford (drums).

  • David Cross had started playing violin at school in Plymouth and extended his musical studies at teachers training college in Exeter. "I'd been playing in a semi-pro rock band in the area as well as various orchestras and I took up the flute at college because music students had to study two instruments, and I could never ‘feel’ the piano." In his final year in college he joined a three-member folk-rock band called the Ring. "In 1970 we came to London and got our own gigs for 10 pounds a night. It broke up, so I got a lead guitarist and formed another band that played around Middlesborough." After several other jobs as sideman or band leader, he joined King Crimson. "I started jamming with Robert. It is a long story, but revolves around the fact that our previous bands had been rehearsing in close proximity."

  • John Wetton , originally from Derby, didn’t turn to music until his family moved to Bournemouth in 1961. He joined his first group at 12 in 1962 and played with several local bands during school years. While attending Bournemouth College, he became acquainted with Fripp, though he didn’t work with him after leaving the school. For some years he toured throughout England and the Continent with different soul bands and organ trios, then performed with the rock band Mogul Thrash. After that group disbanded, he spent some time in southern California, then retuned to England to perform with Family before joining King Crimson.

  • "I got into Crimson," he recalled, "after Robert and I bumped into each other in Wimbourne one afternoon - our paths have crossed roughly every six months for the past four years. This time we chatted and made some tentative plans for the future and the time for them turned out to be right this September [1972].

  • "I’m naturally left-handed, but I play right-handed. Robert’s the same and I always felt it was the natural way anyway, because it’s the left hand that moves around a lot. I play very hard - in fact, I break a lot of strings, which is quite rare with other bass guitarists. And there’s a flicking technique I use that just came naturally to me."

  • Joining the band in 1973 was Bill Bruford, considered one of the best rock drummers of the early 1970s. His move to King Crimson left a gap for a time in his previous group, Yes, one of the best new English bands of the early ‘70s.

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