50 years of King Crimson! An anniversary that demands respect: because the unique project around mastermind Robert Fripp has reinvented itself again and again since its foundation - without regard to musical trends or the sensitivities of individual members. And also the expectations of their fans have been undermined more than once. Together with current band members and a former actor we will try to grasp the phenomenon King Crimson in the following.
Connoisseurs of King Crimson usually divide the band's long career into different phases. In fact, there are only a few other rock acts where historical markers are as appropriate as with the formation led by Robert Fripp. The only constant member has repeatedly ordered the company to make radical changes in course and personnel. The result: Sound and character of the band changed decisively every time. At the beginning of the seventies, personnel restructuring still took place more or less involuntarily. At some point, however, these were due to artistic necessities. So Fripp wanted to keep his product fresh and open for new ideas.
King Crimson emerged in 1969 from the trio Giles, Giles & Fripp. Guitarist Robert Fripp and drummer Michael Giles brought bass player/singer Greg Lake and flutist/keyboarder Ian McDonald to their side. Together they recorded the groundbreaking debut album "In The Court Of The Crimson King". Fripps most important creative partner, however, was Peter Sinfield. The 25-year-old wrote the lyrics to the unusual music and was responsible for the lightshow of the concerts. Fripp and Sinfield were the bandleaders (and consequently they earned the biggest part of the fee). Their partnership lasted for four albums, then Fripp saw the creative construct as exhausted and put Sinfield, who, to Fripp's regret, had also taken over the artwork in the meantime, outside the door.
But already in the years before there had been quarrels in the group. None of the first four LPs were recorded in the same line-up. Nevertheless, they are considered classics of early progressive rock today. At the end of the common journey of Fripp and Sinfiled stood 1971 "Islands". Not only Sinfield, but also Mel Collins, the new man at the wind instruments, pushed himself into the foreground here. Supported by his band colleagues, Collins wanted to orientate the Crimson sound more towards the spiritual funk jazz of Miles Davis, as can be heard on "Islands". Fripp, on the other hand, had an eccentric, complex heavy sound in mind, which he wanted to realize with the eternal work in progress "Larks' Tongues In Aspic". When he realized that he could not realize this vision with these fellow musicians, he dissolved the existing line-up without further ado and searched for new people. "I wanted them to bring in their own ideas and songs," says Fripp, who is mistaken for a dictator, "but if something doesn't have the Crimson gene, it's not good for Crimson."
With Yes drummer Bill Bruford, family bassist John Wetton, anarchic percussionist Jamie Muir and violinist David Cross, Fripp broke new ground and led the band into its second phase (after the first had ended just a few weeks earlier). Especially Muir fit in perfectly. The Scotsman offered a wild show on stage (with which he drove his fellow musicians mad and in exuberance almost killed Fripp once by mistake with an iron chain). But more importantly, he constantly demanded of Bruford: "I always had to reign over what he was doing anarchically on his cobbled set," said Bruford. "This was something completely new for me and has influenced my game significantly." But Muir left the band after an album and a few concerts to dedicate himself to meditation alone. A path as unusual as the musician himself.