I first came across King Crimson aged 13 and last night finally saw them live! Robert Fripp has been a massive influence on my musical thinking and as well as listening to the incarnations of King Crimson over the years I have enjoyed his work with many artists including David Bowie, Brian Eno and Blondie among others. At school, everyone had the “Court of the Crimson King” album, but my favourite King Crimson albums were always Islands, Red, Larks Tongues in Aspic and Beat.
Last night King Crimson played the title track to “Islands” which I never imagined I would hear live. The highlight of the gig was “Starless” from the Red album. This has Robert Fripp’s signature guitar sound and is a superb piece of music. The current King Crimson line up has no less than three drummers and they sound terrific. The only other band I have heard with three drummers were The Allman Brothers who were also a brilliant live band.
Like many of my favourite artists including Tom Waits, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, Robert Fripp always produced dynamic, provocative and challenging music which both delighted and frustrated his record company. Fripp had a longstanding battle with EG records and wrote extensively about the reality of signing to a record label. His now hard to find the audiobook “Good to Great” is a brilliant insight into his thinking and the importance of developing playing skills. In an era of X Factor and imagined instant fame, this is a useful reminder of what is needed to become a talented artist.
King Crimson has become a big part of my musical education, not in terms of musical style, but rather the importance of creating your own sound and working with the very best musicians. In recent times the expanded King Crimson box sets have been a joy to listen to and after last night’s gig I’ll be revisiting many of these.