Tag Archives: King Crimson

Progressive Art Folk? That is True Cheerful Insanity

7 Mar

Before there was:

The Court of the Crimson King

There was:

The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp

I take it that Giles’ evil grin scared the man on the cover of King Crimson’s debut album. The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp was the project that preceded one of my favorite albumsIn The Court of the Crimson King(which is also regarded as a true LP masterpiece). Well, if their later project was such a success, why was the preview so unsuccessful? Okay, no need to be brash, I have a perfectly good explanation.

Before we go into the story of Giles, Giles and Fripp, I want to figuratively beat a dead horse. That is such an awful expression. On the subject of violent axioms, a few years ago my girlfriend suggested that instead of stating “kill two birds with one stone” in an appropriate scenario, people should say “bake two cakes in one oven” because it is delicious and no birds need to die. I’m getting off topic.

In posts under the Obscure Classic Rock category I have often stated that many bands suffered limited popularity because they created music in the wrong year. The 60s and early 70s were beyond diverse. While it generally takes several years for a particular genre to go out of style, musical inclinations flipped constantly. So while the Electric Folk of the Byrds was considered revolutionary in the mid 60s, a few years and a Jimi Hendrix release later sparked an emphasis on blues-saturated psychedelic rock. Things changed, and when Giles, Giles and Fripp were experimenting with their cheerful insanity, their particular style was not in yet. But it would be, and, with King Crimson, they would reach the pinnacle of success.

Before King Crimson, “I Talk to the Wind” appeared as a Giles, Giles and Fripp demo. Yes, the flute is played by Ian McDonald. Hear the King Crimson in this? Obviously; the song is practically the same. This version is a little poppier and it is also shorter. When King Crimson released their famous debut in 1969, “I Talk to the Wind” did feature a different lead vocalist. Some dude named Greg Lake whose soothing voice is extraordinary. That helped significantly. Also, do keep in mind this song was a McDonald and Peter Sinfield composition (Sinfield was the skilled lyricist who wrote much of the poetry for King Crimson).

Giles, Giles and Fripp was founded when guitarist Robert Fripp answered an advertisement that brothers Michael (drums, vocals) and Peter Giles (bass, vocals) put out for a singer/keyboardist. Fripp was neither. Thankfully Fripp rebelled against the advertisement. He was hired by the brothers and the world was introduced to his eclectic guitar stylings. The London group released one album The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp. It was released in Spring of 1968. In Fall, the band brought on multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and vocalist Judy Dyble (who only performed on a few songs). The band recorded a few demos and then Peter left later that year (he would make a guest appearance on Crimson’s second album). Giles, Fripp and McDonald formed King Crimson (a name suggested by Sinfield), and added Fripp’s friend Greg Lake (a guitarist/vocalist who switched to bass/vocals at Fripp’s request).

King Crimson was formed in November of 1968, made their live debut in April of 1969 in front of 650,000 people in Hyde Park (free concert staged by the Rolling Stones), and then released their classic in October of 1969. That’s a busy year.

Let’s back up, though, before we knew of King Crimson, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake, and Peter Sinfield. When the band was only three.The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Frippis an excellent example of an extremely underrated album that was simply released a year too early. The music is adventurous and fresh. A lover of progressive rock can hear several early 70s bands in the eccentric compositions. My favorite track on the album is “Thursday Morning” which I think represents a genre unconquered by many. Progressive Art Folk.

Let me break this genre down. As you know, I am not only an audiophile, but also a pedantic classifier. I know it goes against all things free, but I like typifying music like a biological taxonomist. It’s just my thing. Progressive Rock became extremely popular in the early 1970s but its roots are deep in the 60s with bands like The Moody Blues and The Left Banke. A sub-category (or interchangeable category for some) is Art Rock. Art Rock also fuses elements like jazz, classical instrumentation, and creative hooks, in an attempt to heighten music. It was a clear response to the lack of musical constraints displayed by the preceding psychedelic genre. But Giles, Giles and Fripp were playing a different tune. The music explored Progressive Folk, a sub-movement inspired by the British Folk Revival (think Incredible String Band, Pentangle, and Fairport Convention (Judy Dyble’s band)).

Listen to the melodious strings in the background, easy acoustic picking, and Michael Giles’ folky voice. The canorous harmony is multifaceted and cheerful. It carries the song until around a minute where the listener experiences this miniature solo featuring strings, guitar, and drums. It is a clear ode to classical compositions. Giles’ voice enters our ditty again and so do the precise harmonizers. And just like that, the song ends, but not before leaving a full memory!

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If Only She Was Lying to Me – King Crimson Rules

23 May

Bob Dylan Was Addicted to Heroin?

Link: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bob-dylan-admits-heroin-addiction-in-newly-released-1966-interview-20110523

On Sunday I graduated Binghamton University. One of the many reasons that I received my degree was because of academic integrity. In other words, I didn’t lie. On the heels of his 70th birthday, I can confidently say that Bob Dylan certainly does not get an A in honesty class.

Okay, that was a miserable transition, but I did want to mention my graduation. Yes, I am officially an alumnus of Binghamton University. How does that sound? I am back on Long Island and writing this post in my permanent room. My next room may be one that I own and that is certainly an odd prospect. But, until then, I remain a resident at home (which is not a bad thing at all) and since I have a little more time during the summer you all will see new categories and longer feature posts over the upcoming weeks. Sound good?

We begin with Monday’s staple (music news). According to Rolling Stone (link included above), Bob Dylan kicked a heroin addiction that he picked up after arriving in New York City. He told this to New York Times writer Robert Shelton on a plane from Lincoln, Nebraska to Denver during the 1966 Electric tour. But this newly released admission is already receiving many B.S. calls. Remember, Dylan is well known for his love of fiction. He did claim that he worked as a male prostitute after moving to New York. With all of these claims, I’m starting to think that Dylan is more of a “Midnight Cowboy” inspiration, rather than a folk/rock pioneer. Did he kick a heroin habit? Who knows. My guess is no. Dylan loves storytelling. That is one of the reasons his lyric is legendary. That is the issue. The man lives in the fictional world of song.

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“In The Court of the Crimson King” #1

Link: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/141547-best-25-rock-songs-of-all-time/P4

Peter Sinfield


King Crimson‘s “In The Court of the Crimson King” was named the #1 progressive rock song in an enjoyable list by Sean Murphy of PopMatters. Murphy writes:

“Virtually any song from this album could ably represent the whole, but the title track is an unsettling, ceaselessly astonishing track that is at once the introduction and apotheosis of what progressive rock became. It has all the important elements: impeccable musicianship from all players, rhythmic complexity, socially-conscious lyrics and an outsider’s perspective that is neither disaffected nor nihilistic.”

Eloquently put and absolutely correct. King Crimson’s impact on progressive rock cannot go understated. Any mention of the genre without talk of this supergroup is a crime. The band simply oozed with talent and this song is no different. The lyric of this Crimson classic is poetic and medieval. It is a creative image of hell and it comes from the mind of Peter Sinfield, the true unsung hero of the band. So, while you enjoy the song make sure to also respect the lyric.

The rusted chains of prison moons
Are shattered by the sun.
I walk a road, horizons change
The tournament’s begun.
The purple piper plays his tune,
The choir softly sing;
Three lullabies in an ancient tongue,
For the court of the Crimson King.
The keeper of the city keys
Put shutters on the dreams.
I wait outside the pilgrim’s door
With insufficient schemes.
The black queen chants
the funeral march,
The cracked brass bells will ring;
To summon back the fire witch
To the court of the Crimson King.
The gardener plants an evergreen
Whilst trampling on a flower.
I chase the wind of a prism ship
To taste the sweet and sour.
The pattern juggler lifts his hand;
The orchestra begin.
As slowly turns the grinding wheel
In the court of the Crimson King.
On soft grey mornings widows cry
The wise men share a joke;
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax.
The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the Crimson King.

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