The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

King Crimson

12-17-08 The first King Crimson album

Interesting to me, my involvement with this iconic album. It was by noticing it that I became aware of King Crimson. I believe it was at a Wallach’s Music City – a store where you could ‘audition’ records in little booths. It must not’ve been long after it’s release (in the US), perhaps 1970?

“What’s that?”, I asked. A woman (who would’ve been all of perhaps 20 years of age, to my 12) says to me, “That’s so ugly!”. “Will you sell it to me?”, I innocently ask. It got marked “99 cents”, and was put out in what was known as the “bargain bin”. And I’ve never looked back.

I remember offending someone at my school (one of the college students who watched the kids at lunchtime?) by referring to the debut K.C. LP (or indeed to any pop music) in superlative terms, such as “That’s the best record!” or maybe “That’s my favorite record!”. “Why talk about music like that?” – or thereabouts. What? The sourpuss must’ve only liked Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell!

I first saw K.C. live in 1973, on the “Larks’ Tongues” tour. At that point, I think they were trying to distance themselves from the iconic nature of the debut K.C. album. Were they even selling shirts, at that point? I doubt it, otherwise I would have a very old T-shirt of it in my stuff! I think at that point, it was all about “moving on” – and not “dwelling on the past”. Took a few years for pop culture nostalgia to really rake in the attention / bucks.

I seem to recall Mr. Fripp speaking about the cover of the LP, that it had been hanging in the offices of the management company that he had been working with, not being cared for. The outcome of that is that the painting of it is in Mr. Fripp’s possession, apparently. Fair enough. And it’s rather fitting that the man who created K.C.’s image only ever did one LP cover (then he passed away).

In summer of 2007, I went to Tokyo – as I like to do. We were in a suburban mall, and way down at the end of the hall, I could see the mighty K.C. cover peeking out at me. “I know what’s going on down there!”, I told my GF. She acknowledged the iconic cover, without being overly familiar with it’s music. When I had my 50th birthday party this past summer, I insisted on a huge blow-up of the cover for decoration at my festivities. It was the first poster that was purloined, when we went to ‘take everything down’ (after finishing with our event). I think it went to an old friend – a worthy home.

And lately, we’ve seen that the debut K.C. album ranks very highly in Japan – appearing in both the critics and reader’s polls in the “Rock 100 Best Albums” book, as published by Record Collector Magazine (Japan). I would’ve pegged it for ‘cult status’, but Top 4 in both lists? Does that mean that people in Japan actually listen to this record?

I have 6 or 7 variants on it – US & UK pressings, Japanese pressings – LP’s, CD’s, little paper album cover CD’s, re-masterings etc. I even have several singles taken from this LP! I would refer you to a King Crimson CD boxed set, “Epitaph Vols. 1 – 4” for more information about this album. This set has a ton of live K.C., circa 1969.



Blogger Brian Ware said...

"When I had my 50th birthday party this past summer, I insisted on a huge blow-up of the cover for decoration at my festivities. It was the first poster that was purloined, when we went to ‘take everything down’ (after finishing with our event). I think it went to an old friend – a worthy home."

Errrrr... Ummm.... jeez Ron, who would do such a thing? Well, I'm sure he's reminded of a wonderful time in Portland every time he looks at it...

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Welp... the 1st King Crimson album is certainly important, I guess*. It's just not my favorite KC album. Here are my faves in descending order:

1. Discipline - A+
2. Starless & Bible Black - A+
3. Lizard - A
4. Lark's Tongues In Aspic - A
5. Red - A
6. In The Court Of The Crimson King - B+
7. The ConstruKction of Light - B
8. Three Of A Perfect Pair - B
9. The Power To Believe - C+
10. Thrak - C
11. Beat - C
12. In The Wake Of Poseidon - C
13. Islands - F

* I prefer to think that The Nice invented "Progressive Rock" a few years earlier!

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Also on the subject of King Crimson, my wife got me a copy of Tony Levin's book of photos, The Crimson Chronicles, for my recent birthday. The book looks at the 1980s 3-LP stable incarnation of the band. One of the more intriguing photos shows Curt Smith (soon to be in Tears For Fears) in the front of the crowd at a Bath pub attending the first gig by the then-named "Discipline."

Looking at the photos, one is struck by how squalid the life of the performing gigster is. Unless you are Frank Sinatra, the day to day reality of being a musician is an unending series of filthy rat holes interspersed with many hours of brain numbing travel.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I think The Moody Blues beat The Nice by a few months to prog rock.

K.C. in not in descending order

Starless & Bible Black - B
Lizard - A (we finally agree)
Lark's Tongues In Aspic - A (yep)
Red - A (yep)
In The Court Of The Crimson King - A-
In The Wake Of Poseidon - A
Islands - A-
USA - A-
Earthbound - B

5:49 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

To clarify, my list is not in order. I like them in descending order of release - just at varying levels.

I do not rate anything after "Red", really (live albums don't really count, but I bought both of 'em when they came out).

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Moody Blues

Note that I phrased it "I prefer to think think..." As it turns out, the overblown, maudlin and sappy "Days Of Future Passed" was issued on November, 10, 1967, according to its Wikipedia page (add grain of salt here). That doesn't leave a lot of time in the year for The Nice to follow. Does anyone know the release date of "The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack?" It's just that my esteem for the latter is contrasted mightily by my disdain for the former!

7:49 AM  
Blogger chas_m said...

"Emerlist Davjack" came out in late 1967. The single was issued in November (according to the Nice's wiki page) so I think we have to call this "battle" between them and the Moody Blues a tie. :)

As for the inventors of prog rock, you're BOTH wrong! It was the Scottish band "1-2-3" later known as "Clouds."

They had a residency at London's Marquee Club where all the future prog rockers dropped by to steal ideas. Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, the members of King Crimson, Bowie, and the members of Yes were all fans.

Bowie even wrote a letter to Record Mirror (at the age of 19!) in their praise. You can check if you don't believe me! HOO HAH!

3:43 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Now, I'm a big fan of The Clouds (both the Scottish 60's and Australian 90's bands), but...

The argument of the first UK progressive, Procol Harum were The Paramounts before they became Procol Harum. Manfred Mann Mk II played some real 'prog rock' long before it became fashionable.

If one defines pinching classical music as cues, perhaps The Nice are in the running. But we can all agree that it seems to erupt in mid-to-late '67. Alas, K.C. were still catching fire at that point, as either "The Brain" or Giles Giles & Fripp.

And I always thought it strange that the late Boz Burrell owned the publishing music company called "Roxy Music" (as early as '66).

6:54 AM  

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