In The Court Of The Crimson King

It was that period between junior and senior schools when the rumours abounded that all first year lads would get beaten up as soon as they walked through the gates. Clothing would be robbed, satchels snatched, erasers erased and heads put down toilet bowls.
It must have scared me somewhat as I remember it to this day but despite a few boots to the rear I think I got away with it.
I’ve never been one to scare too easily and I soon settled into school life and needless to say a year later I was probably one of the ones spreading rumours to the incoming little kids around my way…
However, the fact remains that most of the older lads were more concerned with impressing the girls than booting little urchins up the arse and they appeared to do this by donning grey ex-RAF overcoats and carrying various LPs under their arms.
Cat Stevens, Led Zep and Sabbath all seemed popular but one that was mega-popular and – this did scare me – was an album that I later learned to be In The Court Of The Crimson King by the band King Crimson. The reason it scared me was the cover. It was was a horrific drawing of a horrific face. There was no writing on that front cover to indicate whom the LP was by and to this day I find that image highly disturbing.
However, being a man that likes to explore I gave the album a go – some mates actually owned a copy of it – but it wasn’t for me and I’m sure I never got past the first track. That first track is 21st Century Schizoid Man. The title pretty much tells you everything you need to know. The track is over seven minutes long and contains solos from every instrument you have ever heard of and – I guess – plenty you’ve not. The vocals growl but somehow the refrain of “21st Century Schizoid Man” has stuck with me since the first – and probably only – time I’d ever heard it. In later years if the words King Crimson were uttered I automatically blurted out “21st Century Schizoid Man”.
Over the years I found out that the band were quite important and included the members Robert Fripp and Greg Lake. Oh and a fella called Pete Sinfield who as well as producing Roxy Music’s first album went on to co-write Land Of Make Believe for Bucks Fizz. This album with the horrific face on it was King Crimson’s first and I can honestly say I have never listened to it until the other week.
It has just turned 50 years old and was getting a bit of a big-up and generally being applauded as a piece of art and for it’s role in introducig Prog Rock to the masses. Now while I’m not sure that’s a good thing, I thought I’d give it a listen and to my utter surprise (and worry) I really liked it.
The opening track is still a bit too much of a dirge for me but the other four tracks – yes just four other tracks as this is Prog – are superb. Yep, they are really proggy and there are some excesses – including some preposterous lyrics within – but the melodies are lovely, the vocals generally understated while the song I Talk To The Wind is truly beautiful.
I’m sort of kicking myself with the fact that the album has been out there for a half century and for almost that long I’ve ignored it. Wikipedia tells me that King Crimson – under various guises I guess – have recorded: “13 studio albums, 15 live albums, 13 compilation albums, 3 extended plays, 11 singles, 6 video albums and 8 major box sets.” I actually recognise the album entitled Larks’ Tongues in Aspic if only for the fact it is the most prog rock title of all time.
Whether I dig into their back catalogue and give some of it a listen is another matter but if it does prove anything it is you should never close your ears to anytime of music.
Now where’s that Bucks Fizz record?

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