In the Court of the Crimson King
An Observation by King Crimson

Originally released on Island Records & Atlantic Records
October, 1969
30th Anniversary Edition & Original Master Tapes Edition
Available from DGM -

When this record was released thirty-nine years ago, the Who's Pete Townsend proclaimed it "an uncanny masterpiece," and that it is! The music on this debut album is as relevant today as it was all those years ago. In fact, some of this music is downright prophetic, with classics like 21st Century Schizoid Man, and Epitaph describing life in our eight-year-old 21st Century (to which not everyone has made a comfortable adjustment).

This writer's first introduction to the world of Crimson was via this tried and true institution known in those ancient days as FM Radio. That fall evening, the DJ was fortifying our ears and souls with the latest cuts from The Beatles swan song Abbey Road, the post Brian Jones Rolling Stones LP Let It Bleed, and the bombastic soon to be world conquering Led Zeppelin II. The music was played in five to six cut blocks with minimal interruptions, and DJs identifying the tracks they just played. Suddenly out of the old mahogany Philco console speakers thundered a drum lick, which was followed by a wall of majestic mellotrons.

Everyone in the room lost a breath, their eyes widened, and the first collective thought was, "is this a new Moody Blue's song?" This was no Moody Blues record. The sound was richer, dark and ominous, and this was King Crimson's rendition of the title track to their brand new album In the Court of the Crimson King, and observation by King Crimson.

A few weeks later on the same Long Beach radio station, I heard another cut called "Epitaph," which had the same intensity of "Crimson King" with more swirling mellotrons and a lyric that has stuck in my mind for thirty-nine years: "Confusion will be my Epitaph, as I cross a cracked and broken path. If we make it, we can all sit back and laugh. But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying." If that lyric doesn't describe today's multitasking technified world, I don't know what does! King Crimson was preparing this young precocious lad for the uncertain future that lay ahead back in 1969, all those years ago.

December 1969, the Sunset Strip was reeling from the Manson murders, and the whole vibe had gotten very ugly. Altamont was days away, and there I was standing in line in front of the Whiskey A Go-Go, waiting to see King Crimson Live. Cars still passed by with 8 track stereos blasting the Beatles Abbey Road, the Stones Let It Bleed, and Jimi Hendrix's Smash Hits, but the vibe had changed. Gone were the glory days of a thousand people on every block, spreading love and peace, replaced by lost children with fear in their eyes, while a small dash of hope remained if properly looked for. We filed into the Whiskey and took our seats, and the band took the stage. Complete darkness, no pleasantries, no tuning up, smack into "21st Century Schizoid Man," blasting horns, roaring guitars, and total metallic head rip. Needless to say, the top of our heads were lifted off our shoulders. Then came Greg Lake's soaring vocals of a man who has more than he will ever need, and another preview of our present day world. Dammit, we are a schizoid lot, aren't we!

When it came to the middle section of Schizoid Man, with the unison playing between the guitar, sax, bass, and drums, this young pundit's brain elevated out of the room. Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett described King Crimson as 'musical Karate.' This 19 year old took the body blows in the head.

We are now approaching the 40th anniversary of this amazing short-lived band. For the last four decades on an occasional basis, King Crimson has held court with a varied cast of superlative players for our enjoyment and edification. The band has just done a short 40th anniversary tour, and who knows whether or not there will be more dates to follow.

Point being, this album from 1969 was groundbreaking stuff. It was a team of musicians, including lyricist and visionary Pete Sinfield that provided a preview of the times we are living in, within a musical strata that encompassed heavy metal, jazz, and what we now have come to know as progressive rock (an arbitrary title if there ever was one). The one track on this classic album that was never, to my knowledge, performed live, was "Moon Child," which critics over the years have labeled as 'noodling.' In the world of ambient music, which is now accepted in our culture, this is some of the most innovative 'noodling' that has passed through this reviewer's ears.

To add to this spectacular package, is the art work of Barry Godber, who tragically died shortly after his art work was featured on In the Court of the Crimson King, an Observation by King Crimson. This is one record that has stood the test of time, and has earned the true title of "classic" because it as relevant today as it was upon its creation.

Thee Last Experience

On a sad note, we regret to report that Mitch Mitchell, the original drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and who played with Jimi after the demise of the original Experience, has passed away at the age of 61, after completing the last date of a Jimi Hendrix tribute tour. He was a unique drummer, whose original style was the perfect foil for Mr. Hendrix's guitar pyrotechnics. He will be sorely missed, and there shan't be another one who could take his place.

Thanks, Mitch, for all the great playing.

Back to Home Page