19. starless

Starless is just a lament basically, though for what I’m not sure. Maybe a lost love. Or perhaps every apocalyptic thing, because by the time it’s done, it’s pretty much fractured the universe, having done that thing that I’m pretty sure only so-called progressive rock can do (or certainly King Crimson, who it’s pretty easy to argue, invented the genre). Which is to say, Starless doesn’t waste a second of its twelve and half minutes, but neither is it ever in a rush, the first four minutes or so serving as set up (the aforementioned lament), the final eight evoking first the darkest night there’s ever been, and then … well, words fail. But the music doesn’t. The music carves a hole straight through all that darkness, ultimately unleashing vast Niagras of tumultuous and redemptive light. It’s unearthly, it’s uncanny, it’s terrifying, it’s finally so f***ing beautiful you want the whole of creation to just … well, I said it already, words fail when you go that far beyond the perimeter …

The weird part is that the guy singing is John Wetton who would go on to front Asia (the band), which, I’m sorry, is the kind of transgression that can only lead to eternal hellfire. Except based on Starless, maybe he’d already been there. To hell, that is. Which gets us to my old friend Geoffrey (aka the philosopher), and his three essentials of any epic. 1. There must be a hero. 2. There must be a list. 3. There must be a descent into hell. I’m still trying to figure out the list part, unless that’s what I’m doing here. But I’m no hero and I’ve only ever been half-way to hell. Anyway, I guess we’re supposed to be left with a mystery, certainly in the case of King Crimson as main man Robert Fripp had dissolved the band before Starless (and Red, the album that contains it) had even been released. Because as he later put it, ‘The old world, characterized by large, unwieldy and vampiric organizations, was dead, and with it King Crimson.’ Though as deaths go, it would be akin to what happened with Gandalf after he fell into that pit with the Balrog, because King Crimson would return in time, different, but still infused with a magic both terrifying and beautiful.” (Philip Random)

119. red

“My relationship with King Crimson started fairly early on with the eponymous title track of the first album, which got a fair bit of radio play back in the day. But beyond that, I don’t know if I heard anything until a friend made a point of playing Red for me when I was maybe fifteen. Just the song, not the whole album. It actually frightened me, the intensity of it. No respite anywhere in its six plus minutes, even the quiet parts were wound tight, setting up another roar of visceral instrumental fierceness in the shade of red, that sort of mist you see when your rage gets the worst of you and all you can do really is howl. Though maybe here, it’s the best, because man, what a f***ing band! In retrospect, it’s no great surprise that Robert Fripp shut the operation down almost immediately afterward. There was really nowhere else for King Crimson to go – not for six or seven years anyway. And meanwhile, I had plenty of time to catch up†, get educated††.” (Philip Random)

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659. Asbury Park

To clarify. King Crimson first performed as a unit in early 1969, quickly knocked the world onto its head by more or less inventing so-called progressive rock, then proceeded to do just that for the next five years. They progressed. The line-up was ever mutating, as were the sounds. Only one thing remained unchanged. Robert Fripp remained seated as he played his mellotron and planet fracturing guitar. Asbury Park is a live improv from a show at the Asbury Park Casino on June 28, 1974, one of the last shows from the last King Crimson tour of the 1970s after which Mr. Fripp would shut the whole outfit down because he’d come to despise the industry he was in, and what it was doing to him. Not that he and King Crimson brand wouldn’t return half a decade later.  But that is a whole other discipline.

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