If nothing else, Brian Eno’s Another Green World has a perfect title. Put it on and you get transported to a very agreeable yet very different place. Alien even. Yet oh so green and achingly beautiful, like a dream, vaguely remembered via odd, mostly pleasant, always strange fragments, with St. Elmo’s Fire an actual pop song easing from the mists halfway through side one, deepening the mystery, because what the hell is St. Emo’s Fire but a mystery? And there’s a superlative Robert Fripp guitar solo.
It’s 1981 and King Crimson main man Robert Fripp has reformed the band (after better part of seven years in the wilderness) with a whole new sound and Discipline, and the result is thundering (to put it mildly). Thela Hun Gingeet translates as Heat In The Jungle and it concerns an experience that Adrian Belew (the new guy) had while out for a walk with a tape recorder in the still rather mean streets of NYC. Word is, it actually caused stereo systems to catch fire back in the day.
“By 1971’s Islands, their fourth album in barely two years, the force of mind and nature known as King Crimson were not so much lost as just a very long way from shore. Down to only two of the original five members, and one of them (Pete Sinfield) had never provided much in the way of actual music, just “… words, sounds and visions, cover design and painting, production” (and in fact, he was on his way out, Islands would be his last Crimson involvement). Robert Fripp, on the other hand, was firmly ensconced on whisper-to-apocalyptic-howl guitar, with Sailor’s Tale a particularly powerful offering. Just wait until whatever high you’re riding is at its peak, then crank the sound system and wait for that sucker punch eruption at around the 4-and-a-half minute point. Not a sudden eruption from silence. No this is far trickier than that. Because the song’s already charging along at that point. It just suddenly goes way further. The earth shakes. The skies open. A gaping hole gets blown from the jigsaw of time.” (Philip Random)
As the story goes, Robert Fripp shut down the original King Crimson in 1974, claiming an overall disgust with the way the music industry world was going in those days. Of course, it could be argued that was version seven anyway, so many members having already come and gone from the Crimson court since 1969. But the intervening silence was inarguable. Nothing until 1981 when a fresh line-up kicked into gear with a whole new Discipline, which was maybe starting to lose some of its freshness come 1984’s Three of a Perfect Pair. But not on Side Two. Not Industry. That was what the world actually sounded like in 1984. Everything grinding, droning, hissing, giving off toxic vapors, finally erupting with savage urgency.
Second of two in a row from the same King Crimson 7-inch single, though Philip Random first heard both Groon and Cat Food via the 1976 compilation Young Persons Guide to King Crimson. “I still get a chuckle at the thought of a track like Groon being allowed anywhere near a record with pop ambitions. Not that it actually charted or anything. Just the idea of it. And the execution. King Crimson being not just one of the brainiest outfits ever (care of main man Robert Fripp), but also one of the best in terms of pure chops and articulation, regardless of who was in the line-up at the time. Subsequent live versions of Groon would prove to be longer, deeper excursions, but I’ve always preferred the original’s tighter, sharper, more compact assault.”
King Crimson were a mess come 1970. A year earlier, they were tearing up the zeitgeist with their debut album, re-framing the very definition of so-called rock music. But one North American tour later, almost everybody had bailed – for reasons of love, sanity or, in the case of singer Greg Lake, greater fame (and riches) with the outfit that would come to be known as ELP. Though he did stick around long enough to deliver a few vocals for the second King Crimson album, including the oddly cut-up attempt at pop glory Cat Food, which, of course, failed in the unit-shifting department, but only because it was (and likely still is) at least half a century ahead of its time.
The Solid Time of Change is our overlong yet incomplete history of the so-called Prog Rock era – 661 selections from 1965 through 1979 with which we hope to do justice to a strange and ambitious time indeed, musically speaking.
Part Forty-Seven of the journey went as follows (selections 28-23):
King Crimson – Red
Genesis – the carpet crawlers
Genesis – Firth of Fifth
Yes – The Revealing Science of God
Yes – The Gates of Delirium
Pink Floyd – shine on you crazy diamond [I-IX]
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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.
Exposure is a song (for lack of a better word) that Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp conceived for Gabriel’s rather unsettled second album. Bleak, abrasive, creepy, prophetic – it was determined (it seems) to drive a wedge between what each had been up to in the past with their previous outfits, and the brave new future on the verge of boiling over as the 1980s dawned. Then, to drive the point home, Fripp made it the title track of his 1979 debut solo album, although now a different singer (a woman named Terre Roche) was tearing up the atmosphere, taking things to the point of genuine pain. Because, to quote Mr. Fripp, ” … the old world, characterized by large, unwieldy and vampiric organizations, was dead.” And what did the new one sound like? Small, independent, mobile, intelligent. And up for a fight, no question.