I don’t know if there is such a thing as the Big Bang Theory, but if one exists for Progressive Rock, I’m of the opinion that it begins with King Crimson’s 1969 debut LP In The Court of The Crimson King. I could be wrong of course, but I feel this record just created an Autobahn for groups like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Rush, Pink Floyd, Focus, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rush, Golden Earring, Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta, Dream Theatre, Be Bop Deluxe, Bigelf, Kansas, Tangerine Dream, Marillion, Pendragon, Camel, The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, Hawkwind, Renaissance, The Strawbs, Electric Light Orchestra, The Alan Parsons Project and countless other bands to speed right on into the public consciousness. Obviously some of these bands pre-date King Crimson, but after In The Court of The Crimson King the game had changed. There was no longer any doubt that a market for this stuff existed. I know there will be Pink Floyd backers out there claiming they led the way, but this album was something else entirely. More importantly it actually sold records.  That made people pay attention.

Many rock fans have a love-hate relationship with Prog Rock. I’m not one of them. I really enjoy the stuff. I know a lot of folks like to include Jethro Tull in the Prog Rock discussion, but I look at them as more of a Blues band. I love them too, but most people don’t. Prog Rock is very polarizing for some reason. Sometimes I think it’s about having the patience to sit down and take in a long composition, a skill most rock fans don’t seem to have. I love the three minute single too, but sometimes I want to immerse myself in classic records like Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound, Pink Floyd’s Animals, or Rush’s 2112. Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick or side three of the great double album Living in The Past are mostly why Jethro Tull has that Prog tag, but Prog Rock to me, is Yes and the 10 tracks that make up Close To The Edge (1972), Tales of Topographic Oceans (1974), and Relayer (1974). Today’s Prog Rock leader is probably Porcupine Tree, but there are several great Prog Rock acts trying to make a name for themselves right now. You just don’t ever hear them on any terrestrial radio station. If I didn’t own a monster collection myself, I’d probably subscribe to a satellite radio station just to find a station that zeroed in on specific genres like Prog Rock.

Robert Fripp, Peter Sinfield, Ian McDonald, Greg Lake and Micheal Giles were the incarnation of King Crimson that started this band and are credited with these five masterful songs. King Crimson has gone through a ton of personnel changes over the years, but the brand still exists and their catalogue is very impressive. I’ve got them all, which is probably over 30 when you consider all the live records they have, but I haven’t followed all of their changes. In The Court of The Crimson King has five songs; “21st Century Schizoid Man, I Talk To The Wind, Epitaph, Moonchild” and the title track. Without intending to aggravate anyone, 21st Century Schizoid Man could very well have been the blueprint for Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” They both have a mechanical and robotic feel to them. I’m probably not doing a very good job of conveying that sentiment, but for some reason the two songs feel linked to me for some reason. Hopefully somebody out there will be able to read my mind.

In The Court was released in October of 1969 and shot all the way up to #3 on the British Charts and went Gold in the United States. That is nice and everything, but this record is insanely influential. I think I mentioned in the past that a New York area DJ, the late Alison “The Nightbird” Steele, used to begin her late night radio show on WNEW-FM with King Crimson on an almost nightly basis for many years. In fact, Steele, who passed away in September 1995 at age 58 is not only a member of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but is also widely revered for championing Progressive Rock music in the 70′s. She had a sultry voice and was playing the music I was most curious about as a teenager. Not only was she female (no small feat in the good ol’ boy male dominated world of radio in those days), but she was pioneering music you never heard during the day. Alison Steele was a consumate entertainer and a trailblazer. I’ll always remember her fondly. She helped make my childhood.

It is said that King Crimson is actually a synonym for Beelzebub, the Prince of Demons, but this album wasn’t really about that. The pageantry of this record is hard to describe. It is essentially three compositions with two soft bridges between them. “I Talk To The Wind” and “Moonchild” are lovely tracks, but the meat and potatoes of this record is “21st Century Schizoid Man, Epitaph and The Court of The Crimson King.” A painter named Barry Godber did the infamous cover although he died shortly after it’s release in 1970. It is one of the very best covers in rock music history from this writer’s point of view. Robert Fripp has been quoted as saying that the cover is the Schizoid Man and the inside jacket is The Crimson King. I just located the actual album I own on Atlantic Records and it’s worth noting that the band made sure to print the lyrics on the inside jacket. That was very rare in those days and I’ve long felt it was crucial for fans like me to actually understand the lyrics. This record isn’t as hard to decipher as say, Mick Jagger’s vocals in “Brown Sugar,” but when you can sit down with your favorite party favor and follow along as the record plays it creates a real bond between band and fan. At least it did for me. I can’t carry a tune, but I love my lyrics…

I don’t have enough superlatives to describe my affinity for this record and what it helped to influence so I’m going to stop blabbering now. I’ve heard this record thousands of times, but I feel like it is in the rare company of personal favorites that I need to go back and listen to in full a couple of times each year. It’s bombastic, it’s religious sounding, it’s ethereal and it’s just plain great. My Wonder Years were so long ago it’s not true, but I literally looked up to this record. Probably because my best friend’s older brothers and sisters loved it, but I swear the thing had mystical powers. It’s like going to church listening to it and I never much cared for church. I realize many of you folks might not appreciate this record the way I do, but I just felt like the ground breaking story of In The Court of The Crimson King needed to be told (again). Thank you very much for reading…

King Crimson – The Court of The Crimson King.mp3

King Crimson – In The Court of The Crimson King.mp3 YSI