Is there a users’ guide — an owners’ manual — for King Crimson?  Is there some way to listen to their earlier music, or even some of their later music — some of the most haunting improvs in particular — and have it all make sense to the “uninitiated?”

No, not really.  And that’s part of the beauty of King Crimson.

My intro to King Crimson, in all of its various formations through all the years the group cranked out music (starting in the late 1960s), came as a bit of a double-shot: with the killer rhythm section of drummer Bill Bruford and bassist/vocalist John Wetton, who would both go on to help form the progressive “supergroup” U.K. before Wetton would go on to form the mega-popular “supergroup” Asia.

My intro to King Crimson came with the “bookend” albums “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic” from 1973, and “Starless And Bible Black” from 1974.  I was free to explore Crimson to my heart’s content after that.  And I surely did.

But it was that twosome of “Larks” with Jamie Muir doing all kinds of wild stuff on percussion along with Crimson founder Robert Fripp’s biting guitar and haunting mellotron, and David Cross on keys and violin, and “Starless” minus Muir (so many roster changes!) that hooked me from the start.  And it shouted at me, from the very start, “THIS IS NOT MUSIC FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!  BE PREPARED!”

Nevertheless, it was that twosome that was the most accessible to a country boy from Idaho.  And my “teacher” seemed to sense that.  My “teacher” knew what he was doing.

It was that “should-be-patented” Bruford-Wetton combo that pulled me in.  It’s been the signature guitar work of Fripp that’s kept bringing me back and exploring Crimson even deeper, through album after album in every single band lineup.

It was that unique touch on the snare drum and that bite of the bass on a song like “Easy Money,” complete with the wildness and randomness of that “laughing box” at the end from the “Larks” album …

… and it was that simple, toe-tapping groove of the live improv that was “We’ll Let You Know” from “Starless” …

King Crimson has tried to put out a “young person’s guide,” but their music has always been strictly for “adults.”  And even then, well … it’s one wild ride, and you’d better be buckled up when you take it.


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