In 1984 I ran into Three Of A Perfect Pair by King Crimson at the local library. I knew the name King Crimson from the beautiful and swinging Elephant Talk and the preceding prog era. Prog was (and is) not my cup of tea, but I decided to give this album a try. I borrowed the album and a new world opened, once I was at home. Such beauty! Discipline and Beat followed quickly thereafter. The output of the King Crimson incarnations prior to 1981 is not for me, but I like the 1981-1984 incarnation (version IV) very much!
On the 35th anniversary of the release of Beat this look back.
King Crimson IV
The fourth incarnation of King Crimson existed from 1981 to 1984. After a period of 7 years King Crimson was re-founded. The sound of this new incarnation was more modern, with new wave influences. It also had more swing. The rhythm guitar parts in particular were typically eighties new wave. All in all a huge improvement on their previous work, which I find too pretentious (or ambitious?), but specifically lacks emotional depth. It doesn’t touch/move me in any way.
The fourth King Crimson incarnation existed of:
- Robert Fripp
Guitar player, composer and founder of King Crimson, worked on, or contributed to, albums by Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Peter Hammill, Talking Heads’ David Byrne and David Bowie (the stunning guitarwork on “Heroes” is played by Robert Fripp);
- Adrain Belew
Multi-instrumentalist and singer in King Crimson. Worked with Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Laurie Anderson, Nine Inch Nails, Paul Simon and Tom Tom Club;
- Tony Levin
Bass player and Chapman-stick player (a Chapman stick is a 10 to 12 string, guitar like, instrument). Widely known for his cooperation with Peter Gabriel, he has played on over 500 (!) albums, among which albums by Cher, Asia, Alice Cooper, John Lennon, Sarah McLachlan, Stevie Nicks, Pink Floyd, Paul Simon, Dire Straits, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Buddy Rich, Todd Rundgren, Seal, Warren Zevon, Laurie Anderson and Kate & Anna McGarrigle;
- Bill Bruford
Drummer, who was part of the preceding King Crimson incarnation. Also played with Yes, Genesis and U.K.
As a tribute to the great King Crimson era from 1981 to 1984, this article.
The eighth King Crimson album was released on September 22nd 1981. A beautiful album which was, and still is, modern. Talking Heads’ Remain In Light is clearly identifiable as an influence (Belew played guitar on that album and was part of the tour promoting the album). The album has a great deal of passion, the band was clearly very motivated and definitely wanted to play together. Just the classic opening song alone: the (fairly well-known) Elephant Talk, wherein Belew’s guitar really sounds like an elephant and Levin opens the song (and album) with a very funky bass riff, using the Chapman-stick. Great opener. Matte Kudasai is a quiet song that’s convincing and touching. Thela Hun Ginjeet (an anagram of heat in the jungle) is a funky, percussive song and the closing Discipline is a great song containing a 6/4 beat.
A very hungry and motivated King Crimson set the standard for this incarnation of the band, and how! Even though the band lost some of the prog rock lovers, who couldn’t connect to the band anymore, they won over a lot of new admirers. A beautiful album, strongly rooted in new wave. The album’s sound is perfect and still sounds fresh today. The album is viewed as one of their best works.
De LP cover depicts a variation on the Keltic knot design. Later releases replaced that with a design by Steve Ball. That design is also used as logo to Discipline Global Mobile, Fripp’s music label. On the back of the cover the text “Discipline is never an end in itself, only a means to an end” is printed.
- Elephant Talk
- Frame By Frame
- Matte Kudasai
- Thela Hun Ginjeet
- The Sheltering Sky
The ninth King Crimson album was released on June 18th 1982. It’s the first King Crimson that was made by the same line-up as the album preceding it. Beat was inspired by the 25th anniversary of the release of Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road. Opening song Neal And Jack And Me is a sequel to Discipline (the song). Heartbeat has turned into a live-staple. The instrumental Sartori In Tangier is a great, driving song. Waiting Man is a rhythmically ingenious song that contains beautiful experimental guitar. Neurotica sounds like its title: not easy, and yet beautiful! The Howler has multiple parts, derails and return again.
Since the sound and approach builds on the preceding Discipline, this album comes across as less original. I can except that judgement. The surprise has gone. However, the album contains a lot of great songs, and the playing is superb!
The half-tone quaver image on the cover is designed by Rob O’Connor.
- Neal And Jack And Me
- Sartori In Tangier
- Waiting Man
- Teo Hands
- The Howler
Three Of A Perfect Pair
The tenth King Crimson album was released on March 27th 1984. The album was divided in a ‘left side’ (the first 5 songs) and a ‘right side’. More traditional songs on the ‘left side’ were complemented with free improvisations on the ‘right side’. The consequence was that the albums floats from Discipline to Beat and back again. The album’s title is based on three sides to every story, or, in other words: his side, her side and the objective truth. The album starts off with the great title song. Sleepless is most probably the funkiest song ever to be recorded by King Crimson, containing stunning bass-playing by Levin. A gem! Nuages (That Which Passes, Passes Like Clouds) is an instrumental, which reminds me of Mick Karn’s inventive bass-playing. Closer Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III is a beautiful instrumental, containing delicious guitar work and drumming.
As stated above, this album was my first real introduction to King Crimson IV. I was absolutely enamored with the album. Still am. It is definitely not the same as the first two. I think it’s a must-have.
The cover design is by Peter Willis.
- Three Of A Perfect Pair
- Model Man
- Man With An Open Heart
- Nuages (That Which Passes, Passes Like Clouds)
- Dig Me
- No Warning
- Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III
After a closing tour King Crimson, once again, went into hibernation. Up until 1994, no less, when Fripp reconvened King Crimson again (including the other three King Crimson IV members). Since then King Crimson is a band that regroups at times and tours.
After Three Of A Perfect Pair I bought Beat, after which Discipline became part of my collection, every purchase getting better and better. I like the first album (Discipline) of the three is the most. I really dig the other two as well, but, to be fair, Discipline is the one I play the most.
What do you think of King Crimson, and mark IV in particular?
All images: dgmlive.com