LIFE WITH THE DINOSAURS
THE COURT OF KING CRIMSON by Sid Smith
(Helter Skelter Books. 346pp. £14.99)
As someone who has tried to follow the tortuous career of Robert Fripp’s many-headed beast, I was curious to read what appeared
to be a history, a supreme act of devotion and the testimony of a long-suffering
fan. And I suspect all Crimson fans have suffered. The vocals/lyrics
on ‘Moonchild’, for example, have caused me to suffer. But I wouldn’t
have missed any of their releases, however flawed some might be.
Smith takes the reader through blow-by-blow accounts of their recordings,
the soured friendships, the break-ups and the minutiae of a band on
the road and in the studio over thirty-odd years whilst simultaneously
undergoing constant and innumerable personnel changes. An
act of fandom, if ever there was, and constantly readable too. Not
many would be prepared to do it. Or would they ?
Such bands doinspire fierce,
if somewhat perverse, loyalties.
I learned things I never thought I’d want to know. Like, how Fripp’s excessive diet of beef curry and the resultant
vomiting may have been the source of ‘hurri
curri’ in the lyric of ‘Cat Food’. The trials
and tribulations inflicted on mellotron players are
exhaustively catalogued. What about the instruments themselves? if only they could speak. And those odd noises in the opening
section of ‘Lark’s Tongues in Aspic Part One’? Now we know. We also
know what Ian MacDonald’s then girlfriend thought
of Robert. You probably won’t be surprised.
Reading this book, I found myself returning to the albums and enjoying
that mix of instrumental prowess and lyrical banality, especially, though
not exclusively, in the early material. For every turkey, like ‘Cirkus’
or ‘The Letters’ they also gave us ‘Trio’ and the ‘Thrak’
improvisations. The best and worst of a band.
Sid Smith covers them all. The construction of each album is presented
in detail, track by track, and isn’t totally biased in favour of the
band. His views on ‘Happy Family’ from Lizard
are not exactly complimentary: ‘there is little more on offer than bluster
and ballyhoo’, he says. He casts an equally honest eye over all their
output so he comes across as a fan but not a pushover with no
powers of discrimination.
Reading between the lines I get the impression that, despite the many
reincarnations and resurrections, the creature may now be sleeping with
the dinosaurs. Smith details the disintegration of King Crimson into
the various ‘ProjeKCts’
and although they are officially still on ‘active service’ as KC there
is a sense by the end of the book that they are not exactly a force
to be reckoned with now. Bruford seems clear
that he no longer needs the band and Tony Levin has always had other
commitments. So, is there life out there ?
© Paul Donnelly