Key to King Crimson is guitarist Robert Fripp
There have been 21 musicians in King Crimson since the bands inception in 1968. The one constant in that nearly 50-year span has been guitarist Robert Fripp, who brings the band to Greensburg's Palace Theatre on Nov. 20.
And Fripp, without a doubt, is the essential element. In its 2015 list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, Rolling Stone called Fripp's playing “a singular blend of distorted complexity and magisterial sustain.” From the debut “In the Court of the Crimson King,” often touted as the most influential progressive rock album, through 2003's “The Power to Believe,” the most recent release, the band's inimitable sound has never been duplicated.
“I'm still trying to process the time I saw them at the Stanley Theater in the early ‘70s,” says Pittsburgh-based musician Steve Sciulli. “After that show the veil was lifted for good. It helped me realize that every note is important, whether you played it or not. Crimson is a process and a way of thinking. Robert Fripp says it best: ‘If a quality is present, it is clearly recognizable and may be named.' ”
Here are five facts about the band.
1. King Crimson's debut album, “In the Court of the Crimson King,” reached No. 28 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was certified as gold in 1969. It remains King Crimson's highest charting release in the U.S.
2. Notable band members include Greg Lake, prior to Emerson, Lake, & Palmer; Bill Bruford who left Yes to join King Crimson in 1972 (Bruford subsequently left the band a year later only to rejoin King Crimson for three-year stretches in the 1980s and 1990s); and guitarist Adrian Belew, whose 12-year tenure is second only to bassist Tony Levin and Fripp.
3. Former drummer Bill Bruford once compared Fripp to a mixture of the Marquis de Sade, Stalin and Gandhi. “When I read interviews with old King Crimson bandmates, they suggest that the difficulty lies with me,” Fripp told the Telegraph of London in 2014. “And I agree with that.” Fripp added that his quest to live up to King Crimson's original model at times felt like a burden. “If what is available fails to meet what I see as a responsibility to the larger Crimson, then that gap has to be met by someone. And it would fall to me. So it's not a comfortable place.”
4. While Fripp might exert a dictatorial strain within the band, he was often sought out by other musicians. He's collaborated with the Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Blondie and Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates. But Fripp's most notable work outside of King Crimson was with David Bowie on the albums “Heroes” and “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).”
5. The current King Crimson lineup features three drummers among its eight members (the most ever in a live aggregation) and features flutist Mel Collins, who rejoined the band in 2013 after an absence of 39 years.
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.