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King Crimson are a progressive rock band. Formed in London in 1968 (but featuring a transatlantic line-up since 1981), the band are widely recognised as a foundational progressive rock group (although the group members resist the label).[5] The band have incorporated diverse influences and approaches during their five-decade history (including jazz and folk music, classical and experimental music, psychedelic rock, hard rock and heavy metal,[6] new wave, gamelan, electronica and drum and bass) as well as balancing highly structured compositions against abstract improvisational sections and an interest in pop songs. The band has a large following, despite garnering little radio or music video airplay.[7]

With guitarist Robert Fripp (considered to be the band's leader and motive force) as the only consistent member, King Crimson's line-up has persistently altered throughout its existence. Eighteen musicians and three lyricists have passed through the ranks, although the tenure of certain members has sometimes extended for decades. King Crimson's sound has varied according to its instrumentation - earlier line-ups featured prominent saxophone and keyboards, while subsequent line-ups replaced this with (variously) violin, innovative acoustic or electronic percussion, interlocking guitars or touch-style instruments. The band are notable for continuous engagement with contemporary music technology - in addition to Fripp's extensive work in loop music both in and out of the band, King Crimson pioneered the use of Mellotrons in the 1960s; Roland guitar synthesizers, Simmons electronic drums and the Chapman Stick in the 1980s; dense MIDI processing and the Warr Guitar in the 1990s, and Roland V-Drums in the 21st century. King Crimson's existence has been characterised by regular periods of hiatus (each of which have been initiated and concluded by Fripp). From 1997 until the present day, various subdivisions of King Crimson have continued to pursue aspects of the band's work and approaches via a series of related bands collectively referred to as "ProjeKCts". Template:Quote box The debut line-up of King Crimson was influential but short-lived: lasting for just under one year, it established several of the ground rules of British progressive rock (a high standard of instrumental expertise, active technological engagement, complex multi-part compositions and the fusion of then-current psychedelic rock forms with classical, jazz and folk idioms). During 1970 and 1971 a second and unstable line-up struggled to unite disjunctions between increasingly formalised studio work and rougher live incarnations, going through numerous personnel changes while further exploring elements of jazz, funk and chamber music. Establishing a third, stable line-up in 1972, King Crimson developed a European-influenced improvisational sound with elements of hard rock, jazz fusion and a distinctly harsher classical component (mainly inspired by Béla Bartók) before breaking up in 1974. A fourth line-up of King Crimson was active between 1981 and 1984 - an Anglo/American quartet with new wave pop and gamelan influences. A fifth line-up (the '80s quartet expanded to a six-piece) appeared in 1994, blending aspects of the band's 1980s and 1970s sound with fresh influences from genres such as industrial rock, grunge and loop music. Further line-ups of King Crimson have continued to work up until the present day, with the band continuing to incorporate new elements (such as drum and bass) into their music. The current line-up is a seven-piece band (Fripp, Jakko Jakszyk, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and Bill Rieflin) with three drummers, a saxophonist/flautist, paired guitars, bass and assorted electronic devices. Due to the number of musicians involved in King Crimson over the years (plus the band's emphasis on creativity and on recruiting high-level players) the band is at the hub of a network of other bands and projects, and has been influential to many contemporary musical artists.


The current line-up of King Crimson is:

  • Robert Fripp — guitars, guitar synthesiser/MIDI guitar, Soundscapes, keyboards (1968–74, 1981–84, 1994–present) - in previous lineups, Fripp has also been credited with playing Mellotron, "devices", "allsorts" and "sundry implements"
  • Mel Collins — saxophones, flutes (1970–1972, 2013–present, guested in 1970 and 1974) - in previous lineups, Collins has also played Mellotron and sung backing vocals
  • Tony Levin — bass guitars, Chapman Stick, upright bass, backing vocals (1981–1984, 1994–1998, 2003–present) - in previous lineups, Levin has also played synthesizer
  • Pat Mastelotto — acoustic and electronic drums and percussion (1994–present)
  • Gavin Harrison — drums (2007–present)
  • Jakko Jakszyk — guitars, lead vocals, flute (2013–present)
  • Bill Rieflin — drums, keyboards, backing vocals (2013–present)

This formation was announced in September 2013, with its first shows taking place in September 2014.[8]

King Crimson has had 21 musicians pass through its ranks as full band members. Many others have collaborated with the band at various points in lyric-writing, studio recordings, and live performances. Most of the band members had notable musical careers outside the band, to the extent that it has been calculated that there are over fifteen-hundred releases on which members and former members of King Crimson appear.[9]

Robert Fripp has been the sole consistent member of King Crimson throughout the group's history. He has stated that he does not necessarily consider himself the band's leader and instead describes King Crimson as "a way of doing things".[10] Fripp has also noted that he never originally intended to be seen as the head of the group.[11] However, Fripp has strongly dominated the band's musical approach and compositional approach since their second album (albeit with other members tending to write the more song-oriented elements, to the point where other members have left the band because of creative frustration, notably Ian McDonald, Gordon Haskell and Mel Collins). Trey Gunn, who played with the group between 1994 and 2003, has stated that "King Crimson is Robert's vision. Period."[12]

Since 1997, band hiatuses, collective creative stallings or other periods of inactivity have led by a series of related bands or collaborations called ProjeKcts in which Crimsonic ideas have been explored. All of these have included Fripp, with the exception of the current Crimson ProjeKct (for which Fripp gave permission for "Crimson" to be used as part of the name, despite his non-involvement).

Former members
  • Peter Sinfield — lyrics, synthesiser, illumination, artwork (1968–1972)
  • Greg Lake — bass guitar, lead vocals (1968–1970)
  • Michael Giles — drums, percussion, backing vocals (1968–1969, guested in 1970)
  • Ian McDonald — flute, saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, mellotron, keyboards, vibraphone, backing vocals (1968–1969, guested in 1974)
  • Gordon Haskell — bass guitar, lead vocals (1970, guested in 1970)
  • Andy McCulloch — drums (1970)
  • Ian Wallace — drums, percussion, backing vocals (1971–1972; died 2007)
  • Boz Burrell — bass guitar, lead vocals, choreography (1971–1972; died 2006)
  • Bill Bruford — acoustic and electronic drums and percussion (1972–1974, 1981–1984, 1994–1997)
  • John Wetton — bass guitar, lead vocals, occasional piano, guitar and lyrics (1972–1974)
  • David Cross — violin, viola, mellotron, electric piano, keyboards, flute (1972–1974)
  • Jamie Muir — various percussion, drums, allsorts (1972–1973)
  • Adrian Belew — guitars, lead vocals, guitar synthesiser/MIDI guitar, electronic percussion, lyrics, occasional drums (1981–1984, 1994–2013)
  • Trey GunnWarr Guitar, Chapman Stick, baritone guitar, Ashbory silicone-string bass, backing vocals, "talker" (1994–2003)
Additional/guest musicians
  • Keith Tippett — acoustic and electric pianos on In The Wake Of Poseidon, Lizard and Islands
  • Peter Giles — bass guitar on In the Wake of Poseidon
  • Mark Charigcornet on Lizard, Islands and Red (from Keith Tippett Sextet and Centipede)
  • Robin Miller — oboe and cor anglais on Lizard, Islands and Red
  • Nick Evanstrombone on Lizard
  • Jon Anderson — guest lead vocals on Lizard (from Yes)
  • Rick Kemp — bass guitar, played for two weeks in band before vocalist Boz Burrell was taught to play the instrument
  • Harry Millerdouble bass on Islands
  • Paulina Lucas — soprano vocals on Islands
  • Uncredited musicians — strings on Islands
  • Hunter MacDonald — synthesiser and engineering on Earthbound
  • Richard Palmer-James — lyrics on Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red
  • Uncredited musician — cello on Red
  • Eddie Jobson — violin and electric piano studio overdubs on USA
  • Margaret Belew — source text for "Indiscipline" (on Discipline) and lyrics for "Two Hands" (on Beat). (Margaret Belew was an artist and was also Adrian Belew's wife during the time of King Crimson line-up 4).


Studio albums


The band's studio catalogue up to 1984 was remastered for CD by Fripp and Tony Arnold and released under the label "definitive editions" in 1989. After ownership of the band's recordings reverted to Fripp and DGM in 1999, another newly-remastered series (labeled 30th Anniversary Remasters) was released starting in 1999 and included all studio albums up to Thrak.

In 2008 Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree began remixing the catalogue for 5.1 surround sound (with Fripp's participation and approval), resulting in another series under the label 40th Anniversary Editions. These are CD/DVD-A editions which include the surround mix, often a new stereo mix based on the 5.1 treatment, extra material such as alternate studio takes or edits, and sometimes video when available. The first three titles were Red, In the Court of the Crimson King (released as close to the exact 40th anniversary of its original release as possible) and Lizard. These were followed by In the Wake of Poseidon and Islands in October 2010, Starless and Bible Black and Discipline in October 2011, Larks' Tongues in Aspic in 2012,[13] the live album USA in late 2013, and Beat scheduled for early 2015.

Further reissues in the works include Three of a Perfect Pair[14] and Thrak with engineering by Jakko Jakszyk.[15]


  1. King Crimson at John McFerrin Music Reviews. "Crimson's form of prog, however, tended to incorporate heavy elements of modern classical (sometimes), avantgarde jazz (sometimes), and later heavy elements of New Wave."
  2. Allmusic review of the album Discipline
  3. Allmusic review of the album Beat
  4. News. Retrieved on April 19, 2014.
  5. In the Court of the Crimson King. ABC Gold & Tweed Coasts ( Archived from the original on 27 May 2006. Retrieved on August 29, 2007.
  6. Buckley 2003, p. 477, "Opening with the cataclysmic heavy-metal of "21st Century Schizoid Man", and closing with the cathedral-sized title track,"
  7. Eder, Bruce. King Crimson Biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on August 19, 2007.
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ReferenceA
  9. The Never Complete List of King Crimson-related albums. Rate Your Music ( Retrieved on August 29, 2007.
  10. Tamm, Eric. Robert Fripp – From Crimson King to Crafty Master. Progressive Ears (
  11. Template:Cite AV media notes
  12. Smith, Sid (2002). In The Court Of King Crimson. Helter Skelter Publishing. Retrieved on 12 June 2009.
  13. The Seaweed Farm. The Seaweed Farm (24 March 2011). Retrieved on July 16, 2011.
  14. Robert Fripp's Diary (6 March 2012). Retrieved on July 16, 2012.
  15. Retrieved on July 16, 2011.

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