Lizard is the third studio album by the British band King Crimson, released in 1970. It was the second recorded by a transitional line-up of the group that never had the opportunity to perform live, following In the Wake of Poseidon. This is the only album by the band to feature bassist and vocalist Gordon Haskell, apart from his appearance on the song "Cadence and Cascade" from the previous album, and drummer Andy McCulloch as official members of the band.

The record is arguably King Crimson's most jazz-inflected album, developing further in the direction suggested by the track "Cat Food" on the previous album.

Background and musicEdit

Haskell was previously a classmate of Fripp's at Queen Elizabeth's grammar school in Wimborne near Bournemouth, the pair having subsequently played together in the local band, The League of Gentlemen. Haskell later contributed vocals to the King Crimson track "Cadence and Cascade" on In the Wake of Poseidon, after Greg Lake left the band to join Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In a desperate turn to maintain a personnel in the band, Fripp asked Haskell to become an official member of King Crimson for the recording of Lizard. Another supporting musician on In the Wake of Poseidon, saxophonist/flautist Mel Collins was also asked to become a full-time member of this line-up, as was drummer Andy McCulloch, who replaced Michael Giles. The group was then augmented with session musicians, including another In the Wake of Poseidon alumnus – the noted jazz pianist Keith Tippett – together with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, and brass/woodwind players Robin Miller, Mark Charig, and Nick Evans.

Haskell and McCulloch had an unhappy experience recording Lizard, Haskell especially – a devotee of soul and Motown music – finding it difficult to connect with the material. Following the album's completion, Haskell left King Crimson during rehearsals for a prospective tour. During the next 19 years, he sought legal redress, because he believed that he had been cheated out of royalties owed to him for the album. Shortly after Haskell left the group, McCulloch did likewise. The press release drafted by Sinfield to promote Lizard wryly quoted Max Ehrmann's poem "Desiderata", which contains advice on how to chart a true course through confusion.

Collins, on the other hand, remained in King Crimson with Fripp and Sinfield for the recording of the group's next album, Islands. Haskell was replaced with Boz Burrell on bass guitar and vocals, while McCulloch was replaced with his sometime housemate Ian Wallace. The Islands line-up of the group would finally give some of the Lizard material a live airing, with "Cirkus" and "Lady of the Dancing Water" becoming part of King Crimson's touring repertoire. "Cirkus" would later become part of the touring repertoire of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, whose members included Mel Collins.


Due to the album's penchant for a more jazz-inflected sound in comparison to many of the band's other works, in addition to the idiosyncratic nature of many of its tracks, responses towards the album have been varied since its release. Allmusic's Bruce Eder, comparing Lizard to its two predecessors, described the songs saying "[they] are longer and have extensive developmental sections, reminiscent of classical music". He also deemed that Jon Anderson's presence on "Prince Rupert Awakes" made the album stronger. He finished his review saying that "At the time of its release, some critics praised Lizard for finally breaking with the formula and structure that shaped the two preceding albums, but overall it's an acquired taste."[1]

Music critic Robert Christgau rated the album a B−, saying that the "jazziness" of the album projected a "certain cerebral majesty" but criticized Peter Sinfield's lyrics, qualifying them as "overwrought".[2]

On the website the album has an average rating of 4.10/5 based on 1045 ratings (of which 180 are reviews) as of September 2012.[4]

Robert Fripp has himself been very critical of the album, calling it "unlistenable".[5]

Track InformationEdit


The powerful opening track, "Cirkus" is perhaps the best-known track on the album. It begins with a hushed verse from Haskell before launching into a menacing theme played by Fripp on the mellotron. The song's verses then alternate with this signature theme, and the track boasts some of Fripp's most dextrous acoustic guitar playing alongside a soaring saxophone solo by Collins. With lyrics by Sinfield rich in circus imagery, the track builds up into a cacophonous climax.

"Indoor Games"Edit

"Indoor Games" is an offbeat and humorous track with distorted vocals and lyrics evoking various forms of hedonism. It ends with the sound of Haskell laughing uncontrollably, as he tries unsuccessfully to sing the words 'hey ho'. His laughter, he later explained, was provoked by the fact that he thought these words ridiculous – which seems to be representative of his attitude towards Sinfield's lyrics in general.

"Happy Family"Edit

"Happy Family" is about the dissolution of the Beatles. They are represented in the lyrics as 'Judas' (Paul McCartney), 'Rufus' (Ringo Starr), 'Silas' (George Harrison), and 'Jonah' (John Lennon). As on "Indoor Games", Haskell's vocals are distorted. The very beginning of the song is reminiscent of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", which is preceded by laughing and talking, with the phrase "Hey-yo" leading right into the song. The opening descending bass lines of both songs are also very similar.

"Lady of the Dancing Water"Edit

"Lady of the Dancing Water" is a more tranquil piece, whose lyrics and instrumentation have a medieval feel, in the tradition of "I Talk To The Wind" on In the Court of the Crimson King and "Cadence and Cascade" on In the Wake of Poseidon. The track features Mel Collins on flute.


"Lizard" is the longest composed (as distinct from improvised) piece recorded by King Crimson. It is divided into several sections and even subsections, with a narrative about a prince who takes part in an epic battle.

The opening section, "Prince Rupert Awakes", alternates between sincere and ethereal verses (sung by Jon Anderson of Yes), and a folksy refrain accompanied by handclaps. The two styles are then combined in a wordless chorale, that segues into the next section, "Bolero".

"Bolero" provides a showcase for the supporting musicians Tippett, Miller, Charig, and Evans. Playing over McCulloch's bolero-like drum part, they are given the space to develop progressively more jazzy solos around a central theme (which was heavily influenced by the Flute Sonata by Sergei Prokofiev). When this section of "Lizard" was excerpted for inclusion on the compilation Frame by Frame: The Essential King Crimson, Gordon Haskell's bass guitar was replaced with a part recorded by subsequent King Crimson bassist Tony Levin.

"Dawn Song", the first of three subsections that compose "The Battle of Glass Tears", opens with an ominous theme led by Robin Miller on cor anglais, which is then joined by a subdued vocal sung by Haskell. "Last Skirmish" is a lengthy section intended to simulate an increasingly fraught battle; it culminates in ever more forceful repetitions of an ominous theme similar to the main theme of "Cirkus". "Prince Rupert's Lament" evokes the bloody aftermath of the battle, a funeral rhythm section providing the backdrop to Fripp's plaintive guitar part.

"Big Top" concludes the piece. This section consists of distorted fairground music, echoing the carnivalesque opening track "Cirkus", faded in and out and simultaneously sped up (though in the 2009 stereo mix, the increasing speed is omitted, making the piece simply fade out).

Album coverEdit

Lizard's outside cover art is by Gini Barris, who was commissioned to produce it by Peter Sinfield.

The album's outside cover consists of the words 'King Crimson' spelled out in ornate medieval lettering, the word 'King' on the back cover and the word 'Crimson' on the front cover, with each letter incorporating one or two discrete images. These images in turn represent Sinfield's lyrics from the album – the images in the word 'King' representing the lyrics of the various sections and subsections of track 5, "Lizard"; while the images in the word 'Crimson' represent the lyrics of tracks 1–4.

Whereas the images representing "Lizard" are medieval in content – depicting Prince Rupert, his environs (including a peacock), and the Battle of Glass Tears – the images representing the other four tracks juxtapose medieval and contemporary scenes. The image around the letter 'i' in 'Crimson', for example, depicts the Beatles, corresponding with their pseudonymous appearance in the lyrics to "Happy Family". Around the "n" on the front cover, there is a depiction of Rupert the Bear piloting a yellow aeroplane.

The inside cover of Lizard consists of a marbled pattern, credited to Koraz Wallpapers.


The album had CD releases in 1989 and 2001, each newly remastered by Fripp at the time. The newest version was released in October 2009, containing a 5.1 Surround Sound mix on DVD-Audio, created by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree in collaboration with Fripp, as well as a new stereo transfer based on the surround mix.

Track listingEdit

All songs written by Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Cirkus" (including "Entry of the Chameleons") 6:27
2. "Indoor Games"   5:37
3. "Happy Family"   4:22
4. "Lady of the Dancing Water"   2:47

Side two
No. Title Length
5. "Lizard"
  • (a) "Prince Rupert Awakes" (4:32)
  • (b) "Bolero - The Peacock's Tale" (6:32)
  • (c) "The Battle of Glass Tears" (11:02)
  • (i) "Dawn Song" (2:21)
  • (ii) "Last Skirmish" (6:06)
  • (iii) "Prince Rupert's Lament" (2:34)
  • (d) "Big Top" (1:18)"  


King Crimson
Additional musicians
Other personnel
  • Robin Thompson – engineering
  • Geoff Workman – tapes


  1. 1.0 1.1 Eder, Bruce. Lizard - King Crimson | AllMusic. Retrieved on March 24, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Christgau, Robert (2011). Robert Christgau: CG: King Crimson. Retrieved on August 31, 2012.
  3. Thelen, Christopher (1998-10-19). Lizard review at Retrieved on September 1, 2012.
  4. Lizard at ProgArchives.
  5. Robert Fripp's diary, 8 September 1999. Retrieved on July 2, 2014.

External linksEdit

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