King Crimson is a band that remains in a perpetual state of flux. The legendary British prog-rockers have had more than twenty members, including some of the best musicians from both sides of the Atlantic, but if your name isn’t Robert Fripp, your spot in the band is never guaranteed.
1973 was yet another radical reinvention for the band. The third major overhaul in just five years, Fripp wished to take the band in a looser and more improvisational direction. He staged a major coup by stealing drummer Bill Bruford away from massively successful prog-rock rivals Yes, completing the lineup with bassist and vocalist John Wetton, percussionist Jamie Muir, and multi-instrumentalist David Cross. The aggressive proto-metal stylings on In the Court of the Crimson King and the jazz-influenced sounds of Islands were now a thing of the past, as King Crimson embraced their most nebulous incarnation yet.
The band could still make quite the racket, as can be seen in their performance from New York’s Central Park in 1973. Mainly relying on their material from the recently released Larks Tongues in Aspic, the band twist and turn through hard-hitting dynamic changes and while segueing in and out of songs with lengthy improvisations. Fripp creates fretboard fireworks on his Gibson Les Paul while remaining seated and calm, while Bruford can be seen constantly looking over at his fellow musicians for hints about what they’ll be playing next. At one point, Cross busts out an effects-heavy violin, adding to the cacophonous madness.
One figure not captured is Muir, who was known for his wild stage antics including fake blood and elaborate costumes at the time. Muir had left the band by this stage to become a monk in Scotland, leaving Bruford a wall of gongs and assorted percussion to bang on throughout the footage. The remaining members created one more album 1974’s Starless and Bible Black before Cross was voted out of the group. Fripp, Bruford, and Wetton created another LP that year, Red, before Fripp announced that he was retiring from the music industry, effectively putting King Crimson in the review mirror.
It would take the rousing of figures like David Bowie and Peter Gabriel to get Fripp to pick up his guitar once again. After his session work on albums like Heroes and Gabriel’s first self-titled solo album, Fripp began formulating a plan to reform King Crimson. He managed to convince Bruford to rejoin, along with American musicians Tony Levin and Adrian Belew. This incarnation moved more towards the modern sounds of new wave, but to see King Crimson’s final stand as an expert 1970s prog band, the footage from Central Park is the place to look.
Check out the footage down below.