There are certain figures in popular music who don’t automatically seem like contemporaries. In 1977, the Sex Pistols and Donna Summer managed to be two of the most boundary-pushing and notorious artists of their time. The popularity of bands like Korn in the late 1990s coincided with the rise of bubblegum pop acts like Britney Spears, and there’s TRL footage to prove it. The tides of popular music turn simultaneously, and even those who may appear to have nothing in common can actually share quite a significant bond.
For whatever reason, Robert Fripp and Jimi Hendrix don’t exactly feel like they existed at the same time in the same place, but both were in London as rock music shifted away from simplistic forms of rockabilly and teenybopper pop. Hendrix embraced the animalistic acid-rock psychedelia of the time, while Fripp focused on the progressive technical wizardry of art-rock. Both were masters of the guitar, but Fripp was precise and exacting, while Hendrix was untamable and audacious.
In a chat with his sister Patricia back in 2020, Fripp recalls some of the seminal moments that solidified his dedication to music. One of which involved hearing a young ex-pat guitarist make lascivious noises with the guitar. “Do you remember the opening bars to ‘Foxey Lady’ or ‘Purple Haze?” Fripp asks. “Of course you can. My life changed.”
Fripp, as a highly intelligent and forthright storyteller, also infuses his recollections with humour and philosophy. His lucidity is such that he can recall not just the exact days of King Crimson’s formation and first gig, but also the days on which they took place (a Monday and a Wednesday, respectively).
You almost get the sense that Fripp is encyclopedic in his memory of King Crimson’s history, but he probably has a good reason for remembering the exact date of King Crimson’s tenth show (also a Wednesday) – Jimi Hendrix himself was in attendance. “His characteristic was of luminosity: he shone,” Fripp recalls. “He came up: ‘Shake my left hand man, it’s closer to my heart’.”
According to a friend’s later recollection, Fripp says that the sister-in-law of King Crimson’s first drummer, Michael Giles, remembered Hendrix “was jumping up and down saying, ‘This is the best band in the world!‘ And at that time, we were. For about three months time, we were the best band in the world.”
Check out Fripp’s story down below.