Robert Fripp

Wimborne Minster is a market town in Dorset of around fifteen and a half thousand inhabitants that lies approximately ten miles north of Bournemouth on the confluence of the Rivers Allen and Stour. The minister, after which the town is named, is of Saxon origin and has been in existence for over thirteen hundred years. It is famous for its chained library, one of the first public libraries in Britain. Five miles north on the B3078 lies the tiny village of Witchampton, the ancestral home to the Fripp family dating back over three hundred years. In the past Robert Fripp has been quoted as saying that this part of the world is the “Centre of the Universe”.

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Wimborne Minster (Photograph John Cherry)

Approximately five miles south of Wimborne, on 16th May 1946, Robert was born to Arthur and Edith Fripp in a nursing home situated in Bear Cross, a suburb on the north-west fringes of Bournemouth. Up until the age of eight, he lived with his parents and older sister Patricia on Oakley Hill, the main artery between nearby Poole and Wimborne, before the family moved to 14 Leigh Road in the centre of town, where his father established Welch & Lock, an estate agency. He initially attended Broadstone Primary School followed by Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, a five-minute walk from his house. The school was founded in 1496 but moved to the outskirts of town in the seventies, the original building was converted into flats and still stands today in Grammar School Lane.

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The Fripp family home in Leigh Road, Wimborne (Photograph John Cherry)

During his school-days, Robert developed an interest in the trad jazz bands of Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and Monty Sunshine and like many kids in the fifties, fell under the visceral spell of rock ‘n’ roll. The first two singles he owned were “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley and Tommy Steele’s “Singing the Blues”. Edith purchased Bob’s first guitar, a cheap Manguin Frere acoustic, from the Minns music shop in Westbourne and presented it to him on Christmas day 1957. The instrument had a terrible fretting action, but he persevered, choosing to play right-handed despite being a natural lefty. He attended musical theory lessons with local pianist Kathleen Gartell, before progressing onto the more experienced Don Strike, a guitar and banjo player of repute who taught out of a small room at the back of his music shop in the Westbourne Arcade. Robert flourished under his guidance, while broadening his musical horizons by listening to the gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and the bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker. At the age of twelve, he upgraded to a Rosetti guitar and worked on a technique known as cross picking for which he has become renowned. At fourteen, he polished up on his chord knowledge with the respected local band leader and jazz guitarist Tony Alton.

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Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Wimborne, now converted into private apartments (Photograph John Cherry)

Robert’s first public performance occurred at the Verwood Memorial Hall playing second violin in the Kathleen Gartell Corfe Mullen School of Music Junior Orchestra. His second performance and first outing on guitar, was a recital of the solo guitar piece “Spick and Spanish” with the Dorene Enterprises Concert Troupe. As his technique improved, Don advised him to either join a group, or better still, form one of his own. Bob took his advice and pulled together The Ravens in the spring of 1961 with Graham Whale on drums, later replaced by Chris ‘Fergie’ Ferguson, former Poole Grammar School pupil Valentino ‘Tino’ Licinio on guitar and vocals and Bob’s school friend Gordon Haskell, who got wind of the impending new combo during a sports lesson. Gordon fancied being in a group and talked Fripp into teaching him the rudiments of the bass guitar.

Their debut took place during July in a field next to the West Moors Youth Club, where Bob channelled his latest acquisition, a Hofner President, through a Watkins Westminster amplifier that he shared with ‘Tino’. More gigs followed at the Stapehill Youth Club, the Bure Club in Mudeford, Wimborne Youth Club and every Monday evening at the Beacon Royal Hotel in Kerley Road, Bournemouth. The Ravens lasted barely a year as Robert swopped the fret board for the blackboard and hunkered down to swot up for his impending exams. A couple of months later, with seven GCE O levels under his belt, he took up a position as a junior negotiator in his father’s estate agency and at the weekends played at the five star Chewton Glen Hotel in Highcliffe with the Doug Ward Trio featuring The Fabulous Cordovox (a make of accordion). To supplement his income further, he became a guitar tutor and amongst others, he tried to impart his vast knowledge of chords onto the future singer-songwriter Al Stewart. When Fripp was asked if any of his pupils had ever been successful he answered, “Only one of them ever made it, and that was Al Stewart and he did it by ignoring everything I ever tried to teach him”.

 The League of Gentlemen circa 1964, Left to Right: Robert Fripp,  Valentino ‘Tino’ Licinio, Stan Levy & Gordon Haskell

By the spring of 1964 he was back on the pub and club circuit with a new group, The League of Gentlemen. Made up of two former Ravens, Gordon and ‘Tino’, a new drummer in Stan Levy and on vocals, the muscular Reg ‘Tony’ Matthews, a part-time body builder and junior Mr. Universe for Southern England. Rehearsals took place in a room at the bottom of Reg’s parent’s garden at the Tatnam Hotel in Poole, where the quintet worked up a repertoire of Beatles, Four Seasons, Coasters and Shadows covers. Shortly after their formation, Reg left The Plague of Gentlemen, as they were jokingly known within the group, leaving Tino and Gordon to share the vocal duties between them.

It has been widely believed that two singles, “Each Little Falling Tear” on Columbia and “How Can You Tell” on Planet respectively, were Fripp and Haskell’s recording debuts. But this is erroneous, as the League of Gentlemen in question were a different outfit operating out of south London around the same time.

Also of interest, is an excellent one-off single recorded by The Actress on CBS in 1969. The band comprised of ex-League of Gentlemen members Valentino ‘Tino’ Licinio and Stan Levy, plus former Soundtrack guitarist Alan ‘Bowery’ Barry. The A side, “It’s What You Give”, was written by Barry while the flip, “Good Job With Prospects”, was a Licinio composition. A good copy will set you back in the region of £400 on bidding sites. Sadly ‘Tino’ died of lung cancer in 2008 after spending years playing smoky pubs and clubs in and around Bournemouth with the band Lucky.

When Robert’s education impeded his musical aspirations once again, he left The League of Gentlemen to study economics, economic history, political history and a special paper on social conditions 1850-1900 at the Bournemouth Technical College. During his stay, he befriended two people who would loom large in his future, The Corvettes bassist John Wetton and the guitarist with The Shame, Greg Lake. Studies filled most of his time, requiring Bob to hand over his position at Welch & Lock to lifelong friend Alan Cosgrove, the eventual owner of the business until his retirement in 2013. To make ends meet, he joined the Majestic Dance Orchestra at the Fay Schneider owned Majestic Hotel in Derby Road, taking over the position vacated by Andy Summers who had been fired for fraternising with a young female guest. The experienced jazzers, pianist Don Hardyman, drummer Jack Horwood and saxophonist / flautist Alan Melly teased the young guitarist mercilessly while the bands stern double bass wielding leader Cyril Stewart looked on disapprovingly. They played waltzes, foxtrots, quicksteps and Al Jolson’s greatest hits three nights a week during the winter and four in the summer, when they backed cabaret acts on a Sunday, plus weddings and bar mitzvahs.

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The Majestic Hotel, Derby Road home to the Majestic Dance Orchestra (Photograph John Cherry)

At twenty, Robert’s future was mapped out. In September, he would move to London for three years to study at the College of Estate Management and then return to Wimborne with his degree and take up a permanent position with Welch & Lock. In the run-up to his move to the capital, he formed the short-lived power trio Cremation with bass player and college friend Howard Pettridge and a drummer whose name has been lost in the mists of time. According to Fripp, they were appalling and disbanded after just two gigs, one being a dismal affair in the Beatroom at the Royal Ballrooms in Boscombe on 21st July 1967. However, as Robert approached his twenty-first birthday, his destiny was altered after an epiphany while listening to The Beatles Sgt. Pepper‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band album on his car radio, particularly the terrifying crescendo at the end of “A Day in the Life”. That, plus Are You Experienced? by The Jimi Hendrix Experience turned his head, and instead of taking the expected path, Robert plucked up the courage and told his parents that he would not be following in his father’s footsteps after all and that he intended on becoming a professional musician.

Robert set out on his quest by scanning the local newspaper for situations vacant and found an advertisement that could possibly lead to musical employment. A Bournemouth based drummer and bassist were on the lookout for a vocalist cum keyboard player to form a new band. On paper Bob wasn’t the ideal candidate, he didn’t play keyboards, and he couldn’t sing, but the Giles brothers, Michael and Peter whose advert he answered, were intrigued and invited him to an audition at the Beacon Royal Hotel on 28th August 1967. They were impressed with his confidence, musical knowledge and superior equipment, but the clincher was Doug Ward. Apparently the accordion player who Fripp had been accompanying at dinner dances at the Chewton Glen, could secure them a residency at a restaurant in London, Robert was in. Within days, they were back at the Beacon rehearsing and recording original material on a Revox tape machine Peter Giles had bought from the brothers former employers the Dowland Brothers, with Al Kirtley helping out on piano.

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The Beacon Royal Hotel, home to a weekly residence by The Ravens and where Michael and Peter Giles auditioned Robert Fripp (Photograph John Cherry)

In September, the trio set off for the capital after the agent John Martin had offered them a gig supporting the Flowerpot Men. On arrival, they were told they were no longer needed and returned home with their tales between their legs and a fiver for their troubles. A month later they were back with Doug Ward in tow and moved into 93a Brondesbury Road, Kilburn. Billed as the Douglas Ward Quartet, the four musicians readied themselves for the pre-arranged residency at La Dolce Vita restaurant in Frith Street, Soho, but fate stepped in before they got the chance to play a note. Driving home through the busy London traffic, Doug got into an altercation with a bunch of thugs after a near miss and ended up in hospital after receiving a severe beating. The dates were cancelled. On his discharge he decided London wasn’t for him and signed onto the cruise liner QE2 inviting Bob to join him, but the guitarist declined. Doug later wrote a book on the history of the accordion and several Berlitz guides to cruising. He also traveled the world rating cruise ships for the Maritime Evaluations Group, he now lives in the New Forest town of New Milton. As for our intrepid trio, they took a gig at the sister restaurant La Dolce Notte in Jermyn Street backing a diminutive singer / guitarist they nick-named ‘Hot-lips’ Moreno, until they fell out with the owner over payment and got the sack. Despondent, Bob returned to Wimborne in December and re-joined the Majestic Dance Orchestra for the duration of the lucrative Christmas and New Year season, while Mike, in an even more precarious situation with a wife and two small children back home, picked up odd drumming jobs.

Giles, Giles and Fripp, Left to Right: Michael Giles, Peter Giles and Robert Fripp in front

During their short time in London, several contacts had been made and one in particular with Peter Shelley of Decca Records reaped dividends. They were invited to a studio test and were awarded an album deal coupled with a £750 advance. The result was The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp which appeared on Deram, the progressive subsidiary of Decca. Divided into two suites, “The Saga of Rodney Toady” and “Just George”, the collection of psychedelia, pop, jazz and spoken word pieces were weird even by the standards of the day. One song, “One in a Million”, was chosen as a taster single but flopped along with the album. In fact, the album sold so few copies the record gained the dubious reputation of being the poorest selling release in the labels catalogue, until fans of King Crimson looking for more Frippery boosted its sales. Dismissed in many quarters as either quaint, gibberish, whimsical or rubbish, it may be bonkers in places, but the album is well-worth a listen. Stand out tracks include “North Meadow”, a reflection on the countryside surrounding Bournemouth by Peter, “One in a Million”, a flight of whimsy from the pen of Mike, “Suite No. 1”, an impressive exercise in cross picking by Fripp and “Erudite Eyes”, a pointer to what was to come later with King Crimson.

In July 1968, while combing the musicians wanted column in Melody Maker, Peter Giles came across an advertisement for a bassist and guitarist placed by the former Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble. Hoping that it might lead to paid work, he rang the number and spoke to Ian McDonald, a former army bandsman and talented multi-instrumentalist. Detecting a meeting of minds, he invited McDonald and Dyble over to Brondesbury Road for a jam. They hit it off immediately, apart from Dyble, who passed on the project and formed Trader Horn with Jackie McAuley, formerly of Them. A few weeks later, with McDonald in tow, the band were invited back to the studio to re-cut “Thursday Morning” and “Elephant Song” for release as a follow-up single. Revamped with flute, clarinet and harmonies added by McDonald, the extra fairy dust did little to boost its commercial viability and it sank like its predecessor. Sensing that money, or lack of, was an issue, Ian approached his wealthy step-uncle Angus Hunking and secured financial backing on the promise that the loan would be reimbursed when the band turned a profit. To supplement their meagre income, Michael found a regular gig with the Mike Morton Band playing covers, Peter undertook sporadic dates with a quartet backing a blind organist back at the La Dolce Vita and Fripp stayed at home dispensing guitar lessons.

As winter approached, Peter’s time spent networking bore fruit yet again. The BBC invited Giles, Giles and Fripp to record a half hour slot for the teen music show Colour me Pop, a spin-off from the arts’ magazine programme Late Night Line-Up. Broadcast on 30th November 1968, the band mimed to eight songs, four from the album and four works in progress, but unfortunately like virtually everything else taped by the BBC in the sixties, it has been wiped. No doubt a high point in their career so far, the hoped for flood of work expected on the back of the broadcast failed to materialise. At this point Peter decided he had had enough and called time on the band. He moved to an address in Clapham Common where he set about finding a “proper job”. Undeterred, the remaining members pressed on with their musical vision and channelled their thoughts into finding a suitable replacement. Fripp put forward a friend from his time at college in Bournemouth called Greg Lake.

Lake was at home in Poole treading water after recently walking out on his former band The Gods. He was intrigued with the approaches from both Fripp and Michael Giles and accepted their offer by moving into Brondesbury Road, before starting rehearsals on 13th January 1969 in the basement of the Fulham Palace Café. As they were now gearing up to playing live, the lack of decent equipment became an issue, prompting McDonald to revisit his step-uncle Hunking and negotiating a further loan. The band went on a shopping spree, buying amplifiers, a PA system, Fripp’s black 1959 black Gibson Les Paul Custom which he bought from a shop in Shaftesbury Avenue for £375 and most notably a mellotron, the instrument that came to define the band’s early sound. Before they hit the road, the newly christened King Crimson gained a lyricist and light show operative in Pete Sinfield and signed a deal with David Enthoven and John Gaydon’s newly created EG Management.

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King Crimson circa 1969, Left to Right: Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Michael Giles & Greg Lake

King Crimson made their debut on 23rd February at the newly opened Change Is club in Newcastle. The venue was operated by the hypnotist Romark (real name Ron Markham) and financed by Bob Monkhouse, who Fripp first ran into in Bournemouth when he backed the comedian with the Majestic Dance Orchestra. The seven night residency booked as Giles, Giles and Fripp, was ironically the first gig the trio had picked up. When announcing the band on stage, Romark corrected the mistake with the words, “Ladies and Gentlemen Giles, Giles and Fripp who for some reasons best known to themselves, have changed their name to King Crimson”. (Incidentally, the club closed not long after their appearance when Romark disappeared, along with the money. The droll and nearly bankrupted Monkhouse, joked that the dodgy hypnotist had “hypnotised him”). The dates proved to be a good rehearsal for their first London date on 9th April at the Speakeasy in Margaret Street and high profile gigs at the Marquee, the Lyceum and the Revolution in Mayfair, where an impressed Jimi Hendrix was in attendance. The intense high octane shows created a buzz around the capital leaving industry insiders and powerful music journalists, in no doubt of the band’s arrival.

In June, Enthoven and Gaydon pulled off a masterstroke. The Rolling Stones were organising a concert in Hyde Park on 5th July and the pair wangled the band onto the bill along with Family, Roy Harper, The Third Ear Band, the Battered Ornaments, Alexis Korner and Screw. Brian Jones had been fired from the Stones a month prior, because of his ongoing drug problems and inability to get a work permit for the United States, which stymied any chance of the Stones touring there. The concert had originally been arranged to unveil his replacement, guitarist Mick Taylor, but fate struck on the evening of 3rd July when Jones was found face down in a swimming pool at his home, Cotchford Farm in Sussex. Because of Jones tragic death, the gig became a memorial concert for the late Stone. Crimson’s storming half hour, seven song set won a standing ovation from the estimated crowd of 300,000 people and positive reviews in the music press. The Stones, however, were under-rehearsed and their below par performance was shown on British television. Eagle eyed viewers of the DVD can just glimpse Fripp peering through the foliage at the back of the stage on a couple of songs, before he was asked to leave by an overzealous jobsworth. Unfortunately no footage exists of King Crimson’s set apart from a couple of minutes of grainy black and white film, although an excellent bootleg quality CD is available from their website, Live in Hyde Park (July 5th 1969).

Flushed with success, the band knuckled down to recording their debut album. After two aborted attempts with unsuitable producers, the band finally got down to business at Wessex Studios and produced In the Court of the Crimson King with no outside help apart from assistance from engineers Robin Thompson and Tony Page. Released on 12th October 1969, and housed in a startling sleeve painted by Barry Godber, the reception was decidedly mixed. Some critics were ecstatic with the variety and dynamism of music on display, like the scribe at the Melody Maker, “This eagerly awaited first album is no disappointment and confirms their reputation as one of the most important new groups for some time”. While others were not so complimentary, showing disappointment after their incendiary live dates. The Who’s Pete Townsend gave it a ringing endorsement calling the record “an uncanny masterpiece” and the fans agreed by pushing it up to number five in the album charts. Today In the Court of the Crimson King is revered as a high water mark in progressive rock and in 2015 Rolling Stone magazine voted it the second greatest progressive rock record after Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

In The Court of The Crimson King
In The Court of The Crimson King 1969

In the months preceding the album’s release, the band added to their ever growing number of fans by travelling the length and breadth of the UK, while keeping a Sunday night residency at the Marquee Club in London under the banner of, ‘New Paths’, in tandem with the John Surman Octet. As their reputation crossed the pond, a tour of America came to fruition with gigs in Vermont, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Miami and Los Angeles. However, on the drive to their final date at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, McDonald and Giles dropped a bombshell. Travelling in the car with Fripp, the pair confided in him they were leaving the band. They both hated flying and the boredom of endlessly hanging around hotels and dressing rooms waiting for show time had become tedious. Plus, they were missing their girlfriends, particularly Ian who had his new partner Charlotte Bates flown out mid-tour despite a ‘no girlfriends on tour’ rule. Michael on the other hand had recently split from his wife and taken up with a new lady friend, Mary Land. Fripp was understandably devastated. With two key members of the band wanting out, Lake took up an option he was offered by Keith Emerson after a conversation in the bar at the Fillmore. The keyboard player wanted a new challenge as he couldn’t take his band The Nice any further. Greg, believing the integrity of Crimson would be compromised with the departure of two key members, couldn’t see how they could function under the same name and also quit.

In The Wake of Poseidon 1970
In The Wake of Poseidon 1970

After a promising start King Crimson were all but dead in the water after one album, eighty gigs and barely one year in existence. Despite being severely depleted, Island still exerted pressure on Fripp and Sinfield for a swift follow up to their debut album. After drawing a blank finding replacements and a veto from Fripp blocking an attempt by their management team to appoint Elton John as vocalist, Lake was persuaded to delay his departure, but not before negotiating Crimson’s WEM PA system as payment. The rhythm section, Michael and Peter Giles, were invited back on a strict session basis and McDonald’s absence was filled by the jazz pianist Keith Tippett and Mel Collins from the band Circus on flute and saxophone. Fripp’s old school friend Gordon Haskell provided vocals on the track “Cadence and Cascade”. The first fruits of the temporary line-up’s labour came in the shape of a single, “Cat Food”, a perfectly decent rock song ambushed by discordant noodling from Tippett. A mimed appearance on Top of the Pops did little to help sales. Released on the 15th May, In the Wake of Poseidon sold well and garnered mostly positive reviews, although the consensus at the time suggested it was too similar to its predecessor, almost to the point of imitation. A Disc & Music Echo review stated as much, and unfathomably preferred it to their debut. Bizarrely the cobbled together line-up delivered the highest placed album in the band’s history, one chart position higher than In the Court of the Crimson King at number four.

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King Crimson circa 1970, Left to Right: Peter Giles, Keith Tippett, Greg Lake, Michael Giles & Robert Fripp sitting 

After the sessions were completed, Michael Giles and Ian McDonald went off to record an album of their own, Lake teamed up Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in ELP and Tippet went back to his sextet. With only a core of Fripp and Sinfield, the search was on for musicians to undertake gigs that the EG Management team had rather optimistically lined up for the summer. To remedy the situation, Fripp invited the saxophonist from the Poseidon sessions, Mel Collins, to stay on and he briefly accepted, before getting cold feet and returning to the relative security of his previous band. Weeks later, he was enticed back to find drummer Andrew McCulloch and Fripp’s old mate Gordon Haskell installed and working up parts for what was to become Lizard. Gordon had initially declined the offer, arguing that he found Crimson too negative but, after much persuasion from his wife who preferred a steady income and firm persistence from Fripp, the reluctant bassist caved in and signed on. The rhythm section set about learning the arrangements presented to them by Fripp however, McCulloch struggled to grasp what was needed and had to be coached through the process by the patient but sceptical Haskell. The pair spent almost three months in isolation, painstakingly working through numerous rhythm and time changes slotted together mathematically by Fripp, with no idea how the finished pieces would sound, a procedure Gordon described as torturous. The actual recording didn’t improve matters, as the bassist waited patiently to put down his parts, Fripp and Sinfield spent hours attempting to find a suitable drum sound, a laborious process that drove McCulloch and Haskell to distraction. Being a fan of soul and r&b Gordon believed music should come organically and cut live in one or two takes, the complete antithesis of the King Crimson modus operandi which involved much layering and overdubbing. His other gripe was the lyrics, being the singer, he thought Sinfield’s songs were meaningless and to cap it all when it came to recording the vocals, he found the keys to be wrong for his voice. To remedy the problem on “Prince Rupert Awakes”, Fripp brought in Jon Anderson from Yes to sing what he described as “the unsingable.” To augment the sound and add textures, the returning Keith Tippett contributed piano and Robin Miller, Mark Charig and Nick Evans from the Tippett sextet added brass and woodwind flourishes.

Lizard 1970
Lizard 1970

Despite its difficult gestation, the dense free jazz inflected Lizard managed to crack the top twenty. Critics on the whole hailed its break from the previous formula as a positive move, while dissenters were not so impressed, believing it to be an acquired taste. Over the years Fripp has reassessed the record, calling it “unlistenable” and saying, “I am unable to recommend that anyone part with their hard-earned pay for this one, unless they want to take it to parties and play it at unwelcome guests”. A review from the Record Mirror contradicted his view, “The whole album is held together by the beautiful colourings Fripp has been able to coax from the musicians, the music has delicate shadings mixed with violent, doomed moog sounds”.

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King Crimson 1970, Left to Right: Robert Fripp, Mel Collins, Andrew McCulloch, Gordon Haskell & Pete Sinfield

After the album’s release, the band shifted into rehearsal mode for a prearranged American tour, but Gordon couldn’t get enthused. As far as he was concerned, the past few months had been hell and things became progressively worse when he realised that any chance of contributing new material wouldn’t be an option. As they set about learning the back catalogue, “21st Century Schizoid Man” proved to be particularly difficult as the song was way out of his vocal range. Fripp told him not to worry as they would put his voice through an effects machine. That was the final straw, and Gordon quit. The fallout and recriminations between the school friends would rumble on for years with Haskell calling the guitarist a bully and complaining that he didn’t receive the royalties owed him. Fripp retaliated by stating that Gordon, being a hired hand, breached his contract by walking out. Whatever the reasons, the band was in total disarray and things only got worse when Andy McCulloch decided he couldn’t take anymore and followed Haskell out the door. All forthcoming dates were cancelled.

With the nucleus of Crimson down to a trio of Robert Fripp, Mel Collins and non-musician Peter Sinfield, auditions were hastily arranged to find replacements. Initially, Fripp withdrew from the process, leaving Collins the unenviable task of filtering out the no hopers. Drummer Ian Wallace was the first to be hired after a recommendation from Keith Emerson and eventually Boz Burrell came on board as vocalist. After auditions failed to unearth a suitable candidate to play bass, Burrell was talked into taking up the instrument after Fripp saw him playing around with a bass that belonged to an auditioning musician. An intense crash course from Fripp and Wallace on the art of operating as an integral part of a rhythm section followed, and he was declared fit to tackle their live debut at the Zoom Club in Frankfurt on 12th April 1971. A nervy start knocked his confidence, but by the time the band reached the Bournemouth Winter Gardens on 2nd June 1971 as part of a short UK tour, he had regained his composure and Crimson were positively flying.

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King Crimson circa 1971, Left to Right: Mel Collins, Boz Burrell, Ian Wallace & Robert Fripp

During September, the band decamped to Command Studios in London to record Islands with added help from Keith Tippett on piano, Mark Charig on cornet, Robin Miller on oboe, double bassist Harry Miller and vocalist Paulina Lucas. Issued later that year, reviewers commented on the records overall warmth on songs such as “Formentera Lady” and the title track. The hack at the Melody Maker pitched in with, “Where their preceding albums had a dominant strain of almost overbearing intensity which matched the dark imagery, this is much more muted and soft”. Another critic stated that the atmosphere had changed so much from what had gone before, that he wondered if he had picked up the correct record. The album kept up the trend of diminishing returns by stalling at number thirty in January 1972.

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Islands 1971

After further concerts around Britain, including a late night performance at the ‘Weeley Festival’ outside Clacton and another visit to the Bournemouth Winter Gardens on 15th October, the first line-up not to include any participants from the Bournemouth area, apart from Fripp, undertook an ill-fated tour of the US. During the arduous slog around the American north-eastern states and Canada, the guitarist lost faith with the current members and Sinfield in particular. He chose not to socialise between shows and closeted himself away in hotel rooms practicing scales while the rest of band, oblivious to his concerns, indulged in the usual sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll antics associated with life on the road. On their return home, he confronted the musicians with an ultimatum; either he or Sinfield had to go, as he felt their musical ideas had become incompatible. Knowing that without Fripp there was no King Crimson, the trio backed their leader and sealed Sinfield’s fate.

In January 1972 brimming with a new air of optimism, the band reconvened for preliminary rehearsals at the Pinewood motel in Ferndown. Collins presented a couple of ideas for a new composition which Fripp dismissed out of hand, prompting Collins to leave the room in tears and Wallace and Burrell to quit. David Enthoven, Crimson’s manager, heard the news and panicked, as they were contracted to undertake an American tour in February. Fearing legal action, he phoned Wallace and pleaded with him to reconsider. Reluctantly, the trio of mutineers relented and returned to the fold. The resulting two-month trek went well considering the circumstances, but the writing was on the wall. As far as Fripp was concerned he had moved on and began discreet negotiations with Bill Bruford, the drummer from Yes. When the band returned home from the US they scattered. Burrell went on to fame and fortune with Bad Company, while Wallace and Collins joined Alexis Korner in Snape, before Wallace left to work with Peter Frampton and Bob Dylan. Later, Collins became an in demand session musician collaborating with Camel, Caravan, Dire Straits and the Rolling Stones. A budget live album, Earthbound, documenting the stateside trip was criticised in the press for its poor sound quality due to the source tapes being low-fidelity cassette tape.

While visiting friends and family in Bournemouth, John Wetton met up with Robert in Wimborne where the seeds were sown for him to join King Crimson. He had turned down the job once before when Fripp wanted an ally to even up the sides between the warring factions within the group. This time the omens felt right, and he joined an all new line-up of Fripp, drummer Bill Bruford, violinist David Cross and the eccentric percussionist Jamie Muir. Initial rehearsals in Richmond, London were slow, with the band struggling to come up with any tangible ideas, but, as the sessions gained momentum, new compositions took shape apart from the lyrics. It soon became apparent that the role vacated by Sinfield needed to be filled and Wetton, as the designated vocalist, needed something to sing. For John, the solution to the problem resided in Munich. An old school friend and former bandmate, Richard Palmer-James, had moved to Germany with his family the year before. John mailed him a tape of sketchy demos for him to work on and the results he posted back proved to be acceptable. Without even meeting the rest of the band, Palmer-James became the new Crimson lyricist.

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King Crimson 1973, Left to Right: Jamie Muir, Bill Bruford, Robert Fripp, Christopher Cross & John Wetton

After three warm up gigs at the Zoom Club in Frankfurt and an appearance on the German TV show Beat Club, the band returned to the UK to undertake a twenty-seven date tour of the provinces, including a concert at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens on 26th November 1972. Eschewing all that had gone before, the set-list comprised of all new material with almost half of each show being improvised. Another change came from the eccentric antics of Jamie Muir, the usual static stage presence of King Crimson (Fripp has always elected to sit on a stool while performing) was enlivened by the frantic percussionist throwing himself around the stage like a man possessed, while banging assorted baking trays and blowing whistles and bird calls.

In January 1973 they entered Command Studios to record Larks Tongues in Aspic, a title dreamt up by Muir when asked to describe the music they were making. Released in March, it gained respect amongst critics who praised the experimentation, bludgeoning riffs, swathes of brooding mellotron, incendiary guitar and Wetton’s unmistakable melodic and strident bass lines. The album also reversed the trend in falling sales, by scraping into the top twenty. As a warmup for a forthcoming tour, the band returned to their old stomping ground the Marquee in Wardour Street for a run of shows but, by the time of the final date, Muir had left unexpectedly citing a sense of spiritual awakening for his sudden departure. Undaunted, the band pressed on undertaking an eighteen date European tour which included the Bournemouth Winter Gardens on 24th March, followed by a gruelling two-and-a-half month schlep around the USA. In September, they were back in the UK for a further nineteen dates, before returning to Europe, where their recording engineer, George Chkiantz, taped several concerts for use on their next release, Starless and Bible Black. The band entered Air Studios to sculpt eight tracks from the live tapes and to tack on overdubs engineered by Chkiantz. The album title came from a quotation in Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and was originally a song Wetton had been working on at his parent’s home in Bournemouth. The tune itself failed to make the cut, but the title was purloined for an improvisation recorded in Amsterdam. Only four of the songs contained lyrics, again supplied by Palmer-James, with three being commentaries on the sleaziness of a materialistic society. It made the UK top thirty, but a negative response from the British press provoked the band into abandoning the home market and concentrating on America and mainland Europe instead.

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As they traversed America, the rhythm section of Wetton and Bruford became a formidable unit in intensity and volume, a situation that Fripp could just about keep up with but violinist David Cross couldn’t, as his instrument was unsuited to a heavy rock context. Feeling marginalised and forever turning up his amplifier, he gradually became dispirited and his confidence ebbed away. The situation came to a head with a vote of no confidence in the violinist before a final gig in Central Park New York on 1st July 1974, which left the band elated, particularly Wetton, who stated later that it was the “best gig he ever played”.

As the newly slimmed down trio prepared to record Red, Fripp read a book by the philosopher J. G. Bennett that triggered a spiritual awakening and left the guitarist in a state of turmoil. He found the resulting recording process difficult and left Bruford and Wetton to make most of the decisions on content and performance. Wetton drafted in two ex-members, Ian McDonald and Mel Collins, to add further instrumentation while Fripp invited in two veterans of the Lizard sessions, Robin Miller and Mark Charig, to add colour to the track “Fallen Angel”. Red was released in October too little fanfare or promotion, as Fripp had already reported to the music press that King Crimson had ceased to exist. It climbed to forty-five in the charts for one week, then disappeared from view, the weakest performance by any Crimson album to date. Retrospective reviews have been kinder than those posted on release and it has remained a fans favourite, with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain citing it as a major influence.

Wetton and Bruford were both philosophical about the split, despite the band still being capable of delivering stellar concerts and creating viable new music. A final epitaph, USA, recorded towards the end of their North American tour received the usual critical mauling. Fripp withdrew from the music-making process and floated the idea of Wetton and Bruford continuing with Ian McDonald to the EG management team, but they had no interest in a version of King Crimson without Robert Fripp at the helm. With the band mothballed indefinitely, Bruford joined Roy Harper’s Trigger before touring with Genesis and Wetton hooked up with Roxy Music. Fripp enrolled at the International Society for Continuous Education at Sherborne House, Gloucestershire in September 1975 to study the ‘Fourth Way’, a philosophy based on the ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff as assimilated by the mathematician and author John G. Bennett. The study would shape his thinking, approach to music and life for many years to come and would manifest itself in the early eighties with his Guitar Craft School of playing. As Fripp immersed himself in his studies he withdrew from view for two years.

In 1977, Robert took tentative steps back into the world of music by adding guitar and banjo to Peter Gabriel’s self-titled debut solo album. The liaison continued when he produced Gabriel’s follow up, also called Peter Gabriel and performed in his touring band under the pseudonym of Dusty Rhodes, while sat on a folding chair at the side of the stage hidden from view. During this period, Crimsons management team attempted to instigate a reformation with Wetton and Bruford in a revamped Red era line-up, but Fripp turned the opportunity down, preferring a move to the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York. He threw himself into a busy schedule of sessions with a host of differing artists at the vanguard of the city’s new wave and punk movement, including Blondie, The Roches and Talking Heads. He also produced Sacred Songs for Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates fame and flew to Berlin to add his distinctive guitar to David Bowie’s album Heroes, a favour he would repeat three years later on Scary Monsters.

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In 1978, Fripp launched a new phase in his career dubbed ‘The Drive to 1981’. It would be a three-year campaign leading up to 11th September 1981 when he believed mankind was in for an awakening of apocalyptic significance (spookily twenty years later to the day, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on the USA shocked the world). Along the way his increased workload included a trio of solo albums beginning with 1979’s Exposure, a seventeen track smorgasbord of songs, instrumentals, snippets of conversations and neighbours arguments spliced to make a whole. The guests included Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Brian Eno, Peter Hammill, Barry Andrews and on bass, future Crimson member Tony Levin. The second, God Save the Queen / Under Heavy Manners, featured a system of analogue tape loops labelled ‘Frippertronics’ (a term coined by his then girlfriend Joanna Walton) on the first side and on the flip, ‘Discotronics’, an amalgamation of rock and disco. The record featured bass and drums from Busta Jones and Paul Duskin plus vocals from chief Talking Head David Byrne. His third, Let the Power Fall: An Album of Frippertronics, comprised of six live performances documenting a tour he undertook as a ‘small, mobile, intelligent unit’, his description of a solo concert, as opposed to a gig with a full band.

The League of Gentlemen 1980
The League of Gentlemen in 1980, Left to Right: Johnny Toobad, Robert Fripp, Sara Lee & Barry Andrews

In 1980, he shifted his centre of operations, the grandly named ‘Fripp World Headquarters’, from the hustle and bustle of New York to an office above a shop in the market square of his sleepy hometown, Wimborne Minster. Possibly because he had returned to where his musical career started, Fripp resurrected the name of one of his first bands, The League of Gentlemen, for a new project with former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews, bassist Sara Lee and successive drummers Johnny Toobad and Kevin Wilkinson. The new wave, dance oriented unit rehearsed at the fourteenth century farm house at Lodge Farm, on the outskirts of Wimborne and played an early date at the tiny Brewers Arms pub in Poole on the 25th April as special guests of the local group The Martian Schoolgirls. After an American tour, a further three local gigs took place at a packed Royal Exeter Hotel in Bournemouth on 21st September with the Martian Schoolgirls as support and again on 13th and 16th November as part of a UK tour. By the time a self-titled album recorded at Arnys Shack with Tony Arnold in the engineers chair appeared in the shops, the wheels had been set in motion for what was to become a King Crimson rebirth.

Photo King Crimson 1980
King Crimson in 1980, Left to Right: Adrian Belew, Robert fripp, Bill Bruford & Tony Levin 

The first musician Fripp recruited was his former drummer Bill Bruford, whose own self-titled band had run its course. For a frontman, he took the unusual step of approaching another guitarist, Adrian Belew. During The League of Gentlemen’s US tour, Belew’s band, GaGa, had supported them in and around New York. His impressive CV included David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Talking Heads, and when Fripp pitched him a twin guitar idea, he was intrigued and accepted the offer. With three quarters of the quartet in place, they spent many fruitless hours auditioning bass players until Tony Levin walked into the room. Already known to Fripp from his days with Peter Gabriel and contributions to his first solo album Exposure, Levin was the perfect fit.

The two Brits and two Americans holed up in Fripp’s favoured Lodge Farm for rehearsals, before moving onto the Holdenhurst Village Hall near Throop. In musty surroundings more accustomed to jumble sales and whist drives, the band, now known as Discipline, worked their new repertoire into shape. They made a triumphant live debut at Moles Club in Bath on 30th April and with confidence high, undertook a short tour of the UK and Europe, road testing the new material, before entering Island Studios in May to commit their set to tape. Discipline was released in September, with the King Crimson name prominently displayed on the sleeve. It received the usual mixed reception from the critics, especially in Britain, but over time the record has proved to be one of their most popular. With King Crimson back as a potent force, they set off for the USA and Japan much to the relief of their manager Paddy Spinks, as the bankable Crimson name ensured sell-out concerts and the doubling of their fee over-night.

Holdenhurst Village Hall 4 (2)
Holdenhurst Village Hall where Discipline was conceived (Photograph John Cherry)

1982’s follow up Beat, was inspired by the writings of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. However, the ode to the Beat Generation lacked the impact of their debut, mainly because of the paucity of new material prepared before entering the studio. Belew felt under pressure being the main singer and songwriter, and tensions were clear during the recording process, with the various members unable to agree on the mix or sound choices. In the end, they left producer Rhett Davies to make the final decisions. Fripp always contended that they found it difficult to capture the same chemistry and intensity on record that they displayed in a live situation and the theory proved to be correct. Night after night they wowed audiences throughout America, Europe and on a short five date jaunt around the south of England finishing with a memorable night at the Poole Arts Centre on 14th March. A couple of days later they impressed a wider TV audience with an appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

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Due to the on off relationships within the band, 1983 turned out to be a barren period devoid of any live shows and only a couple of short periods spent recording. With extracurricular projects occupying all four members, Fripp recorded I Advance Masked with Andy Summers back at Arny’s Shack in Penn Hill under the watchful eye of studio owner and engineer Tony Arnold, an exercise the pair would repeat a year later on a further collaboration, Bewitched. On completion of I Advance Masked, the rest of Crimson joined Fripp and ‘Arny’ in the studio to lay down a couple of tracks, before moving the operation to London. Later in the year they reconvened in upstate New York to complete what was to become Three of a Perfect Pair. Released in March, to some positive reviews, they toured the album in Japan, America and Canada before performing their final concert on 11th July 1984 in Montreal. Fripp in his usual forthright manner then announced that the band was finished, with ongoing tensions and members running parallel careers, no one was surprised.

An aside: Tony ‘Arny’ Arnold grew up in Kinson, a northern suburb of Bournemouth and attended the same seat of learning as Zoot Money, Porchester School for Boys in Charminster. He played in several bands in the sixties, including The Pack who supported The Animals at the Bure Club in February 1964. In the seventies, Tony followed his passion for recording and opened Arny’s Shack studio in Penn Hill, Poole. Over the years he engineered or produced records for The Troggs, the Eurythmics, Harry Nilsson, Rory Gallagher, Toyah, Robert Fripp, Andy Summers and hundreds of local bands. He also remastered King Crimson’s back catalogue and was the director of Helios Electronics, a supplier of specialist studio equipment. In 1993 Tony sold Arny’s Shack (it still operates as a studio called Active Music to this day) and in later life moved to France with his wife Nat, where he sadly died on 20th July 2018.    

Tony Arnold in his natural environment, Arny’s Shack

In 1985, Fripp formed the Guitar Craft Music School. An exploration of performance, composition, discipline and lifestyle which incorporated the ‘New Standard Tuning’ and an ergonomic way of using the plectrum on the guitar of choice, a steel-strung Ovation 1867 Legend. By retuning the guitar, it urged guitarists to experience playing as a beginner and to approach the instrument in a fresh way. A spin off from these courses resulted in a large scale performing and recording group called The League of Crafty Guitarists.

Witchampton (7)
St Mary & Cuthberga & All Saints Church, Witchampton where Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox tied the knot in May 1986, Fripp’s fortieth birthday (Photograph John Cherry)

On Friday 16th May 1986, Robert’s fortieth birthday, he and singer / actress Toyah Ann Willcox married at St Mary & Cuthberga & All Saints’ Church, Witchampton. The following year, the pair bought Cecil Beaton’s old abode Reddish House in Broad Chalke Wiltshire, which remained their family home until 1999 when the couple moved to The Old Manor in Evershot. It was almost inevitable that they would record together and the result, The Lady or the Tiger? recorded at Arny’s Shack, appeared a matter of months after their wedding. Side one featured Toyah reciting Frank R. Stockton’s The Lady or the Tiger? overlaid with soundscapes created by her husband, while the flip side contained another Stockton story, The Discourager of Hesitancy / The Encourager of Precipitation with accompaniment from The League of Crafty Guitarists. The pair played a handful of concerts in 1988 billed as the ‘Fripp Fripp Tour’, with Trey Gunn on Chapman Stick and Bournemouth drummer Paul Beavis. One date on the 14th November took place at the Academy in Boscombe, the scene of the disastrous Cremation gig nearly twenty years earlier. The following year they carried out further dates with the same line–up billed as ‘Sunday All Over the World’ and taped a second album in 1991 called Kneeling at the Shrine, the last recording by the husband and wife team.

Another collaboration of note occurred in 1993, with the former singer of Japan, David Sylvian. Initially Fripp had approached him about joining a re-formed Crimson, but he declined. Instead, they released The First Day with future Crimson members bassist Trey Gunn and drummer Pat Mastelotto. It proved to be a moderate success just missing the top twenty. The same line-up with the addition of Michael Brook on guitar, embarked on the ‘Road to Graceland 93’ tour and recorded the final concert at the Royal Albert Hall for release as the album Damage.

In 1994 King Crimson re-formed with the core line up from the eighties, plus a second drummer Pat Mastelotto and Chapman Stick maestro Trey Gunn. They were known as the double trio. A taster EP, Vroom, introduced the unusual configuration and a full album, “Thrak”, followed in 1995. For the next two years, they toured Europe, America, Canada, and Japan, but notably shied away from the UK, apart from four shows in London at the Royal Albert Hall and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Fripps deep distrust of the media in his home country was still intact. During 1997 and 1999 the double trio fractured and became several units working under the name of ProjeKcts. Bruford left in 2000 to pursue his jazz leanings in Earthworks, and Levin signed on to undertake recording sessions with Peter Gabriel and a tour with the soul singer Seal. The remaining members of Fripp, Belew, Gunn and Malstellotto recorded The ConstruKction of Light in Belew’s studio in Nashville. The harsh metallic sound constructed with processed drums, complex rhythms and interlocking guitars, proved to be a challenging and difficult listening experience. The follow up, Heaven and Hell, was recorded at the same sessions and released under the name of ProjeKt X. It featured dominant rhythmic dance tracks conceived by Gunn and Mastellotto, with the two guitarists taking a back seat. 2003’s The Power to Believe gained wide critical acclaim, however, after a promotional tour, Trey Gunn decided it was time to move on making way for Levin to return. Fripp on the other hand had other ideas and pulled the plug for three years.

In an unexpected move Robert joined the European and South American leg of the G3 tour with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. G3 was a concept created by Satriani, where three guitarists would perform a solo set each, before coming together for an all-star jam finale. As this was a showcase for guitar players of a more extravagant nature, the inclusion of the refined Fripp, who preferred to sit on a stool throughout his performances, was unusual. Not one for grandstanding, Fripp opened each show performing Soundscape’s as the audience entered the auditorium, before handing over to his flamboyant counterparts. For the jam at the end, he would stand at the back of the stage allowing Satriani and Vai to widdle away to their heart’s content, only taking the odd short solo when instructed. On 27th June, the tour called into the Bournemouth International Centre which Fripp likened to performing “in a vision of hell with appalling acoustics to a half comatose crowd”. He was upset that his two friends, Gordon Haskell and John Wetton, had to witness such an unedifying spectacle.

King Crimson reconvened in late 2007 with the addition of drummer Gavin Harrison from the Porcupine Tree, for a series of dates intending to build up to the bands 40th anniversary. Other commitments and projects however, scuppered any celebrations and the band went into another hiatus. Crimson have never been a nostalgia act and only reform when the time is right and there is something new to say. Fripp uses the band to explore new directions and although he has been approached by ex-members to reform differing line-ups from certain eras throughout his career, he always resisted the urge to look back. In an interview with the Financial Times in 2012, he reported that he had stopped making music to deal with business issues, stating that his main grievances were with the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record label. The problems arose when they took over the rights of his back catalogue and distributed King Crimson music via downloads and streaming against his wishes. He spent his downtime remixing the Crimson back catalogue and collating a bewildering array of live recordings for release on his independent King Crimson Collectors Club and Discipline Global Mobile labels from his headquarters near Salisbury.

In 2013 he surprised everyone by appearing on the celebrity game show All Star Mr and Mrs with his wife Toyah, winning £5,000 for their chosen charity, the St. Richard’s Hospice in Worcester. An even bigger surprise occurred later in the year, when he announced that King Crimson Mark 8 would return to active service in 2014. The line-up of the band also raised eyebrows, when it was discovered that the second longest serving member, Adrian Belew, would not be taking part and Jakko Jakszyk, Michael Giles’s brother-in-law and former member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, would be on board in his place. Another Schizoid Band member and former Crimson luminary saxophonist Mel Collins also returned, along with bassist Tony Levin. To complete the line-up he added three drummers Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastellotto and new boy Bill Rieflin, a former REM skins man and member of The Humans, a band created by Toyah Wilcox in 2007. A clue to the line–up appeared in May 2011 when Fripp, Collins and Jakszyk released the album A Scarcity of Miracles with the sub-name, A King Crimson ProjeKt. Levin and Harrison added bass and drums to the improvisations, but at the time Fripp denied that it was a King Crimson record. The change of heart was partly brought about by the conclusion of his six-year dispute with the Universal Music Group.

To date the band has toured constantly throughout North and South America, Europe and Japan to rave reviews. Two live albums have officially been released, 2015’s “King Crimson Live at the Orpheum” and “Live in Toronto” in 2017, although numerous concerts are available online. The albums showcase the band in full flight delving into all areas of their vast back catalogue. Late in 2016 Bill Rieflin took a sabbatical and Jeremy Stacey of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds took his place until January 2017 when it was announced Rieflin would return on keyboards and Stacey would remain on drums. By recruiting Stacey, Fripp revived the practice of employing hometown musicians as Jeremy, along with his twin brother Paul, grew up in Poole and cut their teeth on the local jazz scene. On Sunday 28th October 2018 the band played a friends, family and fan club members only gig at the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth. The following night they delivered a stunning, cacophonous set to a packed Pavilion on the opening night of a UK tour. 2019 was King Crimson’s fiftieth anniversary and the band, sans Rieflin (he sadly died of cancer in March 2020), undertook dates around the world to celebrate, including three nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London. All live activities were brought to a sudden halt in 2020 with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

King Crimson at the Pavilion Theatre Bournemouth 29th October 2018 (Photograph John Cherry)

Fripp’s technique remains unique, the many hours spent in his bedroom in Leigh Road, Wimborne mastering his instrument has paid off as it’s his vision that infuses every King Crimson record, regardless of the bands makeup. He now lives happily with Toyah in Bredonborough, a mythical town of his own invention created to protect his privacy (he actually lives in a small village close to Worcester) and regularly updates his on-line diary on the website. He has stated that the latest incarnation of King Crimson is the easiest to work with as it’s the first where he doesn’t sense any “animosity or resentment from at least one member”. In the past he found the pressure of constantly writing and touring, plus a continuous rotation of quarrelsome musicians, too stressful to elicit any kind of enjoyment.

During the 2020 pandemic, Robert and Toyah took to Youtube, releasing numerous videos of the pair covering a wide range of songs in their kitchen, cavorting in the their back garden dressed as ballet dancers, creeping around their house hiding behind a pair of unicorns and other bizarre stunts under the heading “Toyah and Robert’s Sunday Lunch”. Their latest endeavor is a series of videos called “Toyah and Robert’s – Agony Aunts” where they answer your searching questions. Who said the brainiac Robert Fripp didn’t have a sense of humour?

The King Crimson back catalogue is vast when you add in all the live shows and revamped reissues, but if you are a complete Crimson virgin try The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson 1969–2003 on the DGM label. It is as good a place as any place to embark on a long strange trip.

The Condensed 21st Century Guide To King Crimson

 A Selective Robert Fripp Discography
 Giles, Giles and Fripp Singles

One in a Million c/w Newly Weds: Deram (DM 188) 1968

Thursday Morning c/w Elephant Song: Deram (DM 210) 1968

Giles, Giles and Fripp Albums

  The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp: Deram (DML/SML 1022) 1968

Metaphormosis: Tenth Planet (TP 049) 2001 Limited vinyl edition 1,000 copies

The Brondesbury Tapes (1968): Voiceprint (VP 235CD) 2001 CD

 King Crimson Singles

The Court of the Crimson King Pt. 1 c/w The Court of the Crimson King Pt. 2: Island (WIP 6071) 1969

Cat Food c/w Groon: Island (WIP 6080) 1970

The Night Watch c/w The Great Deceiver: Island (WIP 26189) 1974

Matte Kudasai c/w Elephant Talk: EG (EGO 2) 1981

Heartbeat c/w (Excerpt from) Requiem: EG (EGO 6) 1982

Vroom: Disciplne (DGM 004) 1994 EP

  King Crimson Albums

In the Court of the Crimson King: Island (ILPS 9111) 1969

In the Wake of Poseidon: Island (ILPS 9127) 1970

Live in Hyde Park (July 5th 1969): Discipline Global Mobile (CLUB12) 2002 Live

Lizard: Island (ILPS 9141) 1970

Islands: Island (ILPS 9175) 1971

Earthbound: Island (HELP 6) 1972 Live

Larks Tongues in Aspic: Island (ILPS 9230) 1973

Starless and Bible Black: Island (ILPS 9275) 1974

Red: Island (ILPS 9308) 1974

USA: Island (ILPS 9316) 1975 Live

The Young Persons Guide to King Crimson: Island (ISLD 7) 1975 A retrospective

Discipline: EG (EGLP 49) 1981

Beat: EG (EGLP 51) 1982

Three of a Perfect Pair: EG (EGLP 55) 1984

Thrak: DGM (KCCD 1) 1995

The Gates of Paradise: Discipline (DGM 9608) 1997

The ConstruKction of Light: Virgin (7243 8 42961) 2000

Heaven and Hell: DGM (DGM0005) 2000 As ProjeKt X

The Power to Believe: Sanctuary (SANCD 155) 2003

A Scarcity of Miracles: Discipline Global Mobile (KCSP21) 2011 A King Crimson ProjeKt album

The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson 1969–2003: Discipline Global Mobile (DGM0604) 2006 A two CD retrospective

King Crimson Live at the Orpheum: Discipline Global Mobile (DGMSP2) 2015 Live

Live in Toronto: Discipline Global Mobile (KCLPBX501) 2017 Live

Robert Fripp with Brain Eno Albums

No Pussyfooting: Island (HELP 16) 1973

Evening Star: Island (HELP 22) 1975

Robert Fripp Solo Albums

Exposure: EG (EGLP 101) 1979

God Save the Queen / Under Heavy Manners: EG (EGLP 105) 1980

Let the Power Fall: An Album of Frippertronics: EG (EGED 10) 1981

The League of Gentlemen Singles

Heptaparaparshinokh c/w Marriagemuzic: EG (EGEDS 1) 1980

Dislocated c/w 1984 (January 13th – May 16th): EG (EGEDS 2) 1981

The League of Gentlemen Album

Robert Fripp / The League of Gentlemen: Editions EG (EGED 9) 1981

 Robert Fripp and Andy Summers Albums

I Advance Masked: A&M (AMLH 64913) 1983

Bewitched: A&M (AMLX 68569) 1984

Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox Albums

The Lady or the Tiger?: EG (EGED 44) 1986

Kneeling at the Shrine: EG (EEG 2101-1) 1991 As Sunday all Over the World

Robert Fripp and David Sylvian Albums

The First Day: Virgin (TCV 2712) 1993

Damage: Virgin (DAMAGE 1) 1994 Live

   Robert Fripp Albums as a Guest

Van Der Graaf Generator: Pawn Hearts: Charisma (CAS 1051) 1971

Centipede: Septober Energy: RCA Victor (DPS 2054) 1971 as Producer

Matching Mole: Matching Moles Little Red Book: CBS (CBS 65260) 1972 as Producer

Brian Eno Another Green World: Island (ILPS 9351) 1975

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel: Charisma (CDS 4006) 1977

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel 2: Charisma (CDS 4013) 1978

Blondie Parallel Lines: Chrysalis (CHE1192) 1978

The Roches The Roches: Warner Bros (WB 56683) 1978

Talking Heads Fear of Music: Sire (SRK 6076) 1979

Daryl Hall Sacred Songs: RCA (PL 13573) 1977 Producer

David Bowie Heroes: RCA (PL 42377) 1977

David Bowie Scary Monsters: RCA (PL 83647) 1980

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel 3: Charisma (CDS 4019) 1980

Iona Beyond These Shores: What Records (WHAD 1300) 1993

The Future Sound of London Lifeforms: Virgin (V 2722) 1994

 FFWD FFWD: Inter Modo (INTA 001 CD) 1994

No Man Flowermouth: One Little Indian (TPLP 67CD) 1994

Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet: Roadrunner (RR 8011-2) 2007

10 thoughts on “Robert Fripp

  1. Discipline – conceived in Holdenhurst Village Hall….cripes – WTF…this sounds like a Bible story. Amazing stuff.
    I was at the G3 gig at the BIC – Robert greatly disappointed most of the (very enthusiastic for the other acts) by playing a keyboard (or a guitar that looked like he was playing a keyboard!) piece for his solo slot. This was supposed to be a Guitars night and I’m sorry to say Robert just did not deliver…. and we all know he CAN!
    At least Joe and Steve gave dynamite performances!
    Roberts tells a great story about recording Bowie’s Beauty and the beast (track opener on Heroes) in the recent excellent Dylan Jones biography of David Bowie.
    Well done on this incredible piece Mr Cherry. Do you inhabit people’s brains in some sort of Time Travel adventure? You seem to know such amazing details of events – outstanding research yet again I guess. Much appreciated by this reader.


  2. Thanks Neil,
    I have heard from other people that Fripp was something of a disappointment at that G3 gig, but there again, always expect the unexpected from the maestro. The King Crimson 50th anniversary concerts at the Albert Hall were outstanding. The three drum line-up on paper sounds like it should be a cacophonous racket, but they interlock and weave around each without clashing and power the band to unbelievable heights and of course Fripp dazzles with his technique. An unforgettable experience.


  3. A fine story here; numerous threads and strings have been woven into whole cloth. It is a joy to savor the flow of time in a clear and impartial telling. I find the poor editing disconcerting, though. Commas where semicolons should be, a lack of hyphens, run-on sentences… oh, dear. A reworking by the Punctuation Police, aided by the Grammar Goons, would go far in lubricating this tale.


    1. Thanks for the comment Douglas nice to know you enjoyed the story, although it looks like the hours spent daydreaming and wishing I was some place else during English lessons have finally come home to roost.


  4. It gave me a lot of joy to read that Holdenhurst Village Hall is involved. I used to rehearse their with so many of the bands that I was in when I lived in Bournemouth. When I got married in Throop the Hall was where we held our super, down to earth reception. We walked from Throop’s St John’s through cow pats to our celebration. That Hall is legendary.


  5. Hello, John,

    A gem once again, packed with information, engagingly told. Your research and interesting details always are amazing. Thank you so much for the work you do, and share with us.

    If I may inform a small addition, Robert produced Poole trio Spontaneous Combustion’s 1973 single release ‘B’ side “And Now For Something Completely Different!–Sabre Dance”. He spent several days at the Margetts family’s Nansen Avenue home with brothers Gary and Tris Margetts and Tony Brock prior to the recording. Tris and Gary’s Mum Hazel shares an hilarious story that Robert was critical of her “horrible” trifle and came back for seconds.

    Thanks again for your great work, and sharing it with us.

    Best wishes,


    Spontaneous Combustion official Facebook page:

    Gary’s post 20 March 2018:
    Mike Healy posted comment, with photo of Robert Fripp-produced single:
    I’ve seen pics of the label for that one. How did Robert Fripp come to producing that?

    Gary replied:
    He wanted to. We spent a week or more together arranging and rehearsing. It was all done in the back room in Nansen Avenue. He would often come round for a cup of tea 🤣 Can’t remember what studio we recorded it in probably Abbey Road.

    My post 31 August 2018:
    Gary Margetts and Tris Margetts had more interesting teenage years than I!

    Tris Margetts 
    I thought it was Air Studio in Oxford Circus, I may be wrong but I don’t think it was Abbey road.  We recorded Triad at Abbey, the small studio on the left, we also did something in the larger studio with the steps (not with Steps…5,6,7,8….) the one the Beatles used, can’t for the life of me remember what it was. 

    Gary Margetts 
    I remember the large studio😃


    1. Hi Carol,
      Thanks for reading my musings and taking the time to comment. If you read my entry on Spontaneous Combustion, which I uploaded a couple of week ago, you will see that Robert received a mention for his contribution to the B side of their “Sabre Dance” single.
      I would appreciate any comments you might have on that particular entry, as I am not absolutely sure on some of the timelines and line-ups.
      Glad you are enjoying the blog and stay safe, John


  6. What an interesting story, I live near Cranborne and not my daughter and I went to school in Wimborne. Cranborne Chase and the surrounding areas are certainly areas of outstanding natural beauty. I met a couple years ago a guy Marc who lives in Newmarket now and does your cds for you he told me. I went to see Toyah in Southampton many years ago. Excellent story


    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I’m glad you found the story interesting. Yes, that part of Dorset is certainly beautiful and a nice place to go for walks. John


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