1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #288: The Court of the Crimson King (1969)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)

We’re back to the UK today, dear reader, and we’re in the company of a group who were a big influence on the early progressive rock movement. One thing I am finding with this challenge is the fascinating back stories to these artists and also how performers I’ve known in other groups or as solo singers were actually involved in other collaborations. We have another such example today. Formed in 1968, King Crimson have undergone many changes in their history but when they released their debut album in 1969, In the Court of the Crimson King, there was on vocals and bass a young man named Greg Lake! From this debut effort, 1001 Songs have chosen The Court of the Crimson King.

The Court of the Crimson King clocks in at seven minutes and is an epic piece of work. Greg Lake takes us through the first two verses. Each verse describes an array of individuals and events that are taking place in the court of the title. There are tournaments, witches, pipers, queens and all sorts happening. It’s the place to be. Each verse concludes with the refrain to remind us where we are i.e. the Crimson King’s Court. After the second verse, we get a brief instrumental before Lake sings the third verse, making reference to a gardener, orchestra and a juggler. The piece then switches to a flute solo entitled The Return of the Fire Witch before we move onto the fourth and final verse. The closing segment has wise men, yellow jesters and dancing puppets before the refrain brings the song towards its denouement. In the last couple of minutes or so we have another instrumental entitled The Dance of the Puppets which finally brings the curtain down on a truly stunning song.

Wow! Where do I begin? I had not heard of King Crimson and certainly did not know that Greg Lake had been involved with such a group prior to both his solo career or his work with Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The Court of the Crimson King ticks all the boxes for me. The historical references are in there, which pleases me greatly but the music is fantastic, switching and changing as the group move through the many segments, while Greg Lake’s voice carries this epic perfectly from start to finish. I have discovered a lot of great music on this challenge thus far but The Court of the Crimson King is amongst the best songs thus far. King Crimson’s line-up changes began as soon as the 1970s kicked in with guitarist, Robert Fripp, pushing the group in directions the other members did not agree with. Fripp has remained the only founding member to still be with the group to this day.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)

The Doors – The End (1967)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)

The Kinks – Days (1968)

King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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