Plumpton Festival Plumpton England

For King Crimson’s appearance at the 9th National Jazz, Pop, Ballads & Blues Festival, the band were placed low down on the bill with Idle Race, Dry Ice and Groundhogs, and situated in a tent well away from the main stage. “Can I tell why we played there?” Fripp explained to Vic Garbarini in 1981, “The agency that booked it hadn't been completely straight with us, so we said, you're no longer our agents. So instead of putting us on front stage -where we'd wipe out anything they had- they stuck us in the tent, so we wouldn't touch anyone. It was a deliberate agency move to fuck up our careers.”

Captured in this audience recording, the incendiary rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man opening the show suggests that Fripp’s assertion that Crimso would wipe out anyone else is pretty much on the mark. Aside from the shock and awe of the bone-crunching opening, the fiery details in the ensuing piece are really unlike any other of the rock acts appearing that day. The telepathic qualities between the Giles and Lake are quite extraordinary. Check out the audacious slow-down in tempo under Fripp’s solo. Just as it seems they’re about to grind to a halt, the pair take off again, adding to the drama underneath Fripp’s angular workout, ahead of the transition to Ian McDonald’s frenzied burst.

An incendiary sequence of improvisations within Donavan’s Get Thy Bearings, Mantra and Travel Weary Capricorn showcase a determination to break away from the verse-chorus-extended solo, the accepted norm of the day, and adopt a collective approach that was open-ended and above all, open-minded. Runs and phrases are sometimes swapped, openings are sometimes ignored or dropped as one member of the quartet pulls in another direction altogether. And if all this sounds rather serious and sombre, there’s plenty of examples within these fascinating pieces where the band is clearly smiling and having a lot of fun.

Please note this concert was originally released as part of the Epitaph 4-disc box set.

AUDIO SOURCE: Bootleg Cassette



21st Century Schizoid Man
Get Thy Bearings
In The Court Of The Crimson King
Travel Weary Capricorn
Improv Including By The Sleeping Lagoon



KC19690809Plumpton3 - Ian McDonald


Written by Andrew Thomas
Fearless and highly...thrakked?
A must-have show from the original Crimson, with quality fidelity and exceptional performance. All live recordings of this lineup can be a bit dodgy in terms of sound quality, but this one is better than the average. It's good enough that the subtleties of Lake's bass and Giles' drumming can be appreciated, and that's about as good as it gets from this time period. Even better, the mellotron stays in tune throughout! As for the performance, one can only marvel at how good this band was right off the bat. "21st Century Schizoid Man" is done at an awe-inspiring, blistering tempo, and the Donovan cover that follows is even more radical. Lake's melodic vocals drift atop very free, avant-garde arrangements that frequently veer into caustic improvisations (with some guitar playing that qualifies as early thrakking). It's aggressively abrasive but also exhilarating to behold - no other rock band from that year could do this kind of thing and keep it from dissolving into mush. This line-up was truly fearless, particularly in their willingness to use silence as part of the improv - they were not at all scared of venturing into unstructured territory, and the results are breathtaking. One of the best parts of the live shows from this line-up was the "Mantra/Travel Weary Capricorn/Improv/Mars" segment, which never got represented on a proper studio record (as much as I like "The Devil's Triangle" on the second album, it's no match for the live "Mars"). The guitar phrases of "Mantra" drift into more distorted areas than in some of the other '69 shows, almost feeling like a jazzier "Red" at times. "Capricorn" is a bit of a Giles, Giles & Fripp throwback (reworking some elements of "Wonderland"), but with more confidence and aggression, and the improv that it slides into is one of the main attractions of this show. And eventually it morphs into "Mars," perhaps the most terrifying and heavy thing happening in rock music at the time. Holst's piece is transformed into a bruising, gut-punching monster that's heavier than heavy metal and utterly scorching in its intensity. Those signature 5/4 riffs drift in like a stormcloud and grow more and more fearsome with every repetition, pummeling the listener with aural terror. As great as the debut album was, it only scratches the surface of what the original Crimson was capable of. Intellectual and visceral in equal measure, this show is a necessary addition for even the most casual of listeners.
Written by David Freshman
Intense music that challenges!
This recording of King Crimson from the Plumpton Festival, Aug. 9th, 1969, shows the band on fire.  The recording itself is a bit lo-fi, but the playing is superb! When King Crimson take chances and really play straight from their souls, there simply is no other band on Earth that compares. At this time, King Crimson were really taking fantastic risks and challenging themselves and audiences nightly. Joe Strummer mentioned in an old issue of Musician (1981 I think), that he was at this show in the tent that the band was forced to perform in.  (He was talking with Robert in the article).  It blew Joe away. What strikes me so clearly about this recording is the brilliant improvisations and wild, on the edge places that the music goes. "Mantra", "Travel Weary Capricorn" and "Improv-Including The Sleeping Lagoon".  The songs that were performed that day show some of the best sides of this band.  The way the band could take an E minor progression to places that were so lovely, unpredictable and imaginative still, to this day, causes me to go back and learn and discover the beauty of Music. Next year will be 50 years of playing the guitar for me. When I see Robert and King Crimson still driving forward, it makes me have the same desire.  The band inspires me all the time.  I own probably close to well over 150+ recordings of King Crimson.  They are the only band that I want to keep in my world constantly. My five favorite 1969 live shows of King Crimson in my personal order are: 1. Chesterfield Jazz Club - Sept. 7th, 19692. Marquee Club - July 6th, 19693.Plumpton Festival - August 9th, 19694. Fillmore East - November 21, 1969 ( I think)5. Hyde Park, London - July 5th, 1969Of course I also own the Epitaph (4-CD) box set too. Thank you Robert, Michael, Greg and Ian for all the wonderful music that you have created.  Thank you Peter for your lyrics and work.