I sometimes wonder what would have happened had the first band stayed together and made another album. Did the group peak with the first record, or would we have gone on to greater things? I have to believe the latter, but as I cannot re-write music history, I must be content with having helped with at least one page of it with In the Court of the Crimson King.
I have nothing but fond memories of my time with King Crimson, and for my fellow band members: Robert, the intense intellectual, whose one-of-a-kind mind probably could have excelled at just about anything (but fortunately for us, he chose to make music); Mike, whose witty and inventive drumming never failed to support and inspire me in my playing; Greg, who brought confidence and strength to the music, as well as the stage presence that matched his regal voice; and Pete, whose vision and enthusiasm helped propel the band towards the recognition that quickly came its way. His subtle but colourful lyrics gave meaning to our music - he was the proverbial ‘fifth member.’
Of course none of us was perfect, and not surprisingly, our relationship wasn’t always ideal. But the weight of material such as ‘Schizoid Man’ and the mind-numbing set-closer ‘Mars’ belied the group’s internal fragility.
Amusingly, the music was given the label ‘doom rock.’ This perhaps was partially true - the band was doomed to last only a year, if that. The term might apply though to ‘Epitaph’ - for me the best song of the album and, I think, Greg’s best vocal performance anywhere.
The band was short-lived but my memories are endless. Some standouts: Playing to over 500,000 people in Hyde Park in the summer of ’69 (our big debut), during which a giant photograph of Brian Jones fell on top of Greg while he was singing... hugs all round from Donovan at a Speakeasy gig after we played his ‘Get Thy Bearings’... a performance at the Change Is club in Newcastle, in which Fripp took a wireless microphone into the men’s room causing unusual sounds to emanate from the house P.A. system... Mike‘s drum solos in which he would amble round to the front of his drum kit and, kneeling down, mutter incoherently with his head inside the bass drum... our first gig in America, which was literally on the floor of the cafeteria in a small college in Montpelier, Vermont... and the flight to Boston the following sunny day, over golden-leafed forests, lakes and mountains - my first real view of the States.
More memories: road crew members Dik Fraser and Richard Vickers (of ‘Vick and Dik’ fame) and the rest of us having to blow dry the amplifiers all night in a Chicago hotel room after the local fire department soaked our equipment (someone had tried to torch the club we were playing in)... the somewhat quizzical expression of the audience at the Whiskey-A-Gogo in Los Angeles when, during one of our collective improvisations, we descended into silence - and stayed there. This resulted in a spontaneous game of “chicken” to see which band member would break the silence first (the answer to this is highly classified information). I could go on, but...
There may never be a second album from the first band, but this comes close - ‘Pictures of a City’ is here from the original group’s last date, for example. It’s been a while now since we made the recordings, but whenever I listen, there’s one thing I know - I’ll always be proud to say, “That’s me!”
Ian McDonald, New York City, November 1996
Taken from the sleeve notes to “Epitaph”