On this date 48 years ago King Crimson began a run of dates at London's Marquee Club. The residency was important for the band who, at that point, were still only just over five months old, helping spread the word about the band.
During the course of 1969 King Crimson made thirteen appearances at the Marquee Club. Located at 90 Wardour Street in London’s Soho, the club was frequented by the great and good of the music industry and was one of the key venues in the city to play if you were a young band wanting to get established. The small cramped surroundings had played host to countless bands who’d used their appearance there as kind of benchmark that indicated they were an outfit to be taken seriously. When King Crimson appeared on a bill supporting American band, Steppenwolf, on 16th May (coincidently Robert Fripp’s birthday), members of Yes were in the audience. Having headlined the club several times, most recently just two days previously, Yes were there to check out the new kids on the block. Although this was only Crimson’s 9th gig in London there was already something of a buzz about the band.
After witnessing Crimson at Hyde Park, guitarist Tony Lowe, who would later go on to be a member of the band Waves which also featured future Crim, David Cross, attended the Marquee gigs on several occasions. “The club itself was one of my favourites back in the day. It was always hot and stuffy but that didn’t seem to matter. The bar was unusual at the time because it was partly soundproofed and it was actually possible to talk if there was music on in the main area. If my memory serves me right there were mirrors along the end wall in the main room. Those gigs with Crimson were packed. The queue got longer every week as the word went round. Crimson at the Marquee became such a regular thing that one night Robert Fripp started the show by saying with a slight grin and said ‘Welcome to the King Crimson Show...’
Their performances there were indeed legendary. I’ve never experienced anything like it since. I’m not sure if I can put my finger on exactly what struck me so hard about the band but I was well and truly hooked. I first realised how lights could be used at these gigs, and watching Pete Sinfield at the side of the stage, controlling them on such a little set up was always entertaining. The lighting was changing exactly with the dramatic changes in the arrangements. I also remember Robert Fripp coating his hands with talcum powder just before playing. Most of the shows opened with Schizoid Man LOUD! I think if they’d had decibel level rules in those days, those guys would have definitely broken them. Before breaking into Court Of The Crimson King they would wander around their instruments going from improvised jazz into strange and often haunting areas of music. They were a force to be reckoned with...”
Though no audio record exists of that first gig, an audience recording believed to be from the 6th July formed the basis of the first King Crimson Collectors' Club mail order only release in 1998.
The same show was later reissued for Record Store Day in 2015.Extensive audio restoration was applied to the bootleg tape and as one of the earliest live recordings of the band, pre-dating the release of In The Court Of The Crimson King by more than three months, for all its lo-fi quality, the recording nevertheless captures something of the raw power that had already made Crimson London’s hottest new band on the scene.