On this date back in 1969 King Crimson entered No.4 studio at BBC’s Maida Vale facilities.
Nightowl Ian McDonald, who hadn’t got to bed until 3 the previous morning was up at 11.30 to wash his hair and get some flute practice in before heading off in his mini to pick up Bob and Greg. Picking their way through the traffic they headed across London to rendezvous with Mike Giles, Pete Sinfield and the gear at Maida Vale.
The former roller-skating rink in west London had been opened by the BBC in 1934 and was capable of handling an 80 piece orchestra. By the time King Crimson arrived the names of the groups who had been through its doors read like a stellar who’s who of music scene.
With only six official gigs under their belt they had created enough of a buzz for producer John Walters to want them on John Peel’s prestigious show. Even back then it was understood that an appearance on this programme was a very useful step up the ladder and spread the word.
Booked from 2.30 to 6.00 with John Peel’s producer, John Walters and Tony Wilson engineering, they worked through Court, Schizoid Man and I Talk To The Wind.
Whilst the last song was by then tried and tested, Schizoid Man and Court in particular were still very new. Work on the latter had started in February and was only completed in April in their basement rehearsal studio
McDonald recalls that their first Peel session was quite good but that he was unhappy with the woodwind and vocals.
The three songs were broadcast on May 11th on the same night that Crimso played Haverstock Hill’s Country Club with The Pretty Things. Knowing he’d miss the broadcast, McDonald asked his father to tape record the show off air.
Sadly, of that first Top Gear recording only Court and almost sedately paced Schizoid Man survive, the latter being a cleaned up version that had been doing the bootleg rounds for several years before being collected on the Epitaph Boxset in 1997.