Tunes of the Weird: King Crimson

It’s a pity YouTube doesn’t have the Sesame Street bit with the great Chinese pianist Lang Lang auditioning for the Grouch Symphony Orchestra. He plays a wonderfully sensitive bit from Rachmaninoff, then a dazzling, playful bit of Lizst, only to be told by Oscar that the orchestra hates beautiful music. In frustration, he slams his elbows on the piano. That, of course, gets him in, and he plays a concerto for orchestra and two elbows in E very flat minor.

Bob, who has been watching the whole scene, tells Lang Lang he doesn’t have to do this.

Lang Lang, who has remarkable comic delivery in his non-native language, responds: “But it’s so interesting …”

That leads us to an occasional new series here, Tunes of the Weird. And the first entry is certainly interesting. It’s King Crimson’s Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, as performed on a Belgian or possibly German TV show in 1972 or possibly 1973.

The song itself, a violent collision of prog and jazz that’s inexplicably catchy, is interesting in its own right. But you have to see the video to see the five guys behind it, including the weirdest guy I’ve ever seen in rock. Or classical. Or whatever they’re playing.

I won’t need to tell you which guy it is. Watch, then I’ll fill you in on the other guys.

You guessed it. They’re all weird.

But the one with the bird calls and the whistle is the most wonderfully eccentric person you’re likely to see in music, Jamie Muir.

Sadly, he didn’t stay in music long, as he explains in this interview. He took up Buddhism and went to a monastery in Scotland. Yes, apparently, there are Buddhist monasteries in Scotland. He returned briefly to music but is now painting. I think I’d pay to watch that.

As for the rest of the band, we have …

– Robert Fripp, the stern-faced guitarist and the only guy who has managed to stay in King Crimson for the duration.

– John Wetton, who seems entirely too free-spirited to play bass in this band but would later seem entirely too uptight to sing in Asia.

– Bill Bruford, the jazz-influenced drummer who had already played on Yes’ classic work but dressed as if he were auditioning for Hee-Haw.

– Then there’s David Cross …

Uh, no, he was eight years old at that time. This would be the rock violinist David Cross. I’m guessing that description fits only one person.

As I recall, on the studio version, the violin was in tune. Here, it’s not. I can think of three possible explanations:

1. He screwed up.

2. Fripp was pissed off at the audience and wanted to “challenge” the listener with dissonance.

3. Cross was pissed off at Fripp and did it out of revenge.

And somehow, the song actually sticks in your head a little. Well, mine, anyway. Yours too? No?

But … it’s so Interesting …

UPDATE: Unbelievable. Warner got a 36-year-old clip from a European TV show taken down? Do they even own that copyright? Believe me, I’m sympathetic to the principles of copyright, but are you kidding me?

OK, here’s another one.

(Oops, make that another one.)

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4 Responses to Tunes of the Weird: King Crimson

  1. Ted says:

    Boo! You Tube deleted the video.

  2. bdure says:

    Added a new one to the bottom of the post. With some commentary.

  3. Pingback: Monday Morning Music: Focus, “Hocus Pocus” « Mostly Modern Media

  4. Pingback: Slate on progressive rock — the music that never ends « Mostly Modern Media

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