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Watch King Crimson Light Up Late Night TV with "Elephant Talk" in 1981

Today (May 16), Robert Fripp – the intellectual and creative electric guitar powerhouse behind King Crimson – turns 76.

This archival video – which features King Crimson playing "Elephant Talk" on the short-lived ABC late-night comedy show, Fridays, in 1981 – is quite the testament to his vision and brilliant playing. You can check it out above.

"Elephant Talk" was the opening cut on 1981's Discipline, a comeback LP that showed the prog-rock icons moving in a dramatically different direction, toward a dazzling, dizzyingly technical variation of the new wave sounds that were then in vogue.

You can hear a significant touch of the existential nerviness of the Talking Heads – with whom Crimson's singer and guitarist, Adrian Belew, had been recording and touring around this time – in the song, which is driven by bassist Tony Levin's monster riffs on the Chapman Stick and Belew's wacky whammy bar antics and far-ahead-of-its-time use of effects.

Through it all though, Fripp – who is seated at stage left – barely breaks a sweat (and even cracks a smile!) while showcasing his famously ultra-precise alternate picking and crosspicking. 

The video was posted to YouTube by the band's former drummer, Bill Bruford.

"This is King Crimson on national late-night TV in the US and within an inch of some sort of popular breakthrough around 1981-2," he writes (opens in new tab) in the video's caption.

"The album Discipline, from which this track is taken, had garnered some seriously good reviews, so it was one of those rare moments when the taste of audience, performers, and critics were aligned. I had two kick drums in my set up – acoustic and electronic. When the latter was wound into some trashy metal sounds, they made a nice combination."

Jackson Maxwell
Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.