Some 50 years ago, a reworked King Crimson lineup appeared on German national television to perform a rendition of their epic prog rock instrumental, “Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One.”
Hosted by Beat-Club, a popular music show that ran from 1965 to 1972 and featured some of the best guitar players of the era – including Chuck Berry, Rory Gallagher and Frank Zappa – the King Crimson V3 band comprised ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, bassist/vocalist John Wetton, percussionist Jamie Muir, violinist/keyboardist/flautist David Cross and (last, but not least) guitarist Robert Fripp.
Although “Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One” appeared as the opener on the band’s 1973 studio album Larks' Tongues in Aspic (of which “Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two” was the closer) the genesis of the idea goes back to 1971 when Fripp was chasing an edgier electric guitar sound.
“Musically, I was moving toward…is grungier the word?” said the prog rock legend in a recent interview with Guitarist.
“A grungier more metallic approach to guitar, which was certainly beginning from 1971, where “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic” was beginning to fly by, and “Larks’, Part Two.”
With a free improv approach and drawing on a broad palette of sounds ranging from modern classical to heavy metal, this spectacular array of musicians is an entirely unique sight (and sound) to behold.
“Larks’ Tongues in Aspic”: It was written for John Wetton and Bill Bruford in the rhythm section to come forward,” recalled the guitarist, emphasizing that it was not intended as a generic piece of music to be played by anyone else.
“I presented the defining “Larks’” rhythm and chords at Covent Garden, and it wasn’t heard; it went nowhere.
“Then I played it at Richmond Athletic Club, and Bill and John leapt straight in. They had it, it clicked, it worked.”
Browse the King Crimson catalog here.
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Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.