Why I ❤️ King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King, by Steve Stevens

King Crimson in 1969
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

I still recall the first time I saw the album cover, it literally freaked the shit outta me. That was in 1970, and I’d have been 10 or 11 at the time. I had a brother five years older than me and he had the record. Then when I heard it, I thought the music was equally as scary! But In The Court Of The Crimson King really made an impact on me – one that continues to this day. 

What amazes me is that every time I play the record I discover something new about it all. For instance, it’s only recently that I realised just what an awesome drummer Michael Giles was back then. He really is absolutely brilliant. But then that applies to all of the people on this record, they are stunning players. This hit home a while back when I downloaded a live 1969 show from the Fillmore in New York, and the performances were fantastic. 

For me, one of the secrets of this record is that it wasn’t over-produced. This is not about studio technology, but about great musicians gelling. One of the other crucial things about the album is that it veers from being nightmarish to becoming absolutely beautiful. How many other albums can you think of where something like 21st Century Schizoid Man sits alongside Epitaph and I Talk To The Wind?

I learnt to play guitar when I was seven years old, and didn’t pick up the electric guitar until six years later. But I found out very fast that songs on In The Court Of The Crimson King could be played on an acoustic guitar; they’re both simple and complex, another one of its charms. Robert Fripp’s guitar playing has been a massive influence on me ever since I discovered the record. To this day he inspires what I do and leaves me in awe. 

We live in the iPod age, when kids get bored after playing one or two songs from any album. And there are a lot of records where much of the music is disposable. But that isn’t the case here. Each track’s special, and they work when interlinked. Honestly, to get the full impact you have to listen to the whole record from start to finish. 

I’d have to say that In The Court… was the true beginning of progressive rock as we know it. Sure, the Beatles started it conceptually with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it was on In The Court… that the genre was born. Everything positive about prog rock began here. 

I find myself staggered that something like this still sounds so fresh 40 years later.

Steve Stevens was talking to Malcolm Dome.