King Crimson

Epitaph Playback, Hotel Inter-Continental, 15 Mar 97
Epitaph Playback, The Grand Ballroom, Hotel Inter-Continental, Hyde Park Corner, London
Saturday, March 15th, 1997.

Fillmore West, vol. 2
      "In the Court of the Crimson King"
      "Drop In"
      "A Man A City" [last minute change from the Fillmore East (vol. 1) performance of the same piece]

'Before and After' presentation

Chesterfield, vol. 4
      "Get Thy Bearings"
BBC Top Gear, vol. 1
Fillmore East, vol. 1
      "21st Century Schizoid Man"
Fillmore West, vol. 2

Robert Fripp: guitar
Ian McDonald: guitar
Greg Lake: bass, vocals
Michael Giles: drums
Pete Sinfield: lyrics

David Singleton: re-mastering

Fripp does not just moan about the music business: he does something about it. King Crimson began their own record label, Discipline Global Mobile, and the launch of Epitaph: Official BootlegLive in 1969 was a novel affair with fans invited to a playback of the album.

DGM had invited us to bring "little beasts" (Crimspeak for cakes). Having interpreted this literally, I clutched my dinosaur-shaped chocolate cookies as I entered the Hotel Inter-Continental (a hotel whose loos even are posher than anywhere I've ever lived). The DGM staff were welcoming and friendly, the Grand Ballroom filled with tables were a few hundred Crimson fans sat. We drank tea and ate cake; Fripp circulating, a host pleased with his guests. We speculated as to the identity of faces at the Reserved tables: John Wetton was present, signing a few albums, and there were a few others that I am sure I should have recognised. All of the 1969 line up were in attendance, with Greg Lake making an entrance in a bright red suit just before we began. (As far as I could make out, none of the present band other than Fripp were there.) Fripp was a warm presenter. He spoke of the recent developments in technology necessary for this project and of how McDonald had been working for such a release for the last six years. Fripp also stressed that he was not and never had been the leader of King Crimson (contradicting comments Bruford, Belew and Levin have made elsewhen) explaining that he was presenting as the head of DGM. He introduced the band and others in the audience, including the founders of E'G Records, the band's first two managers and their first insurer! Then, the music.

I had not been too excited by the 1969 version of "21st Century Schizoid Man" on the recent single, but "Epitaph" on Sometimes God Hides: A Young Person's Guide to Discipline had been more intriguing. Listening to The Great Deceiver after the original albums is a pleasant surprise; could Epitaph reproduce the success? What we heard from Fillmore West (volume 2) certainly does. Despite David Singleton's concern that the line up lacked energy in their last performance, when they were arguing about their imminent break-up, Fillmore West is still live Crimson at its best. The final piece of the day, "Mars", stands far above its later development as "The Devil's Triangle" on In the Wake of Poseidon. Volume 1 sounds great too; if Fillmore East's "21st Century Schizoid Man" is better than Fillmore West's on the single, I look forward to hearing more. In contrast, Chesterfield's "Get Thy Bearings" was less successful, descending lost into noodling for too long.

The sound quality on Fillmore West was fine; that on volume 1 pretty good too. However, snippets from volumes 3 and 4 confirmed the band's warnings about their more dubious nature. Still, what I heard was no worse than Earthbound. Singleton's presentation of clips before and after treatment support Fripp's claims of necromancy. The improvements were astounding, even if the final results were less than perfect.

The afternoon finished with the five 1969 members signing autographs. It was good to see them together, obviously enthused by the project. I asked Sinfield whether we might see another solo album; he replied that he had perhaps enough material and only required someone to push himI hope someone does! I was too tongue-tied to speak to the others, but collected the signature set.

All in all, a very enjoyable and well-organised event. One minor suggestion: if there had been time, a question and answer session with the band and/or Singleton would have been nice. Many prog artists have taken control of releases; it is great that they are now taking over promotion as well and making themselves more accessible to fans. Here's to more DGM events.

Henry Potts, 15 Mar 97; revised 6 Jun 98

Originally posted to and

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