updated Dec 2011
Plumpton Race Track.
This performance ranks as one of the best early Crimson shows in circulation. The audience tape is very crisp quality , given the quality of the equipment available to the taper in those days ( in fact , whoever was taping Plumpton, did a VERY good job, all the tapes sound very good ).
Dave Bee was there -our first eye witness of an historic performance
for a great site.
Having been at Woburn in 1967 and Glastonbury in '71 it was good to know I wasn't the only person on the planet who was there. I will offer up some stuff on them at a later date. However I have been pinning down another memory (which is how I found this site), and so I will now pass this by you.
I have a vivid memory of being at a festival around this time when a friend dragged me into a marquee. It was at night, there was no stage, just a band tuning up and people drifting in. It soon got crowded but we were ringside.
I noted the name on the drum kit, King Crimson, which ment nothing to me. They then started playing the whole Hall of the Crimson King set. I am certain no one in that tent had ever heard anything like it. We were totaly silent throughout. Ok so we didn't know or care where prog rock would end up, this was stunning.....but where was I, and when?
* The band started playing this, their only set, during the summer of 69 having recorded it June/Aug.
* Released in Oct. 69 as their first album it went to no.3, and they released their second album mid 1970.
* In 1970 would they be playing in a tent for 200 max?
* Around this time I went to a concert at Plumpton and I don't remember Ginger Bakers Airforce....
On their site, dgmlive.com, there is a press cutting mentioning an appearence at Plumpton, 9th Aug 69. It's the only uk festival mentioned for late 69. I'm sure this is where they played this set.
Looking at the list of acts (Floyd,Who,Nice et al), it seems like a good weekend. But 200 of us will only be remembering a muddy little tent.
The perfomance did indeed
take place in a small tent - the ' Village" as it was called, whilst most
people were wacthing the bands on the main stage a few lucky folk were present
to have their minds blown by one of the best prog bands of the era.
The Band come out pumping with an insanely fast 21st Century Schizoid Man . On my tape the levels fluctuate greatly a couple of times, but otherwise the sound is fine - and the levels problem could easily be sorted out if one digitized the tape and ran it through a sound editor.
Get Thy Bearings , with its chorus- lets all get stoned, higher and higher, is the sort of track that has wild fluctuations in its tempo and dynamics, one minute its fast and furious , the next jazzy and fluid and then drifting and moody. There's a very nice sax solo, which also goes through many changes and then leads again to the repeated riff , I particularly like the disjointed drumming that accompanies the verses before the chorus. The pace then goes way down again where Fripp does his thing, moving from a very , very quiet interlude to a majestic , stately theme, which has great power and which , after a few bars, again drops down to a subdued section which suddenly erupts into a cacophony of feedback and scrubbing, which is bloody brilliant if you ask me .Then just time for another helping of the verse, accompanied by insane guitar dribbling and psycho drumming, and intense screaming of the chorus and good-but not as much as I feel is justified after such an intense effort from the band- applause from the audience .
Court Of The Crimson King is also extremely well delivered and by now the sound has really sorted itself out. Theres a nice section where the feel becomes almost pastoral, with flute and gentle guitar, but after Get Thy Bearings, it seems to finish rather quickly. The audience cheers then fade out and the tape resumes for the Improvisation , which begins reflectively with Fripp exploring a haunting and faintly jazzy refrain , which after a minute is joined by the flute. The pace gradually quickens , without the flute and guitar playing around each other, until Fripp turns on the power and delivers the refrain in a crushingly brutal way. This sequence is excellent .
The mood then changes, the refrain melts away into free guitar noodlings and flurries which are interspersed with various squawkings from the sax and bass. The improvisation then moves into a verse, accompanied by flute and rabid jazz chords from Fripp and then the band jumps into fuller jazz mode and they develop a smart jam that is fast and fluid , which then moves back into rock band mode with Fripp dominating again. This whole sequence is astonishing in the way the band moves all over the place from one style to the other. From an audience perspective, this is far removed from the usual rock band approach of getting into one riff , developing it for a few minutes and then dropping back into a set chorus and verse structure. Not for the faint hearted , certainly not easy listening - not easy to boogie to this stuff !
The band change into a lyrical rendition of an old standard- the Desert Island Disc's theme, which is then broken up by a bit of Spanish guitar and a very freeform section which is in turns tentative and brutal in its dynamic variety. One minute almost complete silence , broken only by odd noises, then , thunderous drumming rendered at a breakneck pace. This pattern is repeated several times.
Then its Fripp's turn again ( is this the Devil's Triangle ? ), he begins the riff, reminiscent of Ravel's Bolero, and the organ provides the underpinning chords , and the rest of the band join in as band marches dramatically into the sunset, carrying all before them in a triumphant climax that seems to go on forever and which is just utterly, utterly GREAT ! .At the end of this theres complete silence for a couple of seconds, its as if the audience is too stunned to react, they know they SHOULD clap after that lot, but they just don't have the ability to do so. Then the spell is broken and they erupt into huge cheers, which fade out as we hear the Mc calling out lets hear it for King Crimson ......
I wish I'd been at this
gig, its fantastic !
I've got to say this for the taper , they knew their stuff. This tape has a lot of presence, no distant feel, or a lot of external noise from the audience. Probably a reel to reel and the weather must have been good- no wind noise, the curse of the outdoor taper !
"Get Thy Bearings"
"Travel Weary Capricorn"
"Mars: The Bringer of War"
Were part of the boxed set
" Frame By Frame :The Essential King Crimson" 1991
The whole set was subsequently featured on the live album (4CD set) "Epitaph" released in 1997
To view a huge number of top quality photos of almost all the bands at the 1969 festival , visit Repfoto ( note : you shouldn't copy Roberts photos -support his efforts to give us a record of the festival by buying his prints)
The early festivals.
You can find out the complete
line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below.
Most of these have fairly complete documentation .