‘Really magical, very powerful': King Crimson to release Starless: Live In Europe

Live recordings from the early-1970s King Crimson tours in support of Starless and Bible Black will be compiled into a long-awaited box set later this year.

DGM has announced a multi-disc CD, DVD-A, Blu-ray package for October release, focusing on live and in-studio moments from October 1973 to April 1974 featuring Robert Fripp, Bill Bruford, John Wetton and David Cross. A highlight promises to be the first-ever complete release of the so-called Blue Tapes, a series of quarter-inch, two-track, direct-to-stereo soundboard reel-to-reel recordings from the 1974 tour of Europe that have achieved holy-grail status among some ardent Crimsos.

In an exclusive SER Sitdown, Wetton remembers those heady times on stage with King Crimson: “Well, nobody knew where the improvisations started and where they stopped — including us, by the way. [Laughs.] There were formal pieces, and then improvisation took over again. Between 40 and 60 percent of the stuff that we played on stage with Crimson was improvisational. We had it down to fine art, as to how each piece dovetailed into the next one. And it was always different. Every night would be different. The one rule that we had was that if one person went out on a limb, the rest would follow. It was as simple as that. If you apply that rule, it always works. Whatever happens, if the person who stands up becomes the leader, the rest follow. Whoever it is, if the rest follow, it sounds like everyone is doing what they are supposed to do.”

Wetton joined Fripp’s ever-shifting amalgam before 1973’s Lark’s Tongue in Aspic, and would contribute to both Starless and Bible Black and Red in 1974, and then the 1975 live recording USA — though, by then, King Crimson had gone on hiatus. The period principally featured Fripp, Wetton and Bruford; Starless also showcased Cross on violin, mellotron, viola and electric piano.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my two or three years in King Crimson,” says Wetton, who later co-founded UK and then Asia. “It was like going to college, really. You come out with a qualification that no one can take away. When it was working, it had everything: Just when you would get sick of the riff churning around, something would happen — and it would turn into this beautiful, lyrical passage. It was magical. It was really magical, very powerful.”

Additional details on Starless: Live in Europe box will be forthcoming closer to its release date, via DGM. Those in the audience at several 1973-74 European concerts, listed here, are encouraged to contact DGM (sidsmith at dgmlive dot com) to share memories for possible inclusion in the set’s deluxe booklet.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.