In the court of the Crimson King


In 1969 King Crimson released their album ‘In the court of the Crimson King’. I bought it. But then it went missing. I regret this because it was a very good example of the newly emerging ‘concept’ album that progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd were to realise so brilliantly.

To this day there remains a theme of seriousness, analysis and criticism in the field of contemporary music but, back then, this strand may have been even more pronounced. King Crimson’s work was musically remarkable and their lyrics expressed some fundamental ideas.

Their song ‘Epitaph’ includes the following lines:

Knowledge is a deadly friend
If no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools.

It’s the sort simple observation that helps us to think about the arts of rulership and our vulnerability to the irrationalities lurking in the psychologies of the powerful. It’s a catalyst for serious inquiry.

The song concludes with the lines:

Confusion will be my epitaph.
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh.
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying.
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying …

Is this a kind of post-Nietzschean stance? Does it suggest a kind of eternal recurrence – the eternal recurrence of having to walk or crawl a cracked and broken path – with no guarantee that we – anyone – can make it to the end?

Footnote: I like to use paint to explore this kind of idea.

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