King Crimson

Pete Townsend of the Who called it an uncanny masterpiece.

in_the_courtLG4He was speaking of the King Crimson album “in the court of the crimson king”.  The name King Crimson came from the band’s lyricist Peter Sinfield as a synonym for Beelzebub, prince of demons. The band known as King Crimson was started in late 1968, shortly after, they purchased a Mellotron, a unique keyboard instrument that could play back any recorded sounds such as stringed instruments, voices, or sound effects. King Crimson used it to create an original orchestral rock sound never heard before. In the spring of 1969, they played at the Rolling Stones free concert in Hyde Park, London, before a crowd of 650,000 people. The first King Crimson album titled ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ was released in October of that same year.  The album drew on a wide range of influences including improvisation, classical, folk, jazz, military, with a little British pop and a touch of Jimi Hendrix mixed in. Their sound presented a unique approach to music and was a break from the usual blues-based rock of the day. King Crimson has been credited by many with starting the progressive rock movement.

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Altamont Speedway – December 6, 1969

The 1960s as a cultural phenomenon did not conform to a calendar. The 60s began in 1964 and ended at a Raceway near San Francisco in December of 1969. 69 was the year where it all came to a head. The summer of 1969 saw the moon landing and Woodstock. By December of that year that flower power and peace signs had been replaced by a clenched fist in the air.

Nowhere was this more visible than at an outdoor concert headlined by the Rolling Stones just outside of San Francisco at the Altamont Speedway. Earlier in the year the Rolling Stones had given a similar concert in London. There, the British version of Hells Angels provided security. What they hadn’t factored in was the extreme difference between the teddy boys on motorcycles that were called Hells Angels in England and the hard edged harley-loving Hells Angels of California. The concert featured Ike and Tina Turner, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, with the Rolling Stones taking the stage as the final act. The co-organizers and promoters of the festival, the grateful dead were scheduled to play but opted out at the last minute because of the growing violence at the event. Around 300,000 people attended the concert. Although peaceful at first, over the course of the day, the crowd slowly grew agitated, intoxicated and violent. The security, the California Hells Angels, had been drinking free beer all day standing at the front of the stage. As the crowd became angry and unpredictable, attacking each other, the performers and the hells angels, the Angels reacted in kind. By the end of the concert, there were many injuries, 4 deaths, and extensive property damage. As beautiful and hopeful as Woodstock was, that was how ugly and hopeless Altamont was.
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