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King Crimson

Robert Fripp & Boz

Robert Fripp & Boz

Islands is the fourth album from King Crimson, released in December 1971, and Islands is its final track.

Well, almost.

The last plaintive note from Marc Charig’s cornet leaves the mellotron drifting solo into silence. Late, eyes closed and dreams close (for that is when this is played). Too comforted, too comfortable to raise yourself to raise the needle. The silence plays on and is interrupted by one of those very popular (with record producers not listeners) “hidden tracks” – in this case “studio sounds” – then back to silence – briefly – until the soft thud of the needle at the end of the line enters its relentless cycle.

“Someone, … change the record!”

But neither mind nor body could manage that effort. And no-one does. So, on and on and on … endless repetition of the amplified “needle-at-track’s end” sound.

Many senior high school nights ended by drifting off to Islands.

It seems this wasn’t a unique response … in his 1971 review of Islands in Rolling Stone, Lester Bangs had this to say:

But it’s only in the final, title track, all 9:14 of “Islands,” that King Crimson get to the best of their music and the heart of their dilemma. It’s a pastoral, lyrical, open-ended and open-tuned piece that washes over you like slow tides or an extra-warm bath late in the evening, and just like that bath it has a tendency to put you to sleep in the tenderest, most sanguine way. In fact, I recommend it for that very purpose, with no sarcasm intended.

Islands wins the Award of the Month, and perhaps of the Year, for Best Last Record To Put On Before Retiring.

… click here for the full review 

What are the links between Islands and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress?

Dam! Apart from the impact on me – peaceful, emotive, numinous – I can’t find a connection. Well I guess that is connection enough, isn’t it?

Scale, space, and solitude are also shared traits. Both are evocative, silhouetting the infinitesimal against the infinite, the fleeting against the eternal, being against nothingness, self against the other. They echo for me the beautiful opening of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence – where paradoxes illuminate time and space.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour   (Click here for the full poem)


Alas, there doesn’t seem to be anything less than 2 degrees of separation between the musicians playing these songs but what about this …

In a Q&A on Pat Metheny’s website he was asked whether he would consider collaborating with Robert Fripp. Metheny’s terse response: “I have never really felt any closeness with his music – so I don’t think it is likely.”

No? The connection that is a disconnection?

Then perhaps perhaps the link comes from the lyricists – Jimmy Webb (The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress) and Peter Sinfield (Islands) – both have written some extraordinarily nonsensical lyrics, most famously Webb’s Macarthur Park.

I’ll leave it to you.

Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* Islands cover by Alice (Carla Bissi) & Tim Bowness (No-Man) from the 2003 album Viaggio in Italia

* Islands cover by Jakko Jakszyk, Mel Collins, Danny Thompson, & Ian Wallace.

* Robert Fripp Documentary (from 1985 I think). Part 1 (14m 18s); Part 2 (14m 12s)

* Careful With That Axe – Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft. Part 1 (7m 10s);  Part 2 (6m 30s); Part 3 (9m 39s); Part 4 (8m 07s); Part 5 (6m 32s); Part 6 (7m 54s); Part 7 (7m 02s)


Destination next?

North:   Will O’ The Wisp by Miles Davis
East:     Get Thy Bearings by Donovan
South:   Still by Pete Sinfield
West:    That way goes to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

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