1968, Music

The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp (1968)

This bonkers album is probably only known because Michael Giles and Robert Fripp went on to form King Crimson. Without Crimson, I cannot imagine too many people would be aware of this record.

The music, which is ostensibly divided into two suites – that, or the record’s sides are merely named – is all over the place. Sometimes it’s relatively straight ahead pop rock, sometimes its heavily influenced by art music. (You can imagine which is more immediately accessible.) But all the songs are pretty damn short – not Red Krayola short, but very short – so that even the weirdest ideas are here and gone fast enough that if you don’t like it they move on to something else.

The lyrics are surprisingly above average, and frankly I am pleasantly surprised. I suspected that members of this band, who had later relied on professional lyricists to write their lyrics, would have written terrible lyrics. That seems not to be the case. No, they’re nothing special, but they’re definitely better than your average 1968 lyrics, especially from a band so consciously quirky. (Sometimes they are funny!)

The arrangements and performances are what you come for. All three musicians are excellent, as you know. Fripp is already very much Fripp, showing off his incredible technique – if not quite yet his willingness to be different – on a couple songs. Also, some session musicians are here to liven things up. (Fripp and Nicky Hopkins have a neat little duel at one point.) The vocals are less consistent, with spoken word parts appearing multiple times.

The songs aren’t consistent enough but, on the whole, this record is far better than most of the other one-off records made by failed groups in the 1960s. It’s full of interesting, often not entirely fleshed out, musical ideas and it’s mostly free of the terrible “freak out” style of production that psychedelic bands felt compelled to cover their songs in at the time.
Pretty good.


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