King Crimson played their last show in 1969 on this day at the Fillmore West in San Francisco.
Robert Fripp has separately given the last date as December 16, and it’s stated in the official shop that the last concert recorded was on the 16th, but DGM Live only has the December 12-14 dates. Thus, while it gets an asterisk, I’m fairly confident in putting this up as a December 14th event.
(As a digression, fan releases seem to support the December 14th date, as seen here).
The band had been at Fillmore West for a handful of dates before this. As stated, DGM live gives them three. A poster from the time also suggests a December 11th date, though that may only have been other acts on the bill. Said bill included the Chambers Brothers, Little Princess Joy, and the Nice. The final band included here had a monumental affect upon the future of King Crimson, one member in particular.
According to Robert Fripp, the last show they played was ironically one of the weakest, though he failed to elaborate on the matter. Ian McDonald’s tour diary has nothing to say on the matter besides simply noting that it is the last one.
Abruptly afterwards, the band splintered into several different directions. Mike Giles and Ian McDonald announced jointly that they wished to quit the band. Several reasons have been given over the years for this, including tiredness from the punishing tour schedule, homesickness, hatred of flying, and even one or the other missing a lady love. Robert Fripp has stated that the decision was conveyed to him on December 7, a week prior; Ian McDonald does not have anything in his tour diary to suggest such a thing, though it may have happened. Oddly enough, the date ‘December 7‘, which as Fripp has given as the death for this particular lineup, now lives on in brokenhearted fans’ memories as the death day of the first member of this lineup to pass away forty-seven years later, Greg Lake.
Greg Lake’s recollections make it sound as if he and Fripp only learned of the impending splintering the night of the concert. He was apparently shocked by the result. Fripp, the band’s guitarist and mastermind, wished to stay and continue using the name ‘King Crimson’. He has gone on to be the only continuous member of King Crimson throughout its fifty-year history. Little is said of whether lyricist and roadie Peter Sinfield was even present for either version of the story of Giles and McDonald’s announcements, or what he thought of them. What is known is that he, too, chose to remain.
Greg Lake was dissatisfied with Fripp’s plan to just continue on worth the same, as he thought that using the same name for different lineups was disingenuous. It was in this mindset that he ended up having other things come his way that very night, or perhaps in the early hours of the next morning…
Either way, thankfully for history, this momentous final concert was apparently recorded.
- Lake, Greg. Lucky Man. p 66, p 67.
- Edit on 2020-12-14: Optimized for new site.