21st Century Schizoid Man
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|"21st Century Schizoid Man"|
|Single by King Crimson|
|from the album In the Court of the Crimson King|
|Released||12 October 1969|
|Recorded||August 1 & 20–21, 1969|
|King Crimson singles chronology|
The lyrics of "21st Century Schizoid Man" were written by Peter Sinfield and consist chiefly of disconnected phrases which present a series of images. All three verses follow a set pattern in presenting these images. The first line of each verse presents two relatively vague images (e.g. "iron claw", "death seed"). The second line is a single image, often more specific than the first two, and the third line approaches an actual sentence. The fourth and last line of each verse is the song's title.
The song makes reference to the Vietnam War with the lyrics "Politicians' funeral pyre/Innocence raped with napalm fire". Before a live performance of the song on 14 December 1969, heard on the live album Epitaph, Robert Fripp remarked that the song was dedicated to "an American political personality whom we all know and love dearly. His name is Spiro Agnew."
Clocking at nearly seven and a half minutes, the song is notable for its heavily distorted vocals sung by Greg Lake, and its instrumental middle section, called "Mirrors". Most of the song is in either 4/4 or 6/8 time, save for the end of the song, which is in free time. Fripp explained his guitar solo to Guitar Player magazine in 1974: "It's all picked down-up. The basis of the picking technique is to strike down on the on-beat and up on the off-beat. Then one must learn to reverse that. I'll generally use a downstroke on the down-beat except where I wish to accent a phrase in a particular way or create a certain kind of tension by confusing accents, in which case I might begin a run on the upstroke." The atonal solo was rated number 82 in Guitar World's list of the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos in 2008. British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the song and especially the guitar solo. The song encompasses the heavy metal, jazz-rock and progressive rock genres.
King Crimson continued to perform it in their live act after Greg Lake left King Crimson in 1970 to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It appeared on five live albums from different versions of the band, first sung by Lake on Epitaph, then by Boz Burrell on Earthbound (1972), by John Wetton, on USA (1974), by Adrian Belew on Vrooom Vrooom (2001, recorded in 1996), and by Jakko Jakszyk on 2014 Live EP. In 1993, Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded a version for their 1993 box set The Return of the Manticore (this version is abridged, finishing before the long instrumental passage featured in the original). Greg Lake performed the song on his 1981 solo tour with Gary Moore on guitar.
- Greg Lake – bass, lead vocals
- Ian McDonald – alto saxophone
- Robert Fripp – lead guitar
- Michael Giles – drums
- Peter Sinfield – lyrics
- Gov't Mule covered this song on their 2010 release, Mulennium. It was recorded on New Year's Eve 1999/2000 at the Roxy Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.
- South African band Suck covered the song on their sole album Time to Suck in 1970.
- April Wine covered the song on their 1979 album Harder ... Faster.
- Punk band Bad Religion, whose guitarist Brett Gurewitz founded record label Epitaph Records, interpolated lyrics from the song into their single 21st Century (Digital Boy).
- Indie band Unrest covered the song for their 1987 album Tink of S.E..
- Voivod covered the song on their 1997 album Phobos.
- Kanye West sampled the song on "Power", from his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
- Norwegian band Shining covered the song on their fifth studio album Blackjazz.
- French band Noir Désir covered the song on their live album Noir Désir en public in 2005.
- French rock brass-band Wombo Orchestra covered the song on their album Ruunga Mekanika in 2013.
- Ozzy Ozbourne covered the song on his album Under Cover in 2005.
- Fuzz covered the song on their LP Sunderberry Dream in 2013.
- It's the final song played in the story mode of the videogame Guitar Hero 5.
- Stuart Jeffries. "Rock on, Tony". the Guardian.
- "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 51-100". Guitar World.
- Fricke, David. "King Crimson: The Power To Believe : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone" at the Wayback Machine (archived April 25, 2009). web.archive.org. Archived from the original.
- Buckley 2003, p. 477, "Opening with the cataclysmic heavy-metal of '21st Century Schizoid Man', and closing with the cathedral-sized title track..."
- Huey, Steve. Song Review by Steve Huey at AllMusic. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
- Sprague, David (2007). "Unrest". Trouser Press. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
- Daniel Kreps (2010-05-28). "Kanye West Samples King Crimson on Raging New Track Power | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-06-29.