21st Century Schizoid Man

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"21st Century Schizoid Man"
21st Century Schizoid Man.jpg
Single by King Crimson
from the album In the Court of the Crimson King
A-side "Epitaph"
Released 12 October 1969 (1969-10-12)
Format 7-inch single
Recorded 1 & 20–21 August 1969
Length 7:20
Label Island
Lyricist(s) Peter Sinfield
Producer(s) King Crimson
King Crimson singles chronology
"The Night Watch"
"21st Century Schizoid Man"
"Matte Kudasai"
In the Court of the Crimson King track listing

"21st Century Schizoid Man" is a song by the progressive rock band King Crimson from their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King.

Lyrical content[edit]

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."

Musical structure[edit]

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."[1] The atonal solo was rated number 82 in Guitar World's list of the Top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos in 2008.[2] British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the song and especially the guitar solo.[1] The song encompasses the heavy metal,[3][4] jazz-rock and progressive rock genres.[5]


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.


Other appearances[edit]


  • Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-201-2. 


  1. ^ a b Stuart Jeffries. "Rock on, Tony". the Guardian. 
  2. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 51-100". Guitar World. 
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Buckley 2003, p. 477, "Opening with the cataclysmic heavy-metal of '21st Century Schizoid Man', and closing with the cathedral-sized title track..."
  5. ^ Huey, Steve. Song Review by Steve Huey at AllMusic. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  6. ^ Sprague, David (2007). "Unrest". Trouser Press. Retrieved October 16, 2015. 
  7. ^ Daniel Kreps (2010-05-28). "Kanye West Samples King Crimson on Raging New Track Power | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-06-29.