Lizard (album)

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Lizard - Original Vinyl Cover.jpg
Studio album by King Crimson
Released 10 December 1970
Recorded August–September 1970
Studio Wessex Sound Studios, Highbury New Park, London, England
Genre Progressive rock, jazz fusion
Length 42:30
Label Island
King Crimson chronology
In the Wake of Poseidon
(1970)In the Wake of Poseidon1970

Lizard is the third studio album by British band King Crimson, released in December 1970 by record label Island. It was the second recorded by a transitional line-up of the group that never had the opportunity to perform live, following In the Wake of Poseidon. This is the only album by the band to feature bassist and vocalist Gordon Haskell, apart from his appearance on the song "Cadence and Cascade" from the previous album, and drummer Andy McCulloch as official members of the band.

Background and production[edit]

Haskell was previously a classmate of Robert Fripp's at Queen Elizabeth's grammar school in Wimborne near Bournemouth, the pair having subsequently played together in the local band The League of Gentlemen. Haskell later contributed vocals to the King Crimson track "Cadence and Cascade" on In the Wake of Poseidon, after Greg Lake left the band to join Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In a desperate turn to maintain a personnel in the band, Fripp asked Haskell to become an official member of King Crimson for the recording of Lizard. Another supporting musician on In the Wake of Poseidon, saxophonist/flautist Mel Collins was also asked to become a full-time member of this line-up, as was drummer Andy McCulloch, who replaced Michael Giles. The group was then augmented with session musicians, including another In the Wake of Poseidon alumnus – the noted jazz pianist Keith Tippett – together with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, and brass/woodwind players Robin Miller, Mark Charig, and Nick Evans.

Haskell and McCulloch had an unhappy experience recording Lizard, Haskell especially – a devotee of soul and Motown music – finding it difficult to connect with the material. Following the album's completion, Haskell left King Crimson during rehearsals for a prospective tour. During the next 19 years, he sought legal redress, because he believed that he had been cheated out of royalties owed to him for the album. Shortly after Haskell left the group, McCulloch did likewise. The press release drafted by Sinfield to promote Lizard wryly quoted Max Ehrmann's poem "Desiderata", which contains advice on how to chart a true course through confusion.

Collins, on the other hand, remained in King Crimson with Fripp and Sinfield for the recording of the group's next album, Islands. Haskell was replaced with Boz Burrell on bass guitar and vocals, while McCulloch was replaced with his sometime housemate Ian Wallace. The Islands line-up of the group would finally give some of the Lizard material a live airing, with "Cirkus" and "Lady of the Dancing Water" becoming part of King Crimson's touring repertoire. "Cirkus" would also later become part of the touring repertoire of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, whose members included Mel Collins and Jakko Jakszyk.

In 2016, for the band's biggest European tour since 1974, "Cirkus" was included in the repertoire, as well as "Dawn Song", which is part of the "Lizard" suite and was played live for the first time ever. For the 2017 North American tour, "Dawn Song" was expanded to the entire "Battle of Glass Tears" section (adding "Last Skirmish and "Prince Rupert's Lament", neither of which had ever been performed live).

Album cover[edit]

Lizard's outside cover art is by Gini Barris, who was commissioned to produce it by Peter Sinfield.

The album's outside cover consists of the words 'King Crimson' spelled out in ornate medieval lettering, the word 'King' on the back cover and the word 'Crimson' on the front cover, with each letter incorporating one or two discrete images. These images in turn represent Sinfield's lyrics from the album – the images in the word 'King' representing the lyrics of the various sections and subsections of track 5, "Lizard"; while the images in the word 'Crimson' represent the lyrics of tracks 1–4. Whereas the images representing "Lizard" are medieval in content – depicting Prince Rupert, his environs (including a peacock), and the Battle of Glass Tears – the images representing the other four tracks juxtapose medieval and contemporary scenes. The image around the letter 'i' in 'Crimson', for example, depicts the Beatles, corresponding with their pseudonymous appearance in the lyrics to "Happy Family". Around the "n" on the front cover, there is a depiction of Rupert the Bear piloting a yellow aeroplane. The inside cover of Lizard consists of a marbled pattern, credited to Koraz Wallpapers.


Released on 11 December 1970, Lizard reached number 29 in the UK Albums Chart.[1]

The album had CD releases in 1989 and 2001, each newly remastered by Fripp at the time. The newest version was released in October 2009, containing a 5.1 Surround Sound mix on DVD-Audio, created by British musician and producer Steven Wilson in collaboration with Fripp, as well as a new stereo transfer based on the surround mix.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau B−[3]
SputnikMusic 4/5 stars[4]

Due to the album's penchant for a more jazz-inflected sound in comparison to many of the band's other works, as well as the idiosyncratic nature of many of its tracks, responses towards the album have been varied since its release. Music critic Robert Christgau rated the album a B−, saying that the "jazziness" of the album projected a "certain cerebral majesty" but criticized Peter Sinfield's lyrics, qualifying them as "overwrought".[3]

In his retrospective review, AllMusic's Bruce Eder, comparing Lizard to its two predecessors, described the songs saying "[they] are longer and have extensive developmental sections, reminiscent of classical music". He also deemed that Jon Anderson's presence on "Prince Rupert Awakes" made the album stronger. He finished his review saying that "At the time of its release, some critics praised Lizard for finally breaking with the formula and structure that shaped the two preceding albums, but overall it's an acquired taste."[2]

Robert Fripp has been very critical of the album, calling it "unlistenable" and lovers of it as "very strange".[5] However, he has since revised his opinion upon listening to Steve Wilson's new surround sound mix of the album for the 40th Anniversary reissue, proclaiming "For the first time I have heard the Music in the music." [6]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Cirkus" (including "Entry of the Chameleons") 6:27
2. "Indoor Games" 5:37
3. "Happy Family" 4:22
4. "Lady of the Dancing Water" 2:47
Side B
No. Title Length
5. "Lizard"
  • (a) "Prince Rupert Awakes"
  • (b) "Bolero – The Peacock's Tale"
  • (c) "The Battle of Glass Tears"
  • (i) "Dawn Song"
  • (ii) "Last Skirmish"
  • (iii) "Prince Rupert's Lament"
  • (d) "Big Top"
  • 4:32
  • 6:32
  • 11:02
  • 1:18


King Crimson
Additional musicians
Other personnel
  • Robin Thompson – engineering
  • Geoff Workman – tapes
  • Gini Barris – outside painting
  • Koraz Wallpapers – inside marbling
  • C.C.S. – typography
  • Tony Arnold and David Singleton – remixing (7)
2009 40th Anniversary Series re-issue personnel
  • Steven Wilsonmixing, production
  • Simon Heyworth (Super Audio Mastering) – stereo mastering
  • Joe Gilder – mastering assistance
  • Claire Bidwell (Opus Productions) – DVD design and layout
  • Neil Wilkes (Opus Productions) – DVD authoring
  • Jon Urban, Bob Romano, Bob Squires & Patrick Cleasby – DVD QC testing
  • Kevin Vanbergen (FX Copyroom) – multitrack tape restoration and transfers
  • Alex R. Mundy – DGM tape archiving
  • Hugh O'Donnell – package art and design
  • Declan Colgan (DGM) – compilation, coordination


  1. ^ "King Crimson | Full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "Lizard – King Crimson | AllMusic". Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (2011). "Robert Christgau: CG: King Crimson". Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Robert Fripp's diary, 8 September 1999". Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  6. ^ "Lizard, Released 46 Years Ago Today". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 

External links[edit]