Lizard (album)

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Lizard - Original Vinyl Cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released10 December 1970 (UK)
3 January 1971 (US and Canada)
RecordedAugust–September 1970
StudioWessex Sound Studios, Highbury New Park, London, England
LabelIsland (UK)
Atlantic (US and Canada)
King Crimson chronology
In the Wake of Poseidon

Lizard is the third studio album by British progressive rock band King Crimson, released in December 1970 by Island Records in the UK, and in January 1971 by Atlantic Records in the United States and Canada. It was the second consecutive King Crimson album recorded by transitional line-ups of the group that did not perform live, following In the Wake of Poseidon. This is the only album by the band to feature bassist/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). The "Bolero" section was added to the live repertoire for the band's 2018 European tour.

Album cover[edit]

Lizard's outside cover art is by Gini Barris, who was commissioned to produce it by Peter Sinfield. The inside cover consists of the song lyrics and credits printed over a marbled pattern, credited to Koraz Wallpapers, a company run by Barris' boyfriend at the time.[4]

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.

In his book Prog Rock FAQ, Will Romano called Barris' work "one of the era's most beautifully strange pieces of album cover artwork".[4] In an interview with Romano, Barris said that Lizard was "one of my first jobs" since studying graphics at the Central School of Art and Design in London. She contacted Sinfield after hearing he needed an artist to produce a cover for Lizard. When she suggested creating medieval miniatures, a passion of hers, Sinfield "went for it" and commissioned her to do the job.[4] Barris recalled that she did not hear the music until after the album's release, but worked from the lyrics Sinfield had given her. She cited the Lindisfarne Gospel and Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry illuminated manuscripts as inspiration for her work.[4]


Released on 11 December 1970 by Island Records (catalog no. ILPS 9141), Lizard reached number 29 in the UK Albums Chart.[5] The album was released in the United States and Canada by Atlantic Records on 3 January 1971 (catalog no. SD 8278), where it would reach number 113 in Billboard.[6] Interestingly, Lizard was released by Atlantic at the same time as two albums featuring ex-King Crimson members: Emerson, Lake & Palmer's debut album (featuring Greg Lake), and the lone release by Ian McDonald and Michael Giles.

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
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[7]
Christgau's Record GuideB–[8]

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".[8]

In his retrospective review, AllMusic's Dave Lynch described it as, "Seamlessly blending rock, jazz, and classical in a way that few albums have successfully achieved, Lizard is epic, intimate, cacophonic, and subtle by turn -- and infused with the dark moods first heard when "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Epitaph" reached listeners' ears the previous year."[7]

Robert Fripp has been very critical of the album, calling it "unlistenable" and lovers of it as "very strange".[10] 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."[11]

In 2011, PopMatters named the title track at #13 in the list "The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time."[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield.

Side A
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
  • (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
  • 11:05
  • 1:18

2009 40th Anniversary edition[edit]


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. ^ Holm-Hudson, Kevin (2013). Progressive Rock Reconsidered. Routledge. p. 215. ISBN 978-1-13571-022-4.
  2. ^ "King Crimson - Lizard (album review 3)". Sputnikmusic. 7 October 2005. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  3. ^ W., Aaron (27 November 2017). "Review: King Crimson - Sailors' Tales (1970 – 1972)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 27 June 2019. It would be followed by the avant-jazz masterwork Lizard,
  4. ^ a b c d Romano, Will (2014). "Chapter 7: King Crimson's Lizard – Beyond the Bizarre and Beautiful Album Cover Artwork". Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left To Know About Rock's Most Progressive Music (e-book ed.). Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-61713-587-3.
  5. ^ "King Crimson | Full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  6. ^ Both Sides Now Publications, Atlantic Album Discography, Part 5 - 8000 Series (1968-1972) - SD-8198 to SD-8305, Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b Lynch, Dave. "Lizard – King Crimson". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 28 February 2019 – via
  9. ^ van der Lee, Matthijs (1 April 2010). "King Crimson – Lizard". Sputnikmusic. Archived from the original on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Robert Fripp's diary, 8 September 1999". Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Lizard, Released 46 Years Ago Today". Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  12. ^ Murphy, Sean (22 May 2011). "The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time". PopMatters. Retrieved 29 June 2019.

External links[edit]