21st Century Schizoid Man (7:21)

Cover of USA

From USA and 69 other releases

21st Century Schizoid Man is a song by King Crimson. The song’s lyrics consist of a short poem with one or more metaphors in every line. The guitar solo of the song was number 82 on Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Guitar Solos”

The song makes reference to the Vietnam War as exemplified in the lyric “innocents raped with napalm fire” and “politicians’ funeral pyre.” Before a live performance of the song on 14 December 1969 (as shown in the live album Epitaph), Fripp remarked that the song was dedicated to “an American political personality whom we all know and love dearly. His name is Spiro Agnew.”

Musically, the song is notable for its heavily distorted vocals sung by Greg Lake, a driving mechanical rhythm and piercingly loud saxophone and guitar, along with its instrumental middle section, called “Mirrors”. Most of the song is in either 4/4 or 6/8 time, save for the percussive section in “Mirrors” which alternates between 1/4, 2/4 and 5/4. The very end of the song is in free time.

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 four live albums from different versions of the band, first sung by Greg Lake on Epitaph, then by Boz Burrell on Earthbound (1972), by John Wetton, on USA (1974), and by Adrian Belew on Vrooom Vrooom (2001, recorded in 1996).

The song has recently been covered by Ozzy Osbourne on his cover album Under Cover. Flower Travellin’ Band, Entombed, Voivod, Unrest, Noir Désir, Afterhours, Rorschach and April Wine have also covered this song, as have Forbidden on their album Distortion. Cripple Bastards also covered this song on their ‘Your Lies In Check’ album


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