Giles Giles and Fripp

Giles Giles and Fripp were the English pop-psych trio behind the 1968 Deram album The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp. They consisted of guitarist Robert Fripp and brothers Michael and Peter Giles. After the album, they demoed songs with singer Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention, Trader Horne) and keyboardist Ian McDonald.

They morphed into King Crimson when Fripp, McDonald, and Michael (but not Peter) Giles teamed with bassist–singer Greg Lake. After a U.S. tour in support of the album In the Court of the Crimson King, they collapsed when McDonald and Michael Giles formed a breakoff duo and Greg departed for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Fripp assembled a makeshift Crimson lineup with Peter Giles on 1970’s In the Wake of Poseidon.

Members: Michael Giles (drums), Peter Giles (bass), Robert Fripp (guitar), Ian McDonald (woodwind, keyboard, 1968-69), Judy Dyble (vocals, 1968)


Giles, Giles and Fripp assembled in August 1967 in Bournemouth, Dorset, when bassist Peter Giles (b. 1944) and drummer Michael Giles (b. 1942) teamed with guitarist Robert Fripp (b. 1946).

The Giles brothers originated in Trendsetters Limited, a beat quintet that issued four 1964–65 Parlophone singles, including “Go Away,” a DC5-style organ–harmony number written by Alan Hawkshaw. They shortened their name to The Trend for the 1966 single “Boyfriends and Girlfriends,” a walloping harmony waltz backed with the Michael Giles original “Shot On Site,” a mid-tempo R&B–mod rocker with a driving bass–piano pattern (in A) overlaid with trombone, clipped guitar, and stark lyrical warnings to a straying female. Rock manager Larry Page (The Kinks, The Troggs, The Knack) produced The Trend single for his upstart Page One label.

The Brain

The Trend morphed into The Brain, a psych-rock quartet that cut the May 1967 Parlophone single “Kick the Donkey” (b/w “Nightmares In Red”). “Kick the Donkey” is a medium-uptempo Giles–Giles original (in C) with droning trombone, contrapuntal vocables, and deadpan baritone vocals about a man who was “blinder than a bat” who was “shot… in cold blood.” Rhythmically, the song alternates between cymbal drizzle and tom fills; each bridge cuts to a tripping waltz time.

The Peter Giles-written “Nightmares In Red” is a mid-tempo number with a terse piano pattern (primarily in D minor) flanked with free-form brass and multiple channel-split voices (male and faux female, including snores), interrupted by an upbeat chorus (in G) and minimal organ refrain. (“Nightmares In Red” appears on numerous psychedelic compilations, including the Bam-Caruso comps Nightmares In Wonderland and The Rubble Collection 2.)

In August 1967, The Brain cut an acetate for another Peter Giles original, “Murder,” backed with the Bob Dylan cover “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll.” The lineup consisted of the Giles brothers, pianist Allan Azern, and trombonist Michael Blakesley. Azern dropped from the scene while Blakesley remained in the Giles’ orbit.

Giles, Giles and Fripp Forms

The Giles placed an ad for a singing keyboardist. Though he didn’t fit the profile, respondent Robert Fripp completed their new trio. Fripp, a guitarist since age 11, first performed in pre-beatsters The Ravens (with bassist Gordon Haskell). The Ravens morphed into The League of Gentlemen, a Bournemouth beat combo active circa 1964–65. Fripp then played jazz for two years in the Majestic Dance Orchestra, where he replaced Andy Summers (who joined Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, which morphed into Dantalian’s Chariot).

Giles, Giles and Fripp moved to London and signed to Deram, the recently formed Decca imprint that specialized in mod, psych, and soul-rock. The trio’s first single, “One In a Million” (b/w “Newly Weds”), appeared on May 28, 1968 (DM 188).

The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp

The trio released their singular album, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp, on September 13, 1968, on Deram.

Side one (subtitled The Saga of Rodney Toady) contains eight numbers: four by Peter Giles (“North Meadow,” “Newly-weds,” “Call Tomorrow,” “Digging My Lawn”), two by Michael (“One In a Million,” “The Crukster”), and one by Fripp (“Little Children”). “Thursday Morning” is Michael’s arrangement of a piece by Ivor Raymonde, the writer of Dusty Springfield‘s 1964 hit “I Only Want To Be With You.” Between the first six tracks, Fripp narrates the story of Rodney, a ridiculed, unattractive youth who retreats to stag mags.

Side two (subtitled Just George) has three songs by Michael Giles (“How Do They Know,” “Elephant Song,” “The Sun Is Shining”) and a closing pair by Fripp (“Suite No. 1,” “Erudite Eyes”). Between each track, Micheal Giles spins lines about a man named George (in multiple voices).

Musically, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp weds Peter Giles’ penchant for psychedelic music hall — namely the English vignettes of The Kinks and the circus comedy of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band — with the jazz leanings of Michael Giles and Fripp: displayed by the former’s drumming (brushes and ride cymbals) and the latter’s guitar runs (clean plucked chords, legato runs).

The Saga of Rodney Toady (narrated by Robert Fripp)

North Meadow” (2:29) opens on a two-note brassy fanfare and shifts through mid-tempo verses about the dawn of spring, sung with light, Association-style harmonies. Fripp inter-cuts with legato runs over Michael’s snare fills. The first interlude talks of Rodney, a “sad young man” who’s “fat and ugly.” Kids tease him and he retaliates with threats but can’t run fast enough to catch them.

Newly-weds” (2:07) is a jazz-pop waltz (in G) with brush drums and deadpan verses about over-eager newlyweds, inter-cut with searing, sliding licks. The bridge (in D) has remote harmonized vocals and backwards guitar licks. On the instrumental passage, Fripp plays a flute tone (ala “Strawberry Fields Forever”) on the Mark 11 Mellotron. Rodney overhears people whisper disparaging remarks about him.

One in a Million” (2:25) is a medium-uptempo English pop vignette about a man who “runs a little shop with the room at the top.” He seems to have it made (insurance, mortgage, pension), despite the recurring refrain “but he doesn’t shout about it.” Girls approached Rodney at dances just to flatter him and flee, leaving him more despondent.

Call Tomorrow” (2:31) is a slow, rhythmless piece comprised of organ drone, sparse piano, and ghostly vocals about “Judy, the vicar’s daughter” who’s gone astray and is going to have a baby (“if it’s true what people say”). Rodney had fat and ugly parents. His father promised Rodney that he too would find a fat and ugly girl, just like his mom.

Digging My Lawn” (1:50) is a jazz-pop waltz with plucked chords, cymbal mist, and lyrics about a mystery man who digs other people’s lawns and takes note of their car numbers. Rodney, who has no interest in ugly girls, takes to stag magazines.

Little Children” (2:48) is a light jazz-pop shuffle with faint chords, frosty Mellotron, and simple questions about the trajectories of little boys and girls. Downshire Hill (in Hampstead, London) is cited as the place where they can find “truth and peace of mind.”

The Crukster” (1:35) is a thirteen-line poem about the “wheels of turbulence [that] abound after sweet innocence” and how the innocence is “just a bright color” that fails to cover the stain. The music is unaccompanied jazz guitar noodling with psych feedback refrains.

Thursday Morning” (2:50) is a harmonized singalong with plucked chords, clean licks, brush drums, light strings, and lyrics about singing trees that greet an early sun on Thursday.

Just George (narrated by Michael Giles)

How Do They Know” (2:14) is a jazz-pop number with a medium-uptempo strut and false leads. On the marching bridge, Giles (in an intercom tone) tells the misguided subject “dust is sucking your eyes.” In the first interlude, the line “I know a man and his name is George” is thrice spun into a tautological word salad between two voices.

Elephant Song” (3:15) opens on a mid-tempo brassy fanfare (in C minor) that reoccurs amid verse exchanges between a spectator and a talking, argumentative elephant. Giles repeats the same four lines about George.

The Sun is Shining” (3:06) is a medium-slow, string-laden ballad (in C) with crooned romantic lyrics surrounded by female harmonies. Same four lines about George.

Suite No. 1” (5:33) is an allegro jazz instrumental with clean legato runs and oft-matching piano fills over locomotive brush drums. The middle (1:33–3:10) is a slow passage with faint vocalise and cymbals over light piano and Mellotron. The third passage consists of a plucked chordal figure with brittle stop–start harpsichord. Later (at 4:06), the allegro resumes for a final run. Same four lines about George.

Erudite Eyes” (5:05) is a jazz-pop waltz with misty drums, nimble bass, and humble vocals about “nice men who have nothing to say, except ‘What a nice day’.” Fripp double-tracks between clean, plucked chords and searing fuzz-tone leads. (His eventual trademarks are first evidenced on this track.) Midway, the track breaks to a free-form jam with roaming licks and bends over random bass notes; gradually overlaid with echoing piano, brimming Mellotron, and booming effects.

Deram in-house soundman Wayne Bickerton produced The Cheerful Insanity in succession with label singles by Focal Point, Granny’s Intentions, Timebox, Toby Twirl, World of Oz, and the debut album by singer Dana Gillespie. Cheerful Insanity is an early rock credit for Bill Price, who worked beforehand with MOR singers (Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck) and later engineered titles by Big Country, Camel, The Clash, The Human League, Mott the Hoople, Nektar, Sparks, The Saints, The Pretenders, Trapeze, and numerous other seventies and eighties artists. One track (the prior a-side “One In a Million”) was engineered by Martin Smith, who also worked with Ten Years After.

Musical guests on The Cheerful Insanity include session pianist Nicky Hopkins and organist Mike Hill. Select passages feature trombonists Ted Barker and Cliff Hardie (Tubby Hayes, Trinity). “Little Children” and “The Sun Is Shining” feature The Breakaways, a female vocal trio also heard on the Jimi Hendrix version of “Hey Joe.” Ivor Raymonde conducts a ten-piece string section on “One In a Million,” “Thursday Morning,” and “The Sun Is Shining.”

The Cheerful Insanity cover shows Giles, Giles and Fripp suited and smiling under dome-shaped title text in Blackletter font (pink and orange). The photographer, Gered Mankowitz, captured numerous cover images for Marianne Faithful and the Rolling Stones. He also has visual credits on 1968 albums by Duncan Brown (Give Me Take You), Nirvana (All of Us), The Nice, Spooky Tooth (It’s All About), Traffic (self-titled), and Tramline.

In North America, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp appeared in December 1968 on Deram (Canada) and the US (London Records) in a black cover that shows the Edwardian-clad trio looking off inside a puzzle cutout with concentric, colored letters. Deram lifted “Thursday Morning” as a second single, backed with “Elephant Song.”

Subsequent Developments

Four days before The Cheerful Insanity hit the shelves, Giles, Giles and Fripp backed Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart on a September 9, 1968, broadcast of the BBC radio program My Kind of Folk. They performed five songs: three from Stewart’s upcoming second album Love Chronicles (“You Should Have Listened to Al,” “Old Compton Street Blues,” “In Brooklyn”) and two that later appeared on his 1970 third album Zero She Flies (“Manuscript,” “Room of Roots”).

The organist on the Stewart session was Ian McDonald, a recent acquaintance of the Giles’ with a background in classical, jazz, and marching band music. McDonald — an accomplished multi-reedist and early adapter of the quasi-symphonic Mellotron keyboard — joined Giles, Giles and Fripp along with his then-girlfriend, singer Judy Dyble, a recent member of Fairport Convention.

The new lineup demoed multiple new songs, including three (“Make It Today,” “I Talk to the Wind,” “Under the Sky”) that McDonald co-wrote with lyricist Peter Sinfield, a friend and roadie who joined the band as a non-performing sixth wheel. Judy sings on these and several other late-1968 demos, including a new arrangement of the unreleased Brain track “Murder.” They cut an acetate for a proposed new single:

She Is Loaded” — a harmonized, medium-uptempo shuffle with a tight, fuzzy guitar figure and a finger-picked acoustic bridge. The lyrics concern a sadistic rich girl who the singer courts for money.

Under the Sky” — is a slow ballad with a finger-picked 12-string figure, interwoven with clean runs and lyrical leads. The track is drum-free until the flute-laced, harmonized chorus.

Decca vetoed the songs, which remained unheard for more than three decades. (Archivists Voiceprint compiled the post-Cheerful Insanity recordings on the 2001 CD The Brondesbury Tapes).

Judy left the group after her split from McDonald. She teamed with Irish folkster Jackie McAuley in Trader Horne for the 1970 Dawn release Morning Way.

Sinfield suggested a new band name based on the phrase “crimson king,” which he’d used in an earlier set of lyrics. Meanwhile, McDonald’s presence expanded their arrangements and musical scope. Their new sound — a hybrid of rock, jazz, and classical (far removed from the pop-psych whimsy of Cheerful Insanity) — alienated Peter Giles, who left the band. To take his place, Fripp invited singer–guitarist Greg Lake, a Dorset friend who recently played in psychsters the Shy Limbs. At Fripp’s request, Lake took up bass and became the frontman of the mutating band, which renamed itself King Crimson.


  • The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp (1968)
  • The Brondesbury Tapes (1968) (2001)


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