Emerson Lake and Palmer

Ok, this is eerie. My hand to God on this one. I was in the middle of writing this post on Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I literally just Googled them so I could find out when they broke up. And I got the news that Greg Lake had died. Holy shit! So everything below is from the post I WAS going to post this weekend. Wow!

Earlier this year, virtuoso keyboardist Keith Emerson died. I had reported this in one of my earlier posts but had somehow lost sight of it. I was reminded of this by fellow blogger Cincinnati Babyhead who is diligently, some would say masochistically, working his way through my blog from Day One. He suggested I do an ELP post so here it is.Β 

I usually post three songs but these guys have a lot of very long stuff. So go back to my original post for one, then there’s two here plus a full concert (as below.) That should give you some idea:

Progressive rock has been defined as “a form of rock music that evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility.” The term “art rock” is often used interchangeably with “progressive rock”, but while there are crossovers between the two genres, they are not identical.”

If I had to add anything to that, I would say that lyrically, prog-rock tends to be lyrically cosmic and, er, kinda spacy. Here’s a lyric from, I think, Pictures at an Exhibition:

“From seeds of confusion, illusions, dark blossoms have grown. Even now in furrows of sorrow the doubt still is sown.”Β  Um, er, ok. So that’s part of why the punks hated progressive rock.

Into this mix, in 1970, entered the British group Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith Emerson had been playing in a band called The Nice with some success, mostly to a small audience. Emerson met bassist Greg Lake at the Fillmore West where Lake was playing with his band, King Crimson, one of the leading prog-rock bands of the day.

They hit it off as the Brits (I think) would say, smashingly. They wanted to have a trio and first approached Jimi Hendrix’ drummer Mitch Mitchell, right around the breakup of the Experience. (Unfounded rumors about there potentially being a supergroup with Hendrix and these guys persisted for years.)

This didn’t work out so they approached drummer Carl Palmer who had been drumming for a band called Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (who had previously done a song I used to love called, “Fire.”)

They called themselves Emerson, Lake and Palmer to avoid being called the new Nice and thus was a “supergroup” born. One of their very first gigs was at the Isle of Wight in August 1970. This blew everyone away and as Greg Lake said, “the next day we were world-famous.”

You say you wish you could hear that? Well, has the Music Enthusiast ever let you down? (Forget all those other times.) Click here for the madness (very good recording, BTW.):

The band released their self-titled album in November of that 1970. A great song from that is “Knife Edge” which you can check out on that previous post I mentioned and is based on a whole bunch of classical pieces I never heard of and which I mostly can’t pronounce.

A big hit from this album was a song Greg Lake wrote when he was twelve years old, “Lucky Man.” It was one of theΒ first songs to have a Moog synthesizer solo. Not a particularly progressive song I think but still pretty good:

“Nutrocker” is a souped-up version of The Nutcracker. ELP’s playing of this goes back to that concert I posted earlier. This one is from Pictures at an Exhibition, which was a live version of that epic Mussorgsky composition. The Boston Bruins hockey team used to use this as their fight song or something. Love this tune and love the fact that they end it by nailing a straight twelve-bar blues ending:

ELP were a very popular band in the early ’70’s but then again, there were a bunch of prog-rock bands and a lot of jazz-rock. So the average rock audience – weaned on long jams by bands like Cream – was pretty well attuned to sitting and listening to lengthy compositions with virtuosic musicianship. Outside of bands like Phish and maybe a few others, I’m not so sure that’s as important these days.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer broke up in 1979. Keith Emerson died in March 2016 by his own hand. He was 71. Greg Lake died – yesterday – on December 7, 2016. He was 69. Carl Palmer is still with us. Rest in peace, guys.


20 thoughts on “Emerson Lake and Palmer

  1. Lucky Man was such a great song. A great tribute to Greg Lake’s talent. How haunting that chorus, how desolate the verse describing his death, and that Moog solo was so good. It sends chills up my spine even now.


    1. Agreed. I heard “From the Beginning” the other day on the radio, and now know it was probably for Lake. Another great one. He was a fine guitar player. A great body of work from these guys. Anyway, welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I forget to relate this due to a bit of haste in posting. But in my previous post on these guys, i mentioned that my friends and I had seen them a number of times, mostly due to one friend who was a stone Emerson freak. They put on a great, somewhat insane show. Here’s a brief clip showing the amazing flying keyboard with Keith Emerson strapped in for the ride.


  3. ELP was staple for CB. They had that sound. The three of them made some very cool music together. The first album grabbed me and that was it, I was on for the ride with these guys. ‘Knifes Edge ‘ that you featured still does it (That whole album still does it), ‘Barbarian’, ‘Lucky Man’, ‘ then onto all the other albums. ‘From the Beginning’, man is that a good song. I better cut this off because all sorts of things are popping. Jim great piece and like we have talked about before, it comes down to how the music effects us. I think we both have probably put hours of research (Listening) into ELP and know at the end of the day that we dig these guys big time. Oh yeah, great live shows back in the day. I seen the Emerson thing a few times. Lake was a unique talent. One of my favorite voices. Every kid that was an aspiring drummer used to put their first name ahead of Palmer, ex: “CB Palmer”. That Bruin thing is hilarious. I mean out of all the music and they choose that. Very cool!
    Great band. Thanks Jim!


    1. Yes, and thanks for being the impetus on my writing this post. These rockers are dying faster than I can write about them!

      In my haste, I neglected to mention that drummer Cozy Powell replaced Palmer later. And what I didn’t know was that the original ELP had reformed in the early ’90’s. But by then their time had long since passed and who was listening to them in the age of Nirvana?

      If you even a few minutes, be sure to go to the Isle of Wight Festival I mention in the post. It sounds great.

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      1. Yeah, I checked out some of the ‘Isle’ gig. Very cool. They open with ‘Barbarian”. I’d like to get the disc. You only have so much space but again I have that Album with Cozy on it. You don’t have to write a complete history just some reminders and hooks for people that have never heard them. I liked their stuff right up until they went their seperate ways.


        1. Yeah, I know I don’t have to be the complete biographer. I was more just mourning the fact that I kinda rushed the post once I realized Lake was gone. I like to know the whole story before I post even if I don’t tell the whole story, if you know what I mean.

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        2. Yup. I remember after I found ELP, I went back and did the King Crimson thing. I absolutely love Lake’s voice. (and his creativity). I can’t remember what their last album was but ‘Love Beach’ might have been it. I liked that record. (I’ll put you to work on another request down the road)

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  4. PS. I had to look up “masochistically”. Man do I ever get an education on here. I’m back to older posts but again the ELP take was great . My listening for the day was just taken care of. Maybe a “little Brain Salad Surgery”


  5. So sad so many of the old rockers are passing. Can’t say I was ever a fan of ELP, but I do like a bit of early King Crimson and Lucky Man, mainly due to his angelic voice.


    1. Yeah, he was a good singer and guitarist. Prog-rock had its day. Still around, not quite like it was.

      Nice to see you back, Freddo. I was afraid you had disappeared from the blogosphere. πŸ˜€


  6. Cincinnati Babyhead (CB) suggested that I check this out. Great post. ELP is my second favorite band so Greg passing struck a chord with me, Looking forward to reading more from you.


    1. Ah yes, good old CB. He loves his music, he does. Well, welcome to my corner of the blogosphere. And your first favorite band? 😁


        1. Cool. When you have time, search for Pink Floyd on my site’s search bar. I did a series on them a while back and that’s probably the fastest way to find the whole (4-part) series.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Thanks. When you said you were a Floyd fan, I figured you’d like that, if not necessarily agree with all the choices. Had a good time with that one and some good comments.

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