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.
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.” 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 the 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.