Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, also known as ELP, are a sporadically active English progressive rock supergroup. They found success in the 1970s and have sold over forty million albums and headlined large stadium concerts. The band consists of Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake (bass guitar, vocals, guitar) and Carl Palmer (drums, percussion). They are one of the most popular and commercially successful progressive rock bands.

The ELP sound is dominated by the Hammond organ and Moog synthesiser of the flamboyant Emerson. The band's compositions are heavily influenced by classical music in addition to jazz and – at least in their early years – hard rock. Many of their pieces are arrangements of, or contain quotations from, classical music, and they can be said to fit into the sub-genre of symphonic rock. However, Lake ensured that their albums contained a regular stream of simple, accessible acoustic ballads, many of which received heavy radio airplay. Lake, besides providing vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar and lyrics, also produced the band's first five albums.


Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, both exploring options outside of their current bands (The Nice and King Crimson respectively), met at Fillmore West in San Francisco and on working together, found their styles to be compatible and complementary. Wanting to launch a keyboard/bass/drum band, Emerson and Lake sought out a drummer. They initially approached drummer Mitch Mitchell, who was at a loose end following the breakup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Hendrix's departure to The Band of Gypsies. Mitchell subsequently suggested a jam session with himself, Lake, Emerson and Hendrix. Although this session never took place, it led to press rumours of a planned-but-abandoned supergroup named HELP (Hendrix-Emerson-Lake-Palmer) which survived for over forty years until Lake finally debunked them in 2012. Meanwhile, Robert Stigwood (manager of Cream) had suggested Carl Palmer, formerly of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and at that time a member of Atomic Rooster
Although their debut was in The Guildhall, Plymouth, on 23 August 1970, it was their performance six days later, at the Isle of Wight festival, that drew the most attention to the new band. The band's drawing power as a live band helped them get a record contract with US label Atlantic Records. Their debut album was simply titled Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and was released in late 1970. It was mostly a collection of solo pieces. Keith Emerson contributed a series of treatments of classical pieces (such as Bach's French Suite No. 1 in D minor, BWV 812 and Bartok's 'Allegro Barbaro'), Carl Palmer provided a drum solo (called "Tank") and Greg Lake provided two ballads, beginning with the folky, extended work "Take a Pebble". It was the ballad, "Lucky Man", which was a song Lake wrote when he had his first guitar at the age of 12, that brought the band to prominence. It received heavy radio play in the UK and Europe, and also became a surprise hit in America. The commercial success of "Lucky Man", combined with a strong performance at the Isle of Wight festival, brought ELP rapidly to prominence.


The band's March 1971 live recording, Pictures at an Exhibition, an interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky's work of the same name, was issued as a low-priced record, the success of which contributed to the band's overall popularity. Due to management conflicts, the recording was not released until after Tarkus, their second studio album. The record company was reluctant to release a classical suite as an album, and insisted it be released on their classical music label instead. Fearing that this would lead to poor sales, ELP instead decided to shelve the work. After the success of their second album, however, the label agreed to release Pictures as a budget live album. It was unprecedented for a rock band to devote an entire album to a treatment of a classical work, and Pictures remains the only complete classical suite that has hit the top 10 in either the US or the UK. The album mixed in a ballad by Greg Lake (The Sage), a Blues Variation section by Emerson and many instances of heavily electronic and synthesised interpretations of Mussorgsky's work (although the opening promenade was played faithfully on a Hammond organ).

Promenade/The gnome

Tarkus, released in 1971, was their first successful concept album, described as a story about "reverse evolution". Combining a side-long song with an assortment of hard rock songs, an instrumental and even some comic songs, it was quickly cited as landmark work in progressive rock. The epic "Tarkus", recorded in just 4 days, is a seven-part rock suite which incorporates a number of complex time signatures. The breadth and complexity of the music combined with the series of William Neal paintings incorporated into the sleeve art helped to cement ELP's reputation as being on the forefront of progressive rock music.

The 1972 album Trilogy contained ELP's only Top 40 single in the USA, "From the Beginning". Like "Lucky Man", the song was a distinctively mellow acoustic ballad broken by an extended Moog solo. The album also featured a cover of "Hoedown" from Aaron Copland's Rodeo as well as some self-penned suites ("The Endless Enigma" and "Trilogy"). It is cited by Lake as his favourite ELP album. However, only "Hoedown" persisted as a live song. It was with the release of Trilogy that ELP were able to focus heavily on international touring.


In 1973, the band had garnered enough recognition to form their own record label, Manticore Records, and purchased an abandoned cinema as their own rehearsal hall. In late 1973, Brain Salad Surgery, with sleeve designed by H. R. Giger, became the band's best-known studio album. The lyrics were co-written by Peter Sinfield, whom Greg Lake had collaborated with in King Crimson. It was their most ambitious album to date, with one of the tracks, "Karn Evil 9", sprawling over both sides of the album. It also contained a cover of Alberto Ginastera's Toccata, the first musical recording to employ synthesised percussion, in the form of an acoustic drum kit fitted with pick-ups that triggered electronic sounds, which were combined with the kit's acoustic sounds.

The subsequent world tours were documented with a massive three-LP live recording, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends. By April 1974, ELP were on top of the bill during the California Jam Festival, pushing co-stars Deep Purple to second billing. ELP's California Jam performance was broadcast nationwide in the United States, and attended by over 200,000 paying fans. By the end of 1974, ELP were just about tied with Led Zeppelin as the highest grossing live band in the world. On stage, the band exhibited an unorthodox mix of virtuoso musicianship and over-the-top theatrical bombast. Their extravagant and often aggressive live shows received much criticism in this regard. The theatrics consisted of a Persian carpet, a grand piano spinning end-over-end, a rotating percussion platform, and a Hammond organ being up-ended and thrown around on stage to create feedback. Emerson often used a knife given to him by Lemmy (who had roadied for Emerson's previous band, The Nice) to force the keys on the organ to stay down. The band took a full Moog modular synthesizer (an enormous, complex, and unreliable (tuning-wise) instrument, which Dr. Robert Moog thought "would never work live") on the road with them, which added to the uniqueness of the band's live sound.

Karn evil 9

ELP then took a three-year break to re-invent their music, but lost contact with the changing musical scene. They eventually released the double album, Works (later renamed Works, Volume I), in which each member had a side to himself. Side 4 contained 'full band' pieces, including a highly synthesised cover of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". Released as a single, it reached number 2 in the UK charts. A great deal of the album was recorded with an orchestral accompaniment; in fact, Keith Emerson's side consisted solely of a 20 minute piano concerto which he had composed himself. This album was soon followed by Works Volume II, which consisted entirely of 3–4 minute songs including ballads, pop songs, jazzy instrumentals and a Christmas single. It was seen as a collection of leftovers and was ELP's first commercial failure. Lake and Palmer still blame  Emerson for it.. "you and your bloody orchestra". Their last studio album of the 1970s, Love Beach (1978), was dismissed even by the trio itself, who admitted it was delivered to fulfill a contractual obligation. The album's cover photograph – which showed the three band members posing with their shirts unbuttoned, on a tropical beach – engendered no small amount of ridicule, with Palmer complaining the group looked like disco stars the Bee Gees. Emerson, Lake and Palmer disbanded later in 1979. The live LP In Concert was released after they had broken up, also to fulfill contractual obligations and was later rebranded Works Live.

In 1985, Emerson and Lake formed Emerson, Lake & Powell with ex-Rainbow and session drummer Cozy Powell. Palmer declined to participate in a reunion, as he was too busy with commitments to Asia. The album Emerson Lake & Powell charted reasonably well, with a major single, "Touch and Go" generating some radio and MTV exposure for the trio. However, the old interpersonal tensions between Lake and Emerson resurfaced during the 1986 tour. Emerson and Palmer subsequently joined with Robert Berry to form the band 3. They released an album, To the Power of Three, in 1988. In 1991, Emerson, Lake & Palmer reformed and issued a 1992 comeback album, Black Moon. Their 1992–93 world tours were successful. In 1994, the band released a follow-up album, In the Hot Seat. They started touring again, beginning in 1996 until 1998. Conflicts over a new album led to another break-up. In 2003, UK independent label Invisible Hands Music released the 3CD box set Reworks: Brain Salad Perjury, a new work created by Keith Emerson in collaboration with Mike Bennett, using sampling technology. Emerson and Lake embarked in April 2010 on a North American tour, presenting an acoustic repertoire of their work. On 14 May 2010, Shout! Factory released a 4-CD collection of Emerson, Lake and Palmer live tracks called A Time And A Place. On 25 July 2010, Emerson, Lake and Palmer played a one-off 40th anniversary concert, headlining the High Voltage Festival event in Victoria Park, London. The entire concert was later released as the double-CD live album High Voltage. 


Emerson Lake & Palmer (1970):
1. The Barbarian
2. Take a Pebble
3. Knife Edge
4. The Three Fates
a) Clotho
5. Tank
6. Lucky Man

Tarkus (1971):
1. Tarkus
a) Eruption
b) Stones of Years
c) Iconoclast
d) Mass
e) Manticore
f) Battlefield
g) Aquatarkus
2. Jeremy Bender
3. Bitches Crystal
4. The Only Way (Hymn)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion)
6. A Time and a Place
7. Are You Ready Eddy?

Pictures at an Exhibition (1971):
1. Promenade
2. The Gnome
3. Promenade
4. The Sage
5. The Old Castle
6. Blues Variation
7. Promenade
8. The Hut of Baba Yaga
9. The Curse of Baba Yaga
10. The Hut of Baba Yaga (Part 2)
11. The Great Gates of Kiev/The End
12. Nut Rocker

Trilogy (1972):
1. The Endless Enigma (Part 1)
2. Fugue
3. The Endless Enigma (Part 2)
4. From the Beginning
5. The Sheriff
6. Hoedown
7. Trilogy
8. Living Sin
9. Abaddon's Bolero

Brain Salad Surgery (1973):
1. Jerusalem
2. Toccata
3. Still...You Turn Me On
4. Benny the Bouncer
5. Karn Evil 9
a) 1st Impression, Pt. 1
b) 1st Impression, Pt. 2
c) 2nd Impression
d) 3rd Impression

Works Volume 1 (1977):
Disc 1
Keith Emerson
1. Piano Concerto No. 1
a) 1st Movement: Allegro giocoso
b) 2nd Movement: Andante molto cantabile
c) 3rd Movement: Toccata con fuoco
Greg Lake
2. Lend Your Love to Me Tonight
3. C'est la Vie
4. Hallowed Be Thy Name
5. Nobody Loves You Like I Do
6. Closer to Believing
Disc 2
Carl Palmer
1. The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits
2. L.A. Nights
3. New Orleans
4. Two Part Invention in D Minor
5. Food for Your Soul
6. Tank
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
7. Fanfare for the Common Man
8. Pirates

Works Volume 2 (1977):
1. Tiger in a Spotlight
2. When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I'll Be Your Valentine
3. Bullfrog
4. Brain Salad Surgery
5. Barrelhouse Shake-Down
6. Watching Over You
7. So Far to Fall
8. Maple Leaf Rag
9. I Believe in Father Christmas
10. Close But Not Touching
11. Honky Tonk Train Blues
12. Show Me the Way to Go Home

Love Beach (1978):
1. All I Want Is You
2. Love Beach
3. Taste of My Love
4. The Gambler
5. For You
6. Canario (From Fantasia para un Gentilhombre)
7. Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman
a) Prologue / The Education of a Gentleman
b) Love at First Sight
c) Letters from the Front
d) Honourable Company (A March)

Black Moon (1992):
1. Black Moon
2. Paper Blood
3. Affairs of the Heart
4. Romeo and Juliet
5. Farewell to Arms
6. Changing States
7. Burning Bridges
8. Close to Home
9. Better Days
10. Footprints in the Snow

In the Hot Seat (1994):
1. Hand of Truth
2. Daddy
3. One By One
4. Heart on Ice
5. Thin Line
6. Man in the Long Black Coat
7. Change
8. Give Me a Reason to Stay
9. Gone Too Soon
10. Street War
11. Hammer It Out
12. Pictures at an Exhibition (studio recording)
a) Promenade
b) The Gnome
c) Promenade
d) The Sage
e) The Hut of Baba Yaga
f) The Great Gates of Kiev

Knife edge