Tag Archives: emerson lake & palmer

August 6th 1975

“On own in shop for some of day. Went up Debbie’s house in evening”

So, the king was in his castle was he? I bet I was both apprehensive and excited at the prospect. Time to sell some Emerson, Lake & Palmer!

Meanwhile, who the hell was Debbie?

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July 4th, 1973

“Keith Emerson on telly – Not Much Kop! Started History Project – History of Music since 1900’s – doing it wiv Dick who’s writing the soul & TM parts”

ELP collectively can ‘do no wrong’ in my 1973 eyes. Keith Emerson by himself evidently can?!

This “History of Music” project is something I was – and still am – very proud of.

It took me forever to research everything using – remember this was YEARS before the age of the internet and Google – old magazine articles, encyclopedias, chart books and more, collating everything into a cohesive document.

This is the cover I designed and made,using the cover of an old hardback book and some brown corrugated paper

Reading it all again 36 years later its phenomenal the depth I went to and the information I imparted.  This project taught me a LOT that I previously didn’t realise, and I KNOW this book made me appreciate a FAR greater number of genres of music than I was (then and later) otherwise listening to. I remember getting pretty obsessive about it, cross-referencing information and making sure everything I wrote was correct. Nowadays stuff like that is MUCH easier for kids, but for this 15 year old music geek discovering stuff was half the fun.

The project was written in conjunction with my school-chum Richard M (Dick) who, as far as I can remember, wrote his Soul/R&B/Motown section completely freehand and without any notes. His appreciation of that kind of music must have been so natural. (We swapped e-mails a few years back, he’s still into the same stuff almost to the exclusion of everything else!)

The book was all compiled together, a mixture of written pages, typed pages and a few sheets of photos etc.

Over time, the sellotape holding it all  together has gone bad and it’s beginning to fall apart at almost every seam. Indeed, scanning it for inclusion on this blog pretty much ‘finished it off’ in its original state, such was its fragility. (Even the staples used to hold some of the pages together have rusted!).

I’ve held onto it though, mainly because I think it represents a hugely important moment in my teenage years that would define me later in life. I learned a lot and was then able to impart a lot of what I’d learned to ‘the public’ when I later worked in the music industry.

I hope Teenage Rock Opera readers will indulge me over the next few days whilst I show some of the contents?……

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March 7th 1973

“Arguverge > Argument” / “Dental Appointment 2.30” / “Went to see Pictures at an Exhibition, Emerson Lake + Palmer – damned brilliant. Plod – Scaffold – Funny. Grave New World – Strawbs – Crap”

Not just a double movie bill at the Regal, but a TRIPLE movie bill!

Actually, “movie” is a bit of a misnomer in this case….

Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” ‘movie’ was in fact no more than a filmed live concert performance – recorded at the Lyceum in London – from 1970.

In the cause of – *ahem* – research I hunted down a copy of the same film recently – on DVD – and wish to somewhat amend my 35-years earlier “damned brilliant” review.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed its musically-bombastic overkill , but visually it was bloody hard work. I guess chroma-key, together with fluorescent psychedelic tinting was all the rage in the early seventies… and it really grates!

It does show the band very much in their progressive ‘prime’ though, and its interesting to note that this stage recording was made over two years before their album release of the same name hit record stores.

The Scaffold were a comedy/poetry trio from Liverpool who had, by 1973, already enjoyed a pair of massive novelty hit singles (buoyed, no doubt, by the fact that band member Mike McGear was actually Paul McCartney’s brother)

Thank You Very Much” is a strange singalong ode – sung in a thick Liverpudlian accent – to a collection of English ‘treasures’ including love, the family circle, the Sunday joint, tea (the mentioned “national beverage”), the union jack, the Times newspaper, our “cultural heritage”, Liverpool FC (“our gracious team”), the Aintree Iron (a collection of pubs in Liverpool which, when viewed from the air, resemble the shape of an ‘iron’ horseshoe) and even for…. “playing this record”

Lily the Pink” was of an equally silly nature. It was an old reworked rugby singalong song about a woman invented a ‘medicinal compound‘ (aka “drug”) which could improve everybody’s lives.

All, it would seem, except the titular Lily who over-enjoyed her drink (a-drink-a-drink), became “Pickle-Lily”, and ascended up to heaven purely on the strength of her marvellous invention.

 Lily the Pink is renowned for not only featuring a certain Jack Bruce on bass, but also for including the word “efficacious“… unlikely to have appeared before – or since – in recorded music.

Where was I?…. oh yes, the Regal cinema, 1973…

The Scaffold’s “Plod” was a half-hour compilation of Pythonesque comedy sketches performed by the trio. Research shows that it has never been released on VHS or DVD so is unavailable for reviewing to see if it has stood the test of time. My betting is “not”

I briefly mentioned The Strawbs earlier this year.

The band was a weird hybrid of rock and folk, and who somehow crossed over into the “progressive” arena. Probably on the strength of their 1972 album “Grave New World” which seemed to (IMHO badly) straddle the folk and prog genres.

A concept album (weren’t they ALL in the early seventies?) it tells the tale of one man’s life from birth to death. The album was lavishly packaged (check out that William Blake repro on the sleeve!) and reached Number 11 on the UK album charts.

It is perhaps best known as the first Strawbs album to NOT feature a certain Rick Wakeman on keyboards. He had left somewhat acrimoniously to join Yes, and it is often felt the song “Tomorrow” – with its lyric “You talked of me with acid tongue” – was written about him.

The film of “Grave New World” which I saw – and duly lambasted in 1973 is often credited as being one of the very first “rock videos”, pre-dating even Queen’s infamous “Bohemian Rhapsody“. It was little more than a full-length visual promo for the album which – again according to research – appears to have featured the same levels of high-intensity chroma-key nonsense which plagued the ELP movie.

Unlike the ELP “damned brilliance” I have no real desire to see “Grave New World” again. Unlike millions of others I never cared too much for The Strawbs, although I still own, and have a soft spot for, their later “Hero & Heroine” album. Indeed, it might even appear in these very diary pages when 1974 rolls around.

For those in need of a grave new fix of the Strawbs, here’s a performance from a reunion concert in 2006. IMHO, it’s crap too – and not helped by out-of-tune audience … erm… ‘participation’

What wouldn’t I give to be able to see a triple-header at my local multiscreen cineplex these days?! *sigh* Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

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March 5th 1973

“Took back Trev’s records” / “In evening went up Nigs – battling tops wiv drawing pins – borrowed 2001 Ai Space Oddesy off of him – not bad” / “Borrowed drawing stuff off of Bernie – lent Trev my Popular Hi-Fi Mag”

Stanley Kubrick’s immense “2001 – A Space Odyssey” (erm, not Oddesy) movie was released in 1968.

I’m pretty certain that by 1973 I still hadn’t seen it. (In those days films were held for five or more years before appearing on television). In later years (i.e. after the advent of the video cassette) however, it became very much a firm personal favourite thanks to its intelligent script (based on the book by Arthur C. Clarke) and impressive (even now) visuals and special effects.

The soundtrack introduced me – like millions of others – to the classical musical delights of Richard and Johann Strauss, in particular the former’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and the latter’s “The Blue Danube“.

People may not know that these pieces of music were not the original choice of Kubrick. He commissioned a full soundtrack composition from Alex North who, at the time, had just scored hit movies “Dr Strangelove” and “Spartacus“.  In 1966 the movie studio, MGM, put together a show reel of Kubrick’s early edited footage which showed the dramatic sequences using the classical music the eccentric director loosely adopted as a backdrop during filming. The studio bosses – and Kubrick himself – were so impressed with the results, this ‘guide music’ ended up being used for the final cut two years later. However, in something of a glaring snub, Alex North was not told his soundtrack was being abandoned, and never found out until he was sat down at the movie’s premiere!

I suspect my “not bad” fascination for the tracks stemmed from my familiarity of such overblown pieces previously offered by the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and/or The Nice. I do know that the tracks took on an entirely new dimension when I eventually got to see the movie. The twinning of Kubrick’s visuals and these soaring sounds is as impressive as it can be.

However, on watching the movie, I felt retrospectively disappointed that that the soundtrack never did feature HAL’s version of the popular “Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do“. Maybe the errant computer was asked about having his early Stephen Hawkisms included and replied “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that“?

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January 25th 1973

“In the evening I taped Moving Waves and emerson lake and palmer for Johnny – good recording” / “Melody Maker not in yet” / “Got records off of Nobby in xchange for him losing my pen”

No truth in the rumour that I wore an eye-patch, had a wooden leg and carried around a parrot on one shoulder.

I did however ‘file share’ my collection of music, in exchange for other people’s collections of music.

Another way of getting music in 1973 was to have good friends lose my pen. (Why did I not just ask for a pen by way of replacement?)

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus

“Tarkus” can’t really be described as my favourite ELP album, but its certainly the one I know the most intimately.

Side One features the 7-part concept Tarkus suite, mostly composed by Keith Emerson, that is supposed to tell the tale of the peculiar half-armadillo/half-tank represented on the cover.

Emerson has apparently stated in his autobiography “Pictures of an Exhibitionist” (something I might read one day, for old times sake) that he pretty much presented the ambitious Tarkus suite in its entirety to the other two band members, L & P, as a ‘done deal’. Greg Lake is reported to have initially said he was unhappy with it… before happily adding lyrics to the composition which were, apparently, about “the military-industrial complex” and “the futility of war”

All lost on a 15-year-old it has to be said. It just sounded bloomin’ good to me!

The album sleeve opened up to show the weird artwork above, something I would not fully appreciate until I (presumably) upgraded my little cassette copy for the vinyl album with all its gatefold glory. It too, allegedly, tells the story. *cough*

Whilst Side 1 is perhaps testament to everything that was appealing to me about ELP, Side Two is much more of a curates egg containing more than its fair share of fillers.

I can’t help thinking that with “Jeremy Bender“, the band were taking the proverbial wee-wee.  Jeremy Bender was (according to the lyrics) “a man of leisure” who “took his pleasure in the evening sun“. Furthermore he “laid him down in a bed of roses, finally decided to become a nun“. The story continues with the titular Mr Bender apparently having an affair with a trans-gender convent sister before leaving with his suitcase.

As I have often stated, maybe these things would sound better if the listener could ingest the same kinds of drugs the musicians were on when they recorded them?

Bitches Crystal” brings us back to the bombastic offerings of Side 1, and has always remained been one of my favourite ELP cuts. I love how the drums and bass come in after the weird tinkly keyboard intro. Here’s a YouTube offering of it from some ‘reunion’ show the trio did in 1997…

It’s almost free form jazz. (Maybe why it has remained one of my faves?)

The Only Way” is another dreary Emerson tribute to Bach (yawn), whilst “Infinite Space” courts crappy-synth territory a little too closely for its own good. “A Time and a Place” is leaden and ploddy, suggesting Keith had been on the wine the night before.

The final cut is fun, but serves less as a classic ELP cut and more as a tribute to or in-joke about their (doubtless beleaguered) studio engineer Eddie Offord. “Are You Ready Eddie?” is rampant with pub-style piano and throwaway lyrics ending with “we only got ‘am or cheese” in reference to the limited sandwich choices at the studio canteen!

Rumour has it that “Tarkus” was originally going to be released as an E.P. featuring just the cuts from side one. It will always be easy in retrospect to say that it might have served the band better. However, ELP’s pretentious excesses both on and off the road were already becoming well known so why not stretch an idea too far?

Talking of pretentious excesses, people bemoan and criticise the current ‘diva syndrome’ of artists like Mariah Carey or Celine Dion and their outrageous changing room requests, etc. Let it be known that this kind of thing has been going on for decades. Back in the seventies, Greg Lake – ELP’s coiffeured bassist and vocalist – refused to do any live shows unless he could perform standing on an antique Persian rug worth thousands of dollars.

Prat!

This recent photo would seem to suggest that – even though his star has very much faded – he is still in the habit of using the rug. I wonder if he now does it as “an ironic statement”?

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December 25th 1972

“Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan, Daan, Da, Dan, Today is Chrismas, Today is Crismas, Today is Xmas, Today is Xmas, Today is Xmas, Today is Xmas, Today is Xmas” / “I got Emerson lake etc LP, Mains Adpt, Scrabble, Chess”

Later in life I would become FAR more cynical about Christmas – mainly as a direct result of one particularly upsetting one when Mum was very ill – but it would seem that at 14 I was very much “an excited little boy”?!

I can’t recall getting the game of Scrabble, but I do remember the chess game. It was a little electronic version with tiny pegged plastic pieces that you moved around a board with holes in it. It meant I could hone my chess skill by playing with myself (pauses for jokes). I actually held onto that game until just a few months ago when I donated it to the local thrift store (charity shop), hoping that another kid gets as much enjoyment out of it as I did for years after this Christmas.

The mains adaptor was for my cassette player, meaning I could probably stop having to buy batteries… and having to report on their lifespan in the pages of my diary!

The ’emerson, lake etc LP’ comment refers to ELP’s debut album. (Why, I wonder, could I not be bothered to write the word “palmer” instead of “etc”?)

This album – originally released in 1970 – contains just 6 tracks, 4 of them incorporating melodies and themes heavily influenced by Keith Emerson’s adoration for classical compositions by the likes of Bartók and Bach. All of them are somewhat lumbering and charmless to be honest.

The stand-out tracks on this album – at least, for me – are both Greg Lake compositions. The first, “Take a Pebble” on Side 1, is one of many signature love songs by the band’s bassist & vocalist. The other is “Lucky Man” which closes the album. This whimsical piece – allegedly written by Lake when he was just a child – is perhaps ELP’s most well-known commercial contribution to “pop” music. It is still played regularly (almost too regularly – even by my own admission!) on “classic rock stations” from coast to coast across America.

Years later, my wife introduced me to the aural pleasures of Bob Rivers and his superb “Twisted Tunes” collection of parodies.

Amongst them, a send up of “Lucky Man” entitled “What An Ugly Man he Was“. This is now the version I sing!

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