Tag Archives: pictures at an exhibition

(1974 Albums) Classical Albums

Can you see what Emerson, Lake & Palmer did to me?

Yes, courtesy of budget labels MFP (Music for Pleasure) and (I think it was) Hallmark, I stuck my proverbial toe in the murky waters of classical music, snapping up Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition“, Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent “1812 Overture

It would be years later before I expanded my ‘classical tastes’ further – courtesy of, strangely, my accountant who listened to no other genre – but for a 16-year-old with a musical sense for ‘all things” I don’t think I did too badly for starters did I?

The Mussorgsky purchase was most certainly based on my love for ELP and their interpretation of “Pictures…”. I guess I needed to hear the source of Mr Emerson’s inspiration?

I think the New World Symphony came about because it was featured in “Soylent Green“, a film I had seen the previous summer. Specifically the scene where old-timer Sol (a stupendous acting performance by Edward G Robinson) – in what has otherwise become a desolate world – offers himself up for euthanasia and before ‘departing’ is treated to great food, pretty visuals and a soundtrack of his choosing.

As for the 1812, I have no idea why it may have fallen across my radar in 1974. Maybe it was played at a TIBS meeting? Whatever the reason it remains a stunningly broody piece of music, culminating as it does with those booming canons.


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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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January 31st 1973

Pete lent me In Search of Space” / “Dun another Martin silly tape” / “Had an ‘aircut” / “Got Pictures at an Exhibition back from Dave”

There it is again – a reference to “a silly tape” for Martin. Whoever the hell Martin was. There’s obviously something ‘artistic’ going on, but nothing so memorable to….well, allow the 50-year-old me to bloomin’ well remember what I am banging on about!

However, the most important mention in this somewhat dysfunctional diary entry is the one that tells me that Pete loaned me Hawkwind’s ‘tour de force’ album “In Search of Space

I have spoken of Hawkwind in these diary corridors before, as well as as applauded their 1972 hit single “Silver Machine“.

“In Search of Space” was Hawkwind’s second album, first released in 1971. It contains just 6 tracks, fifteen minutes of side one swallowed up by the hypnotic rhythms and cosmic repetitiveness of “You Shouldn’t Do That” (fyi, link goes to vastly inferior live – and curtailed – version), where bass, drums and fuzzy guitar are punctured by sax breaks and Dave Brock mumbling “should do that, shouldn’t do that” over and over. I LOVE this cut so much that it almost overwhelms the rest of the album for me.

As if by complete contrast “You Know You’re Only Dreaming” has an almost traditional blues feel to it, albeit one with a psychedelic bent.

Side Two’s opener, “Master of the Universe” is a permanent fan favourite, representing for many the true sound of 70’s-era Hawkwind, starting off silently before slowly building to its mind-numbing dope-enhanced riff. (People always said that Hawkwind sounded much better if you were on drugs – really?)

We Took the Wrong Step Years Long Ago” is a so-so chugs-along acoustic effort, whilst “Adjust Me” sounds like the band are merely improvising a spacey electronic ‘nothing’ song that includes unnecessary chipmunk-style vocals.

Children of the Sun“, the album’s closer, builds to its climax and contains a riff that sounds suspiciously like a slowed-down version of T.Rex’s “Children of the Revolution” and you do have to wonder if Marc Bolan (consciously or unconsciously) co-opted it.

However – and I think this will become a repeated theme as this diary blog continues – it is the LP’s sleeve that drew me to the album as much as the contents.

The 12″ album cover offered a perfect canvas for artists and designers to flourish. Something that is almost impossible to achieve with CD sleeves (too small) and impossible with MP3 downloads. Us kids of the seventies used to pore over each and every element of the record sleeves, soaking up even the smallest printed details

“In Search of Space” was designed by the ‘infamous’ Barney Bubbles, a graphic designer (real name Colin Fulcher) who became – for many years – Hawkwind’s permanent ‘artistic collaborator’. Not only did he design the band’s album sleeves, he was also responsible for their logo, posters, stage sets, stage lighting and special effects.

Bubbles later went on to design iconic sleeves for the likes of The Damned, Elvis Costello, Carlene Carter & Ian Dury, as well as becoming a music video director (his finest moment being The Specials’ “Ghost Town“). He was also responsible for creating the logos for the NME and Strongbow Cider.

The world lost him -sadly to suicide – in 1983, but his influence over record art & design will stick around forever. There is a book of his work entitled “Reasons to be Cheerful” (itself an Ian Dury song title) for anyone interested in this art form.

For “In Search of Space” he produced a striking die-cut interlocking fold-out sleeve (inside, opened, shown on right) which contained not only the vinyl in a straightforward white inner sleeve but also a 24-page book entitled “The Hawkwind Log“, supposedly telling the story of the spacecraft “Hawkwind”, found abandoned at the South Pole. It’s a pamphlet style compilation of pictures, spacey quotes and sci-fi data, written by Bubbles in collaboration with Hawkwind’s ‘space poet’ Robert Calvert.

Here’s an example of the writings…. Space/time supply indicators near to zero. Our thoughts are losing depth, soon they will fold intro each other, into flatness, into nothing but surface. Our ship will fold like a cardboard file and the noises of our minds compress into a disc of shining black, spinning in eternity…..


Good job I had a haircut today or someone may have mistaken me for a drug-fuelled hippy when I walked around mumbling “should do this, shouldn’t do that“!

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July 24th 1972

“Went up Trev’s house for day. good fun. He bt me at chess 2-1, but hospital called for him at 2:40 so I went home. on the way home I bought pictures at an exhibition – emerson, lake + palmer”

Trev was, it has to be said, a very good friend. His parents were always very kind to me, feeding and watering me when the need arose. I’m sure my folks did the same whenever Trev (or any of my other teen pals) visited me, but for the life of me I can’t remember. Maybe I was always a bit more nervous/embarrassed about them coming to my place because of the arguments my parents would often get into? Such as it is, my memory can’t latch onto that either.

I would like to hereby boast that, as a junior, I was something of a chess champion. I learned the game at the age of 7, and between then and 10 I was a member of an unstoppable chess team at Chamberlayne Road school. There are photos somewhere of me looking exactly as you would imagine a junior chess champion would look. No, you can’t see them.

I suspect therefore the 2-1 loss was very close. *cough*

There’s mention of Trevor going to hospital again. It’s been mentioned before and yet I’m still none the wiser as to why he went. It seems weird that I was so specific about the time in my diary entry.

Pictures at an Exhibition though…. FINALLY…. score!!

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July 22nd 1972

“Nothing done in morning, in afternoon went with Mum to Winchester tried to buy pictures at an exhibition but couldnt”

See how this worked RIAA?

I borrowed Pictures at an Exhibition. I taped Pictures at an Exhibition. I listened and fell in love with Pictures at an Exhibition. So much so that I wanted to BUY Pictures at an Exhibition. OK, so no-one in Winchester had it today, but that doesn’t change what I am trying to say…

Even back in the 70’s the music industry was bleating about lost profits through people ‘stealing’ their product.

It should be pointed out that not long after this, the music industry was wallowing in so much money it almost didn’t know what to do with it. (Except keep signing Rush to new contracts)

The industry’s blinkered notion in the seventies that a few kids taping stuff was going to kill them off just makes me laugh… and it goes a LONG way to explaining just why they are in such a predicament now in the 21st Century. 

Consider the whole downloading, file sharing, torrent swapping phenomenon. Instead of embracing the new technology – which would have been SO MUCH easier for them to do (and doubtless profitable) – the industry instead has adopted a siege mentality and attacked the very hands that has always fed it.

Hey, I made a lot of money myself from the ‘industry’, so maybe I shouldn’t knock it, but I sincerely believe that history will show its inert greed together with its utter inability to understand what the likes of Napster & co were all about predated its eventual – and overdue – demise.

Given the fact that they have made enemies of many true fans of music in the last ten years with their lawsuits and threats, I say good riddance.

Now, back to 1972 and visiting Winchester with my mum….


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May 27th 1972

“Recorded Yes Fragile. P.A.E – ELP ”

Ah, after all the weeks of apparently abandoning music for other teenage things, I’m back at the tape deck, sat silently in front of my record player.

Yes’ Fragile is perhaps their most complete work.  With its memorable Roger Dean sleeve artwork, it’s certainly the one which catapulted them into the imaginary prog-rock Hall of Fame.

At the time, the cut “Roundabout” was amongst my very favourite songs, its position at the start of the cassette useful for repeat rewinds and listens. Unfortunately, ten years of living in America and an over-abundance of plays (of the edited version) on “classic rock radio” (thank you Fox) has now made me – perhaps sadly – treat it with a response of “Aaaaaarrrrghhhhhh… not a-gain!”So, I’ll instead settle for the jazz-fusion meanderings of “Long Distance Runaround”, the short but wonderfully-quirky “Cans and Brahms” (which gave the world an advance glimpse into the theatrical keyboard leanings of band newcomer Rick Wakeman) and “Heart of the Sunrise”, a cut which always reminded me (vocal aside) of another prog-rock powerhouse of the time.

I give you Mr Emerson, Mr Lake and Mr Palmer.

P.A.E.refers to ELP’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”, their live *ahem* prog-rock tribute to classical composer Mussorgsky’s most famous work.

The album had been released the previous year by Manticore – the band’s own label – at a bargain price (£2.49 maybe?) It’s FAR from ELP’s finest moment* , but there was no way you could even suggest that to me back in 1972, because everything they did was, according to me, “musical genius” (and other terrible cliches)

To say I was a fan of the band was an understatement, something that was only get ‘worse’ a few months later

In the meantime, here’s a public service warning about what growing your hair and going out in public in a groovy satin two-piece suit can do to you…

*I did warn you


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