(Rewrite in progress -- I have to stop for dinner.) Keith Emerson, organ, piano, and harpsichord; Lee Jackson, bass and vocals; David O'List, guitar and vocals; Ian Hague, drums, replaced early on by Brian "Blinky" Davison.

One of the many cool bands of the day (1967) at Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records, the name came from Small Faces singer Steve Marriott, whose "Here Come the Nice", from around the same time, has nothing to do with The Nice.

They debuted first, in the Summer of Love, as a rhythm and blues backing band for Immediate artist/ex-Ikette P.P. Arnold (see also: Cat Stevens).

Doubling as Arnold's opening band, they developed their own set, padded with covers, like Bob Dylan songs, and an odd instrumental version of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "America" from West Side Story. By summer's end, they were headliners in their own right.

And soon came the debut 45, "The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" (a name formed from their last names), bright, shiny, summer-of-love pop that was either all hooks or no hooks, depending on your point of view, but the tinkering with the song form and Emerson's brief classical-music borrowings would be revisited a few times by this version of The Nice. The flipside, "Azrial", was a throwaway tune that rocked out partly in 5/4.

Their first album took its name from the 45, and featured perhaps their one enduring original from these days, "Flower King of Flies", part orientalist psychedelia, part jam, all more-than-a-little reminiscent of their contemporary Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, as were parts of "The Cry of Eugene". The songs in general showed the eclecticism hinted at in "Emerlist Davjack" and "Flower King" -- bluesy semi-rave-ups, wacky-lads chunes, some trippy effects and atmospherics, plus a lead-footed cover of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk"; some of the music has outlived its trendiness, some of it hasn't.

On the live front, their growing theatricality would soon garner headlines -- and draw Bernstein's cease-and-desist ire -- when they staged a flag burning as part of a long concert rendition of "America".

With their second LP, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, it became Emerson's band -- they sacked O'List, who later guitared in an early, pre-Manzanera version of Roxy Music.

(paragraphs under construction)

They switched to Charisma Records, an newer manager-driven semi-indie, with deeper pockets than Oldham's Immediate; Oldham still says, IIRC, that Five Bridges, the first Charisma release, was done on his dime, while the band were still under contract to Immediate. Five Bridges and Elegy were essentially dress rehearsals for Emerson's next version of The Nice, better known as ELP.

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