Emerson, Lake and Palmer are of a generation of progressive
rockers, many of whom were classically trained and produced very original
sounding and very complex music. The band was founded in 1970
by keyboardist Keith
and guitar/bassist Greg Lake
. Emerson, born in 1944
, had been a member of professional rock groups since he was in his late
teens, when he moved to London
. He played in a number of bands
including one called The Nice
which included Ike
one time singer P.P. Arnold
. Their style blended classical
into a format that Emerson would bring along with him to ELP after
The Nice broke up. Lake was, with the legendary Robert Fripp
, a co-founder of King
, another progressive rock band which would go on to become one of the major
bands of the genre. The two brought on Carl Palmer
, a talented and innovative
drummer to round out the band. When they were first getting underway, it was rumored
that Jimi Hendrix
would join up, making the band's final name HELP.
The band's first major gig brought them quickly into the spotlight. Alongside such
acts as The Doors, Joni Mitchell and The Who, ELP performed a rock adaptation of
Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition at the Isle of Wight
Festival in 1970. The band stunned the audience with an amazing and original
performance, finishing it off with a blast of cannon fire. Their self-titled first
album would feature the hit song Lucky Man as well as some extended piano solos and
a 12 minute song entitled Knife Edge. The album gave a good inkling of what the band
would go on to accomplish and launched their successful career. The band would release
a large number of successful albums, producing many hit singles and releasing a number
of excellent live albums.
Most of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's most popular songs were written by Greg Lake, as
his songs lent themselves more to release as singles. The band produced three types of
songs in general. The first were Lake's guitar-based, reflective songs, such as Lucky
Man, C'est La Vie and From The Beginning. Lake also penned their extremely
popular holiday song, I Believe In Father Christmas. The next type of song was
Emerson's piano solos and adaptations of classical pieces. These included works by
Bach, Mussorgsky, Ginastera and Copland. Their performance of Fanfare For
The Common Man impressed Copland so much that, upon hearing it, he congratulated the
band, telling them that they had achieved exactly what he had wanted it to sound like.
The final style of songs that ELP wrote were usually collaborations between all three
members of the band on sweeping, epic songs such as Karn Evil 9 and Tarkus.
In 1974 they headlined the California Jam concert before a crowd of 500,000 and in
1977 toured with an entirely handpicked orchestra to perform Emerson's Piano
Concerto No. 1. Eventually, however, the band decided the go their separate ways and
release solo work. Emerson and Lake both released a number of successful solo albums
while Palmer went on to form Asia. In 1986, Emerson and Lake joined drummer Cozy
Powell, but only briefly. The band proper reformed in 1992 and released the album
Black Moon as well as another live album. ELP toured the US and Canada, performing for a while with Dream Theater and Deep Purple.
The band also released a number of collections and anthologies and attempted another
studio album in 1998, but it never panned out.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer was one of the most successful bands of the Progressive Rock
genre. Their music was a seamless blend of a number of disparate styles, producing a
sound all their own. Their amazing live shows, featuring rotating drum kits, knife
throwing acts and the band's astounding instrumental talents made for an incredible
act. All told, the band made some of the most unforgettable music of their age or any
Editors note: Keith Emerson died on March11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 71 years old.