Emerson, Lake and Palmer

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer
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Emerson, Lake & Palmer in Toronto in 1978
Emerson, Lake & Palmer in Toronto in 1978
General information
Genre (s) Progressive rock
founding 1970
resolution 1978, 1998
Website www.emersonlakepalmer.com
Last occupation
Keith Emerson († 2016)
Greg Lake († 2016)
Carl Palmer

Emerson, Lake and Palmer (also known as ELP ) was a British supergroup that was particularly successful in the 1970s . The band was a representative of progressive rock and shaped it decisively.

The group's music is characterized by a keyboard-heavy mix of different styles of music . In addition to jazz and blues influences , ELP became famous above all for its classical influences. The live album Pictures at an Exhibition (1971), on which the band reinterpreted the pictures from an exhibition by the Russian composer Mussorgsky, stands out from the extensive oeuvre.

In addition to original compositions such as the Tarkus Suite , classical models by Bartók , Janáček , Bach , Ginastera , Copland , Gulda , Sullivan , Orff and Tchaikovsky were also worked on.

Band history

Keith Emerson
Greg Lake
Carl Palmer

1970 to 1976

In 1970 The Nice keyboardists Keith Emerson and Greg Lake , bassist and vocalist for King Crimson , formed the band with Carl Palmer , drummer for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster . Originally Jimi Hendrix was also planned as a band member, so that in British press articles HELP was given as the expected band name - but this formation never came about, ultimately because of Hendrix's death in September 1970. At Isle of Wight Festival , the trio debuted, and in this race joined supergroup to -Career.

The group's main works were written between 1970 and 1973: Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1970), Tarkus (1971), Pictures at an Exhibition (1971), Trilogy (1972) and finally Brain Salad Surgery (1973). Each album by the group reached high chart positions in England and the USA until 1977. Singles like Lucky Man (1970), I Believe in Father Christmas (1977) and Fanfare for the Common Man (1977) became world hits.

In the 1970s, Emerson, Lake & Palmer were also able to celebrate great success on the European continent and in Asia and expressed gigantomania on stage at their concerts . An expansive stage structure and one of the largest PA systems of the time contributed to the band's reputation. Her world tours Get Me A Ladder and Brain Salad Surgery 1973/74 were documented on the 3-part live album Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends . There were no subsequent overdubs , only additional reverb or echo effects, which is why the album reproduces the music and track sequence of the Brain Salad Surgery world tour almost exactly .

1977 to 1984

The double album Works Volume I , released after a three-year break in March 1977, was a mixture of solo and group tracks , including a full symphony orchestra and the presentation of the three-manual Yamaha synthesizer GX-1 . The album didn't quite reach the sales figures of its predecessors.

ELP went on tour through North America with a specially composed 80-man symphony orchestra. Although this tour was highly praised artistically, it was a financial disaster for the band, as the management had not taken into account the guidelines of the orchestra musicians' union when planning the tour, with its daily changing venues. Travel distances of only 200 miles per day were allowed. The result was concert cancellations. However, the high costs for the orchestra had to be borne on.

The three millionaires reached their financial limits and fired the orchestra after twelve concerts. The band and orchestra came together again for only four appearances in July and August 1977 - three in New York's Madison Square Garden and one in the Montreal Olympic Stadium. ELP successfully continued the tour as a trio despite a hurricane in Florida devastating several venues. With the conclusion of this North American tour in 1978, the band was still financially troubled and artistically burned out. Planned performances in Europe in 1978 were canceled.

The last album for the time being, Love Beach (1978), was only recorded in the Bahamas under pressure from the record company. After its release, the band officially broke up. Carl Palmer then became drummers for PM and Asia , and Greg Lake and Keith Emerson walked solo, the latter composing several film scores, including the soundtracks for Nachtfalken with Sylvester Stallone and Inferno by horror specialist Dario Argento .

1984 to 1998

In early 1984, Greg Lake had to leave the band Asia, of which he had been a member for a few weeks, because his musical ideas were not well received by the rest of the band. As a result, Jim Lewis tried, Vice President of Polydor Records , Keith Emerson to bring ELP back together. Emerson and Lake decided to try a second time.

Since Carl Palmer was contractually bound to Asia or their record company Geffen Records , Emerson and Lake had to look for a replacement. With the former Whitesnake drummer Cozy Powell they formed the band Emerson, Lake & Powell in February 1985 . After an album and a less successful tour, the band broke up in the summer of the following year because of the bad relationship between Emerson and Lake and the lack of money caused by the bad ticket sales.

In late 1986, Palmer's manager Brian Lane tried to bring Emerson, Lake & Palmer back together. In March 1987, the three musicians rehearsed together for two weeks, but the already bad relationship between Keith Emerson and Greg Lake turned into open enmity, and another attempt to reunite ELPs failed. Emerson criticized Lake's increased tendency towards more conventional ballads, which did not harmonize with the progressive instrumental style of Emerson and Palmer; In addition, Greg Lake had more vocal problems, which were clearly noticeable earlier, especially at live concerts.

Then Palmer tried to set up a new music project with Emerson without Greg Lake and suggested the Californian singer, bassist and guitarist Robert Berry , with whom he had previously tried in vain several times, to create a band as the third member of the future band put together. When Berry received this offer, he left his band GTR in the spring of 1987 and joined the new formation Three . The three musicians released an album together and went on tour. But at the end of 1988 the band broke up again.

Emerson toured in 1990 with Jeff Baxter ( Steely Dan , Doobie Brothers ), John Entwistle ( The Who ), Joe Walsh ( Eagles ) and the profiled studio drummer Simon Phillips under the band name The Best of Hawaii and Japan . An album did not come off with this line-up.

It was not until 1992 that the three original ELP members found their way back together, but could not build on their earlier successes with their comeback album Black Moon . On the great world tour of 1993 there was another setback for the band. Drummer Carl Palmer suffered from chronic tendonitis ( carpal tunnel syndrome ), keyboardist Keith Emerson suffered from repetitive strain injuries ( repetitive strain injury syndrome ) that led to loss of sensation in the right hand. He could no longer play with this disease. The tour was canceled shortly before its end, and Emerson was operated on. However, its ability to play could not be restored entirely.

For the last regular ELP album In the Hot Seat (1994), studio musicians were hired to help out Emerson. In 1996 the band went on tour through the USA, Canada and Europe again, this time on a much smaller tour than in the 1970s. Different opinions about a new album led to renewed disagreements between the three musicians. A major point of conflict was that Greg Lake had refused to train his battered voice with a professional singing teacher. In 1998, after their last concert in San Diego , Emerson, Lake & Palmer officially and finally broke up.

Last appearance and alternative album mixes by Steven Wilson

ELP headlined the High Voltage Festival , a new classic rock event in London on July 25th, 2010 . A live recording of the concert was released in 2011 on CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

In the summer of 2012, the first two ELP albums were released in an alternative album mix by Steven Wilson , who had already been allowed to lend a hand on King Crimson's albums . His remixing is essentially based on the original mixes, but Wilson has also put together alternative versions of the well-known ELP tracks as well as songs that were recorded during the respective studio sessions, but were not later included on the original albums.

After the dissolution

Greg Lake then performed solo, including 2002 in the USA with Ringo Starr in his All Starr Band. Emerson and Lake toured the United States together in April 2010. Lake died of cancer in December 2016.

Keith Emerson was able to restore the ability of his right hand to play with intensive rehab exercises. In 1998 he went on tour with the bassist and singer Glenn Hughes (ex- Deep Purple ) and the guitarist Marc Bonilla ; an album of this lineup did not materialize, however. From 2003 he performed live again - among others with his ex-band The Nice - and played old ELP works, but without vocals. He regularly took part as a guest at Moog synthesizer events, where he played smaller parts and excerpts from the complete ELP works.

In early 2008 he founded a new music formation, the Keith Emerson Band, which in August 2008 performed with Keith Emerson Band feat. Marc Bonilla released a progressive rock album that further developed the compositional and instrumental peculiarities of The Nice and ELP in terms of style and sound. Emerson died in Santa Monica in March 2016 .

Carl Palmer reformed his Carl Palmer Band in May 2008.

One band, many styles of music

An essential element of the music by Emerson, Lake & Palmer is the use and mixing of different musical styles. This can range from a short, interspersed style quotation to the processing of entire works in a different stylistic environment and new instrumentation . In the field of classical music , works of baroque music (mainly by Johann Sebastian Bach ), classical and romantic ( Modest Mussorgski , Tschaikowski ) up to works of classical modernism ( Leoš Janáček , Béla Bartók , Aaron Copland , Alberto Ginastera ) are used. In addition there are elements of jazz , preferably in the style of swing , ragtime and boogie-woogies , blues and the typical elements of rock music .

This musical way of working was also one of the main points that divided listeners and critics into different camps. Where some saw serious, contemporary interpretations of older works that broadened the limited framework of rock music, others saw this approach as random flirtation with musical set pieces. They were unable to recognize a serious interaction or amalgamation of musical styles. Listeners of more traditional rock music were suspicious of experimenting with elements outside of rock anyway.

Rock music

Despite the inclusion of classical and jazz, the rock reference is clearly noticeable in the majority of the songs. Titles such as Knife Edge, A Time and a Place, The Barbarian, Living Sin and others are largely based on power chords in the style of early hard rock ( Deep Purple , Led Zeppelin and others). Since the band lacks a "full-time" guitarist and Greg Lake rarely picks up the electric guitar even in the studio (exceptions are the solo from Battlefield and the riffs from Karn Evil 9 ), the Hammond organ or the synthesizer sounds based on the electric guitar take over Task. The rock gesture is also emphasized in such songs, with Greg Lake singing heavier and heavier blues rock.

The track Black Moon becomes a hard, sluggish rock number thanks to a concise bass riff and powerful drumming. Other tracks (Are you Ready Eddy ?, Nutrocker, LA Nights) refer to the rock 'n' roll of the 1950s with their piano style reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis . The band's rock and acoustic ballads (Battlefield, Heart on Ice, Lucky Man, Still… You Turn Me On) are stylistically within the usual framework of rock music. And even when classical works serve as a template, the reference to rock music is mostly preserved through Emerson's aggressive style of playing and Palmer's driving drumming as well as the instruments. ELP have also interpreted some strange rock songs, such as Bob Dylan's Man in the Long Black Coat in 1994 or the Byrds title Eight Miles High .

From Bach to Bartók

The band's handling of classical music can be grouped as follows:

Blues and invention from the ELP song Take a pebble

1. The use of work quotations that are built into other titles, serve as the intro of a song, or combine its various parts. The length of the inserted elements can range from a few bars to entire sections of a work. For example, the song The Only Way (Hymn) begins with the toccata for organ in F major BWV 540 by JS Bach performed on the church organ . After the hymn sung by Greg Lake, the first 6 bars from Prelude No. 6 in D minor BWV 851 from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, played in the style of the Jacques Loussier trio (Play Bach), lead over to the second vocal part with an extensive piano trio improvisation. The introduction to Love at First Sight is taken from Frédéric Chopin's Etude No. 1 in C major Op. 10 formed. In the second part of the title Take a Pebble , a piano trio improvisation, the opening bars from JS Bach's Invention No. 1 in C major BWV 772 , is interspersed, after which the improvisation is continued.

After a repeated typical blues lick and a likewise repeated chromatic 16th note, diatonic ascending quarters lead to the motif of the invention transposed to F major . The accompaniment in the left hand keeps the same figure. The keyboard solo at the end of One by One is based on a quotation from the 3rd movement of Piano Concerto No. 3 by Béla Bartók . In the slow part of Karn Evil 9 - 2nd impression , some bars from Franz Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1 are processed.

On Pictures at an Exhibition , Greg Lake sings a ballad accompanied only by the acoustic guitar, based on Solveig's song , the 4th movement from Edvard Grieg's Peer-Gynt Suite No. 2 Op. 55, is based. Again a quote from JS Bach, the Allemande from the French Suite No. 1 BWV 812, contains the title Knife Edge . For I Believe in Father Christmas (published in 1977 on Works, Vol. 2 and 1995 on the EP of the same name ), ELP used excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije Suite .

2. The explicit processing of entire works, individual movements of a work or entire work cycles ( pictures of an exhibition ), which is then also indicated in the song title: The range of arrangements extends from re-instrumentation, which hardly changes the musical text, through improvisational insertions and alienation effects, to for the complete transformation of the work. As a result, new, surprising musical aspects of the original can often be heard. On the album Works 1 , Carl Palmer plays a version of JS Bach's Invention No. 4 in D minor BWV 775 that is close to the original on the vibraphone accompanied by strings , but the tempo is much slower than on conventional piano recordings, as it were "in Slow motion ”, which creates an alienation effect.

In the song The Barbarian , the piano piece Allegro barbaro by Béla Bartók , which is already quite percussive in the original, is placed in a brutal hard rock context in the first part. Opposite this is the filigree middle section, in which the musicians “withdraw”. Carl Palmer, for example, uses the jazz broom rarely used in rock music . The title Toccata is an arrangement of the 4th movement of the Piano Concerto No. 1 Op. 28 by Alberto Ginastera . The keyboard instruments are not brought to the fore, as would be obvious, but the arrangement is primarily based on a drum and drum solo, enriched by numerous electronic sounds. The band achieved a dark, bizarre mood that even impressed Ginastera.

A good observation of the difference between re-instrumentation remaining relatively close to the original and adaptations that barely reveal the original makes it possible to adapt Mussorgsky's cycle Pictures at an Exhibition . The title Promenade is closely related to the musical text and only transferred to the band's instruments (organ, bass, drums). Also the following Gnomus , although some "jazz runs" are already built in here. In the title The Old Castle, on the other hand, there is no trace of the eerie atmosphere of the original. ( Audio sample Mussorgsky ) Mussorgsky's original motif is transformed into a driving blues-rock. Compared to the original, the chromatic 16th ascent from G to C (bar 1), playing in triplets (bars 2 and 3), and the dotted third figure (bar 4) are striking . A typical descending blues figure in triplets is followed by a non-dotted 16th note figure. Speaker Icon.svg

Emerson, Lake & Palmer's adaptation of Mussorgsky's The old castle
Original theme from Mussorgsky's The old castle

Other classical works adapted by the band are Canario (4th movement from Joaquín Rodrigo's Fantasia para un Gentilhombre), Knife Edge (1st and 5th movements from Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta), Fanfare for the Common Man (from Aaron Copland 's work of the same name), Hoedown (4th movement from Copland's Four Dance Episodes From Rodeo ), Mars, the Bringer of War (1st movement from Gustav Holst's work The Planets, Op. 32), Romeo and Juliet (based on the ballet of the same name, Op. 64 by Sergei Prokofjew) , The Enemy God Dances With the Black Spirits (based on the 2nd movement of the Scythian Suite Op. 20 by Prokofjew) and Nutrocker (March from the Ballet Suite op.71a The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky ).

Intro, prelude and fugue from Endless Enigma

3. Original compositions that use classical large or small forms, construction principles or stylistic features: In his Piano Concerto No. 1, Emerson takes up the large form of the solo concert ( sonata main movement form ). Influences from the achievements of the orchestra and piano setting over the past 200 years, from late romanticism to Debussy , Rachmaninov , Hindemith , Stravinsky , Gershwin , to ragtime and jazz, all flow together. A three-part fugue performed by the piano is embedded in The Endless Enigma, which is ten minutes longer (see sheet music and audio sample from Endless Enigma ) . From the beginning part with a rock band line-up, a piano transition (1st part of the audio sample) leads to a “ prelude ” (2nd part of the audio sample), which already indicates the theme of the fugue that follows. Speaker Icon.svg

The fugue (3rd part of the audio sample), dominated by the interval of the fourth and played in dotted rhythm, is not worked very “strictly” (the term fugato would be more appropriate). The first Comes softened in the third bar from Dux from. The second comes even earlier. In the further course of the piece the themes no longer appear. In the title Abaddons Bolero , Ravel's method of constantly repeating an almost unchanged theme , making it appear in different voices, re-instrumenting and continuously increasing it to the climax in the course of the piece, is taken up. The three-part The Three Fates , in which the first and second parts are extensive church organ and piano improvisations, can not be presented without classic models .

Jazz, blues, ragtime and more

Piano solo from
Step aside with chord symbols

The influence of jazz in many of the band's titles is given by the use of jazz harmonics and jazz rhythm , as well as the appropriate melody ( jazz improvisation ). The song Step aside (see notes and Speaker Icon.svg) is based on a chord progression with many extended chords that is rarely found in rock music. E mi 7 - E / b (bass tone) - Eb mi 7 - Db # mi 7 - Db 6 (sus) - H maj / 13 - F # add 9 - A maj / 13 - F # add 6 - F # maj - A maj / 13 - E add b9 - F # - Db maj # 9 . In the middle section, a piano solo appears in continuous 32nd notes, which could come from the bebop era. The band often uses odd time signatures , such as the 5/4 time signature made popular in jazz by Dave Brubeck . The time signature often changes in the course of the piece, such as in Infinite Space or in Eruption from Tarkus , where the 5/4 time first into a 3/4 time, then to 4/4, and finally back to the 5th / 4 measure of the beginning falls back. The jazz-accentuated way of playing the drums emphasizes the whole thing , as in the title Tank (which sometimes almost represents a drum solo). Stylistically, the group often falls back on the form of the classical jazz piano trio . Examples of this are the titles Karn Evil 9 - 2nd impression , Take a Pebble or the aforementioned Step Aside .


Studio albums

year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1970 Emerson, Lake & Palmer DE7 (32 weeks)
- - UK4 (28 weeks)

(42 weeks)US
1971 Tarkus DE4 (28 weeks)
- - UK1 (18 weeks)

(26 weeks)US
1972 Trilogy DE6 (24 weeks)
- - UK2 (29 weeks)

(37 weeks)US
1973 Brain salad surgery DE18 (24 weeks)
AT5 (8 weeks)
- UK2

(18 weeks)UK

(47 weeks)US
1977 Works Volume I. DE10 (14 weeks)
AT11 (8 weeks)
- UK9

(25 weeks)UK

(26 weeks)US
Works Volume II DE10 (14 weeks)
AT11 (8 weeks)
- UK9 (25 weeks)

(14 weeks)US
1978 Love Beach - - - UK48

(4 weeks)UK

(9 weeks)US
1992 Black moon DE45 (10 weeks)
- CH23 (1 week)
- US78 (4 weeks)
1994 In the hot seat - - - - -
The band's last album

gray hatching : no chart data available for this year

Tribute albums

  • 1998: WORKS III - ReWorks (JGCDD5 - independently produced)
  • 1999: Encores, Legends & Paradox - A Tribute to the Music of ELP (magna carta MA-9026-2)
  • 1999: Fanfare for the Pirates - A Tribute to ELP (3 CDs - MELLOW MMP 343 ABC)
  • 1999: Gerard & Ars Nova - Keyboard Triangle (AVALON MICA-2004): Toccata, Tarkus
  • 2006: Noddy's Puncture - Thank You Masked Man (NPCD02 - independently produced): America, Tarkus / Knife Edge, Fanfare / Pictures, Rondo
  • 2010: Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra - Tarkus (DENON COCQ-84832): Tarkus


  • Mike Goode: Emerson Lake and Palmer: every album, every song . Sonicbond, Tewkesbury 2019, ISBN 978-1-78952-000-2 (English).
  • Edward Macan: Endless Enigma: A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer . Open Court, Chicago 2006, ISBN 978-0-8126-9596-0 (English).
  • George Forrester, Martin Hanson, Frank Askew: Emerson, Lake and Palmer: the show that never ends: a musical biography . Helter Skelter, London 2000, ISBN 978-1-900924-17-7 (English).

Web links

Commons : Emerson, Lake & Palmer  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. together with George Martin
  2. ^ Greg Lake: I never believed it would have worked on Something Else!
  3. ^ FAZ , accessed on December 8, 2016
  4. ^ Daniel Kreps: Keith Emerson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer Keyboardist, Dead at 71. Rolling Stone, March 11, 2016, accessed March 11, 2016 .
  5. Chart sources: Singles Albums UK US
  6. ^ The Billboard Albums by Joel Whitburn , 6th Edition, Record Research 2006, ISBN 0-89820-166-7 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 13, 2005 .