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 "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends..."


Emerson, Lake & Palmer, or ELP, was a British Progressive Rock supergroup formed in 1970. There were only three members, and the band had a synthesizer-dominated sound with a heavy touch of jazz and classical music.

The band members:

  • Keith Emerson, keyboards, originally from The Nice
  • Greg Lake, vocals, bass, and guitars, originally from King Crimson
  • Carl Palmer, drums, originally from Atomic Rooster
  • (Peter Sinfield, as an unofficial member who co-wrote lyrics with Lake)

The band was highly successful for the better part of The Seventies until progressive rock fell out of fashion. When ELP disbanded after their original record contract was fulfilled, there were two brief and unofficial incarnations during the 1980s: Emerson, Lake & Powell, with Cozy Powell as the replacement drummer, and "3", with Greg Lake replaced by Robert Berry. ELP briefly reformed in the early 1990s and released two albums which were notably affected by Emerson's and Palmer's health at the time, not to mention Lake's vocal decline. The band plan a comeback appearance at a London festival in July 2010.

ELP's defining traits were complex and difficult songs and ridiculously flashy live performances. The band is not as well known compared to the other big names from the progressive rock era despite its initial success. ELP has been often called pretentious and too cluttered to enjoy partially thanks to the large amount of solos and overblown, lengthy songs, and more than one person has been known to declare that they represented the worst excesses of Progressive Rock. As usual, beware of Critical Backlash.

The discography, counting only the albums with the original members:

  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer 1970
  • Tarkus 1971
  • Pictures at an Exhibition 1972
  • Trilogy 1972
  • Brain Salad Surgery 1973
  • Works Volume I 1977
  • Works Volume II 1977
  • Love Beach 1978, generally thought of as their worst album.
  • Black Moon 1992
  • In the Hot Seat 1994, curiously enough the first letters of the title form the word "SHIT", possibly lampshading the quality of the album acknowledged by the band.

Tropes found in the band and their music:

  • Album Title Drop: Averted with all of their albums. "Brain Salad Surgery", the name of their 1973 album, is mentioned in their similarly named song "Brain Salad Surgery", but that song isn't included on the album.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Carl Palmer was quite a wacky both as a drummer and as a person.
  • The Band Minus the Face: The band "3" without Greg Lake.
    • Emerson, Lake & Powell replaced Palmer with the late drummer Cozy Powell of Rainbow.
  • Black Sheep Hit: The folk-inclined "From the Beginning" is the band's sole Top 40 hit in the United States. Similarly, the folky ballad "Lucky Man" became a moderate hit in Canada and the Netherlands and climbed up to #48 in the USA.
  • British Rock Star: Played straight with all of them.
  • Cover Version: The band loved to quote, adapt or outright cover classical music, among others. Their covers/adaptations: "The Barbarian" (an arrangement of a Béla Bartók piano piece), "Knife Edge" (based on the first movement of Janáček’s Sinfonietta with an instrumental middle section that includes an extended quotation from the Allemande of J. S.n Bach's first French Suite in D minor, BWV 812), "The Only Way (Hymn)" (which quotes once again from Bach), the album Pictures at an Exhibition (originally composed by Modest Mussorgsky), "Nutrocker" (originally by B. Bumble and the Stingers and based off of Tchaikovsky's "March of the Nutcracker"), "Hoedown" (from the ballet "Rodeo" by Aaron Copland), "Toccata" (based on the Fourth Movement of Alberto Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, arranged by Emerson), "Jerusalem" (yes, the Blake/Parry hymn), "The Enemy of God Dances with the Black Spirits" (an excerpt of the 2nd movement of "The Scythian Suite" by Sergei Prokofiev), "Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copland, "Maple Leaf Rag" by Scott Joplin, "Honky Tonk Blues" by Meade Lux Lewis, the folk song "Show Me the Way to Go Home," "Canario" (from "Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre" by Joaquin Rodrigo), and "Romeo And Juliet" (an arrangement of "Dance of the Nights" from the ballet "Romeo And Juliet" by Sergei Prokofiev).
  • Common Time: Averted.
  • Epic Rocking: Taken to its extreme.
    • Significant examples include "Take A Pebble," "Tarkus," "The Endless Enigma," "Karn Evil 9," "Pirates," and "Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman."
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Emerson's golden glitter coat he wore on tours.
  • Faux Symbolism
  • Filler: Love Beach is a filler album made because of a contract mandate.
    • Additionally, their big famous single "Lucky Man" was originally written by Lake when he was 12. The band added it on the last day of recording when they discovered they needed one more song.
    • "Benny The Bouncer" is also considered to be this to some; in fact, it's possible to remove it from Brain Salad Surgery and not damage the flow of the album at all.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Emerson's RSI (repetitive strain injury). He is no longer able to play some of the band's songs properly or at all. Doesn't stop him from trying, with mixed results.
    • His equipment didn’t escape unscathed either. Even without his RSI, he wouldn’t be able to cover The Nice’s "Rondo" as he used to. He played the rapid glissandos in the piece by slapping his open palm across the keyboard. His Hammond L-100s withstood this for quite a time, possibly with running repairs, but now it appears that he doesn’t have a single L-100 left where all the higher keys on the lower manual aren’t broken off, with repair or replacement no longer being possible.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Ths cover of Brain Salad Surgery, by H. R. Giger of Alien fame, originally featured an erect penis beneath a woman's chin. Through skilful airbrushing this was converted into a shaft of light (largely at the behest of Executive Meddling), but the original shape can still just be made out.
    • The album title itself is said to be a euphemism for fellatio, as was the album's original working title, "Whip Some Skull on Yer". Giger's cover art was inspired by the latter.
  • In the Style Of: "Are You Ready Eddy?" is a Little Richard imitation/pastiche/parody/whatever, based on "The Girl Can't Help It".
  • Ironic Song Title: "Lucky Man", the tale of a prominent young man who goes to war expecting fame and glory and gets killed instead.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Done with tape manipulation at the end of "Knife Edge".
  • Me's a Crowd: The inner gatefold for the Hipgnosis-designed cover for Trilogy has mutliple Emersons, Lakes and Palmers posing in a forest.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Many of their songs, including Karn Evil 9, Tarkus, Trilogy, The Endless Enigma, Knife-Edge, The Great Gates of Kiev, and many others.
  • Refrain From Assuming: It's called "Karn Evil 9", not "Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends".
    • And the section where the mistitling comes from is from the second part of the 13-minute first movement ("impression") of a 29-minute piece. It just happens to lead off the shortest track of the "Karn Evil 9" epic and thus the easiest to play on the radio. (Not to mention the band rarely played the other 2 2/3 movements during their latter years anyway, if at all.)
    • "Welcome Back my Friends to the Show That Never Ends" is the title of their (BSS era) live album, 2 CDs (or 3 LPs) more prog than the law should allow.
  • Rhyming with Itself: "Trilogy" rhymes "lie" with "lie."
  • Rock Trio
  • Throw It In: As noted above, "Lucky Man" - the synth solo was recorded in one single take, which is something that Emerson's been embarassed about. Also, Palmer's Ringo-esque exclamation "They've only got ham or cheese!" at the end of "Are You Ready Eddy?"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Their most infamous example appears in the song "Still...You Turn Me On."

 Every day a little sadder, a little madder

Someone get me a ladder...

    • This makes perfect sense when considering that the song is about an artist lovingly sketching his dead wife before her burial. A ladder to climb out of the emotional abyss would not be out of order.