Emerson, Lake & Palmer Biography

One the most prominent supergroups of the early 70s, ELP comprised Keith Emerson (2 November 1944, Todmorden, Lancashire, England; keyboards), Greg Lake (b. 10 November 1947, Poole, Dorset, England; vocals/bass) and Carl Palmer (b. Carl Frederick Kendall Palmer, 20 March 1950, Handsworth, Birmingham, West Midlands, England; drums). Formerly, the super-trio were, respectively, members of the Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster. After making their debut at the Guildhall, Plymouth, they appeared at the much-publicized 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. That same year, they were signed to Island Records and completed their self-titled debut album. The work displayed their desire to fuse classical music influences with rock in determinedly flourishing style. Early the following year, at Newcastle’s City Hall they introduced their arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. The concept album Tarkus followed some months later and revealed their overreaching love of musical drama to the full. The theme of the work was obscure but the mechanical armadillo, pictured on the sleeve, proved a powerful and endearing image.

Extensive tours and albums followed over the next three years including Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery and an extravagant triple live album. Having set up their own label and established themselves as a top-grossing live act, the members branched out into various solo ventures, reuniting for part ofWorks. This double album included their memorably dramatic reading of Aaron Copland’s ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ which took them close to the top of the British singles charts. With solo outings becoming increasingly distracting, ELP released one final studio album, 1978’s Love Beach, before embarking on a farewell world tour. With changes in the music industry wrought by punk and new wave bands, it was probably an opportune moment to draw a veil over their career.

It was not until 1986 that a serious re-formation was attempted but Carl Palmer (then in the highly successful Asia) would not be drawn. Instead, Emerson and Lake teamed up with hit drummer Cozy Powell (b. Colin Flooks, 29 December 1947, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England, d. 5 April 1998, Bristol, England). The collaboration produced one chart album Emerson, Lake And Powell, which included the pomp of Holst among the many classical influences. When Powell quit, Palmer regrouped with his colleagues for a projected album in 1987, but the sessions proved unfruitful. Instead, Emerson recruited Hush drummer Robert Berry for To The Power Of Three, which sold poorly. In the early 90s the original trio re-formed and produced Black Moon, followed by another live album. Whilst their concert tour was well attended, no new ground was being broken and a new studio album, 1994’s In The Hot Seat, proved to be a pale shadow of their former material. Nevertheless, the trio has continued to tour when solo commitments allow and remain a hugely popular live attraction.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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