Keith Emerson and Greg Lake met in December 1969 when The Nice and King Crimson, two rock bands that Emerson and Lake each were a respective member of, co-headlined a series of concerts at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, California. Emerson looked to form a new band, and Lake wished to leave King Crimson. During a soundcheck before one of the shows, Emerson described the first time he and Lake played together: “Greg was moving a bass line and I played the piano in back and Zap! It was there.” The pair had met twice before in England in 1969 when The Nice and King Crimson performed at the Jazz and Blues Pop Festival in Plumpton and Fairfield Halls in Croydon.
When Emerson and Lake decided to form a new group, they initially approached drummer Mitch Mitchell who was at a loose end following the break-up of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Mitchell suggested a jam session take place with himself, Lake, Emerson and Hendrix; though the session never took place, it caused the press to report rumours of a planned-but-abandoned supergroup named HELP (an acronym for Hendrix Emerson Lake Palmer), rumours which survived for over forty years until Lake formally debunked them in 2012. Soon after, Robert Stigwood, manager of Cream, suggested Carl Palmer of Atomic Rooster and formerly of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Initially Palmer was reluctant to leave Atomic Rooster as the group were in its infancy, but he was persuaded by the “magic” he felt after a try out session with Emerson and Lake. Palmer recalled: “We hit it off really well, but I didn’t join right away. I told them I wanted to come back the next day and see if the magic would be there again. It was, and that was it. I was on board from that day forward”. Lake added, “We knew we had found the right guy. The chemistry was all there and ELP was born”. The group’s name was settled upon to remove the focus on Emerson as the most famous of the three, and to ensure that they were not called the “new Nice”.
“It was the biggest show any of us had ever done. The next day, we were world-famous.”
—Greg Lake about the band’s show at the Isle of Wight Festival.
The three performed their first gig as Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the Guildhall in Plymouth on 23 August 1970. Their performance at the Isle of Wight Festival on 29 August that drew the most attention. A DVD of the performance was released in 2006 as The Birth of a Band. Following their show, the group secured a recording contract with Ahmet Ertegun, the president of Atlantic Records. Emerson believed that Ertegun signed the band “because we could sell out 20,000-seaters before we even had a record out. That was enough for him to think that a lot of people would go out and buy the record when it did come out.”
From July to September 1970, the band recorded their debut album, Emerson Lake & Palmer, at Advision Studios in London. Lake produced the album himself with Eddy Offord as their engineer. Three of its six tracks are instrumentals, including “The Barbarian”, an arrangement of the 1911 piano suite Allegro barbaro by Béla Bartók. “Knife-Edge” is based on the first movement of Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček that features a passage from the Allemande of French Suite No. 1 in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. Palmer recorded a drum solo, “Tank”. Lake contributed “Take a Pebble” and “Lucky Man”, an acoustic ballad he wrote with his first guitar at the age of twelve. Released in November 1970, Emerson, Lake & Palmer reached No. 4 in the UK and No. 18 in the US. “Lucky Man” was released as a single in 1970 and reached No. 48 in the US, No. 25 in Canada, and No. 14 in the Netherlands. From September 1970 to March 1971, the band toured the UK extensively with shows in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The band’s performance at the Lyceum Theatre in London was filmed and released in UK theatres in 1972 with added psychedelic effects including characters from Marvel Comics (by wikipedia)
Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album, made up of keyboard-dominated instrumentals (“The Barbarian,” “Three Fates”) and romantic ballads (“Lucky Man”) showcasing all three members’ very daunting talents. This album, which reached the Top 20 in America and got to number four in England, showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly — with the exception of a few moments on “Three Fates” and perhaps “Take a Pebble,” there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here. “Take a Pebble” might have passed for a Moody Blues track of the era but for the fact that none of the Moody Blues’ keyboard men could solo like Keith Emerson. Even here, in a relatively balanced collection of material, the album shows the beginnings of a dark, savage, imposingly gothic edge that had scarcely been seen before in so-called “art rock,” mostly courtesy of Emerson’s larger-than-life organ and synthesizer attacks. Greg Lake’s beautifully sung, deliberately archaic “Lucky Man” had a brush with success on FM radio, and Carl Palmer became the idol of many thousands of would-be drummers based on this one album (especially for “Three Fates” and “Tank”), but Emerson emerged as the overpowering talent here for much of the public. (by Bruce Eder)
Keith Emerson, one of the founding members of progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died in what police are treating as a suspected suicide.
The keyboardist died at the age of 71 at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles on Thursday night.
No official cause of death was listed for Emerson, but police sources told Billboard the cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head. Apparently, Emerson was depressed over a worsening — and irreversible — neurological condition that was costing him the use of his hands. (by cleveland.com)
Keith Emerson (keyboards)
Greg Lake (bass, vocals, guitar)
Carl Palmer (drums, percussion)
01. The Barbarian (Palmer/Lake/Emerson/Janáček) 4.32
02. Take A Pebble (Lake) 12.32
03. Knife-Edge (Fraser/Lake/Emerson) 5.09
04. The Three Fates (Emerson) 7.43
05. Tank (Palmer/Emerson) 6.52
06. Lucky Man (Lake) 4.38
He was one of the most important musicians for me
2 November 1944 – 10 March 2016