Music / Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake and Palmer in the early 1970s. From left to right: Keith Emerson, Carl Palmer and Greg Lake.

"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 '70s 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 made 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.

On March 11, 2016, it was announced that Keith Emerson had passed away at 71 years old after he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Santa Monica.

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.

"Welcome back my friends to the list that never ends...":

  • Actually Pretty Funny: When asked about it, Lake thought the old "How do you spell pretentious? ELP." joke was funny.
  • 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 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.
    • For a brief period in 1983-4, Lake and Palmer (but not Emerson) were both members of Asia.
  • British Rockstar: Played straight with all of them.
  • Christmas Songs: Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas", originally issued as a solo single and subsequently included (in a slightly different form) on Works Volume II. Although some would argue that it might be more properly classified as an Anti-Christmas Song.
  • Cover Album: Pictures At An Exhibition, which counts as a Live Album as well.
  • 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. 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),
    • "Romeo And Juliet" (an arrangement of "Dance of the Knights" from the ballet "Romeo And Juliet" by Sergei Prokofiev).
    • There's also an awesome live version of a cover of the "Peter Gunn Theme." It's on YouTube somewhere (and their 1979 live album In Concert - Works Live), go check it out.
    • Emerson also brought in "Rondo" from The Nice, which is a rearrangement of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" (it stays in 4/4 the whole time as opposed to Brubeck's original which shifts between 9/8 and 4/4)
  • Common Time: Averted.
  • Crapsack World: "Black Moon" takes place in a world that's barely alive after years and years of chemical pollution. Before that, "Knife-Edge" from their first album: "Will you still know who you are/When they come to who you are?".
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Keith Emerson has gotten a lot of tributes in the press after his death in 2016.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The verses of the "Mass" section of "Tarkus."
    The preacher said a prayer
    Save every single hair on his head
    He's dead.
  • Disguised in Drag/Naughty Nun: "Jeremy Bender", in which the title character decides to become a nun one day and dresses up as one, yet all the other nuns are getting suspicious about his... odd behavior. At the end, one of the nuns discovers who the "nun" really is, and that is Jeremy:
    Digging a sister, "she" was a "mister".
    Shouldn't have kissed her, but he couldn't say no.
    Wanted to leave her, couldn't believe her;
    So he packed up his suitcase and decided to go.
  • Downer Ending: Played straight with "Lucky Man", Played for Laughs with "Benny The Bouncer".
  • 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.
  • Eye Scream: Tarkus' final battle with the Manticore, in which the former gets his eye cut by the latter's hook. This picture is not very pretty either.
  • Filler: Love Beach is a filler album made because of a contract mandate.
    • Their first 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.
    • Steven Wilson's comments on the sleeve notes to his remix of Tarkus make it clear he feels this way about "Are You Ready, Eddy?" and wonders why Greg Lake's "Oh, My Father" wasn't used in the original version instead.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Emerson's RSI (repetitive strain injury). He was no longer able to play some of the band's songs properly or at all. Didn't stop him from trying, with mixed results. Emerson's anxiety over his ability to perform for an upcoming tour is believed to have been a factor in his suicide.
    • His equipment didn't escape unscathed either. Even without his RSI, he wouldn't have been 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 eventually it appeared that he didn't have a single L-100 left where all the higher keys on the lower manual weren'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 a euphemism for fellatio borrowed from Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time", 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 an Affectionate Parody of Little Richard, 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.
  • Lead Bassist: Greg Lake provided the lead vocals, though he also played regular guitars.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Done with tape manipulation at the end of "Knife Edge".
    • When Steven Wilson remixed the album in 2012 he couldn't recreate the effect digitally, so it's only on the original mix (the remix lets the session run on until the band just stop).
  • Lighter and Softer: Greg Lake's compositions, notably "Lucky Man", "Still You Turn Me On" and "C'est La Vie".
  • Me's a Crowd: The inner gatefold for the Hipgnosis-designed cover for Trilogy has multiple Emersons, Lakes and Palmers posing in a forest.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Many of their songs, including "Karn Evil 9", "Tarkus", "Trilogy", "The Endless Enigma", "The Great Gates of Kiev", and many others.
  • Painting the Medium: The First Impression of "Karn Evil 9" pauses partway through due to the limitations of the LP format. It is thus appropriate that the second part of the First Impression, which begins Side 2 of the album it appeared on, begins with the lyrics "Welcome back, my friends..."
  • 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. It helps that on the original vinyl version parts one and two were split across two sides, so part two lead off side 2. (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) long.
  • Retirony: Keith Emerson had been planning to retire after a final tour before his 2016 suicide.
  • Rhyming with Itself: "Trilogy" rhymes "lie" with "lie."
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: Trope Codifiers.
  • Rock Trio
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Are You Ready Eddy?" is about Advision Studios engineer Eddy Offord, who worked with both them and Yes.
    • "Karn Evil 9", for some reason, references the Irving Berlin song "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
  • Uncommon Time: They're prog. Inevitably, this appears throughout their music.
  • Unplugged Version: "Lucky Man" was inevitably performed at concerts as a stripped-down, guitar-and-voice ballad. Emerson once mentioned his disappointment that they could never reproduce the studio performance in concert:
    It is a shame that we really can't perform it the same way it is on the album. There's a lot of double-tracked vocals. Greg's playing electric, bass and acoustic guitar on it. If we had really thought about it, and we ourselves, had wanted to release it as a single, then we would have considered these points, and possibly re-arranged it so we could have done it some way on stage. Now we come out and people want to hear it. Greg performs it as an acoustic piece and I guess it's rather disappointing to some people because they want to hear the recorded version. There we were, in the position of it having been released and us not knowing that people want to hear it, and the way it was done on the album being impossible for us to do on stage.
  • Vocal Evolution: Lake's voice nowadays is noticeably lacking in the higher range he had in The '70s.
  • 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.
The ELP logo.