Award Snub: To some, anyway, the fact that they are not in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame bites. Perhaps they don't have quite the popularity or staying power as other bands, but there's no doubting they produced some excellent work and made quite the splash in the early seventies.
The fact that even if they do get in, at least two-thirds of the band will already be gone makes this extra painful. Lake himself was aware of this, as an interview from October 2016 showed.
Despite all the accusations of pretentiousness by critics, there's still some good stuff that can be found on the band's first five albums, such as "The Barbarian", "Tarkus", "The Curse of Baba Yaga", "The Endless Enigma" and, most definitely, "First Impression, Part 2" of Karn Evil 9 ("Welcome Back, My Friends to the Show that never ends!")
Excerpts from "First Impression, Part 2" have even been used for the theme song and incidental music of BBC Television's prime-time show The Generation Game — though not the bit about "seven virgins and a mule", obviously.
Let's not forget songs like "Take a Pebble", "From the Beginning", "Trilogy"... really, ELP had quite a few classics on their first five albums, and even the often reviled Works had their great arrangement of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". Their King Biscuit Flour Hour live appearance, later issued on compact disc, also has quite a few great performances in it.
Broken Base: There's two extremes when it comes to this band, either you see them as everything wrong with both progressive AND classic rock in the 70's, or they're one of the most remarkable bands on the progressive-era with their first four studio albums being prog classics.
Critical Backlash: Even though they're not as popular today there is still some criticism aimed at them. Thankfully ELP has maintained some of their fanbase from their highlight years and has even drawn in some fans in the newer generations who are very appreciative of their contributions to progressive rock at the time and think very highly of their first four studio albums.
Specific example with Love Beach. Based on its reputation, one would think it's one of the worst albums of all time. The truth is that it's closer to average than bad.
Ending Fatigue: "Memoirs of an Officer and Gentleman", a 20-minute song that has a five-minute coda consisting of marching music with no vocals.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Emerson, Lake & Powell. In spite of the fact that Carl Palmer was replaced (coincidentally with a drummer with the same initials, Cozy Powell), some people hail it as the best album since Brain Salad Surgery.
Epileptic Trees: Given the bizarre nature of Sinfield's lyrics most of the songs he wrote for them could fall into this. The most notable example is "Still... You Turn Me On" which is often theorized to be a love song aimed at a dead person.
Even Better Sequel: While their first album is considered strong, their second, Tarkus, is considered one of the best progressive rock albums ever made, and emblematic of the genre.
There's a good deal of overlap these days between ELP fans and Yes fans; both bands were progressive rock icons, and the creators themselves were quite friendly over the years.
There's also some overlap between fans of ELP and fans of King Crimson, especially the latter's earlier stuff; Greg Lake's involvement with both likely has something to do with that.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: From "Karn Evil 9": "Come inside, the show's about to start/Guaranteed to blow your head apart..." In light of Keith Emerson's doing just that, this line has suddenly become much more uncomfortable.
Harsher in Hindsight: Emerson's suicide makes the end of "Lucky Man" that much more haunting, particularly because he shot himself.
Even worse after Lake died later that same year (although at least firearms weren't involved in his death).
An interview from 1971 includes Greg Lake commenting he'd rather commit suicide than do anything other than music. While it wasn't him but his bandmate who would do that nearly fifty years later, it's still wince-inducing.
During an ELPowell interview, Lake claims that the three viewed themselves as a "band of the future" rather than a one-hit comeback. Unfortunately, given the band split after a single tour and album, that did in fact come to pass.
Mis-blamed: No, ELP did not kill progressive rock.
Specifically, Greg Lake is usually viewed as "the pretentious one", when he was down-to-earth, humble, and never mistreated fans in any way.
He's also often attacked as the one who split up the band in 1998 due to comments about his reduced playing ability when it was Keith Emerson who was struggling at the time. While he was the first one to release a statement about leaving the band, it's unlikely that the blame rests entirely with him.
More Popular Spinoff: ELP were much more popular than the bands its members came from, save maybe for King Crimson.note ELP were a good deal more popular than King Crimson at the time, partly because Crimson first disbanded in 1974 when ELP was at the peak of its fame and success. Crimson didn't suffer as much from the punk-inspired backlash against prog, again partly because they just weren't well-remembered enough, whereas ELP became prog's whipping boy, if only because they were such a big target.
"Lucky Man". Yes, the lyrics are simplistic and naive (it was written by a twelve-year-old Greg Lake). Yes, the guitar and vocals are pretty. And yes, it's pretty sadnonetheless.
The band's music itself. Sure, it's overindulgent and bombastic, but their early albums are awesome.
Never Live It Down: Greg Lake performed standing on an expensive Persian Carpet, which was used to cover up a rubber mat which in itself protected him from electrical shocks after he was electrocuted once onstage. Many, many interviewers brought up how expensive the carpet ended up being, sometimes clearly to his annoyance.
Nightmare Fuel: On the one hand, a lot of ELP's attempts at this come across as Nightmare Retardant. On the other, they could pull it off when they tried, as seen with "The Barbarian", "Toccata", possibly "Knife Edge" and maybe Keith Emerson's distorted, Dalek-like computer voice at the end of "Karn Evil 9".
Seasonal Rot/Creator Killer: Works started their decline, but Love Beach was the final nail in their coffin. To be fair, they only made the latter album because they owed their label another album and were already planning on disbanding anyway.
Signature Song: Probably either "Lucky Man", "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2", or maybe "From the Beginning".
Tastes Like Diabetes: Many songs by Lake that don't have lyrics by Peter Sinfield, though some of his lyrics, such as "Tarkus", are Tear Jerkers instead. (Emerson wrote or co-wrote most of the music for "Tarkus", but Lake wrote all of the lyrics.)
Vindicated by History: Not to the same extreme as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and Queen as they still get criticism to this day but more and more people have become appreciative of their work in the recent years. Many retroactive reviews rate their first albums (especially their debut and Brain Salad Surgery, the latter of which is also an example of this as well) very highly and there are some newer fans who put them up there with King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis as one of the greats of progressive rock.
The Woobie: Keith Emerson has become this to a lot of fans since the extent of his health problems and depression were revealed after his suicide.
A large portion of the fandom also wants to hug Carl Palmer in the wake of both his bandmates' deaths within a ten-month period. The passing of Asia bandmate John Wetton in early 2017 (interestingly, he also had Lake's role in King Crimson during the mid-'70s) has not helped matters.
Hell, some even want to hug Greg Lake given both his harsh treatment at the hands of the press and his quiet, but apparently fierce struggle at the end of his life, which he kept to himself. This approaches Stoic Woobie territory, however.