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.
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.
Emerson and Lake had occasionally turbulent periods in their partnership, dating back as early as Tarkus according to some sources. How, though, did they finish out their last concert? By embracing one another onstage.
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.
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.
Faux Symbolism: Peter Sinfeld's lyrics have been accused of running on this trope.
And not content with that
With our hands behind our backs
We pull Jesus from a hat
Get into that! Get into that!
Overall, the metaphors arguably make sense in the context of the song's depiction of the human race's decadence, but they're still pretty confusing.
"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 1970 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.
Love It or Hate It: 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.
More Popular Spin-off: 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.
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".
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.