ELP Biography, apparently written in 1973
EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER: Vocal and instrumental group, all born England. Greg Lake, Bournemouth, November 10, 1948; Keith Emerson, November 1; Carl Palmer, March 20.
The praise that greeted the new rock combination of Emerson, Lake and Palmer at the start of the l970s was almost unbelievable. No reviewer in England or America had anything but superlatives for the trio. After their first appearance in the Fillmore East in New York City in March l97l,the Cash Box critic stated emphatically, "Emerson. Lake and Palmer have no faults." Coming from their Carnegie Hall concert, during the same U.S. debut tour, Nancy Ehrlich of Billboard wrote, "Let's mention that Greg Lake is a fine singer and an excellent bass player and also very impressive on acoustic guitar...
"Let's note also that Carl Palmer is the finest supportive drummer since Keith Moon. [But] It's still Emerson's show, which means it's enormous. Here is a man who has to keep running constantly to work off too much energy for one person to handle. It comes out in a constant rush of 32nd notes, played on two electric organs at once, plus Moog, plus piano, plus several obscure sound-producing devices."
These sentiments were echoed by the people who count, the rock music fans, who attended many of the group's first performances in England in late 1970 and subsequent shows at home and abroad in 1971-72. Though it is impossible to duplicate on record all the energy and excitement of the group's live appearances, the fact remains that their first album and singles releases rank among the best of the early 1970s, hopefully pointing toward a confirmation of supergroup status as the decade proceeds.
The three group members all brought many years of experience to EL&P, even though all were still in their mid-twenties when the trio was born. They all began learning their instruments very early and started performing with local rock groups in England from the time they were 12 or 13. Lake and Palmer were basically blues-and rock-oriented from the start, but Emerson began as a boy with classical piano lessons, something evidenced by the Bela Bartok strains in the group's debut LP. As Emerson told Pete Senoff, "On the first album, there was a definite Bartok influence and Bartok was a very percussive pianist. He treated the piano like a drum . . . like a drum melody."
By the late 1960s each of the group members was with different first-rank rock groups. Lake was one of the founding members of King Crimson, Palmer was with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Emerson was with the Nice. The latter group never achieved a break-through with American fans during its existence (the group broke up in 1970), but was a sensation in England.
The birth pangs of EL&P started in San Francisco. As Lake told Senoff. "Well, the first to get together were Keith and myself. It happened in San Francisco when Keith was playing the Fillmore with the Nice and I was there with King Crimson. At that time, we were both thinking of a musical change and got to talking. Then we went back to England and eventually met up with Carl."
The three rehearsed for two to three months in mid-1970, then began to try their new stylings, most of which were written by them, on audiences in London and other major English cities. They signed with Island Records in England, with Atlantic's Cotillion label assigned U.S. distribution rights. Their debut LP, "Emerson, Lake and Palmer," was released in the spring of 1971 and became one of the most acclaimed albums of the year at home and in the U.S. and Canadian markets. The album moved on the U.S. charts in March and entered the top 20 a few months later. The group followed with another LP, "Tarkus," which showed up on hit lists the end of 1971. It earned a gold record and was voted Best Album of 1971 in the Melody Maker poll, which also awarded the 2nd Best Group honors. The band also placed several singles on the charts, including "Lucky Man" and "Stone of Tears [sic]."
In their in-person work, the group underlined their interest in relating rock to the classics with several of their arrangements. Most striking was their 45-minute set based on Moussorgsky's [sic] famous classical composition, "Pictures at an Exhibition." Critics were amazed that a performance based on such a theme could hold audience attention for such a long period. However, the three artists stressed the variety and content of the music to interviewers. Emerson noted that the instrumentation varied constantly throughout the composition, and Palmer pointed out to one reporter that "It covers just about every style of playing. There's a 12-bar blues, there's light singing, everything imaginable can be gotten from it. It's just a glorious work."
In 1972 the group earned gold records for the albums "Pictures at an Exhibition" and "Trilogy," the latter still a best seller in early '73.