(Archived from the old greglake.com website)

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

with the Works Orchestra
Olympic Stadium
Montreal Canada

August 26th, 1977

One of the most memorable shows of my career will always be the August 26th, 1977 show at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada that ELP played with the
full 65 piece symphony orchestra.  The show was filmedand recorded for posterity and is available on both CD and DVD. Great though these recordings are,
they can never provide the same incredible intensity that one experienced by actually being in the stadium on that night. It was a sold out show with over 80,000 enthusiastic fans who brought the band and its performance to a whole new level of excitement.

There was enormous pressure before we went onstage, mainly because we were
still getting used to performing with the orchestra. If I remember correctly we
also had some serious technical difficulties trying to incorporate the first ever digital multitrack tape machine into the Live, PA mixing desk. In the end, we had to record the whole show on a two track stereo machine and were still were able to capture a great recording of the band with the orchestra we had assembled for the 1977-78 world tour.

The Montreal show was especially interesting because it allowed us to incorporate many of the band favorites with full symphonic arrangements. Having that wall of beautiful sound behind us made for an intense evening of music.  The band could incorporate rock treatments, unplugged acoustic numbers and traditional classical arrangements within a single evening performance. For many in the audience it was simply overwhelming. Fans have told me they cried during some of the more tender moments in the show; and songs like Knife Edge were more powerful than ever before because of the orchestra. Whenever I am in Canada I always run into people who were there and say it was the most magnificent live concert they had ever attended.  For myself, it remains one of the most memorable shows of my entire career.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
The Isle Of Wight Music Festival
August 29, 1970

In 1970, we played the Isle of Wight, which is very well documented. But, it was an amazing festival!  I don’t know if it was the first after Woodstock, but it was certainly one of the very early massive festivals, where there were people as far as the eye could see!  There were the greatest talents.  I can’t remember all the people but it was The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors .. so many of the talents of the day.  Of course, ELP was a totally new and unheard band, and it was our first time on the world stage.  The world press was there and again, it was a trial by fire, you know.  Would the band really go down well, or would we get this negative reaction because we’d been in big bands before!

The anecdote, the thing was that, we had these cannons that we were going to let off at “Pictures of an Exhibition” as sort of a stunt to play. And, we rehearsed it the day before in a little field and they put the charges in the cannons.  Keith and I both had a small little foot pedal, where a certain point in the music, we would press the foot pedal and the cannons would go off.  So, it was real gun powder and a real charge, and we wanted to make sure of how much charge was going to go in the cannon.  So, we got this thing set up in a field the day before, and we tried it.  The cannons were only like maybe 2 or 3 yards away from us.  Press the foot pedal,... BANG!  off went the cannon and that was all was fine!  Come the day of the show, we play  “Pictures Of An Exhibition”, we get to the point where the cue to set the cannons off happens, I look over at Keith, he looks over at me, we give the nod, we push the buttons and these cannons exploded!   The bloody roadie had doubled the charge in each cannon! And the entire stage just sunk under the pressure of these cannons, and just shook under the pressure of these cannons because, instead of the little charge just to make a noise, it was a charge sufficient enough to send a cannonball out there.  And the cannons went up in the air and just hit the stage, the whole bloody  drum kits just shook. The music stopped for a second, BOOM! Everybody sort of ...WOW!!! What was that, you know?  And of course, we recovered, and we played on and it was, you know, everybody went crazy!  But, that was the making of ELP, really.


King Crimson
The Concert for Brian Jones
Hyde Park, London , England
July 5, 1969

Well, I think the Hyde Park show was probably the most memorable show for King Crimson .  Although the whole concept of King Crimson was memorable just because it was an absolute frenzied reaction without any promotion done by us or the record company, or anybody.  It was a new band, which, without any... it was purely word of mouth.  And it was more infectious, you know, the common cold.  It went around at such a pace, it stunned us as a band, just to see it every day.  It was doubling by the day!  We had been booked to play to support the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park at a free concert.  I think when we were booked, you know, nobody  even knew who King Crimson was.  It was just that we were friends of the guy who was doing the free concert and he liked the band, and so he put the band on the show, but no one else knew who the hell King Crimson was from a hole in the wall. And of course, we went on and played and the band just took the place by storm.  It was a storming show and the audience went mad.  I’ll never forget it!  It was just after Brian Jones had died.  They had a picture of Brian right in the back of the stage, and King Crimson opened the show with “Schizoid Man”  and as we opened, the band was so loud, you know, this picture of Brian Jones had just fell straight back right onto my back.  It was like a weird, bizarre type of feeling.  There are some cloudy memories, but I remember Mick Jagger coming out and releasing all these butterflies. They were butterflies in this box, so that all these butterflies would fly away.  It was just one of these sort of magical free concerts where everybody is, peace and love,  head bands and just exactly what you would imagine.  It was sort of a hippie festival in London.  But, it was a magical, sunny day in Hyde Park, and people were climbing the trees... there were hundreds of people actually in the trees, that climbed up the trees so that they could see us. There were 500,000 people there.  What a wonderful, wonderful time! 


King Crimson
The Kinetic Playground
Chicago, Illinois
November 7, 1969

Well, what happened was, I think it was in Chicago, and we were playing a show with Iron Butterfly.  And what  happened we discovered later, was that the promoter had been blackmailed for money by the local underworld thugs.  And, they threatened if he didn’t pay up, they would burn the place down, and he told them to f#!@ off and go away.  And, so they did.  We were playing two nights.  The first night we played, everything was fine.  The second night, when we came back in there, all of our gear had been half burned and then sprayed by the fire engine people with water.  For instance, the Mellotron was all dripping with water.  The water had warped all the wood and it was all hanging in pieces, and all the speakers were all completely  dropped out of the cabinets because the water and the fire had just soaked everything and burned the front off the cabinets.  And then the foam spray. There was just nothing left of the equipment. Somehow we got another Mellotron flown in and we were insured, thank God, and we bought a whole new set of gear and carried on!  It happened just like that!  In those days,  you have to remember, there wasn’t so much gear.  A stack of Marshalls, and- we flew the Mellotron over and we got another one within a couple of days and we went on with the tour.  It wasn’t so dramatic, but to walk in and see gear, and in those days, you LOVED your gear!  Now, to me, gear is gear is gear, but then... you kind of spoke to your amplifier, it was your friend, it was everything.  And to see it all burn up and all of that, you realize, you know, wow... somebody did that!


King Crimson
The Fillmore West
San Francisco, California
December 14, 15 & 16,  1969

We were coming towards the end of  the King Crimson tour and Ian and Mike had decided that they just  didn’t want to tour anymore.  They didn’t like the flying and they didn’t like the traveling and all of  that.  And they decided that they were going to stop playing in the band and they decided to go off and make a solo album together.  And Robert said to me, “How about we get some new players in and just  carry on with the name King Crimson?”  Well, at that time, I felt, in a way, it was a bit of a betrayal to the name.  The band was so special.  And the time we just lived through was so special and unique, that I suppose that I felt that Ian and Mike were so important to what that was, that it really wouldn’t be King Crimson.  And so, I said to Bob, “ I wouldn’t mind doing it if we changed the name - a new band.”   But, I didn’t feel comfortable carrying on under the name of King Crimson, because of the importance of Ian and Mike to it.  And it just so happened that the last show was at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and I watched the Nice play, and I had seen Keith before on various shows, but was always a fan of his, you know.  He had a unique,  enigmatic style of playing.  His tremendous act with the organ and everything.  I just sat and watched him play.  And we were all staying in the same hotel, over the road from the gig.  And after the gig, we met in the bar, you know,  and we just started chatting.  He said, “What are you doing?”  And I said, “Well, King Crimson is coming to an end, because Ian and Mike are leaving and I don’t really want to carry on under the name King Crimson.”  And then he said, “Well, that’s strange because  the Nice is really coming to an end too.  I’ve kind of gotten as far as *I can with Brian, who was the drummer, and Lee, the bass player at the time.”  And he said, “You know, I think I’m going to be forming a new band too.  What do you think about maybe getting together?”  And so, I said, “Yeah!”    “That’s a great idea!”   There was Keith, the musician and the showman who had all the music and the theatrics, and myself, who  was, you know, the hot new singer of the day, and it seemed like a perfect combination.  After that, we went back and found Carl, basically, after talking to various other people.


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
The Winter Gardens
Bournemouth, England
October 20, 1970

We did this tour of England and this show was in my hometown, which was the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth, on October 20th.   And I just remember that because, playing your own hometown with this new band, it was a fantastic and proud experience.  “Local Boy Makes Good” type of thing it was.  I remember the Bournemouth Echo, and you know, it was just one of those things that just confirmed that you had done something with your life.  It was just kind of important to me, personally.  And then we went off to Germany, and by this time, the news had spread to Germany, the band was a hot new band and everything. 


Emerson Lake & Palmer
Circus Krone
Munich, Germany
November 29, 1970

We played in Munich, in the Circus Krone, and I remember there was a riot there, and it was a real circus.  And we actually played on the stage in the circus.  And the people were obviously seated all around  like you are at a circus.  And of course they all stood on the floor.  And what happened was,  they had let too many people in and then they started to riot and there was a complete riot!  And, (laughing)  I’ll never forget it, the back flaps where the elephants walk in, all of a sudden, the flaps went back and in came these fire engine people with these huge fire hoses and just BLASTED the entire audience  out of the tent!  Flap doors opened and all the sides, and they just literally hosed them out of the tent. We played up until that point, and after that, it was over.  It was towards the end of the show, things were getting like... intense, and then the rising and then that was it!  But I’ll never forget  the smell of elephants which came up with the sawdust which was still on the floor.  When they hosed the people, the water just threw up all this sawdust and the smell of elephants was on the gear for like weeks! 


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
New York area shows
1971 tour

In 1971 we did a lot more in England.  And then we did a United States tour.  Our first thing, apart from playing the Fillmore East, which was always a sort of testing ground for your acceptance, you know.  We played the Fillmore East on April 30th.  There was a fantastic reaction to the band, and that kind of confirmed to us that we were welcome in America and that the band was going to be well received.  But,  the real highlight of that was playing at Carnegie Hall, because at that time, Carnegie Hall was still the mark of well, if you played Carnegie Hall, you were SOMEBODY!  And we played there.  It is a wonderful theater to play in.  That was a wonderful, wonderful show!


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
The Spectrum
Philadelphia, PA
November 13, 1971

In November, 1971, we played the Philadelphia Spectrum, and were supported by Yes.  We gave them their first shot into America.  I think they supported us on a few dates.  I can’t quite remember.   That was one of them.  That was the first time the audience really saw ELP with Yes.  And that’s really where that association came from.  And then of course, a couple of days later, November 25th, we played Madison Square Garden!  And *once again, we cut (or caught) a milestone!  By then, the band was flying! 


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Mar Y Sol Festival
San Juan, Puerto Rico
April 3, 1972

The Mar Y Sol Festival was down in Puerto Rico.  And I’ll always remember that for two reasons.  One is the fact that it was in Puerto Rico, and in the middle of a swamp which we flew into by helicopter at night.  A very precarious thing to do, now looking back on it.  And it felt risky and it was risky!  They were shuffling these bands of people backwards and forwards by helicopter, and you’d see the returning helicopter coming, and it would miss you by maybe twenty yards, going the other way.  In the middle of the night in a swamp, it really was an uncomfortable feeling  And as we got there, they were just loading someone into another returning helicopter, that was dead.  Who had just had his throat slit, by a drug deal that had gone wrong.  And during our performance, they had killed a rattlesnake underneath the stage.  I remember that for sure.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Bologna, Italy
June 25, 1972

June, 1972, we played in Bologna, Italy.  It’s a story I often tell, and it’s a long  story. It involves the Italian promoter, Francesco Sanovere, who told us we didn’t have to bring our own lights, or our own staging.  He would supply the lights and the staging.  All we had to bring was our back line  equipment.  When we got there at midday, the  day of the show, there was no stage, and no lights, and no sign of Francesco Sanovere.  He had disappeared. And we couldn’t understand what had happened.  We sent along the road crew out into the town to go out and look for him.  We figured he would be out in a restaurant somewhere, knowing Francesco as we do, they found him in a restaurant.  What he had done, he had gotten the date wrong.  Instead of the 25th, he thought it was the 26th.  But the tickets had all been sold for the 25th, the band was there on the 25th, but the stage had been booked for the 26th!  So, in a panic, they called up a team of builders,  scaffolding builders, and throughout the afternoon, they built the stage.  It came to like  6:00 P.M., 50,000 people, no stage lights, just the football lights for the stadium, so, we had to play.  There was just no two ways about it . The band had to go on and play.  We played and it went down fantastic!  The crowd went mad and everything else.  So, it got to Carl’s drum solo, and I left the side of the stage, and Keith left his side of the stage,  and Carl is out there playing his drum solo.  And,  Francesco comes over to me and puts his arm  around me, because the show was going down well and he said, “Hey, it’s fantastic!  Look how your doing!”  And I said to him, “Don’t touch me!, Don’t touch me”!  I was so angry that he messed this up, after guaranteeing us, and it would all be right, don’t worry about it, “Are you sure Francesco?”  He puts his arm around me, and he said, “I know  you’re mad at me now, but you know what?  When you see the surprise that I’ve got for you you’re not going to be mad anymore!”  So I didn’t know what he had, I thought maybe he got some girls, or something in the restaurant, or whatever he was going to lay on.  I don’t know.  So, Carl does the cue to come back on... I walked back on the stage playing doing “Rondo”, and I get to the center of the stage and “boom boom, boom boom, I’m playing away,  and all of a sudden, this rocket, (not one of those rockets that you buy in the fireworks shop) but one of those really, the big rockets.  It shot straight between my legs!  Right between my legs!  It went out and hit the audience.  It went out 50 yards or so, and exploded out into the audience!  One of these air explosions!  And then the entire stage burst into fireworks.  And what he had done, during the show, the builders that were still there had erected a  scaffold into the back.  A wooden scaffolding, of which Francesco had put a fireworks display at the last minute.  And he was going to let it off at the end of the show.  And as he let it off, it fell over, and all the fireworks just shot right through the stage and right  into the audience!  And it was unbelievable!!!  I mean there was...  It was all over the stage, spinning around!  They were big fireworks you know, the Catherine Wheels were not - they were spinning and hitting the drum kit, and the carpet was burning the whole thing was going!:  And that was the end of the show!  After the show, we wouldn’t go out to dinner with him, but we told him straight out telling him, his punishment was he would take the whole road crew to dinner.  He didn’t deserve to sit with the band but, his punishment would be to take the road crew to dinner and that they buy them anything they wanted.  He took them to this restaurant  and they drank the restaurant dry!


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Osaka Baseball Stadium
Osaka, Japan
July 24, 1972

Another riot took place in the baseball stadium in Osaka.  That was in 1972.  All I remember about that was that again, it was during Carl’s drum solo, and the people broke down the fences in this stadium.  Thousands of them came running towards the stage which was erected in the center of the pitch.  The police that we had hired around the stage ran away!  They just ran away!  They saw these thousands of people running towards - they just ran!  The manager at the time, Dee Anthony, got a hold of  Keith and myself.  We had the cars, the limos, parked behind the stage, so he said to Keith and myself, “Get in the car!”  And the car whizzed away. Out of the tunnel in this stadium.  And as we drove around the stadium, we could still hear Carl, “da da da da da...ch!  da da da da da ..ch!  He was playing the cue for us to come back on, but we were driving around the outside of the stadium.  We were gone!  And we could hear our cue.  And he just kept doing the cue and he kept doing it and kept doing it!  That was the end of the show.  Unbelievable!  The promoter was in tears!


Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Kennington Cricket Oval
London, England
September 30, 1972

September 30th, 1972, The Oval.  This must have been the very pinnacle of ELP’s success in the sort of media sense.  It won about every award that it could in that time.  We had the Melody Maker polls... Melody Maker was the sort of definitive rock and roll paper at that time.  And it won every category across the board!  Best act, best producer, best singer, best everything!  ... And we played this concert at the Oval and it was really the summit of success.  I mean it just was unbelievably successful!  And that was a wonderful sort of celebration. There were bigger attendances.  I mean, I think the Oval might have been like 40,000 people, but it was the fact that the media had gone into a sort of feeding frenzy on ELP and you couldn’t pick up a newspaper that didn’t have ELP on the front page. We were absolute darlings of the media at that time.  ELP - front page of everything! 


The Poconos Pop Festival
Pocono International Raceway
Long Pond, PA
July 8, 1972

I remember the Poconos because, the Poconos are like a resort area, like the Catskill Mountains.  This was one of those massive pop festivals that went on for days. So we’re up in this thing, they got us set with Three Dog Night, Rod Stewart and the Faces, ELP and whoever else is on that list.  At that time, ELP were flying, you know, and so, we get to this motel, where they’ve got all the bands situated, and then you have to wait until they’ve radioed you in for this festival site.  They take you by car and they drive you out to this festival site and that’s where you have to meet and play.  So, we’re in the hotel, motel, everybody’s hungry and there’s no food.  Our tour manager at that time was this massive guy named Barry. He used to work for Bill Graham, the promoter. So, we’re at this festival, at the hotel and  Barry’s starving awful -  He said, “Don’t worry  about it,  look at me.  I’ll take care of the food!”  He disappears and comes back 15 minutes later with these huge iron canisters full of lobsters!  Lobsters everywhere!  I just remembered because it was so  bizarre.  So, anyway we had some food, and then, we went around and we went around.  

Time to go on... Here’s what happens ... the fog starts to come down and it starts to get very misty.  And we arrive at the site because we were called.  Actually, Dee Anthony (our manager at that time) was there actually on the side of the stage.  “O.K. boys,  you’re on!”  There was a little bit of a panic you know.  “Go, get up on stage, you’re on, you’re on!”  So, out we go into the stage, and we’re plugging in, behind  the amplifiers, just plugging in, just checking everything.  And I see another car drive up and behind this stage, it was raining and it was misty and light drizzle.  Up streams this car and the door opens, and Ronnie Wood falls out of the car , obviously  a little too drunk. He stands up and falls back in the mud. The  Faces had arrived!  They, by some reason, had been called at the same time we had been. They had seen the fog that was going to come down and both the Faces manager and Dee Anthony had called in their acts.  At that time, get them on and get them off because if the fog got any worse, there would be no gig!  So, we get up there and we start , we walk on the stage... The crowd “Yeah..... ELP!!!  And we start to play our first intro and Rod Stewart jumps on the other stage.  There’s two stages, and he starts going for it , trying to go on first and then Dee hits Rod Stewart’s manager and he falls off the stage and lands in the mud while I’m singing. Rod’s singing, too, and Dee is hitting the manager!  And as luck would have it, all the lighting had been set for our stage because that was the next stage on.  Whoever was going to be on that stage was the next on.  Of course, Rod had to walk off and  wait.  He had to wait for the entire gig.  As ELP left the stage, you couldn’t see 10 yards in front of you!  Dee then got sued.  Yes, the manager said they pulled a knife on him!  To this day, Dee denies it.  And that was the Poconos!  It’s hilarious.  I mean, the story about the Poconos.  It wasn’t funny as it happened, it really wasn’t funny!  But, when you look back on it, it was hilarious!  Talk about Spinal Tap!

The California Jam
April 6, 1974
Ontario Motor Speedway
Ontario, California

Probably one of the greatest show of my career was the California Jam, which was a massive, one day outdoor music festival held outside of Los Angeles. Emerson Lake & Palmer's performance at Cal Jam remains one of our best shows ever and has since been immortalized in a live album called: Then & Now. Some have called this festival "the Woodstock of The West" which it kind of was, considering there were as nearly many people at Cal Jam as Woodstock. It was staged on April 6, 1974, at the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, California and was attended by 350,000 people. The entire festival, including the ELP performance, was seen by over a million viewers who watched it in subsequent weeks on ABC TV's In Concert program. I have so many amazing memories of this show and that tour, in general, which was staged to promote our then new record, Brain Salad Surgery. We knew BSS was a landmark album for ELP and we wanted the stage show to be something fans would never forget. Judging from the comments I have seen in our WERE YOU THERE/ I WAS THERE section of this website, I think we achieved our goal to make the show really special. In particular, I remember the thrill of Carl's revolving drum kit, and the amazing aerobatics of Keith's piano solo done on a spinning grand piano as it turned end over end 30 feet above the stage. Many have told me, this show included the best live vocal performance I ever gave. Playing the show at the California Jam was an amazing experience. In a lot of ways, it was the show that gave birth to the idea of stadium rock. It proved that you could play to hundreds of thousands of people at once, as long as the show was brilliant. The Cal Jam was really the birth of televised rock’n’roll in the same dedicated way that MTV eventually broadcast music videos. Prior to Cal Jam, most rock acts would have a one or two song appearance on a TV variety or Top of The Pops-type music television show. Cal Jam was a concert that was created for the sole purpose of having a means to broadcast an extended rock’n’roll event to a worldwide audience.

Only now as I come to look back on it, do I realize how pivotal ELP's appearance at this event was to the future of music video and televised concerts.

The Cal Jam was ABC-TV's first venture into live concerts. The California Jam's 10 hours of music was later cut up into four weekly hour long broadcasts, of which ELP and the other headliners (Deep Purple and Black Sabbath) were the biggest stars. The ELP portions were aired on May 7th and June 10th, and it was the first time a large US TV audience had seen what our stage show was like. The California Jam was presented on a triple stage, which was designed by ELP, itself. Each of the three stages were moved around on a series of flatbed railroad cars. While one act performed, two others were being set up and wired for the show. The day-long event went off without a hitch, until Deep Purple was set to go on. There had been some debate as to who would close the show. Both our management and Deep Purple's flexed their respective muscles as to who would close the show. Deep Purple had wanted to play at dusk and figured the show would run late, so they agreed to let ELP close the show. The show however, ran ahead of schedule and Deep Purple were told they would go on in the late afternoon during the daylight. The boys in Purple refused to go, saying it would only take the stage at dusk. I remember a huge row between Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore and the TV show's producer. They were almost dropped from the show, when Blackmore agreed to go on. At the end of Purple's set Ritchie became furious and rammed the neck of his guitar into the videographer's $70,000 TV camera, knocking the camera operator down to the ground. Ritchie just blew up, and smashed his guitar into the camera. Normally, Ritchie's a pretty nice guy, but he was a bit of bad boy that night! I heard they raced to the airport to fly out of California and were chased by a number of police cars, who apparently got to the airport too late to arrest him. It took ABC and the show some time to recover, and ELP was forced to do its show with one less camera, but eventually everything came together we took the stage just after 9 PM that night. During that tour our show included: "Karn Evil 9;" "Still...You Turn Me On.", "Lucky Man"; "Toccata", "Take A Pebble;" and several others. Our stage show had grown to immense size. We were traveling at the time with 25 roadies and 35 tons of equipment (including a revolving drum stage, 32 sound cabinets, a grand piano that rose 30 feet into the air and spun around end over end while Keith played it, and a special lighting system designed by the ELP production crew. During its show, we played in 4 channel quadraphonic sound under these beautiful glowing arcs of light. At the end, wild skyrockets and fireworks were dropped from a hot air balloon. When it was over, the audience was drained, as were the band. It was, even by today's standards a truly unforgettable concert.