Keith Emerson (1944-2016)... how I discovered his music, and what it means to me (a homage)


 It’s funny, sometimes… how you discover bands… especially those whose creative heydays you missed because you were too young. Yes and Genesis managed to remain on the mainstream airwaves during the eighties. Emerson Lake and Palmer, sadly, did not. At least not in France.

Keith Emerson - album selection (photo - Iridaes).jpg


 I first discovered Keith Emerson towards the end of the eighties, when I found a vinyl copy of the soundtrack to the Lucio Fulci film “Murderock”. I hadn’t yet seen the film (oh what a lucky man I was), but had heard of it. Being the film soundtrack fan that I am, I just had to give it a listen.

 And… I liked it. Not what I would call a masterpiece, but it was pleasant to listen to, and some of the tunes grew on me, so I wound up buying the record.


 Then, about a year or two later, I took up drumming. The very first copy of Modern Drummer I got (July 1989) had the results of a readers poll, in which a certain Carl Palmer was voted into the hall of fame.

 About a couple years after that, Emerson Lake and Palmer reformed, and it was then that I realized who these guys were, and what past they actually shared.


 The first ELP album I ever heard was “Brain Salad Surgery”. Oh boy, what an experience that was !  I actually didn’t know what to make of it, at first. I loved “Jerusalem”, but wasn’t sure about the rest, so I didn’t buy the record (yes, it was the gatefold vinyl version, and yes, I regret not getting it).

 But I was given a second chance a few months later, when I found a tape with “Brain Salad Surgery” on one side, and the eponymous “Emerson Lake and Palmer” on the other. This time, I snapped it up, and enjoyed every minute of it.

 And since, around that time, Emerson Lake and Palmer were about to play a gig in Paris, I thought I might like to see them, and got their comeback album “Black Moon”, which I also very much enjoyed. For some reason, however, I wound up not seeing them live. Another one of my regrets.


 A few years later, I befriended another prog fan who, far more knowledgeable than I was, introduced me to more of ELP’s music. “Tarkus”, “Trilogy”, “Pictures at an Exhibition”… Once again, I was in awe of the flamboyance and versatility the band displayed.

 I tried listening to early Yes, Genesis and King Crimson, but I just didn’t get into it as intensely. Of all the seminal prog bands, Emerson Lake and Palmer was the one that moved me the most. The one that “spoke” to me. Some thought their music was over the top… To me, it was just perfect.


 Nowadays, I’m slowly getting into some of the other bands' recordings from the same era, but ELP remain, to my ears, one of the most unbelievably creative bands that ever walked the face of the earth.

 Now, I’m not going to lie. I don’t have every single one of their albums. “In the Hot Seat” (1994), for instance, was quite a disappointment. And from then on, I have to admit I somewhat lost track of what happened next.


 But the few albums I do have, I regard as absolute masterpieces. Such amazing stylistic blends… such virtuosity... From the most delicately touching melodies, to moments of absolute sonic madness, they remain highly inspirational.

 And when I say this, I don't necessarily mean inspiration on a note for note basis. I’m also talking about the “spirit” of the music, the energy behind it, and the fact that someone, somewhere, was capable of being that inventive… that intense… that “crazy”… and still be incredibly tasteful at the same time. Naturally, this goes for all three members of the band.


 Busy as I am, I don’t always keep up with the news on a daily basis. Only a couple days ago did I find out about Keith Emerson’s death, and it was a shock. Not just the fact that he died, but also the way he died. I never imagined he would leave like this, and it is very sad to think he simply isn’t here with us anymore. Sincerest condolences to all those closest to him.



 Best regards to all.











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