Yes, that is Spock in the headphones. The year was 1979. These are some of my LPs, themed compilations, and the like.


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Monday, March 14, 2016

Farewell, Keith Emerson

It may seem silly to wish bon voyage to an artist who presented so many anti-religion and anti-God themes in his music, but I do it anyway. 

I’m grateful to know (such as I do) the music of Keith Emerson (born 1944). 

My first exposure to the work of ELP (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) came from an unremembered friend.  I suppose I heard parts of Brain Salad Surgery in art class at high school, since I didn’t know any friends well enough to visit at their homes, who might have also appreciated the eruptive power of the music, as well as the words behind it.

As a provincial Oklahoma high-school senior, I was unaware of the sexual slang of the title, and of the controversy of the original album cover image versus what we got.  I was merely enthralled by the intricacy of the music, the poetic vision of the words (beginning with William Blake’s “Jerusalem”) and the audacity, in the 1970s, to propose that technology was likely to swallow Man.  Not an unknown prospect in science fiction, I’m sure, but unaddressed (as far as I knew) in pop music.

 The LP looked like this.

But the center of the front was a gatefold, like a door.

Here are the originals of the cover art.

I spent a couple of days in June 1974 making a colored copy of the cover.  You can see the colored pencil strokes (I am not a visual artist, if any kind at all).  The parts that aren’t colored pencil are colored with black-light paint.

From BSS I wandered backward and forward in their catalog.  The angry-child ranting against a god that certainly wasn’t my loving Father made me sad to think of their anguish.

News reports seem to indicate that Emerson shot himself because nerve damage had impacted his playing, and he didn’t think he could perform well enough for upcoming shows.  How sad for anybody to think that only one aspect of their life was so important as to occlude all of it!

I came across this double LP in the late 1970s.  Hmm.  Another band.  Makes sense.

This stuff is more raw than ELP, with some of the howling-synth nonsense that reminds one of the stereotypical mach schau of Pete Townsend smashing his guitar.  But among the raucousness I appreciate the fun romp of “America” and the mashup of “Country Pie” with the end of one of Bach’s Brandenburgs.

1. The Five Bridges Suite:
          I. Fantasia - First Bridge (6:08)
          II. 2nd Bridge (3:59)
          III. Chorale - 3rd Bridge (3:30)
          IV. High Level Fugue - 4th Bridge (1:02)
          V. Finale - 5th Bridge (3:34)
2. Intermezzo Karelia Suite (8:57)
3. Pathetique Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement (9:22)
4. Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (5:39)
5. One of Those People (3:07)
6. Hang On To A Dream (12:39)
7. America (10:15)
8. My Back Pages (9:12)

And for some reason this LP hasn’t been released on CD.  Programming note:  One track from the original double-LP is not included.  There was too much material to fit onto one CD.  The excluded piece was a different version of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony.

This material was originally present as two records, The Five Bridges and Elegy, according to Discogs.

See you on Saint Patrick’s Day!