Saturday, March 12, 2016

... and another thing

OK, so I decided I wasn't done writing about Keith Emerson.

One of the things about being a fan of the so-called prog-rock movement of the 1970s was that it opened me up to other forms of music, specifically jazz and classical. It took me out of my little world of Top 40 radio junk and thrust me into a realm that I would not have otherwise been exposed to.

It was fun.  A time before sampling and massive overdubs, there was an adventurous quality to it.  From one day to the next, you'd never know what was coming.  One day, Yes was interpreting Paul Simon's "America," and another day, Focus was yodeling "Hocus Pocus" all over the place. Part of it was the innocence of the time, and another part of it was the necessity to find the stuff.  We had to hear about it though word-of-mouth or (God forbid) the radio, and then, travel to a local record store and hope that they had the damned thing.  Part of the fun was tracking it down.

By the way, we also had to stand in line for concert tickets. "ELP tickets go on sale at 10:00am on Saturday," so we'd line-up at the local Record Museum two hours beforehand and hope that the clerk didn't scoff-up all the tickets for himself.  And, we didn't even have a seat. It was only after The Who fans trampled people in Cincinnati that seats started being assigned ... but I digress.

When Emerson, Lake, and Palmer released "Pictures at an Exhibition," I went out to find the root of it.  I bought an album of Vladimir Horowitz playing it on solo piano.  Since then, I've heard countless versions of it and (dare I say) I'm smug and opinionated about the orchestral versions of the piece.  It's either too rushed, too slow, or not emotional enough.
It helped me develop a love of music that I wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to.
Finding ELP led me to The Nice.  Carl Palmer started out in The Crazy World or Arthur Brown, and Atomic Rooster.  The latter is especially wonderful, if you have the time.

Greg Lake, of course, started with King Crimson.  I already knew that, but once you get into Crimson, you find yourself in another rabbit hole.

In March of 1973 I was sick with the flu.  My sainted mother was going out shopping.  She asked, "Can I bring you anything?"  I asked her to find "Lark's Tongues in Aspic," the new King Crimson album.  I knew about it because Bill Bruford (ex of Yes) had just joined, and I wanted to hear it.  Sure enough, she brought it home.  That started another journey.

The point is (if there is one) that we need a catalyst.  Someone or something to break us out of our rut - musically or emotionally - and force us to find something new.

I'll always go back to Keith Emerson for that spark.  His music was the first thing that I found that spoke to me.  I can trace every inclination to music that I love back to him and that band.  Whether it was to think about what else is out there or to explore something different, that was the spark.

Their music wasn't for everybody.  No music is for everybody.  But I found myself arguing and defending them to people who just didn't get it.  In the end, that's OK - you aren't always going to "get it."  Some see it as pretentious, others as excessive, and some as just noise.  But I think, if you go back to the roots (popular now) of what it is based on, you'll find that their inspirations were the same as the inspirations of countless musicians.

So many artists of that era have a special place in my heart:  Keith, dear old Peter Banks, Jan Akkerman, Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel, Gentle Giant, Focus, Manfred Mann, Renaissance  ... they all grew out of that seed.  It warms my heart to hear their music.

The seed that Keith planted.

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