007: Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1970)
"What really makes ELP a dinosaur potentate is the sheer scale of the noise they emit. ... This is robot music mixmastered by human modules who deserve purple hearts for managing to keep the gadgets reined at all. I went, I saw, I drowned. ... Three egos exploding tight as a rapacious cyclotron and slick as Gorgo’s dildo."
In Prog John’s first go-around as host, the Discord & Rhyme crew (John, Amanda, Mike, and Dan) turn their attention to the debut album of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, an album and band that everyone in this episode agrees is far better than consensus critical opinion would suggest. John offers a spirited defense not only of the band and this album, but also of prog rock in general as well as of one of his favorite classical composers, the 20th-century Hungarian composer Bela Bartok (Mike agrees wholeheartedly with John’s Bartok love, while Amanda is far more ambivalent). This podcast offers deep dives into each of this album’s six tracks (the 12:27 “Take a Pebble” is discussed over six parts), as well as close examination of the band’s roots and influences, collectively and individually. We can practically guarantee that this will be the only podcast you ever hear that contains excerpts from ELP, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, a Bach keyboard suite, and, somehow, the Japanese anime “Cowboy Bebop.”
Technical note: Your hosts are still learning the ropes of recording audio, which is a roundabout way of saying that John accidentally recorded through his computer’s internal mic, so he sounds a bit echoey. Hats off to producer Mike for his bang-up job cleaning up the audio track!
Actually, hats off to producer Mike for his work on this episode in general.
Kudos also to producer Mike for correctly referring to “stalactites” when it would have been so easy to make a mistake and refer to them as “stalagmites.” C for ceiling, G for ground!
So, about Brain Salad Surgery being secretly gross: Take a closer look at that beam of light on the album cover. That’s not actually a beam of light. Also, it turns out that “brain salad surgery” is a euphemism for what’s about to happen there.
John makes a brief reference to Emerson stabbing his Hammond organ. While with The Nice, Emerson developed a routine of inflicting physical abuse on his Hammond, which included sticking a knife (given to him by Lemmy!) into it during performance (other parts of this routine included whipping it and pretending to ride it like a horse). Emerson continued this practice into his ELP days.
It’s not directly pertinent to this episode, but the members of this podcast take great pleasure in the fact that The Nice have a live version of “Rondo” called “Rondo ‘69’” on an album called “Nice.”
John incorrectly pronounced “Janacek” as “Jana-sek” when it’s actually much closer to “Jana-tchek.”
John also betrayed his Greek heritage by incorrectly pronouncing “Lachesis” with a soft “ch” rather than a hard “ch” in the “Three Fates” discussion.
John strongly regrets that he did not think to follow Amanda’s comment that the “Clothos” part of “The Three Fates” is Dracula’s favorite song by immediately saying “Yeah, because it sucks”
During recording, the idea occurred to your hosts to have a group sing-along to the ending Moog solo of “Lucky Man.” The idea was much better in theory than in practice and ultimately did not make the final cut for release. Perhaps we can resurrect the idea for the eventual live podcast.
In his Bartok recommendations, John made two small mistakes regarding the Fritz Reiner recording he mentioned. First, these recordings are from the 1950s (as Mike correctly observed), not from the 1940s. Second, he stated that the album contains a recording of Bartok’s “Hungarian Dances,” when he meant to say “Hungarian Sketches” (the “Hungarian Dances” are a separate set of solo piano works).
On the topic of Bartok, while we included excerpts from “Sinfonietta” and Bach’s first French Suite, we did not include excerpts of “Allegro Barbaro” or any other Bartok pieces. The Bartok musical estate is notoriously litigious regarding unauthorized use of his material, and we decided to save ourselves a potential headache by simply not including anything (a recorded performance of “Allegro Barbaro” by Bartok himself is available in the links below). If you are looking for excerpts from “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta,” a good place to find them is in the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
We’ve made TWO playlists to go along with this album! First, we have the official Discord & Rhyme Emerson, Lake & Palmer episode playlist; the other is a prog rock primer for those of you who want to go deeper into the genre.
Discord & Rhyme Roll Call
John McFerrin (host)
Amanda Rodgers (moderator)
Rich Bunnell (special appearance)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer tracklist
Take a Pebble
The Three Fates
Other clips used
Emerson, Lake & Palmer:
Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Pt. 2
Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Pt. 1
From the Beginning
Bon Jovi - You Give Love a Bad Name
Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen
The Nice - Rondo
The Nice - America
King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man
Atomic Rooster - Friday the 13th
Vince Guaraldi Trio - My Little Drum
Leos Janacek - Sinfonietta
Bach - French Suite No. 1
Sean Price - Mad Mann
Arcade Fire - Intervention
The Seatbelts - Cowboy Bebop (Tank)
Nobuo Uematsu - Dancing Mad
Mark Prindle - Tarkus Is Boner
Songs we mentioned but didn’t clip:
Bela Bartok - Allegro Barbaro
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
The Nice - Hang On to a Dream
Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Phantom of the Opera
David Bowie - TVC15
Gustav Holst - The Planets
Led Zeppelin - Moby Dick
Led Zeppelin - How Many More Times
The Beatles - The End
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - The Endless Enigma
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Abaddon’s Bolero
Bela Bartok - Concerto for Orchestra (conducted by Fritz Reiner)
Bela Bartok - Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (conducted by Fritz Reiner)
Bela Bartok - Hungarian Sketches (conducted by Fritz Reiner)
Keith Emerson - Hammond organ, piano, clavinet, pipe organ, Moog modular synthesizer
Greg Lake - vocals, bass, acoustic and electric guitar
Carl Palmer - drums, percussion
The Persistence of Prog Rock (Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker)
The Man Who Murdered His Keyboard (David Weigel, Slate)
“Discord & Rhyme (theme),” composed by the Other Leading Brand, contains elements of:
Amon Düül II - Dehypnotized Toothpaste
The Dukes of Stratosphear - What in the World?? ...
Faith No More - Midlife Crisis
Herbie Hancock - Hornets
Kraftwerk - Autobahn
Talking Heads - Seen and Not Seen
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Take a Pebble (this episode only)
You can buy or stream Emerson, Lake & Palmer and other albums by Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the usual suspects such as Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon. Follow Discord & Rhyme on Twitter @DiscordPod for news, updates, and other random stuff. Follow Amanda @MagneticInk67, John @tarkus1980, and Dan @DanSWatkins. Special thanks to our own Mike DeFabio, the Other Leading Brand, for production and editing, and for salvaging John's audio feed so we didn't have to redo this episode from scratch. See you next album, and be ever wonderful.