By the end of the 1960s, many artists became swept up in the wake of The Beatles and their aggressive exploration of the possibilities of pop and rock.
In the minds of many young musicians (especially the formally-trained ones), expanding the form by incorporating motifs and highly arranged extended compositions seemed an appealing notion.
The results of this concept became known as art-rock (and sometimes derogatorily, “6th Form rock” as it was a style particularly favoured by pimply and bespectacled senior grammar school boys).
Depending on your point of view, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were guilty of encouraging such tonal indulgence, or they delivered some of the genre’s better moments.
Pianist Keith Emerson had already met much success in Britain with his theatrical pyrotechnics in The Nice.
Greg Lake was the vocalist/bassist for the explosively dark King Crimson, and drummer Carl Palmer backed up the heavy blues-based Atomic Rooster, a band that also contained eventual Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie.
Months before the arrival of ELP’s self-titled debut album, expectations began running high about what the band would contribute to the expansion of rock.
The debut was impressive, ranging from delicate acoustic piano and guitar interplay to explosive free-for-alls, but with the second album, Tarkus (1971) it became obvious that the band often placed an enormous amount of finesse on playing to the back of the bleachers, rather than focusing that energy into a consistently satisfying musicality.
Tarkus was a pompous, lyrically incomprehensible, grandiose and flashy ‘concept’ album. It was also a complete waste of petroleum by-products to even press the bloody thing – From this point though, things could mercifully only decline.
Nevertheless, they became a staple of FM rock radio during the 70s, even scoring a couple of hits with Lucky Man (#48) and In The Beginning (#39).
When Keith Emerson and Greg Lake temporarily checked their egos at the door and decided to re-form in 1986 without drummer Carl Palmer, they called in Cozy Powell to replace him so at least they could keep the ELP trademark.
Keith Emerson died on 11 March 2016 at his home in Santa Monica, California, of a single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 71.