At their most immodest, Emerson, Lake & Palmer toured with 11 trailers (one just for backup gear), an orchestra, and 63 roadies, including one tasked with sweeping Greg Lake’s Persian rug in a pre-show routine that primed the crowd for the grandiloquence to come. (The rug served both form and function, as it reduced the risk of electrocution).
These days, Greg’s performances are far more intimate. His songs are served not with spectacle, but with stories. One such performance is captured on his album Songs of a Lifetime, where Greg tells his tales – his first guitar, seeing Elvis in concert, finding inspiration in France – between selections from his monumental discography, which includes not just ELP material, but also songs from his days in King Crimson. A founder of the band, he sang, played bass and wrote songs for their debut album, the seminal In the Court of the Crimson King. It was at a Fillmore West King Crimson gig in 1969 when Greg met Keith Emerson, whose band, The Nice, was on the bill.
Greg is in the enviable position of cherry-picking from decades of songs he composed that speak to what he calls “universal truth.” “Lucky Man,” “From The Beginning” and “21St Century Schizoid Man” might not mean to you what Greg had in mind when he wrote them, but they certainly mean something, and likely fit somewhere on your personal timeline.
As Greg is loath to interpret his own songs, the focus of this interview is their creation, and how music can generate a powerful bonding experience under the right circumstances (think Woodstock). We also learned about Greg’s strangest stage moment – the one even more memorable than ELP’s stage cannons, flying pianos and robot armadillo.