My experience with Emerson, Lake & Palmer growing up was largely limited to “Lucky Man.” Well, let me put that another way—“Lucky Man” was the only one of their songs I heard that I knew as being by ELP. I suppose this is no particular surprise—certainly it’s the first/only song of theirs that would come to mind for many folks today. I was too young to hear it on the radio when it was a current single (it was actually released twice, hitting #48 in April 71, and #51 in February 73), but nonetheless it’s a part of my 70s soundtrack, going back before I started listening to AOR in earnest late in high school. I did hear Lake’s solo single “Let Me Love You Once” frequently my senior year, and his “I Believe in Father Christmas” is now one of my favorite seasonal tunes.
My college friend Warren was an ELP fan; he made sure I learned about “Fanfare For the Common Man” and “Karn Eval 9,” among others. (Though no keyboard player—he’s a drummer—Warren enjoyed mimicking Emerson shaking his long locks back while pretending to play one of KE’s lengthy solos.) He also promoted “Touch and Go” (with Cozy Powell on drums) to me when Emerson & Lake reunited in 86.
This week’s #40 song is one of those that I heard every once in a while years ago without paying attention to who the artist was (not only was I a little too young for peak prog rock, I didn’t have any slightly older friends to clue me in). I grant you that the synth solo at the end should have tipped me off, but what can I say? It was the ELP song that got played by Casey, and they spent just one week more on the show, at #39. The second release of “Lucky Man” immediately followed the chart run of “From the Beginning;” methinks the label was trying to revive it in reaction to this sort-of breakthrough.
I’ve been listening to the Billy Joel Channel on SiriusXM in the car a lot this month. On my way to work Friday morning, Joel was discussing his favorite keyboardists, with a song played from the artist after each monologue. Sandwiched between discourses on Elton John and 50s jazz legend Art Tatum was a bit about Keith Emerson. Billy specifically mentioned a song, “Little Arabella,” from Emerson’s days in the 60s band the Nice. I started thinking, “Great—I get to hear this piano line that Joel is talking up. Maybe I’ll be able to understand a little about where it fits in with his stuff.” Uh, no—they played “Lucky Man” instead.