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42 Years Ago: Keith Emerson Injures Hands at ELP Concert

Keith Emerson

The progressive-rock supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer were never really notable for their restraint, either in the complexity and execution of their music or in their over-the-top live shows. Keyboardist Keith Emerson was a particularly flamboyant live performer, but his onstage antics could have cost him his career on Feb. 2, 1973, when he injured his hands in an accident involving pyrotechnics.

Emerson’s groundbreaking fusion of classical, jazz and rock placed him in the vanguard of progressive rock keyboard players in the ’70s, but it was his stirring live performances — which often featured him in unusual costumes and attacking his keyboards with knives — that made ELP such a riveting act to watch live. On this particular occasion his keyboard had been rigged to explode as part of a visual stunt, but the timing of the pyrotechnics was off and the keyboard exploded early, injuring Emerson’s hands.

Now, we’re not saying that alcohol may have been involved in this miscalculation, mind you, but here’s an interesting challenge — go look through every picture and every video of ELP live in the ’70s and see how many of them don’t have a bottle on the keyboards.

Fortunately, Emerson escaped without suffering any life-threatening injuries, which is a small miracle considering the fact that those old capes of his didn’t look particularly flame-retardant. The legendary musician is a “lucky man” for the fact that he didn’t go up like a pile of oily rags, but instead, he made a full recovery and continued to delight audiences and offend rock critics for many years to come.

Next: Top 10 Emerson, Lake and Palmer Songs

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