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Keith Emerson on Peter Gabriel: ‘What Was He Trying to Prove by Dressing Up as a Flower?’

Hulton Archive, Getty Images

For a time, Emerson, Lake & Palmer ruled the progressive rock genre, traveling with some of the most epic stage productions that had ever been attempted in the time period. Doing so often brought critical malign and in the case of an ill-fated tour with an orchestra, financial devastation to the group.

With a reissue campaign oncoming which will re-examine and expand their catalog of work, Keith Emerson is looking back at the highs and lows that ELP experienced in their history which now spans over four decades.

He recalls, “We were a band who could play in front of any size of audience. We were comfortable in front of a few thousand in Newcastle, but we could also play the California Jam, which we headlined in 1974.”

As Emerson relates to Classic Rock, the California Jam found them playing in front of a crowd that numbered nearly half a million, “but we took the challenge and made it work.”

For Emerson, the “challenge” meant presenting a show that was more than just the music and in doing so, it brought out the critics who found their elaborate stage show to be excessive. He feels like they were unfairly targeted when others were doing the same things, sometimes in a vein that he considered to be ridiculous by comparison.

“No disrespect to Peter Gabriel, but I never got his approach to theatrics in Genesis,” says Emerson. “What was he trying to prove by dressing up as a flower? That’s pretentious. What we did was become showmen, yet we get hammered for it, while everyone applauds Gabriel.”

The initial reissues of Emerson Lake & Palmer’s first two albums will drop on Sept. 11. The new editions will feature the original albums augmented with new stereo and 5.1 remixes done by Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, who helmed similar projects for King Crimson and Jethro Tull.

Previously unheard outtakes will also be part of the package and additional album reissues of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ ‘Trilogy,’ ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ and ‘Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends – Ladies & Gentlemen’ will follow, although the release date for those has not been announced.

Read ELP's Reissue Campaign Plans

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