Greg Lake was the driving force between his work with King Crimson, ELP, and as a solo artist. We lost not just a musician, but an amazing vocalist that hit those notes between those two bands. I remember hearing Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s music back when I was in Johnston Middle School which is now the Meyerland Performing & Visual Arts Middle School. I’ve heard tracks like From the Beginning, Lucky Man, and Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression (Part 2) on Classic Rock 93.7 The Arrow back in the late ‘90s.
I can remember the day getting some Hanukkah money and my Mom driving me to Blockbuster Music. I remember buying Queen’s sole self-titled debut album, Ted Nugent’s Great Gonzos!:The Best of Ted Nugent, and ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery. It was the cover that just took me by surprise done by the late great H.R. Giger who would make a big name for himself thanks to the 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien.
From those giant notes of Jerusalem, to the 29-minute dystopian sci-fi epic of Karn Evil 9, I was hooked on the edge of my seat and playing it again, and again, and again. I always imagine those songs as a movie inside my head. Cut to 2000 when I bought King Crimson’s 1969 debut album, In The Court of the Crimson King. By this time, I didn’t know the term, Progressive Rock. But listening to Crimson’s music, I was spellbound.
The moment I’ve listened to 21st Century Schizoid Man when I was 15 years old, I was blown away. It was like a cannon blast waiting to happen. From Robert Fripp’s heavy guitar roar, the blaring and shrieking sounds of Ian McDonald’s sax, and Lake singing through a megaphone (Leslie speaker), it had everything. While he was brilliant on both as a Bassist and Guitarist as you can hear his solos on both Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression (Part 2), Tarkus (Battlefield), and the folky side of him on From the Beginning and Lucky Man in which he wrote when he was 12 years old.
Listen to Epitaph, you can imagine the aftermath of the battle and the sacrifices that they went through as Lake sings through Pete Sinfield’s lyrics; “Confusion will be my Epitaph/As I crawl a cracked and broken path/If we make it/We can all sit back and laugh.” He sings beautifully and gentle. You could feel that you are in the studio watching this band ready to make it.
I went back and listened to the albums, Brain Salad Surgery, In The Court of the Crimson King, Trilogy, and In The Wake of Poseidon. Not only that but he was also a big supporter of bands when it came to ELP’s label Manticore Records and he brought Premiata Forneria Marconi and Stray Dog to name a few to get them some recognition. He also produced Spontaneous Combustion’s sole self-titled debut album released in 1972 which is reissued by Esoteric Recordings four years ago.
2016 has been a rough and difficult year in Music. The grim reaper himself has always knocked on the doors of amazing musicians and letting them know it’s time. Losing people including David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult’s producer), Prince, Keith Emerson, and now Greg Lake. It’s a tragic loss.
But we have the music, the legacy, and the memories. The song in the 1979 film, The Muppet Movie in the opening scene as Kermit the Frog sings in The Rainbow Connection, “What’s so amazing/That keeps us stargazing/And what do we think we might see.”
Greg was a stargazer and what a Lucky man he was. Rest In Peace, Greg. Be at peace now and let’s hope you are enjoying an amazing jam session with Keith Emerson up in heaven. Heaven’s just got bigger.