In similar fashion to what the movie Apocalypse Now did in 1980 to bring back the music of The Doors into mainstream culture, Carl Palmer is looking to bring back ELP into the mainstream. With a possible tour of Emerson Lake & Palmer featuring Carl Palmer playing drums live alongside video footage of the late Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, Carl Palmer and the estates of the former members are hoping to revitalize the band’s name and music both to older fans while finding a brand new audience of rock fans who have come out of nowhere recently with the resurgence of vinyl records and an intense interest in classic rock music. How older rock fans will take to going to a concert that is more of a film than a live show is yet to be seen, but it seems Carl Palmer is going to give it a shot. Here’s why……
Emerson Lake & Palmer were one of the most loved bands of the progressive rock era in the 1970s. Only those of us who were buying music in the 70s as teenagers can remember how big that band was. And that’s the problem. The group has really been forgotten. Classic Rock radio and pop culture has focused so much on bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Yes but pretty much ignores ELP. Its amusing as to why they have been pretty much ignored over the past twenty years. Teengaers in 2021 who are into classic rock all know Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath but they have no idea who Emerson Lake & Palmer were. A big part of the reason is image as well as a few other issues.
ELP never had an image that sold like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath or Kiss. Those bands had images that sold well on t shirts, posters, magazines. They were bands filled with characters and stories. The visuals of those bands were so striking they have continued to sell into the 21s century. It’s just as common for a kid in 2021 to wear a Kiss or Led Zeppelin t-shirt as it was for them to wear them in 1977. T-Shirts are huge promotional items. Your a walking billboard for a band. The same goes with magazine covers and posters. The band’s image never goes away as it become a product like Coke or Pepsi. ELP never got there with that. Of course the music of bands like Led Zeppelin Black Sabbath and Kiss. will always be the main reason why they have remained forever ingrained as some of the greatest bands of all time, but you can’t discount the role marketing plays in selling bands to new audiences.
Of course it’s not all about the lack of marketing that has contributed to the fading of ELP from pop culture. The simple fact is the band faltered badly after their incredible run in the 1970s. ELP released a string of stunning albums in the 1970s. Yet, it was a short run and the bulk of their greatest work was released over just a four year period from 1970 to 1973. That period included the albums Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition, Trilogy and the much loved Brain Salad Surgery released in 1973. The group did put out two respectable albums in 1977 entitled Works Vol 1 which was followed by an amazing tour with an 80 piece orchestra (which we saw) and Works Vol 2. The band put out a very disappointing album entitled Love Beach in 1978 with probably the worst album cover ever. That album pretty much put an end to the group for a long time.
In the 1980s, fans of Emerson Lake & Palmer saw different incarnations of the band from Emerson Lake & Powell to 3. Its was all confusing and disappointing. Carl Palmer had huge success with Asia in the 80s and so ELP was done. The group reunited in 1992 and released Black Moon. At the time, grunge was huge and the album really did not go over well. Their final album as a group was released in 1994 entitled In The Hot Seat. The album was so disappointing on every front that even Carl Palmer called the record “dreadful.” From being completely ignored by the public and leaving a bad taste in the mouth of long time ELP fans who at the time many were raising families, ELP was over.
When Francis Ford Coppola inserted The Doors song “The End,” into his film Apocalypse Now, the impact that the song had on the film was fueled by the haunting voice of Jim Morrison. That mix brought upon a renewed interest in the band. The Doors began selling more records in 1980 than they had when Jim Morrison was alive and the band was still together. It was an incredible revival for The Doors music that lasted pretty much throughout the decade. The band The Doors were revived once again when Olive Stone made his brilliant film The Doors in the 1991.
Carl Palmer is hoping that with the release of a beautiful new coffee table sized book on the band as well as new unreleased music by ELP being issued, a renewed interest in the band is a distinct possibility. What could really fuel that interest would be a new tour similar to what ABBA is doing with high tech video images being used on the stage in concert. The difference between the virtual ABBA concerts and the ELP concerts will be the live and in your flesh Carl Palmer playing with his former bandmates on the giant screens on his right and left. It’s both exciting and sad. Would I go see the show after having seen ELP in 1977 at Madison Square Garden with that 80 piece orchestra? Probably not. But, I will buy the box sets and coffee book. I will let you know a little more about them soon. Hopefully, Carl Palmer will succeed on his mission to revitalize ELP. They were such a great band, and they deserve to be recognised and discovered by an entire new audience.