Let’s go all the way back to 1970. I was 9 years old, Hal was 18. I was heavily into Bobby Sherman. I mean heavily. He was on a TV show called Here Come the Brides that I never missed. And I had all his albums. I loved Bobby. (Give me a break, I was only 9.) (That’s me at 9.)
Hal was mortified. He had introduced me to Jimi Hendrix and Alice Cooper, for heaven’s sake! And now I was a teeny-bopper?!?!? (In my defense, this was my only bout of teeny-bopper-dom. And I repeat: I was only 9!)
He made it his mission in life to make me see the error of my ways. Every so often I was invited up to his room. His room was completely off limits to me. He even kept it locked. So, this was a big deal.
Hal was a brilliant guitarist. He could play any style you wanted: rock, folk, classical, or flamenco. He had a six-foot concert speaker in his bedroom. Occasionally, it left the house to go along on whatever gig he had. But when he played at home, he cracked the thick plaster walls and set the chandelier in the dining room swaying.
His preferred instrument was actually bass guitar, which he played left-handed like Paul McCartney. He could also sing anything from 2ndbass, the lowest notes you can imagine, to 1sttenor, the highest male voice, although he preferred bass singing, too.
In later years, he admitted that his room had been off limits to me because of the drugs he had there. I had not idea at the time. Sadly, neither did our parents. Fortunately, he survived those years.
Anyway, he introduced me to many groups in an effort to make me admit that they were better than Bobby Sherman. I was proving to be a problem. I remember “Me and My Arrow” by Harry Nilsson. Nope. “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash came very close. But no cigar.
Then, one day, he played Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s second album, Tarkus, for me. At this point, I really wanted to stay on my Bobby preference just to be difficult, but I couldn’t. Tarkusblew me away. I was hooked. Hal was so thrilled that he gave the Tarkus album to me for my birthday. I was the only 10-year-old I knew who was into Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Since then, I have been told that only music geeks like Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP). On the other hand, the same site that named “We Built this City” as the worst rock song of all time named ELP as the second worst rock band of all time (In between Insane Clown Posse—#1—and Michael Bolton—#3). Some people love their musical excesses and pomposity, others hate it. It’s odd that I really dislike that in most bands but love it in ELP. Maybe some of it has to do with my connection with Hal.
2016 was a rough year for rock. David Bowie started the year off badly, dying in January. (Oddly, just the day after my mother died.) We lost two of the three members of ELP that year as well--Greg Lakefrom cancer and Keith Emerson took his own life.I know that Don McLean wrote “American Pie” about “the day the music died” being the day that we lost Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper in an airplane crash. I think that 2016 felt like the year that the music died.
But, back to ELP. At their height, they wrote, arranged, and performed some of the most amazing music. “Still, You Turn Me On” is one of my favorite love songs ever. Their “Pictures at an Exhibition” from the Mussorgskyi s very close to the original, but with bits that are typical ELP. Then there are the bits of delightful fluff like “Are You Ready, Eddy.”
I’ll be playing some of ELP’s music this week on my Minnich Music Facebook page, so check those out. Let me know what you think. Do you have any stories about the group? Love or hate them? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time!