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Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends

September 17th, 2013 · Posted by Skuds in Music · 2 Comments · Music

The other day Sky Arts showed a film about ELP’s 1970 appearance at the Isle of Wight festival, which I have been watching this evening. A strange concert film, but interesting. And interesting for the same reason that it is strange – for a lot of the time it doesn’t even bother showing the band playing, or even the audience watching, but just clips of hippies enjoying themselves in the campsites and on the beaches, or arriving on the ferry, or locals looking on bemusedly.The concert appearance itself was, perhaps one of the most significant ever. The band was only recently formed and had only played one concert (in Plymouth the previous week). They had not recorded or released anything, so no chance of ‘playing some old’ but, so the story goes, they were an instant success. In terms of launching a career with one single appearance it was a bit like Queen at Live Aid (though Queen were obviously very successful already by that time) or Santana at Woodstock.

For a new band (albeit made up of people well-known individually for their previous bands) to play in front of half a million people (possibly) a set of songs none of them had heard before, including one 30-minute suite based on a Russian classical piece, and become an instant hit it must have been one of the best performances ever. Mustn’t it?

Having sat through it, I can’t really see why it was so widely acclaimed, and I say that as somebody who has owned a few ELP albums over the years and enjoyed them. Maybe I just can’t get myself into the mindset of a 1970 person and really appreciate the impact of it, but a lot of it was just over-indulgent guff. I know that it how a lot of people view everything ELP ever did, but a lot of it was just Keith Emerson throwing his Hammond organ around.

When everything came together it was magnificent, but the magnificence was only about a third of the time at most. I was really impressed with Carl Palmer’s drumming though, on a kit that was tiny by today’s standards. The way he was able to complement the organ playing when Keith Emerson was going into one was a lot more like percussion than just beat-keeping. I’m not sure there are many drummers who would be able to play alongside him like that – obviously Cozy Powell did later on, and somebody like Bill Bruford could probably manage it, but not many others I reckon.

Mind you, I have always found ELP to be a bit patchy. The bits I like I really, really like while some other bits just do nothing for me at all. However, I have decided that, if and when my lottery numbers come up I am so going to get a Hammond organ!

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Skuds Sister

    We popped into Dimbola House (home of Julia Margaret Cameron, Vicorian photographer) when we were on the Isle of Wight. They had a temporary exhibition of photos from the first IoW festival – maybe we should have dug out our MP3 players and listened to an appropriate soundtrack?

    Although what we would have listened to for the other temporary exhibition – Alice in Wonderland related – is anyones guess!

  • Skuds

    How about Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airship? It has the song White Rabbit on it which is inspired by Lewis Carroll (and LSD)