Here`s part two of the very frank and interesting interview with Greg Lake. Enjoy.
ELP: So afraid of being thought flash
Part 2 of the Greg Lake interview by Nick Logan
“We would have had hell’s own job getting that band off the ground,” asserted Greg Lake in Part 1 of our interview last week, after his revelations that at one point — before Carl Palmer had been brought in — there were embryonic plans for a musical aggregation comprising himself, Keith Emerson, Mitch Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix. The interview continues from there:
We had enough of a job with ELP, with the big names bit. Like Keith’s name was known; I was from a known successful group and Carl was from Atomic Rooster, who were in the up and coming vibe.
It’s so hard launching a group like that. You have to be super aware all the time. Nothing you do can be at all flash because any hole you leave anywhere, people will be jumping in to tear the heart out of you. When I think of all the good ideas that got thrown out… we were so afraid of being thought flash about it all.
The worst thing was the Festival Hall concert. I mean, it was a great concert man. It was good, we knew it was good and we really enjoyed it. But you read the reviews and wonder if it was really the same gig.
I was just coming round to ask you your opinion of the public and critical response to ELP.
Public response has been incredible. All through the last tour it was like a madhouse, the reception we got. It wasn’t just the applause at the end, they were clapping during numbers. Yet the Press, instead of being fair and saying “Okay now what do people feel about this group?”… the don’t report… they express their own opinion.
It was criticism of a very low level. Okay, there were a couple of good criticisms which were founded.
Can you say what they were?
First thing that comes to mind is “Pictures Of An Exhibition,” which was a classical interpretation, very similar to the kind of thing the Nice used to do. You look to anything Keith used to do and it was somebody else’s work he had interpreted.
That was one mistake. It was not wrong for the band in that I personally enjoyed doing it, but it was wrong because it gave the Press, the critics, a lever. It gave them a way to make comparisons.
“Pictures” is being dropped now because we are creating material ourselves and there’s no longer room for it. We are doing two hours now. Add this next album and we will be on for four hours. People like to hear the current album so what we’ll probably do is drop “Pictures,” do the first album in the first half and the next in the second.
What was the other fair criticism?
The second mistake was the Isle of Wight. We put on a bad performance and we were setting ourselves up for judgement. That would have been okay if we had played well but we couldn’t because the festival itself was so badly organised… the PA and everything… and we rely so much on the equipment being just right.
The criticism there was just, but it was still poor. If they had written in the papers that the band played a bad set because the conditions were not right… but they didn’t. After that we sort of got scrubbed out and nobody took any notice.
The good part about the band was just left unnoticed and it is a source of pride to us that the LP sold an incredible amount of records, and we didn’t push it or hype it in there. It was just bought by people who dug us on the tour.
It could have been a lot worse though, couldn’t it? Other groups…
Oh yeah, Blind Faith. They didn’t even get off the ground.
You must have expected a certain amount of criticism?
Sure I had expected criticism, but it is still a hard pill to swallow. It gets through to you. But I think we have now gone through the stage where people are judging us. And really, I don’t hold it against anybody who scratched us.
Can you talk about the theme of the album track you played. (We’d earlier listened to one side, an extended suite, off the next ELP album).
It’s about the futility of conflict, expressed in this context in terms of soldiers and war — but it’s broader than that. The words are about revolution, the revolution that’s gone, that has happened. Where has it got anybody? Nowhere.
It starts off with frustration, with the 5/4 piece, which in itself is a frustrating metre. The natural beat is four, so the extra beat every time is unnatural. Then it builds up towards the first song which asks the question: Why can’t you see how… stupid it is, conflict?
The next song is about the hypocrisy of it all and the last song is the aftermath, the conclusion of it. What have we gained? The very last bit, the march, is a joke.
It was written in six days and rehearsed in six. It all came very quickly from one idea.
Keith started the instrumental piece, the 5/4, and I had my song at the very end. We had a beginning and an end. We figured it out on a piece of paper.
Through the whole piece there seems to be a greater balance between the three of you, whereas the first album seemed to break down into individual contributions. Here it is harder to tell where Keith stops and you take over. You must be very pleased with that.
Yeah, the first album was a balance, but it was a balance of individuals. There was Keith and I… but this time it is together. He has written for me and I have written for him. Breaking it down to basics I suppose you could say that the instrumental parts are Keith’s and the songs are mine.
The aim is to achieve a working balance where the output of each person is allowed freedom, yet the total gells as one music. In many bands it happens that one person is musically not satisfied. What we’ve achieved is very pleasing, very pleasing indeed. But we have no clue, none whatsoever, of the second side. We are due in the studio on Tuesday and we have nothing at all.
Will “Picture Of An Exhibition” be included?
Well, we have the tape made by the film people at the Lyceum concert, “Pictures” runs for 40 minutes, and it cost us nothing to make. You see, we don’t want to go back on it and re-record it because that’s a phase that has gone.
We played it last night, probably for the last time. But there are people who want it, so what we might do is put that in as a separate LP with the new album, and not make any extra charge for it.
How pleased were you with your contribution to the first ELP album?
I was very pleased actually. I had my song on the second side and on the group things I was a third of the music. I also produced the album, which was a lot of fun. I was pleased in so far as my personal output got laid down as I wanted it.
I am not pleased with the album now, in that I don’t think it is complete. As I explained earlier, it was down to individuals. But I shall be happy with the new one.
Tell me, why is it that bass players go largely unnoticed? I feel sorry for all bass players; there are some good ones around.
It was always hard to tell from the records what exactly your contribution to King Crimson was.
The trouble is I never got credit for what I did in Crimson. Most of the songs on that King Crimson album (the first) I had a large part in creating “Schizoid Man” – I wrote the riff and song: “Epitaph;” I wrote the melody line for “In The Court Of The Crimson King.”
The things I do are like parts that make up something but don’t necessarily form a large part of the end product. It comes back to the unnoticed bass player. Take him away and see how he’s noticed.
I feel frustrated that my output has to do with the total thing rather than one specific part. I am not really after that sort of superstar recognition. I don’t want to be a solo superstar. I know that sounds corny but the motive I have for being successful is that I want to move people emotionally and I would dig to have enough money to be secure. Yet it is annoying when you don’t get credit for what you do.
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