Here where I am we celebrate Christmas Day today. Nice food and packages for all. I live in an extremely nice country where most people don`t know anything about starving, about war or suffering. My generation won the lottery in regards to where we were born. Time to reflect on that when it is Christmas!
This article had a title that made it sort of natural to post on this day. I am not a Christian, but I respect that people need religion in their life, whether it is for comfort or other reasons that they may have to believe in a God. What is funny is this: What makes people think that their religion is the “right” one among hundreds of religions? Why is YOUR story the right one? Besides, if there is a God, I wouldn`t like to have anything to do with an almighty entity that allows suffering in the world on the scale that we see. Making babies die of AIDS? How can that be anyone`s will? I am sorry. I don`t understand that at all, but you believe in whatever you want to, and I hope that all of you will have the best Christmas ever.
Merry X-mas wherever you are and thank you for reading my blog!
Star over Jerusalem
And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England`s mountains green? Well maybe they did, but they`re more often seen firmly planted on stage up to the ankles in Persian rug these days. However, ELP recorded “Jerusalem” on their last album, so Tony Jasper and Greg Lake trod the green slopes outside Liverpool Cathedral to pursue the theme of God v. Rock and Roll.
The two kingdoms of Downtown and God recently met in Liverpool. The latter finds itself in two massive Cathedrals, one, the rather new and spacey Roman Catholic edifice and the second, a large dramatic, red-brick Anglican building. The Downtown kingdom is earthy to its core, well almost. For one thing it`s a travelling circus and this particular occasion represented in the massive musical and electronic armoury called Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
ELP`s 36 tons of equipment was busily searching for breathing space for Liverpool doesn`t really have a hall big enough to cope with what some say is the largest rock show on earth. Greg Lake, singer and lyricist, had escaped from the problems confronting sweating roadies, left the group`s 134-pound church bell, and found refuge on the vaguely green slopes tumbling down in-front of the Anglican Cathedral.
The religious optimist who hopes for a religious rash to break out amongst yer rock brigade might conceivably have the inkling that Mr. Greg Lake was on the verge of shaking hands with the other kingdom. After all perusal of ELP albums suggests Lake not only moves lyrically in a surrealistic vein but does attempt some spiritual songs.
So what are the chances of both kingdoms coming together in Greg Lake? “I can only remember going to Church once in my life, maybe twice. I recall receiving one of those cards on which they put stars to record attendance. Trouble was my first visit saw me beaten up by a mob, not the best of introductions!
“What I`ve done since is brush up every now and then with religion. We`re not buried into the religious thing too much, yet you know it`s something which has always upset me to a degree.
“We recently recorded `Jerusalem` and put it on as the first track of `Brain Salad Surgery`. I mean it`s a beautiful song and it`s one everyone knows and some people might have got some wrong ideas from our recording it. I mean to us it was simple, it hadn`t been recorded by anyone for a long time and we like it and it did give a rounded quality to the album.
“It was in keeping with the kind of majestic atmosphere of the album. As a single it was released before we realised it was out. We didn`t really watch it and it was only a few weeks after that it hit me for it seemed to be getting a lot of airplay. Its release had nothing to do with the fact of other religious type songs having made the hit-parade in the last year or so. As I said to us it was a beautiful song and that`s it.
Lake says it doesn`t matter to him anymore, the organised religious scene, yet paradoxically in our conversation he kept returning to what he considers its world to be about and often linking it with his own writing, for there have been those songs like “Take A Pebble”, “Black Mass” and “From The Beginning”, let alone the references made in the three “Impression Suites” on “Brain Salad Surgery”.
The “fear,” those continually came to the fore for later he almost harps back to his early unfortunate experience of Church, “When you`re small you`re indoctrinated with the thought if you don`t believe in the Almighty you believe there is a terrible penalty to pay. At the age when I could think things for myself I found the Church lacking, what I found myself believing is expressed in my song, `Black Mass`. As to individuals within the Church, their sincerity and honesty, I can`t really comment. I can`t really say every man is a hypocrite, it`s just the organisation.
“It may be changing and adapting to the times, present needs but I think it`s still saying the same thing, if you don`t believe, then you know what.
“I don`t believe it, I don`t subscribe to it. I wish there was something. I think if I did have blind faith then it would make me much happier giving me this security and feeling that whatever happened to me it would be alright.
“There is the line I use on “Brain Salad Surgery” about people pulling Jesus out of the hat and then another one about three bishops` heads in jars!
“When I started serious writing, which I suppose was in the days of King Crimson, my lyrics were very brutal. We were busily observing all the things wrong in the world and the Church was one. I think in a way I have grown out of it. I`ve become more introvert and instead of looking around at the world I tend to look in at myself and see what`s wrong with me.”
Such indeed may be the general feeling of Greg Lake yet there still exists the paradox of his writing lyrics in “Brain Salad Surgery” making overt reference to current bad things in our world, the difference lies in his tendency, as compared to the extreme of Crimson days, to observe and describe suffering rather than build up lines like, `Cat`s foot, iron claw, neuro-surgeons scream for more at paranoia`s poison door` which express a more personal identification with what`s happening.
Lake however does not agree with this analysis, “You may express the feeling of my separation from what I`m describing but I`m not sure if I see it that way. I think the viewpoint is different. I`m not waiting to express myself, the viewpoint can be twofold, it can be me observing everything and me feeling. I am getting more into the latter.
“Sometimes I think what you write is said to somebody and other times it`s just said. Some things are just simple statements and others are meant to communicate.
“I`m not asking for any long-lasting belief from our people, though some fans do read way beyond what we intend. I mean you take this Jerusalem song. People read way ahead of what I write.
“They come up with most incredible interpretations, there was one going the rounds saying it had to do with the Arab-Jewish situation! I can`t think of anything further from our minds.
“People on the rock scene are these days coming out with songs loaded with often involved lyrics. You have a song like `Give Ireland Back To The Irish` and you wouldn`t have had that kind of thing in the mid-late Fifties. Some of these present-day lyrics can be very good but there are many I`m not too sure about.
“We find, particularly, in America, a lot of fans coming backstage and they know our songs, they are familiar with every word of all that I write and they have their ideas as to what those lyrics mean. What they may think may be far from my intent. I don`t think I can sit around and pencil down all the possible permutations a certain line may or may not have in meaning before I decide to write or issue the respective lyrics.
“Years back, songs said very little, other than giving expression to the familiar boy-girl kind of song. Fifties pop was pretty bare, the songs were not very good and I don`t think we want to return to that era, it would be a retrograde step. I`m slightly amused by the sudden implanting of sacredness upon much of the early stuff.”
So, if you like, for some ELP fans there is a kind of holy lore, the unauthorised scriptures compiled by Greg Lake, printed and given free of charge with several of the million selling ELP albums.
And if you ask whether ELP like other major groups have a kind of cult following, albeit modern day music disciples of the downtown kingdom, then Lake will only say it`s obvious the trio have enormous following, that they find no difficulty in filling their show.
And if you suggest ELP could be a travelling show with lots of gear, lights, sound effects and big star treatment but not much else you are liable to receive a baleful stare from Greg Lake. Well, he will admit the show aspect, “Remember what I said earlier about the Church having its show. Whatever else I might say its show is a good one, otherwise it wouldn`t have lasted so long! I mean it`s got a good bag of tricks. I think our format has some similarities, plenty of colour and content, that last word is important.
“One thing though, we draw totally different audiences! When we do a show it`s almost entirely a two-way communication. It may sound strange but this may be found more in playing in-front of the large festival audience. They seem more together, part of a sharing event.”
Lake however doesn`t take too kindly continual ELP features which concentrate on the surface pomp and splendour. It seems one reason why the group members give only rare interviews. He has a basic mis-trust for much of the musical press and feels considerable sympathy for someone like Jethro Tull, a group which received a considerable pasting a few years back.
So ELP have been to Liverpool these past few weeks. They didn`t play the Cathedral but remembering the Dean was a few years back a Soft Machine addict and possessing a considerable knowledge of the current rock machine could we see the two kingdoms shaking hands by an away visit from ELP in a Cathedral concert?
“We have played one church, at least I think so! I don`t think they are the places for us to play. I think they`re the wrong environment for us. I mean acoustically, they`re great for organs and church choirs but not electronic equipment. Much of the sound would go straight up, it wouldn`t travel.”
Not too bright a prospect – a conceivable coming together, though the Cathedral could certainly house the 36 tons of equipment! And I suppose those Lake lyrics have little sympathy for the things of God, to sing them within Cathedral confines might awake the same kind of criticism which greeted the once possible appearance of dear Tony Blackburn on Songs of Praise. After all “Black Mass” has some harsh things to say about organised religion but then it`s doubtful if ELP is whiter than white.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Goldie Zelkowitz, Curtis Knight, Simon Alexander, Steely Dan, Chris Stainton, Ronnie Lane, Elliott Murphy, Loudon Wainwright, Tim Buckley, Steve Miller, Beach Boys, Tommy Vance, Jim Simpson, Stefan Grossman, Lynsey de Paul, Mott the Hoople, Kevin Ayers, Dave Cousins.