On this Christmas Eve, down from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, to Kim Fowley through B Bumble (whoever *he* is), to Keith Emerson, from me to you, a progressive rock retelling of a boogie-woogie/rock 'n' roll remake of a classical march taken from the score to a ballet performed each Christmas the world over.
Keyboardist Keith Emerson is, as usual for him, as subtle as a jackhammer in his muscular performance upon the clavinet, but there's no denying the thing's a blast to listen to.
Well, OK-- maybe there's been some denying. The reviews of Pictures at Ground and Sky, while pretty much scorching the album overall, take quite a bit of issue in particular with the capstone to the record that is "Nutrocker," calling it "goofy," and an "insult" that is "cheesy" and inessential.
Well. Though I love me some Emerson Lake and Palmer, that love is mostly for Tarkus and Trilogy and the first one, so I really can't get into a defense of the album overall.
But the disrespect of "Nutrocker"--and from supposed prog fans no less!--kind of gets into some areas where I think ELP are unfairly maligned, so I'd like to (ahem) go into them for a moment.
I'm a child of the seventies, but one that came of age after the Ramones and the Sex Pistols had done their work. Which is to say, after they had made progressive rock (in its first flowering) more or less obsolete, at least in the eyes of the tastemakers.
Jon Marlowe from the old Miami News wrote the review that got me to go out and buy Rust Never Sleeps, while presciently championing all kinds of awesome scuzz rock that gets worshipped now in retrospect--but he hated prog, once calling Kansas "the band that are not a band." Creem had as much to do with my buying White Light White Heat as any earthly condition--but chief scribe Lester Bangs' hate of ELP was, and is, legendary.
But as I said then, and will say now, what the fuck? An oft- and ill-used canard about prog was that progressive rock bands were pretentious, that they took themselves too seriously. Like the Velvet Underground didn't? but more germane here, ELP DID NOT take themselves too seriously. If ridiculous jokes like "Jeremy Bender" or "Benny the Bouncer" didn't get the concept through, then "Nutrocker" here should be the last, umm, exhibit required to convince.
If you told me that Keith Emerson liked to show off, I'd say, "yeah and so what?" And if you told me that ELP didn't understand that a tongue in cheek helps when listening to prog, I'd say you were dead wrong.
Anyway, with that in mind, I'd like to list before I wish the world a Merry Christmas my three funniest things about Keith Emerson and ELP:
"Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6" -- a track from The Nice's Elegy; Bob Dylan and JS Bach, together at last. The deep humor here HAD to be intentional. Right? Welcome Back My Friends to The Show That Never Ends . . . Ladies And Gentlemen, Emerson Lake and Palmer. Yes carried off their Triple Live so much better. . . .. The exclusive limited edition Knucklebonz sculpture. Not that the Dimebag Darrell isn't funny, also.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Pictures at an Exhibition - 12 - Nutrocker.mp3
This file was removed February 6, 2009. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.
File under: Merry Christmas!