Saturday, December 23, 2006

Emerson, Lake and Palmer visit The Big Easy

Let us return to the sequel in this three part series (see previous postings) on Progressive Rock's Super Trio. By now the calendar year was 1972 and ELP had just released their fourth LP titled "Trilogy." There were literally hundreds of new bands on the scene and all had new album releases with upcoming tours. However most of these groups were unestablished baby-bands and seeking snap-of-the-finger stardom. But ELP had been in the rock trenches for several years resulting in a gold record that included the hit single "Lucky Man." Much of that success had come from extensive touring combined with airplay support. FM radio had been very good to Emerson, Lake & Palmer. And rightly so. Ahem...

Up to this point I had toured several times with ELP in support of the more recent albums "Tarkus" and "Pictures at Exhibition." By now the band had three gold records under their belt and one might think that all was good in the ELP camp. But there was a deeply rooted annoyance harnessing their success whereas all was not good with these three young Brit's. You see, within the group, and also with their manager, none were totally satisfied with the status quo. The truth of the matter was...they were hard pressed and seeking to step-out of the shadows of progressive rock's frontrunner, YES.

To put it into proper perspective, here you had two super groups, both being the same genre of music and both being on the same record label. And now ELP was squabbling over the statute of their chart rankings. This posed a dilemma sending Atlantic executives squirming in their seats at their marketing meetings. The good news however was that YES didn't have an album release scheduled until later that year. With pressure from the band's manager, the Atlantic hierarchy sought to remedy this artist rivalry. That's when a companywide executive order was passed down to make Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Trilogy" album a number one priority.

Ring! Ring! "Hello"..."Hey Raulsie, How'ya getting along with ELP these days?"..."Huh?"... "Hey Man, I need you to be creative and put together a couple of thoughtful surprises and roll out the red carpet for our boys when they travel down South. You dig? Kinda make' em feel special?"..."Okay, Sure boss." Click.

ELP's dogmatic manager Dee Anthony and Greg Lake hoists a thumbs-up in approval of Atlantic's support of a full page advertisement of the "Trilogy" album in Rolling Stone Magazine

The publicity machinery at Atlantic began plugging away as "Trilogy" was hailed by critics as a mark of their finest achievement. The gold album peaked at #5 in Billboard and produced the hit single "From the Beginning." The charts and concert attendance surpassed all previous accomplishments. After witnessing dozens of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's gigs, I was convinced they deserved their place in Rock history. They blended virtuosity and showmanship as they weaved intricate tones together into a remarkable blend of sounds. Keith Emerson's antics on stage ranged from tastefully innovative to extremenly bizarre. Yet I was thoroughly convinced I was seeing the Jimi Hendrix of Hammond Organ and Moog Synthesizer. In similar fashion to the legendary guitarist, not since I'd witnessed Jimi Hendrix's stage performance at The Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 had I ever been so enamored with a captive performance.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer arrive in New Orleans for a long awaited concert at The Warehouse and receive a surprise welcome at the airport. Keith Emerson rubs his chin anticipating what's next.

ELP is greeted by the famed Olympia Brass Band playing an official Bourbon Street welcome. Concert promoter Bill Johnston of Beaver Productions extends the welcome.
Keith Emerson is all smiles and claps his hands in applause to the jazz band's music.
Putting a marketing campaign together combining suspense with favorable results finally put me back in proper alignment with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In 1973 the group formed their own record label, Manicore Records. Upon that assignment, the band offered me a the executive position to administer the record label from their corporate offices in the Big Apple. Flattered by their offer but overwhelmed by the responsibility, I turned-down the managerial position fearing a relocation to New York might harness my unbridal spirit. To this day I am deeply honored by their offer.
Copyrighted photos and storyline by Phillip Rauls. Duplication prohibited. All rights reserved.