Greg Lake Thought Tarkus Was Too Nice
Keith Emerson has recalled Greg Lake’s lack of enthusiasm for the title track on ELP’s second album Tarkus – because the frontman thought it was too similar to the keyboardist’s previous work with The Nice.
It took a while to persuade Lake to get on board with the 21-minute seven-movement epic. But once he did, Emerson says the band were very happy with what they achieved.
The 1971 album was re-released in August, alongside ELP’s self-titled debut, as a 3CD set including a remix by Steven Wilson.
The creative process began with the pair playing each other albums that inspired them, with Lake putting on material by Simon and Garfunkel, Jon Mitchell and Cannonball Adderly, and Emerson responding with work by Shostakovich. But while they enjoyed that process, the feeling didn’t follow them into Advision Studios.
Emerson tells Music Radar: “Tarkus provided for a lot of angst – Greg wasn’t too happy with it. He thought it was too much of a classic piece and it was too similar to what I’d done with The Nice.
“It starts off with The Eruption, which was the first thing that got Greg’s attention. He said, ‘Yeah, well, that’s a nice prelude to a song.’ But as an entire piece he wasn’t very enthusiastic. It took some convincing.
“Carl Palmer liked it, though. As a drummer, Carl was always willing to face a challenge. When it came time to produce it, that’s when Greg went along with it – by then he’d stuck his producer’s hat on and he was okay with it.”
Looking back, Emerson – who’s always resisted the “prog rock” label, saying he can’t understand it – believes ELP were every bit as punk as the Sex Pistols-led revolution which was to follow later in the 1970s.
“We were very defiant,” he recalls. “We did what we wanted. It wasn’t about having hit singles or being on the radio, although we did manage to get a lot of radio play and singles. We listened to so much and brought it all into what we were doing.”