The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack

This was the Nice’s first single and a smallish hit.

Emerlist Davjack was an amalgamation of the group’s surnames; Keith Emerson, David O’List, Brian Davison and Lee Jackson. Lee Jackson was said to have taken exception to the band name Python Lee Jackson under which a song called In A Broken Dream was released as he thought it was some sort of barbed reference to him.

I watched a couple of TV programmes on the BBC recently about progressive rock and they featured the Nice’s America. I hadn’t exactly thought of the Nice as progenitors of the form but listening to The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (for the first time in decades) I can hear foreshadowings of Nursery Cryme era Genesis, though.

The Nice’s version of America – quotations from Dvorak’s New World symphony, portentous spoken word bit at the end made weirder by being voiced by a child – was certainly a conceit, going way beyond the standard format of the time.

I suppose it did point the way to a widening of rock’s horizons, the possibility of song structures more complicated than verse, verse, chorus; verse, chorus; middle eight; chorus; fade out.

Rock had always ripped-off mined classical sources, though. When A Man Loves A Woman was a direct steal from Pachelbel’s canon (as was The Farm’s Altogether Now many years later.) The Beatles weren’t afraid of instrumentation outwith guitars, drums, piano and organ and Procol Harum’s early hits leaned heavily on a classical sensibility.

The Moody Blues “Days Of Future Passed” album went a stage further in utilising full orchestral passages to surround, extend and link the songs. Deep Purple flirted with orchestral settings for a while and Barclay James Harvest went so far as to take an orchestra on tour.

Longer more involved pieces were probably inevitable once the 12″ LP came into being. Given the greater space, some rock musicians were bound not to restrict themselves to around fifteen or so different songs each only about three minutes in length – however perfect encapsulations of a moment or a situation those might have been.

And some of those longer tracks are superb. Pink Floyd’s Echoes from the album Meddle is a great example as is Genesis’s Firth Of Fifth from Selling England By The Pound.

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  1. Onebrow

    Pachelbel’s Canon can be found all over if you believe this comedian.

    It’s worth noting that barring its brief popular phase, the non-standard song structure will probably forever remain the preserve of the geek.

  2. Davy O'List

    Hi Mr. Deighton,

    Very interesting, why not view my fan site at for more info on the Genesis of The Nice and my recent tours and releases. Is there anything else you’d like to know?.


  3. Davy O'List

    It’s not a bad thesis arguing there were other artists interested in doing similar but The Nice brought it together live as a four piece.

  4. jackdeighton

    “Pachelbel’s Canon can be found all over”
    Yes. It kind of proves the point.

  5. jackdeighton

    Gosh! The real Davy O’List has commented on my blog.
    In retrospect it was a brave decision to put out a single (America) that was around 6 minutes long. It predates the admittedly lengthier Hey Jude but the length of that was mainly due to a long fade-out rather than a coherent part of the structure.

  6. jackdeighton

    A fuller comment from Mr O’List was sent to my blog administrator.

    “I picked your site up from Google Alerts. I tried to leave a comment on your site about my work and production but it didn’t seem to work.
    I found your comments very interesting. I thought it was a good thesis arguing there were other artists interested in the same idea but we were the first I think to do it live as a four piece, which is
    why we had instant success also the inclusion of Jazz made us different from our contemporaries.”

    Check out his site as in his comment above

  7. Davy O'List

    That was the idea….

  8. Davy O'List

    The finale of my new album Second Thoughts (get the pun) is 18 minutes long. I had to beat the length of America to satisfy my need…

  9. Davy O'List

    Google Alert is good try it

  10. Davy O'List

    I read some samples of your new book I might even buy it. “I’m going back to be young again. I’m going back to do it all again.” Davy O’List 2009

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