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Reelin’ In the Years 119: RIP Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson who died earlier this week was one of the arch proponents of Prog Rock. I’ve already featured several of his recordings with that most unlikely of progenitors of the form, P P Arnold’s backing band The Nice. America, where his reworkings of classical pieces in a rock style perhaps began and which has a good claim, in its extravagance, to be the first truly prog track, its B-side, The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon and their first single The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack.

It was, though, Emerson’s work with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer as Emerson Lake and Palmer (aka ELP) that solidified his reputation as one of the “rock dinosaurs” that punk rock sought to consign to oblivion.

Here’s a live performance of part of ELP’s take on Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Promenade and the Gnome

Keith Noel Emerson: 2/11/1944 – 10/3/2016. So it goes.

Friday On My Mind 1. Friday On My Mind

The Branch Manager at my workplace had the thought that we workers weren’t having enough fun (thank you David Brent) and came up with the glorious idea of having a competition. We were to name our favourite 1960s hit – that is no purely album tracks were allowed – and pay £1 for the privilege of entering it.* A committee was formed to adjudicate the results. The winner was announced and played over the tannoy – wait for it – after work on the day we broke up for Easter. Some fun!

Runner-up was the now ubiquitous but at the time relatively ignored Hi-Ho Silver Lining as by The Jeff Beck Group. It came second to Daydream Believer by the Monkees. You’ll have guessed I wasn’t on the committee. I will admit to a softish spot for the Monkees but Daydream Believer is a bit twee.

Anyway this all got me to thinking which song I would have considered. I soon realised that choosing just one is impossible but if I had to it would probably be Rupert’s People’s Reflections of Charles Brown but really it depends on the mood I’m in.

I’ve already featured a lot of 1960s songs here and any of them could have been contenders. So pick one from Rainbow Chaser, Tiny Goddess or Pentecost Hotel by the true Nirvana, the real Nirvana (see my category and scroll down.)
Or there’s America by The Nice, with which I started off my prog rock musings, plus their The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon – even if it was a B-side – and The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack,
The Electric Prunes’ I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and Get Me To The World On Time (both here,)
The Small Faces’ Tin Soldier,
The Who’s I’m A Boy,
Python Lee Jackson’s In A Broken Dream,
Procol Harum’s Homburg,
R Dean Taylor’s Gotta See Jane and Indiana Wants Me.
I would also have included Nights In White Satin by The Moody Blues if it hadn’t been turned into a cliché by excessive re-releasing and overplay.

That’s most, but not all, of the 1960s songs I’ve mentioned before.

But there is a host more, of which I have fond memories and which I might have chosen.

So to start what may be a regular series this is The Easybeats and Friday On My Mind.


*Edited to add:- The money collected was to be split two to one between the respective submitters of the winner and the runner-up.

Misheard Lyrics: Angel Of The Morning

Coincidences and confluences. P P Arnold, who was the backing singer on The Small Faces’ Tin Soldier which I featured recently, also had a great influence on The Nice whom I mentioned several months ago now. They were formed to be her backing band. However they quickly broke off to do their own thing.

Angel Of The Morning is the object of the most spectacular mishearing of a lyric I have ever encountered. Someone I was acquainted with once asked the good lady and myself why the singer (Angel has been covered by just about everybody – I think it was the Merrilee Rush version) was asking her lover to, “just brush my teeth before you leave me.”

It is of course, “just touch my cheek.”

And yes, Jim, I did split an infinitive up there.

P P Arnold: Angel of the Morning

Just brush my teeth before you leave me….

America (2nd Amendment)

Since the nice Mr David O’List has commented on one of my previous posts about his early ground-breaking band I thought I’d link to the You Tube rendering of America (2nd Amendment) performed by the Nice – credited on the label to Sondheim, Bernstein, Emerlist Davjack – so you could hear what we were both rabbitting on about.

The embedding is of the long version as on the single. There is no video with the clip; just a picture of the band. I avoided the shorter four minute cut (which was given a play on Radio 2’s Sounds Of The Sixties a couple of months back) as it has, to my ears, a clumsy edit about ¾ of the way through.

The single is sub-titled 2nd Amendment. The second amendment to the US constitution is of course the famous one about the right to bear arms.

I was at school at the time of the single’s release and my music teacher expressed interest in the “rock version of the New World symphony” that he’d heard about – as I said in my previous post about it the track quotes from Dvorak – so I brought America in and he played it to the class. All went well until the spoken bit at the end where he went ballistic about “ruining a perfectly good piece of music with political rubbish.” So much for social comment.

Not only was this single over twice as long as was then common, the track was also, except for the spoken outro, an instrumental. By that time in the sixties, unlike earlier in the decade, instrumental releases had become unusual and hits extremely rare. A doubly brave decision, then.

This, it seems, is where prog rock may have started.

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.

I Had Too Much To Dream

I had a strange dream on Friday night/Saturday morning, during which I was crossing a road in Dunfermline and was honked at by a utility vehicle, a fire engine or some such. The weird bit about this was its horn sounded the musical phrase:- Daaah, da-da-da! dah, da-da-da! da-da, dah.

In my dream I recognised it was from a song and so while the dream was still running I kept on humming the tune until I got to the last line of the verse – when I knew what it was. And I felt great just to have worked it out. (Bear in mind I was still asleep.)

The song is The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon, written and performed by The Nice, formed as P P Arnold’s backing group but now better known as the first rise to prominence of Keith Emerson of ELP notoriety fame. It was the B-side of America, their first (only?) hit.

It’s a fine piece of psychedelia with TARDIS-like sound effects and some great bits of mellotron work but features almost impenetrable lyrics which a quick search on the internet can not shed light on.

The nearest I can get for the first verse is:-

The ??? stroked circles from the heads of all the heroes
And confusions caused by echoes
That’s not ???? for us to see
The sound of magic carpets (cobblers?)
Suddenly be seeking for the

Here it is on You Tube.

Can anyone decipher them? The lyrics, that is.

Edit (24/4/10): I see the original clip has been taken down.

Here is a new link.

Edit (20/7/17): I found the new link also inoperable so replaced it with the one above.

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