Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Emerson, Lake, And Palmer

About four years ago, one of my friends asked me to write an article in my ongoing series [1] on the band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, a group known for their symphonic art rock. I did not feel any urgency in the task, in large part because I was not aware of the fact that Keith Emerson was becoming increasingly distressed and depressed over the nerve damage that had impaired his ability to play the keyboard according to his and his audiences’ expectations, leading to what appears to have been a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Now, an article that I hoped to write for a band whose creative efforts were in the past, but which had at least the possibility of maintaining the support of fans and becoming less of a polarizing band in the opinion of music writers who viewed their writing in such unflattering terms as pretentious [2] and “the definition of masturbatory excess and self-aggrandizement” [3] or even a “waste of time, talent and electricity [4],” is now an elegy written when it is too late to be of most benefit to part of its intended audience. Often compared to Rush, the surviving members of the band can at least take comfort in the fact that they do have fans, including the influential Nintendo composer who views their work as being a major inspiration in his own gorgeous video game composing [5]. In an ironic way, a band so widely hated must have been important, since people do not waste the effort in hating what is of no importance whatsoever.

Why Emerson, Lake & Palmer Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

There are several grounds, some of them highly ironic, that demonstrate the worth of Emerson, Lake & Palmer for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. One of them is the high level of artistic quality and high art exhibited in their works. These include their lone US top 40 hit, the often-covered “From The Beginning,” as well as their song discussing the possible connection between Jesus Christ and Great Britain, “Jerusalem,” as well as their notable performance of Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare For The Common Man,” which hit #2 on the British charts. Besides their popular songs, the band had a string of popular albums, where their first eight studio albums from 1970 to 1992 all went gold (Emerson Lake & Palmer, Tarkus, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, Works Volumes 1 and 2, Love Beach, and Black Moon), along with their first two live albums as well (Pictures at an Exhibition and Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends…Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake & Palmer). Even their first best of collection managed to go gold as well, giving them eleven gold albums, a very high achievement for a band that did not release singles and that is viewed of as being too pretentious for a wide audience. Besides this, and the influence that Emerson, Lake & Palmer had on other musicians and composers like Iron Maiden and Dream Theater, the fact that the band is a supergroup [6] ought to play some role, as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has often been quick to induct bands worthy of induction from other groups, and the members of Emerson, Lake & Palmer were in such notable bands as King Crimson (another snubbed Progressive band worthy of induction) and Asia.

Why Emerson, Lake & Palmer Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

There are a few reasons that are worthy of brief mention. For one, the band performs on the “high” side of Rock & Roll, with heavy religious and orchestral elements, that are typically considered pretentious and not necessarily “real” rock & roll. Besides this, the band had few singles, most of which were acoustic ballads from lyricist Greg Lake, and so the band’s efforts have not been a continual reminder to listening audiences about the breadth and depth of their work, in songs like “Tarkus.” Their virtuosity has long been recognized, but among mainstream audiences they have often flown below the radar, a fate of undeserved obscurity.

Verdict: Put these guys in. They’ve been eligible a long time, there is a definite shortage of worthy prog rock bands in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and it would be a fitting honor to the late Keith Emerson and his surviving bandmates.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/rock-roll-hall-of-fame-snubs/

[2] Hochman, Steve (26 August 1992). “That ‘Pretentious’ Trio ELP Is Back on the Rock Scene: Pop music: After splitting up in 1978, Emerson, Lake & Palmer are together again for ‘Black Moon,’ their first album …”. Los Angeles Times.

[3] “Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Pictures At An Exhibition – Special Edition”. Allaboutjazz.com. 14 August 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2016.

[4] “The world’s most reviled proggers (after Rush) get the deluxe retrospective treatment…”. BBC. Retrieved 14 March 2016.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerson,_Lake_%26_Palmer

[6] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-elo-jeff-lynne-traveling-wilburys/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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19 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Emerson, Lake, And Palmer

  1. ELP Fan says:

    They should have been in long before this…

    • Agreed, but they’re in now, so the next time we find ourselves in Cleveland we can listen to “Calling America” or “Do Ya” or “Mr. Blue Sky” or whatever ELO song we wish :p.

      • S Gilbert says:

        I listen to what I like and buy accordingly …ELP was is and ALWAYS will be great… too bad many people cannot listen and decide based on what is REALLY good and not what some snob puts on a blog.Should not have even been a question of whether they were worthy or not as their fans decided that long ago.Too bad more could not have been done to let them know while they were alive and it could have meant soooooo much and perhaps made THEIR lives better as that is what they did for us.That is what rock and roll is about but some will never have a real opinion…just what someone else tells them to think.Emmerson,Lake and Palmer are and always wiil be artists.PERIOD.

      • Yes, obviously the fans of ELP have decided long ago that their music is amazing and have bought their albums and listened to their music loyally–and even sought to promote knowledge of and appreciation of their music by others. The question in this case is the extent to which the fans of ELP can convince the wider public as well as institutions like the RRHOF about the worth of the group and their music.

  2. Charles B. Sanacore says:

    I am the ultimate ELP fan having seen them in concert over 20 times . Keith Emerson single handley brought the Moog Synthesizer to the music forefront as a stage instrument . Yet the 3 chord rock wonder band KISS who used makeup to hide the fact that they suck as musicians is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Shame. The members of ELP hav more musical talent in 1 pinky then 1/3 of the current Hall inductee’s . ELP could not have been all that bad they sold over 40 million abums.

    • Yeah, if you’re looking at pure music ability this band would be extremely high on the list, but I have not seen this band receive a great deal of attention as a snub, despite their obvious skills.

    • I agree that they are an immensely talented band, but it doesn’t appear as if they have received a lot of attention as an obviously snubbed band despite their sales and obvious skills :/.

  3. Brian Griffin says:

    The petty people struggling to hold on by not rocking the boat, if one were to challenge a past collective decision, they’d be be reminded that their decisions and votes are only as strong as the next set of petty people struggling to have their votes go unchallenged!
    Basic committee thinking, yes?

    The vote should include a people choice aswell.

    • I would be interested in seeing what bands would be chosen among eligible ones by a popular vote, since the popular vote for inductions of musicians has generally benefited popular mainstream bands in recent years.

  4. Other reasons for their inclusion:

    1. The BBC banned one of their records — “Jerusalem”! How rock ‘n’ roll is that?? (The Nice had gotten a record banned too — they’re cover of Leonard Bernstein’s “America”!)

    2. Dissonance and NOISE. By far the most dissonant and noisy of the prog bands. Truly exciting stuff. Even “Fanfare for the Common Man” — it starts like a straightforward synth-rock instrumental but a few minutes in, Keith put on the noise. Fantastic.

    • I agree; I think the RRHOF has something against prog rock bands, but certainly Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were edgier than most, and certainly a great deal more intellectually and culturally ambitious.

  5. Ted says:

    Keith Emersons arrangements, to me, as I played keyboard long ago, were truly amazing and difficult and yet he could pull them off so easily. Wonderful songs like Still you turn me on, Lucky Man and more never got the credit they deserved. They were frontrunners with the MOOG Synthesizer, and were more attuned to grand productions to give the audience their bang for the buck. We’ve lost 2, and now only one remains. Can we please give ELP a nod to enter the HOF? Thanks.

  6. Louise says:

    E L. P. They did such good songs and they were famous for the first symptom of stomach music that they played famous songs what a lucky man in the beginning just to name a few that I can think of fanfare for the common man was one of their mainstream songs that was used with the sense of sympathetic Sonic music sounds they should definitely be nominated for the Hall of Fame lucky man they did a lot of cool did that other song C’est La Vie tank just to name a few they just got overlooked that’s what it’s about Nights in White Satin just got in last year they made beautiful beautiful music you have to understand what they were trying to do with the login and the sympathizer they were the first ones to come on the scene to do that they will deserve to be in the Hall of Fame

  7. Anthony Rubbo says:

    Recently I stumbled upon a Website submission on why Emerson,Lake & Palmer should be in the Rock Hall of Fame. I said to myself man that guy is on point! When I got to the end of the passage I was surprised to see the Author was me. Back in April of 2007 …

    Like ELP or hate them, if you claim to have regard for music history you must put ELP in the Hall of Fame eventually.
    Pioneering use of the synthesizer by Keith Emerson who worked closely with Robert Moog and in April of 2000
    were inducted into the Smithsonian for Electronic music.

    Keith Emerson influenced a wave of future keyboard players and programmers
    some of which would later use such technology in genres like New Wave and even Disco that arguably ended the prog era.

    ¨Carl Palmer one of Rock’s most talented drummers (Inducted into Modern Drummer magazines Hall of Fame)
    and arguably one of the first to use synthesizer percussion in 1973.

    Greg Lake was responsible for Ballads Lucky Man,Still You turn me on & From the Beginning.and also wrote one of the most popular Christmas songs “I Believe in Father Christmas”

    ELP were one of the forerunners of progressive rock. which was battered by rock critics but a legitimate genre regardless.

    Their album side suite Tarkus pre-dated similar Epics of the genre.

    Genesis-“Suppers Ready”, Yes-“Close to the Edge”, Jethro Tull “Thick as a Brick” Rush-“2112”
    And in the process was a Top 10 LP in the US. Charted # 1 in the UK.
    Without a hit single!

    —ELP from 70-77 constantly topped polls
    In the Melody Maker, Sounds , Circus and even Playboy magazines readers polls.
    Held #1 slot for Keyboards, Drummer, Producer, Band, Album, Arranger, Live Act.
    ELP’s first seven albums charted #18, 9, 10, 5, 11, 4, 12,
    These chart numbers from a band that did not produce hit singles.
    1974 ELP were the 4th concert draw behind Led Zep, The Who and the Stones.
    Estimated album sales exceed 50 million. So ELP was commercial successful.

    ELP’s legacy : They introduced and educated more young people to the classics then any gaggle of music teachers imaginable.

    OK you got influence, talent, innovation,longevity
    and commercial success. so what’s the problem?

    • That’s a good question. There is no doubt that ELP influenced others and that they were clearly talented and innovative musicians who performed at a high level and made music that has stood the test of time and remains enjoyable today. I think their induction is an obvious case, but obviously someone disagrees or they would have been inducted a long time ago.

  8. Bill Gates says:

    Keith Emerson did for rock keyboards what Jimi Hendrix did for guitar. I could go on for days on what a great band ELP was, but I won’t because that’s not what the point is. The point here is ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME is the joke. And if you don’t know why I’m not going to explain that either. It should be called the hip hop hall of shame. Fuck you RRHF and anyone who supports it!

    • I get the feeling that rock purists are going to be even unhappier in coming years when more and more hip hop artists will be eligible according to the standards of influence that the RRHOF has. That said, the omission of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer is a pretty obvious one as well as a serious one.

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