I must have been 13 or so when I came across King Crimson’s debut album in a record store, in the second-hand section, of course – prices there were much more in line with a teen boy’s budget. By then I had already figured out that prog rock is where it’s at, and the magnificent record cover didn’t exactly hurt, so I laid my pennies on the counter and ran home with my ticket to the world of the Crimson King.
In the Court… is one of the two KC albums with Greg Lake on vocals, and to be frank, the only one of the two that really matters. But oh, what a record it is. Even though today the more “experimental” bits of Moonchild and I Talk to the Wind might sound a bit dated, the title track and especially the seminal prog rock standard, 21st Century Schizoid Man, take no prisoners.
A bit later I discovered Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which Greg Lake joined straight out of KC. Prog rock of course doesn’t get much more pompous and over-the-top than this virtuoso trio – Keith Emerson’s infamous Moog stabbing and grand piano somersaulting was only eclipsed by the group’s epic album-length concepts and breakneck tempos, as if they had each been allotted a quota of notes to play and were trying to outrun each other in order to have more time down the pub after the gig. It was all kept in check by Greg Lake’s occasional tender ballads. Back in the day I told a friend that I though Still… You Turn Me On was the most beautiful love song ever, and he still reminds me of this whenever he gets the chance. What can I say, I was moved by Lake’s perfect delivery, even though the song features the all time number 1 stupidest rhyme in the history of rock’n’roll: “A little madder, a little sadder… Someone get me a ladder!”
2016 was the end of the line for both Emerson and Lake. I of course never met either of the gentlemen, but they were my childhood heroes. They may be gone, but the music lives on. As a tribute to Greg Lake and Keith Emerson, here’s my piano and vocal take of Lake’s 1976 solo hit I Believe in Father Christmas, with lyrics in Finnish by yours truly.