Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer: From the Beginning

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There are songs and there are songs. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “From the Beginning” is in the latter category. From their fourth album “Trilogy,” 1972’s “From the Beginning” was their only top 40 hit in the US and therefore, it is a one hit wonder – just barely as it only peaked at 39.

I know people will take exception to the categorization of ELP being a one hit wonder, but the definition of the category is an artist who only has had one single to chart within the Top 40. No matter how popular a band or its songs may be, if it didn’t chart in the Top 40, it is not categorized as a mainstream hit.

ELP only had three other songs chart within the Top 100: “Lucky Man” at 48, “Nutrocker” at 70, and “C’est La Vie” at 91. Despite their lack of chart success, they remain one of my favorite progressive rock bands – a genre sometimes called classical rock or art rock back in the day.

Greg Lake shines on this number. He is playing umpteen guitars (several acoustics – and perhaps a 12-string), at least two electric guitars, and bass. I love the bass track on this recording. Carl Palmer is on drums and percussion. While Palmer plays the toms in concert by using mallets, I believe he is also playing congas on this track.

Arriving late in the tune is Keith Emerson doing one of his signature Moog synthesizer leads. One thing bothered me about this lead as that at the end he hangs on the “A” note four times before dropping an octave and repeating the “A” note all over again for five times only an octave lower. Not that I really disliked it, but I was wanting more – but as the old musical adage often rings true, “less is more.”

The song reminds me of 1977 when Jon Weiner and I performed it live during an open stage at The Portfolio on South Craig Street in Pittsburgh. I played my red España acoustic guitar while Jon did the synth parts on his ‘cello.

I learned the guitar parts from a guy by the name of Mike out of Ashland, KY. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name. He showed me this and the Allman Brothers' "Little Martha." I didn’t learn until recently, that I learned the wrong chords inversions for "From the Beginning"; however, the chords were correct and easier to play than the way Greg plays them. I never learned the guitar intro, but started playing where the single edit begins.

Greg Lake Version Live Version from 2005

Here’s a nice alternative version by Greg Lake. It is a slightly different arrangement with different instrumentation. I like the female backup vocalists – they give the song a dreamy timbre. I prefer Lake’s lead on the original to this version – it sounds too much like Peter Frampton with the auto-wah effect – not that there is anything wrong with that.

The keyboard starts out mimicking Keith Emerson’s lead, but switches to an electric piano sound that reminds me of Brian Auger. I learned something from this version – there was a line in the song that I could never quite understand it – so I sang, “The very latest.” It never made sense to me, but today after listening the first time, I finally understood what he was singing – “But there it is.” Duh. This is a very nice version, but I still prefer the original ’72 release.


  1. This shows what ELP could do when they weren't making fools of themselves by pussyfooting around with classical rock. This is a good pop song.

  2. It is an excellent pop song Steve. Lake was the member that leaned this direction and his songs were always the ones that radio gravitated toward unlike the Emerson influenced songs (with the exception of "Karn Evil 9").