Before I start with this piece, I would like to state that this very definitely gets an asterisk for a multitude of reasons. I will be happy to discuss them if anyone were to ask. For now, however, on with the show.
One of the most momentous and consequential meetings in progressive rock, which would result in the entry of a major British band onto the scene reportedly took place on this day in a hotel bar in San Francisco. That night, both King Crimson and the Nice had been on the bill at Fillmore West.
Greg Lake relates in his autobiography that soon after the last show he performed with King Crimson, already reeling at the news that Mike Giles and Ian McDonald were quitting after the tour…
“After our last show at Fillmore West had finished, on 15 December, I returned to the hotel and just as I was walking through the lobby I ran into Tony Stratton-Smith, the manager of the Nice. We had a few brief words and he told me that Keith Emerson was in the bar and that he would like to meet with me…I told Tony that yes, I would go down and see Keith…”Lucky Man, pp 67-68
“When I arrived at the bar, Keith and I shook hands warmly and I sat down beside him and we began to chat…”
“We should consider forming a band together,” he said.
Thus, one can claim that fifty years ago today, the first seeds that would one day become Emerson, Lake & Palmer were sown. Albums, performances and even the third member of the trio still lay ahead for Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, who were twenty-five and twenty-two years old respectively.
Keith was already seen as a fixture in the art rock and nascent prog rock scene, having been creating charting records for several years and inspiring keyboardists such as Deep Purple’s Jon Lord. Greg, meanwhile, was still a relative newcomer, having only been in King Crimson for about a year at that point. Despite these differences in age and experience, they would work as more-or-less equal partners in ELP, creating some of the most memorable music of the 1970s along the way.
Even beyond saying anything about how simple ELP’s beginnings were, this story illustrates how greatness can have many different starting points. The history of music, of anything really, revolves around little moments such as this one.