Greg Lake says friendly rivalry between Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer almost took disastrous turn

In the heady days of the 1970s, prog-rock bands like Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer were thought to be rivals, trying to top each other in every way — from elaborately constructed tours to even more elaborately constructed albums.

The truth is, ELP co-founder Greg Lake says during a recent concert stop, that they were all friends. Still, Yes might have taken things a step too far anyway when they tried to emulate Emerson Lake and Palmer’s chosen mode of transportation between gigs back then — a flashy private jet.

“We were competing with the same charter companies, and they insisted on having their name on the side of the jet,” Lake says. “So they show up for their jet and, on the fuselage, it says ‘Yes,’ and they are happy about that. They think that when they land, people will see ‘Yes’ on the plane, and it will look good.”

Yes boards and takes off. All is well — until the plane levels off at its planned flying altitude and begins to pick up air speed.

[ONE TRACK MIND: Greg Lake joined us to talk about memorable songs from his career in King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and as solo artist - from "Lucky Man" to "Court of the Crimson King."]

“All of the sudden,” Lake says, “there is a slurping sound — and then a pop. The plane goes from 500 miles an hour, to 250 miles in hour in a second. What’s happened is, in order to put ‘Yes’ on the fuselage, they’ve done it with these huge stickers — and when they got up to altitude, the sticker ripped off, then flew back into the jet engine! Now, they have one sticker and one engine left. Can you imagine? All you’re waiting for is — shoosh! — and you’re gone! (Much laughter from the crowd.) As it happened, they landed OK.”

Lake is continuing a well-received low-key concert tour called “Songs of a Lifetime” in which he plays songs and then takes questions from the audience. This particular story came in response to a fan’s query about a early tour that once featured both ELP and Yes.

“I used to live with Chris Squire, in a flat in London,” Lake says. “People used to think that Yes and ELP were always at each other’s throats. But it’s not true. We sort of had a friendly rivalry. They used to call us ‘Henderson, Snake and Charmer,’ and we used to call them ‘Maybe.’” (The crowd again erupts in laughter.) … I’m very close to Chris, and I’ve known him all my life.”

Lake, who was also a member of the initial incarnation of King Crimson, will make 11 stops in the UK over the course of this month — highlighted by a November 25, 2012 performance at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire — before heading to Italy for six more shows through early December.

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