Greg Lake says ELP, King Crimson shouldn’t have gone on with new members: ‘A sense of betrayal’

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Even Emerson Lake and Palmer, whose name would seemingly ensure that they wouldn’t become another in the progressive rock genre’s endlessly interchangeable bands, endured a memorable roster shift. Greg Lake says he still regrets it.

“When the public make a band like ELP successful,” Lake tells Thom Jennings of BackstageAxxess in the attached video, “that is who they make successful. They anoint the band by buying their records. … They made ELP what it was. And I think there is a sense of betrayal if you change that which the public has ordained, in a way. You’re not entitled just to change it without permission.”

In the mid-1980s, while founding member Carl Palmer was occupied with Asia, Lake and Keith Emerson did what fellow proggers like Yes — a group that’s featured nearly 20 regular working members — had already made utterly common place: They recruited Cozy Powell, a celebrated drummer whose last name just happened to complete their familiar ELP monicker — and then issued “Touch and Go,” a hit that remains part of Lake’s solo shows.

Still, Lake says the particular recipe that made the original ELP a success was lost, and it sold him on the idea that he’d never try to go forward again with an altered line up.

“Even as good as he was, the chemistry was different,” Lake says. “It wasn’t the original ELP; it was a different band, and really it should have been called a different name. It wasn’t the same chemistry, and I’m a great believer in chemistry with bands.”

Dating back to Lake’s time as a co-founding member of King Crimson at the turn of the 1970s, he was sensitive to the idea that changing members might leave fans feeling cheated. His departure from the group followed that of Ian McDonald and Michael Giles, both key early contributors. Lake says he felt like what they had established with King Crimson had been altered forever.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable,” Lake says, “with continuing on with the name and pretending that nothing had happened. They were fundamental to the chemistry. Ian McDonald wrote a lot of the material, for example. I believe a band is a chemistry of human emotion — and, when the chemistry changes, really the whole thing changes”

Powell, who died in a 1998 car crash, also played drums for Black Sabbath, Jeff Beck, Whitesnake and Rainbow, among others.

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