‘This sounds terribly extravagant’: Greg Lake on beginnings of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery

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Through Greg Lake has said that 1972’s Trilogy was his favorite Emerson Lake and Palmer album, the project provided a unique obstacle for the group — something ELP looked to overcome with the subsequent Brain Salad Surgery.

Trilogy, home to Emerson Lake and Palmer’s memorable reworking of Aaron Copland’s “Howdown,” had been an of-its-time studio creation — to the point where ELP felt it could never be recreated in a concert setting.

That sparked the idea of a stripped-down approach for the 1973 follow up, as ELP sought to move away from the then-new 24-track recording technology toward something more straight forward.

Of course, this being the early 1970s — at the very height of prog-rock excess — well, it wasn’t quite that simple.

“What happened, really, was we’d just made the record Trilogy, and we were unable to perform a lot of Trilogy because it had so many overdubs on it that we were unable to recreate the same overdubs live,” Lake tells CoveFM’s Steve Meisner. “So, what we decided to do, on the next record, we decided to make the record live first — so that we could perform it. We actually, and this sounds terribly extravagant, we bought a cinema and we took all of the chairs out. We set up on the stage, and then we started to make the album.”

Brain Salad Surgery also saw the rekindling of Lake’s work with former King Crimson collaborator Peter Sinfield. Together they composed “Karn Evil 9: Third Impression,” as well as “Benny the Bouncer.”

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